Justice for SSP Keertiratna & 3 Constables falsely accused of Rambukkana shooting in April 2022
The Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security headed by Rear Admiral (Dr) Sarath Weerasekera has released an interesting report addressed to the State Defense Minister on the Rambukkana shooting that brings to question the HRCSL Commission of Expert report & the intrusive interference by the US envoy to Sri Lanka.
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka released their report on the 19 April 2022 Rambukkana incident after it appointed a Commission of Experts to inquire on 5 May 2022. The COE report does not harp too much on the unruly behavior of protestors & the damage done to public property nor does the COE recommend action against those that harmed public property on 19th April 2022 in Rambukkana.
Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera’s report was highly critical of the US envoy’s interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.
Unlike the HRCSL COE report, the Sectoral Oversight Committee report has enabled citizens to visualize the scenario that unfolded in Rambukkana on 19th April 2022.
From daylight a tense situation had been brewing, people were burning tyres on roads & near the railway tracks & even preventing non-participants from getting about their daily life or allowing children to attend school.
The COE report does not consider the outcome if the unruly & drunken mob had set fire to the 2 fuel tanks.
Berating the armed forces in an attempt to demoralize them was seen post-May 2009 with the international community calling Sri Lanka’s armed forces war criminals in a global attempt to demoralize them. The police became the target in 2022. The manner that foreign envoys, so-called human rights activists converged to accuse law enforcement teams was to make them fear carrying out their duties by showing them what would happen to them if they did so.
The US envoy took a leading role in this effort with human rights groups following the pied piper.
How fair was it to put the SSP & 3 constables in remand prison & having to pay legal fees with their personal funds?
The mental torture the police linked to the Rambukkana incident were treated has clearly established this objective. From actions of police, it is clear that the demoralization agenda has worked. The police & armed forces heads & GoSL seriously needs to address this as it is likely to become a national security threat where even the Government will end up facing the tune!
The COE does not mention that the protestors had stopped the 2 fuel bowsers & chased away the drivers. COE does mention that 21 police officers were injured though the scale of their injuries is not mentioned. Some are still in critical condition.
COE report says “Observing the continuous hurling of stones, the law enforcement officers have then proceeded to shoot the unarmed protestors with live ammunition fire arms to disperse the civilians” (if so, many should have died!)
The COE report says
“The police contended they observed an increased risk of violence at the protest site as there were people who were under the consumption of alcohol. lt was contended that they observed an imminent threat of fire to the two fuel bowsers, the fuel station and the train that was already blocked on the railway line by the protestors. Therefore, as the tear gas also did not deter the crowd satisfactorily, the police officer SSP Keerthirathne has ordered to shoot the protestors below the knees. The contention of SSP Keerthirathne was that the order to shoot arose as there was a reasonable apprehension in his mind of an imminent threat to the safety of the two fuel bowser which would cause severe damage to the people and the property.”
(The report itself presents the rational basis on which the order was given) Instead of reprimanding the police in a paper report, why doesn’t the COE propose what the police should have done to protect the fuel bowsers as well as themselves from stones by over 200 unruly protestors most of whom were drunk!
The COE does not mention that police had no control over price increases though the protestors were demanding that police sell fuel at the earlier price.
The COE does not mention that protestors were attempting to cut the pipeline of the fuel tanks & set fire to them.
The COE does not mention that the protestors had actually succeeded in breaking the lid of the petrol tank & drops of petrol was falling to the ground.
The COE does not cover the catastrophe that would have unfolded if the unruly mobs had actually set fire to 2 full fuel tanks. The collateral damage that the police took was insignificant to what would have happened if the 2 fuel tanks were actually blown up.
The COE ignores that had the protestors blown up the 2 fuel tanks, the SSP & police would have been held responsible for the damage that ensued too & legal action would have been taken against him.
Who expects the police to refer the law books instead of taking immediate action to prevent the cutting of the pipeline & lighting it?
The Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee report shows that following the 19 April incident, the 9thMay inaction by police & armed forces may have indirectly impacted their inaction. This is a serious situation and the GoSL cannot neglect addressing this.
The COE does not pay much attention to the ONLY RAMBUKKANA DEATH that arose from a bullet that hit an advertisement plate & deflected, hitting the person who died from bullet wounds, shrapnel wounds proves this. If he had been directly shot dead, the bullet alone would have killed him.
So the HRCSL has to prove that the police actually shot dead the person that the US envoy & human rights activists are presenting as a civilian intentionally killed by the police.
If in fact, the deceased had died from a shot that had deflected from the advertisement board onto his body, the 3 constables & SSP Keerthiratne must be given a public apology and refunded their legal fees as well as compensated for the mental torture they suffered.
It is interesting how the HRCSL reacted to the Rambukkana death as against the death of 8 others following the 9 May incident as well as HRCSL reaction to the death of an elected member of Parliament brutally killed, his body dragged around the streets and kept on display. HRCSL cannot be selective in their reports or their statements.
Equally surprising is the behavior of the lawyers of the BASL who appeared with 107 lawyers on behalf of the deceased while the SSP & 3 constables had only 1 member from the AGs dept & 1 lawyer from the police. Does the BASL send over 100 lawyers to all cases? Why only Rambukkana? Why did these lawyers not appear for the family of the murdered MP or 8 others killed? This action certainly brings the actions of the BASL into public domain and questions their moral standing.
Why has the COE ignored Section 95 of the Criminal Procedure Code entitling an officer above rank of IP to use force to control an unlawful riot?
Why has the COE ignored Section 93 of the Penal Code that allows police to act against rioters even to shoot for the safety of people’s lives?
Why has the COE ignored Section 96 of the Penal Code that says action can be taken against anyone attempting to destroy property by fire, even shoot
Why has the COE ignored Section 97 of the Criminal Procedure Code that clearly states that no officer acting in accordance with Section 95 can be prosecuted or arrested without the permission of the AG? The SSP & constables had been arrested without the consent of the AG.
Why has the COE ignored A19 shooting orders of the Police Dept that contains the rules with which they can shoot.
If the SSP had followed the books & acted in accordance with the law to prevent a greater catastrophe that would have resulted in mass deaths & destruction to property of the 2 fuel tanks had been lit on fire, and if the Rambukkana death was not intentional & did not arise from direct shooting (instead from a bullet that reflected from an advertisement board), why does the SSP & 3 constables have to pay for their legal fees from personal funds & remanded for no reason?
The Sectoral Committee has rightly recommended that SSP Keerthiratne and the 3 police constables be given legal support from the Police Welfare Fund so that action will at lease reverse the adverse impact to the morale of the officers in the service (armed forces & police) as this will in the long run impact national security.
There are contradictions in the report of the Sectoral Committee & the COE – is there clear evidence that a police officer shooting the deceased?
Can the COE prove that the police officer shot the deceased as a result of the use of force irresponsibly?
Can the COE contradict the content of the Sectoral Committee report that the sole death was from a bullet that deflected from an advertisement board & hit him (which means that it was not an intentional death)
The COE in point 39 of its report also states “bullet travelling through an intermediate target/object” …. “The bullet had hit the interposed object (sign board)directly at a downward angle”– does this not mean that the deceased was not directly shot.
While the COE gives a list of persons injured they only mention 21 police injuries & neglects to mention the scale of the injuries suffered by the police from unruly drunk protestors.
The COE highlights the right of people to protest but no one has a right to disturb the peace or behave in an unruly manner to burn tyres on the middle of the road, pelt stones at law enforcement – these actions do not constitute rights!
Shenali D Waduge