Security forces personnel had to open fire on mobs of protesters at Weliweriya in self defence, to protect public lives and properties and to bring the situation under control, the government told Parliament yesterday.
Leader of the House Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, responding to a series of questions raised by UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on the Weliweriya incident, said that the government had taken every possible action to sort out the problem of drinking water and acted patiently and flexibly. Authorities had held rounds of talks with agitators, he said. “Unfortunately, even after the demonstrators had been dispersed there had been some other groups who remained at the venue of demonstration. They hurled stones and petrol bombs at security forces personnel. There were reports that some agitators had fired at the security forces. A full scale investigation is being carried out in this regard. The mob had damaged public and state property. They had destroyed the weekly fair of the Weliweriya town and set a three wheeler on fire. Security forces had to take action to bring the situation under control. Owing to the mob attacks eight army officers and the OIC of the Weliweriya police had been wounded. Security forces personnel had been compelled to open fire in self defence.
“The investigators would look into whether there had been any external forces or parties, behind that incident, instigating people against the security forces personnel. There are reports that 112 persons have been sacked from the Haleys Factory in Rathupaswala months before these incidents took place. So, it could be surmised that these disgruntled elements had been made use of by some external forces to achieve narrow political objectives.
“The government has already provided a temporary solution to the drinking water problem and action had been taken to bring about long term solutions. I would like to inform the House that action has also been taken to provide compensation and relief to the family members of those who had been killed and to those who are undergoing treatment.
“It is clear that some individuals are trying to capitalize on this incident targeting political mileage.
“The residents of the area did not give consent to obtain pipe borne water and therefore the Pradeshiya Sabhas in Mahara and Gampaha set up tanks of drinking water free of charge. The Mahara PS has set up 14 tanks of 500 litre capacity and 33 tanks of 1,000 litre capacity while the Gampaha PS had distributed 200 tanks of both 500 and 1,000 litre capacity.
“While these actions were being taken and implemented, a demonstration had been held opposite the said factory on July 27 demanding its closure. The demonstrators blocked the Rathupaswala Junction for six hours barricading the Weliweriya road. “Following the police explaining the matter, the demonstrators had dispersed themselves peacefully. Again on the following day, July 28, two more demonstrations were held, one opposite the factory and other at the Rathupaswala playground.
“In order to bring this situation under control, Gampaha District MP and Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanne, MP Ruwan Ranathunga, Chairman of the Western Provincial Council Sunl Wijeratne, chairmen of Mahara and Gampaha pradeshiya sabhas, District Secretary of Gampaha, mamagement of the factory, 45 representatives of the demonstrators and the police held a 3 and half hour meeting.
“Police had attempted to obtain a court order to shut this factory and made requests on June 23, 27 and 31 (Case Nos 791-2013, V 1435 -2013 at the Gampaha Magistrate Court). On each occasions, the court had instructed the police to obtain analytical reports on water samples from the respective organizations and make the request thereafter.
“As a practical measure to this problem, the political administration of the area got the administrations of the factory to shut it down temporarily on July 31.
“As the demonstrators continued their agitation even after the closure of the factory, the Defence Secretary had met stakeholders at the Ministry of Defence at 4.00 p.m. on August 01, 2013, for a meeting where the administration of the factory agreed to keep the factory closed until this problem sorted out. An agreement was also reached to continue the provision of drinking water and to set up drainage lines to provide pipe borne water. At this meeting the representatives of the demonstrators had accepted this solution and promised to pass the message to their colleagues.
“Around 6.00 p.m. on the same day, those who had returned had announced using public address systems to other demonstrators the result of the meeting with the Defence Secretary. At that point a majority of persons who were there had dispersed while some others remained. Those who remained initiated disturbances and blocked the Weliweriya road. When the police attempted to disperse them they attacked the security force personnel.”
Minister Mervyn Silva said he knew those who kept silent over the Weliweriya crisis and vowed to reveal their names if the need arose.
“No one came forward and spoke against this factory. They are afraid of wealthy people. It was me and Gampaha deputy mayor who took a stand against this factory and closed down it for two days after discussions with police and security forces. I know who kept silent over this issue and I will reveal their names if needed,” he said at function in Kalaniya .