Law vague on ‘minimum force’ – Dr Mahanamahewa

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The head of the Sripalee Mandapaya of the University of Colombo Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa said the Police only have the authority to dissolve an unlawful assembly and not to repeatedly attack a group of people who have been dispersed.

He made this remark in response to a question about his reaction to the incident on 19 April in which Police opened fire to disperse an angry mob that had blocked the main railway line and the main road in Rambukkana in protest of the latest fuel price hike.

Dr. Mahanamahewa stated that the Police Department has used the ‘least amount of force’.

However, he explained that the law was yet vague on what the least amount of force to be utilised and opined that it could vary from situation to situation.

He pointed out that when a mob cannot be controlled with the use of batons, then tear gas and water cannons should be used after which if it still rages rubber bullets could be used.

He added that if a mob cannot be dispersed, live rounds could be fired below the knee and asserted that there was no recourse for the Police for the type of firing that had taken place in Rambukkana.

He further observed that even if the situation had got out of control, Police could have summoned either the Army or the STF to disperse the protesters and insisted that they had not resorted to such measures to quell the mob in Rambukkana.

By Vineetha Gamage