Rambukkana Riot Turns Deadly

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BY Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake 

In a tragic turn of events, at least one civilian was killed while a dozen others were injured last afternoon (19), when Police opened fire to disperse an angry mob that was blocking the main railway line and the main road in Rambukkana.

Subsequently, Police imposed an indefinite curfew effective from last night in the Rambukkana area.  

A large number of civilians gathered near fuel stations since Monday night were agitated by last morning as fuel bowsers which came to the fuel station did not unload stocks until prices were increased on Monday (18) night.

They eventually blocked the main road and the main railway line in protest. Police said, the protesting mob continuously refused to vacate the railway line thus they used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

“They began pelting stones at the Police and Police opened fire,” Police Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said. 

A critically injured individual, who was rushed to the Kegalle Hospital, was pronounced dead due to gunshot wounds, Director of the Hospital Dr. Mihiri Priyangani confirmed.

Meanwhile, 24 injured individuals who were at the scene have also been admitted to the Kegalle Hospital. Four are reportedly in critical condition. The injured include 10 Police personnel. 

A protester told Ceylon Today that Police fired at the mob twice within a span of half-an-hour. 

“Police fired tear gas at the protesters. The protesters then threw a few tear gas canons back at the Police. Then some protesters pelted stones and Police opened fire. About half-an-hour later, the Police once again opened fire, this time they fired from the rear,” he alleged. 

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) appointed a three-member team to investigate into the incident. 

Calling for an independent investigation into the incident, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expressed its shock and said the Association was saddened at the loss of life in the incident. 

 The BASL said, the Government must ensure that the Police and Armed Forces act with utmost restraint in the light of the genuine grievances of protesters.

 BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC said, “We are saddened that previous warnings made by us as far back as January 2022 went unheeded by the authorities. Our members will continue to do their utmost to safeguard the rights of the people of this country.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung called for a full transparent investigation on the shooting. 

In a tweet she said, “I am deeply saddened by the horrible news coming out of Rambukkana. I condemn any violence – whether against protesters or Police – and call for restraint and calm from all sides. A full, transparent investigation is essential and the people’s right to peaceful protest must be upheld.”