Police open fire on protestors in Sri Lanka

Protests continue all across the country as the people suffer hardships due to shortages of fuel, food, medicines, lengthy power cuts, and high levels of inflation. Events escalated when police opened fire killing a protestor and injuring many others. In anticipation of further unrest caused by the killing, the government imposed a curfew on that area.

Police have kept up a curfew in central Sri Lanka, a day after the killing of an anti-government demonstrator triggered international condemnation.

“I have already initiated an inquiry into the conduct of officers at Rambukkana,” police chief Chandana Wickramaratne said in a statement as he ordered an indefinite curfew in the area, the AFP news agency reported on Wednesday.

According to an earlier statement by the police, a crowd of people was about to set a diesel tanker alight when officers opened fire to disperse them in Rambukkana, 95km (60 miles) east of the capital.

At least 29 people, including 11 policemen, were wounded in the first fatal clash since anti-government protests broke out this month, officials said.

Within hours of the shooting in Rambukkana, police fired tear gas to break up another protest in the south of the island, but there were no immediate reports of casualties, officials and residents said.

Police had moved in to disperse people occupying a main road and blocking traffic in Matara, 160km (100 miles) south of Colombo, residents said.

In the capital Colombo, thousands of protesters continued to occupy the entrance to the president’s seafront office since April 9, demanding the leader step down.

The president Gotabaya Rajapkasa seems determined to not resign and has appointed a new cabinet, mostly of young people, all men, but this is not satisfying the protestors who are demanding that he quit. They blame him and his family for the country’s financial ruin and there are rumors that the private wealth of the Rajapaksa family, obtained through corruption, actually exceeds the total foreign debt of the country that ranges from $35 billion to $51 billion, depending on how the accounting is done. But Sri Lanka tends to be a society that is awash with rumors that are wildly exaggerated so one must take such reports with caution. What is in no doubt is that the members of the Rajapaksa family are corrupt and live opulent lives.

The uproar over the killing of the protestor illustrates the importance of context. During the decades-long two violent attempts at overthrowing the government and the civil war, tens of thousands of people were killed, tortured, and disappeared and there were bodies floating in rivers. The death of a single protestor would seem to pale in comparison to that massive carnage that took place within the living memory of most people. In those days people, seemed numbed to the daily horrors that were going on.

But what is different now is that while most people in the earlier conflicts were not active participants but passively took sides while looking on in despair, the current protests seems to have united most people and so the killing of a single person has a different resonance. As with so many quotes attributed to famous people. there is no evidence that Josef Stalin ever said what is widely attributed to him, that “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” It originates from a 1932 essay by the German journalist, satirist, and pacifist Kurt Tucholsky who quotes a fictional French diplomat as saying, “The death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!” But the sentiment rings true irrespective of who said it.

The funeral of the protestor is likely to be the scene of a massive protest (funerals in Sri Lanka have often been used to generate passions in crowds) unless the police take steps to restrict the numbers.


  1. Amarnath says

    Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka, including the influential Tamil National Alliance (TNA), on Sunday appealed to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin NOT to limit food and medical assistance from the state ONLY to Tamils but to ALL citizens of the island nation, arguing that “everyone is suffering”
    Same solidarity is shown by other sects of Srl Lanka. It shows crisis brings the best out of humanity.

  2. says

    No state has legitimacy that kills citizens for protesting; it’s an occupying power and any form of violence against its agents is justified.

    Jean Jacques Rousseau, please step to the white courtesy phone.

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