Three-wheeler set ablaze by Police – Eyewitness

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The Magisterial Inquest into the Police shooting in Rambukkana on Tuesday (19) was carried out yesterday (20).

One person was killed and dozens including Police officers were injured when the Police opened fire at protesters who were demanding fuel in Rambukkana.  According to Police, they opened fire in response to protesters pelting stones at them. Magistrate Wasana Navaratne arrived at the scene where the shooting took place for the Magisterial Inquest.

The driver of the three-wheeler that was set on fire during the clash came forward as a witness to the incident, when eye witnesses of the shooting testified before the Magistrate.

The driver alleged that he witnessed a group of police officers setting fire to his vehicle. He also said the vehicle was set ablaze after the Police opened fire at  the protesters.

“I was in the front line of the protests for many hours along with a group of my friends. The protest was conducted peacefully. Since I was exhausted, I decided to take a nap inside the vehicle. One of my friends was with me. Also, there was a group who were the worse for liquor near the railway crossing. So we decided to stay away. We woke up to the first gunshot sound. We heard the sound of gunshots and clashes. I ran towards the railway road and then came back and hid behind a jack tree. The tree was behind where the three-wheeler was parked,” the witness said.

He alleged that then three Police personnel who were in black uniform wearing helmets came towards the three-wheeler and one of them set the vehicle on fire using a lighter.

“While the protest was going on, the Rambukkana Police OIC threatened me. He was the one who directed the Police officers towards the three-wheeler. I saw that with my eyes,” the witness claimed.

Another eyewitness claimed he could identify the officers who fired at protesters. He however, refused to reveal their names at the time in fear of potential threat to his life following the testimony.

However, he said that officers who were not attached to the Rambukkana Police were also among those who opened fire.

The Magistrate also visited the fuel station, where the 42-year-old victim was shot at, the railway track and the spots where there was blood. These spots were at least half a kilometre away from the protest site.

A large number of lawyers, representing the Bar Association of Sri Lanka were also present at the scene.

According to them, the Police had not presented the B Report to the Magistrate in the morning. The Magistrate, who stated the seriousness of the matter, ordered the Police to provide a B Report immediately, the lawyers said.

Meanwhile, A special team of 20 Police officers has been appointed under the IGP’s instructions to carry out investigations into the Rambukkana Police shooting during a protest demanding fuel, Senior Police Spokesperson SDIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday (20).

SDIG Rohana, who visited the scene, held a media briefing at the Kegalle SSP’s office.

The Police team to investigate the incident was appointed by the Sabaragamuwa Province SDIG, on the instructions of the IGP. The team consists of one SSP, three ASPs and in addition another 16 Police officers. It will be headed by SSP Wasantha Kandewatte, SSP and Division-In-Charge of Seethawakapura-Awissawella Police division, SDIG Rohana said.

“The Police also submitted a report to the Kegalle Magistrate in terms of the provisions of Section 22 of the Criminal Procedure Code to conduct an inquest in respect of the dead person according to the provisions of Chapter 30 of the Criminal Procedure Code.”

According to the notes of the officers who were at the scene, they had been compelled to use ‘reasonable force’ under Sections 89 to 99 of the Penal Code. In addition, Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Section 56 of the Police Ordinance and in terms of Chapter 8 of the Criminal Procedure Code,  he said.

The Police Spokesman also said attention has been drawn into property damages following the clashes. Public property, private property and property belonging to certain institutions have been damaged. Damages will be estimated and necessary steps will be taken in this regard, he said.

Further, the Police will request the Magistrate to order the Government Analyst to observe the scene and give his opinion, he said.

When queried as to how a person lost his life if Police used minimum force, SDIG Rohana  could not give a straight answer. Instead, he advised reporters to refer to two famous court verdicts, one delivered in the U.S. to understand the matter.

BY Methmalie Dissanayake in Rambukkana