Five-member CoI set up to probe incident

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A senior Army officer, involved in the Yaggahapitiya, Kurunegala petrol station assault, has been suspended from all duties beginning 4 July, until the completion of an investigation. A formal investigation will follow the holding of a five-member court of inquiry, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

Defence sources state the investigation will continue through 15 July.

Army Commander, Lieutenant General Vikum Liyanage, stated the officer in question has been suspended pending the receipt of the five-member Court of Inquiry recommendations. The Sri Lanka Army Corps of Military Police (SLACMP) is conducting a parallel military investigation into the incident and taking statements.

The Security Force Headquarters appointed the Court of Inquiry, led by a Brigade Commander, as soon as the incident occurred to thoroughly investigate the matter pertaining to this Senior Officer’s conduct and to make recommendations.

On Monday (4) the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the civilian in question has now been taken into Police custody and was released yesterday (5).

The MoD said in a statement the Army fully understands the frustrations and difficulties of the public in the present context. “Those media clips, needless to reiterate, some of which project Army members as a ‘repressive force’ of undisciplined, impolite nature, are being produced by invisible elements in order to serve different agendas of their masters in order to ridicule members of the Army and cause animosity between civilians and Army personnel.

“One such most recent example was the unfortunate incident at the Yaggapitiya fuel station in the Dorahitiyawa Police Division. The aggressive nature of the Army member was excessively prioritised in Media in order to ridicule him without projecting the violent behaviour of the drunken civilian.

However, the Security Force Headquarters – West on a directive of the Commander of the Army immediately appointed a five-member Court of Inquiry (CoI), headed by a Brigade Commander to go deep into the issue and make its recommendations.

“Members of the Army and other services at the request of the Police, are well aware of the most difficult challenges of the civilians, are day and night committed to their assigned duty roles despite tense and volatile conditions and are tirelessly prepared to serve for the best interests of the civil community all the time. Hence, members of the public are very humbly and kindly requested to coordinate with Army personnel with a broader understanding and cordial nature since they have been deployed in respective areas for your own safety and protection as you all have admirably done in the past, too,” the MoD said.

BY Sulochana Ramiah Mohan