Sri Lankan president orders inquiry after protester dies in police firing; several policemen injured in clashes
Assuring protestors that their right to peaceful protest won't be hindered, President Rajapaksa said in a tweet on Wednesday, "@SL_PoliceMedia [Sri Lankan Police] will carry out an impartial and transparent inquiry re [regarding] the incident at Rambukkana which led to the tragedy for which I'm deeply saddened."
Tension has been growing in crisis-hit Sri Lanka after at least one protester died and over two dozen were injured when police opened fire on them, prompting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to order an inquiry into the incident after facing criticism from different quarters.
The island country of 22 million, which has been witnessing sustained protests in capital Colombo and its suburbs amid the worst severe economic crisis seen in decades, saw its first casualty on Tuesday when police opened live ammunition in the central town of Rambukkana, roughly 100 km northeast of the capital Colombo. Clashes erupted when police tried to clear a key railway line that was being blocked by the protestors who started pelting stones at police personnel, said police spokesman Nalin Thalduwa.“To control the situation, police fired at the protesters,” he added.
Several policemen were also injured in the clashes.
Assuring protestors that their right to peaceful protest won't be hindered, President Rajapaksa said in a tweet on Wednesday, "@SL_PoliceMedia [Sri Lankan Police] will carry out an impartial and transparent inquiry re [regarding] the incident at Rambukkana which led to the tragedy for which I'm deeply saddened." He also urged the citizens to refrain from violence while protesting.
Condoling the death of the victim, the country’s Public Security Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said, “Government only intends to protect protectors and the general public from harm and it is the duty of the police to intervene when protestors inconvenience the everyday public activities.”
Opposition parties have condemned the police action, accusing the government led by President Rajapaksa of resorting to a “cruel and inhumane” approach toward peaceful protestors demanding his resignation and that of his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Both have not responded so far to the protesters' demands.
The US Embassy and the EU have also condemned the use of force.
“The EU in Sri Lanka deplores the loss of life and injuries after the Rambukkana events. Any violence has to be condemned and the EU reiterates the need for restraint from both authorities and demonstrators. EU encourages all parties to find political solutions to the current crisis,” the EU mission in Sri Lanka said in a tweet.
Significantly, Namal Rajapaksa, son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and a former minister, has urged both authorities and protestors not to give in to violence.
“Whichever side we are in, we must all agree that violence isn’t the way to solve anything! Our country has seen enough! We must protect peace at all cost,” Namal, who resigned from the cabinet earlier this month, said on Twitter.