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SW asks if mishandling of Rambukkana incident led to May 09 violence

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Sarath

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee (SOC) on National Security, Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera yesterday (05) said that over a year after the killing of eight persons, including SLPP MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale and his police bodyguard and destruction of approximately 150 private properties the government was yet to conduct a proper inquiry into the incidents.

The former Public Security Minister also emphasized that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government hadn’t so far probed as to why law enforcement authorities and the military did absolutely nothing during the systematic violence unleashed by organized gangs in Colombo, its suburbs and the provinces. Polonnaruwa District lawmaker Atukorale and his police bodyguard had been lynched in Nittambuwa in broad daylight in spite of the presence of contingent of armed troops there. In fact, the contingent declined to intervene even after the local police sought its assistance, the former Navy Chief of Staff said.

The Colombo District MP said so in response to The Island query regarding SLPP MP Chandima Weerakkody raising a privilege issue with Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena over MP Weerasekera, in his capacity as the Chairman of the SOC writing to State Defence Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon in this regard. MP Weerakkody, who is also a member of the SOC on National Security has declared that the Chairman couldn’t have written to the State Minister without the consensus of members.

In a letter to Speaker Abeywardena, MP Weerasekera, has asked whether the arrest of SSP Kegalle K.B Keerthiratne over ordering police to open fire on a mob that tried to set fire to a fuel bowser on April 19, 2022 discouraged law enforcement authorities and the military. One person died as a result of police firing while several police officers suffered injuries.

Pointing out that SSP Keerthiratne, now on bail, had been forced to meet his legal expenses, lawmaker Weerasekera has warned the Speaker of dire consequences of such a disastrous government policy.

Would any officer dare to issue instructions to quell mob violence when he realized the catastrophic consequences in the absence of political backing for security measures, MP Weerasekera asked. According to him, the bone of contention is that MP Weerakkody felt that he shouldn’t have drawn the State Defence Minister’s attention to a discussion chaired by him in Parliament on Oct 05, 2023. “Lawmaker Weerakkody also found fault with me for commenting on US Ambassador Julie Chung’s behaviour during last year’s troubles,” MP Weerasekera said.

“The US Ambassador misinterpreted developments. She intervened and in the process misled all, including her own government,” MP Weerasekera said.

Referring to the findings made by the Committee of Experts appointed by the Human Rights Commission to investigate the Rambukkana shooting, MP Weerasekera said that at the time he wrote to the State Defence Minister he hadn’t been aware of the existence of such a committee.

MP Weerasekera said that SOC wouldn’t under any circumstances endorse that committee’s recommendation that disciplinary action be taken against SSP Keerthiratne as the police officer didn’t violate any law. If not for the timely action taken by Kegalle police on the orders of the senior officer in charge, a massive disaster would have happened, the former Public Security Minister said.

At the time of the Rambukkana incident, Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga served as the Public Security Minister. Rambukkana violence erupted close on the heels of Weerasekera’s resignation as Public Security Minister.

MP Weerasekera said that SSP Keerthiratne’s issue hadn’t been resolved yet. The failure on the part of the government to address this issue posed quite a threat to national security as both police and military would hesitate to take tangible measures in emergency situations.

Having dismissed MP Weerakkody’s concerns over violation of certain Standing Orders pertaining to the operation of SOCs, MP Weerasekera said that no one could find fault with him for bringing a matter of utmost importance to the notice of the State Minister. The ex-Navy Chief of Staff asserted that perhaps the former minister had no idea whatsoever regarding the subject of national security.

Responding to another query, MP Weerasekera said that the government owed an explanation regarding the outcome of investigations. The retired Navy officer noted that lawmakers who had moved court against the failure on the part of police and military to save their property later withdrew their case on the promise fresh investigation would be conducted. “We are yet to hear anything about the progress of this fresh investigation,” the MP said.


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