HRC Probe On Weliweriya

By Easwaran Rutnam and Indika Sri Aravinda The Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission has launched an investigation into the Weliweriya incident, HRC Commissioner Dr Prathiba Mahanamahewa said.

He said that a special five-member team had been sent to the area on Friday to carry out preliminary inquiries into the incident. Dr Mahanamahewa said that the five-member team had recorded statements from the police, the public, a church in the area and from others involved in the incident.

He said that a discussion will take place tomorrow (Monday) between the Human Rights Commission, 26 government institutions and others based on the statements recorded. “Following the discussion we hope to issue some recommendations,” he said. Meanwhile a report is to be compiled by a government and opposition committee on the incidents which took place in Weliweriya last week. Gampaha District Parliamentarian and Government Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna said that the committee includes Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, other government and opposition parliamentarians including UNP MP Ruwan Wijeywardena and the District Secretary.

Alagiyawanna said that the committee met on Friday and discussed the situation and will have further discussions to decide on the next course of action after clashes left one person dead and at least 23 injured. He said that the committee also discussed providing compensation to the families of the victims and those injured in the clash. The army has also launched an investigation into the clashes at Weliweriya amidst allegations that soldiers mishandled the situation.

Army Commander Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake on Friday appointed a special board of inquiry headed by Major General Jagath Dias to investigate the army role in the clashes. Meanwhile army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya said that most soldiers placed at Weliweriya have been withdrawn and only a few still remain there. “They are there to assist the police and we expect them to be removed from there soon. While assisting the police in its investigations the army is conducting it own internal investigation,” he said. The army spokesman however noted that the soldiers never directly attacked the protesters and only defended themselves against a group who had attacked the police and army using petrol bombs.

Television footage showed soldiers firing in the air and at times directing their guns at the protesters who pelted stones and other objects at the troops during the violence earlier in the evening. Meanwhile the President of the Bar Association (BASL) Upul Jayasuriya said the BASL is ready to assist the public who want to seek legal assistance over the Weliweriya incident. He said that several people had already contacted the BASL saying they are looking for their loved once alleged to have gone missing after the incident and the BASL will provide the legal assistance to those people.

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