COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan police have transferred three top officers for their alleged misconduct which led to the death of a protester in violence in the southwestern region of Rambukkana after the police opened fire at unarmed anti-government protestors demonstrating against the latest fuel price hike.
A special police team has been appointed to probe the incident and report within 3 days. The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Wickramaratne has handed over the investigation into the shooting of an unarmed protester in Rambukkana to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Police Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said.
The CID will conduct an impartial inquiry, he said. The funeral of 41-year-old Chaminda Lakshan, who was killed in the violence, would be held on Saturday. Thirteen people were injured in the violence.
The Sri Lankan government on Thursday deployed troops as a precautionary measure in Rambukkana after lifting the curfew. A special gazette was issued yesterday to allow troops to be placed there until April 23 in view of the funeral of the killed man.
The police, under fire for escalating the protest by provoking the public, have transferred three top police officials in the area, including the SP of Rambukkana Police and the SSP of the Kegalle Police, with immediate effect.
The officers in question were said to have acted on orders of politicians who had wanted them to crackdown on protesters. Police chief Chandana Wickremaratne has been summoned by the independent Human Rights Commission on Friday to probe the incident.
A local magistrate on Thursday accused the police of tampering with a report about the protester's death, according to lawyers who defended the rights of the shooting victim.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch has condemned the police shooting of protesters. "International law prohibits the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers unless there is an imminent threat to life," HRW said in a statement.
Sri Lanka Army would provide security to fuel transporting bowsers, the Army Commander Shavendra Silva said. Top bureaucrat of the public security ministry Jagath Alwis said the protesters tried to set on fire a fuel tanker having 33,000 litres of fuel.
The police were forced to open fire to prevent a fuel bowser from being set in flames by the protesters. Alwis said a three-member probe committee has been appointed to probe if the police had used excessive power in opening the fire at protesters.
The latest fuel price hike on Monday night triggered street protests in many areas on Tuesday. Oil entities in the island nation have been hiking the price regularly due to the shortage of fuel.
Protests continued in most parts of the island nation against the government for its mishandling of the economic crisis. Sri Lanka is grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948.
The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices. The island nation is witnessing large-scale protests against the government's handling of the debt-ridden economy - the worst-ever economic crisis in the country's history.
Protests demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa and his Sri Lanka Podujana (Peramuna)-led government has intensified as shortages continued and prices soared. Last week, the Sri Lankan government said it would temporarily default on USD 35. 5 billion in foreign debt as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine made it impossible to make payments to overseas creditors.