Some eyewitness accounts contradict the police version of the shooting in Rambukkana on Tuesday where a young father of two was gunned down by police amid protests by residents demanding petrol and diesel at a filling station. The last rites for Chaminda Lakshan, 42, who was shot to death, were held on Saturday at the [...]


Rambukkana eyewitnesses contradict police version of deadly shooting


Chaminda Lakshan

Some eyewitness accounts contradict the police version of the shooting in Rambukkana on Tuesday where a young father of two was gunned down by police amid protests by residents demanding petrol and diesel at a filling station.

The last rites for Chaminda Lakshan, 42, who was shot to death, were held on Saturday at the public cemetery. The military was called out on a request by the police.

Lakshan was a resident of Karandagastenne village, Naranbedda, Rambukkana.

Following the deadly shooting, the police immediately said “minimum force’’ was used.

Proceedings are continuing at the Magistrate’s Court in Kegalle, where more than 100 lawyers are appearing voluntarily on behalf of the victim. The Magistrate Ms Wasana Navaratne also visited the site of the shooting and other locations as well as the Kegalle Hospital. Many lawyers accompanied the magistrate. Some eyewitnesses appeared at the scene to give evidence before the magistrate.

The magistrate’s court also heard that the police had used 4 T-56 rifles and 35 bullets.

It also emerged in court that the police B report had been amended using ‘Tip-ex’ correction fluid. The police had earlier filed only a ‘A’ report, which was rejected by the court. The court ordered that a ‘B’ report be filed.

In the incident, 33 civilians were wounded. Fifteen policemen were among the injured.

One suspect was arrested and released on bail.

There is also attention on a man in a green polo shirt who emerges from the left of a DAF XF tanker and is seen removing debris from the front grille. A flame is visible above the grille. Residents have questioned how and why police watched as he reached the front of the tanker and walked away. The police are seen behind the tanker truck.

An eyewitness described the sequence of events leading to the police shooting.

He said that about 5,000 had gathered near the cooperative filling station on Monday evening to purchase fuel. The manager of the filling station had reportedly told the crowd that a fuel tanker would arrive by midnight and petrol could be issued from early morning the following day.

People had stayed overnight. There had been around 500 vehicles parked along the road in both directions.

They started protesting as the fuel tanker did not turn up on Monday night. They had demanded that fuel be issued at prices that prevailed before the midnight increase by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation. They blocked the Kegalle-Rambukkana main road and later the main railway line on Tuesday morning.

Protestors alleged that the chairman of the co-operative society had intentionally delayed the delivery of the fuel load in view of the overnight fuel price increase. They alleged that the chairman had known about the impending price revision and wanted to delay the delivery, to make profit.

An injured protester being taken to hospital

The police had promised to arrange three fuel tankers so that protesters would help clear the road and the railway line. However, the protestors did not allow the first fuel tanker to be unloaded, since 6,600 litres would be unloaded at the co-operative filling station, and the remainder would be taken away.

“Since there were more than 500 vehicles of all kinds, this was not at all acceptable. So, we wanted the other two fuel tankers to arrive before the first was unloaded, to open up the road and the main railway line. The second one had come around 4:00pm. However, the protestors did not allow it to be unloaded until the arrival of a third fuel tanker,’’ the eyewitness who did not want to be named said.

The fuel tankers reached Rambukkana as result of negotiations the protestors had with the police.

The eyewitness said that the cooperative society chairman, who hid the tanker belonging to the co-operative society, falsely claimed that two tankers were part of the regular delivery by the CPC, as ordered by the co-operative society.

At that point, the police started to fire tear gas and the protestors pelted the police. Then the police started to shoot and around 15 protestors were shot, he alleged.

According to another eyewitness, one policeman pointed to people who had led the protest.

“Chaminda Lakshan was shot while he was with another person who was leading the protest,” he said. “This was no way a use of minimal force to save the lives of hundreds from the blaze of the fuel tanker but to terrorise people who protested peacefully.”

He said the protestors were “not violent’’.

But, the police tear-gassed and shot at the protestors.

After the shooting death, a police curfew was imposed in the Rambukkana Police division.

Another eyewitness who contradicted the police version, told journalists that protestors were unarmed and “not even armed with a razor blade, let alone attacking the fuel tanker as alleged by the police’’. 

The police spokesman claimed that the police opened fire to prevent protestors from attacking the fuel tanker.

The eyewitness said the police attacked unarmed protestors who had even provided lunch to them.

“Day by day the government is terrorising the people,” he charged, adding that the people only want to live in peace.

He condemned the heinous attack and attempt by the state to blame innocent people who had queued up for days to buy petrol and diesel.

Recalling the shooting, he said that he heard a loud sound “and Sudda (Chaminda Lakshan, who was killed) fell to the ground with his bowels spilling out. He was placed on a plank and was taken to Rambukkana hospital. People pleaded for the police not to shoot, but the police continued to shoot tear-gas and shoot the protestors’’.

“There were around 40 police officers including the riot police,” the witness said.

An owner of a nearby shop said protesters had never intended to set fire to the fuel tankers as claimed by police. He had been watching them for a long time and had observed that the protestors did not allow anybody even to smoke near the truck.

According to a friend of the deceased, Chaminda Lakshan had been shot near the Mangala hotel which was in fact about 100 metres away from the fuel tanker parked across the railway line. He also pointed out that Chaminda was running away from the fuel tanker and was not towards it.

Police had shot another person in the feet. He was more than 100 metres away from the fuel tanker and also running away from it. He questioned the claims of the police that they shot the protestors to prevent them from setting fire to the fuel tanker.

Cooperative Society chairman Mr…… Basnayake, who is also the Rambukkana coordinating secretary of Minister Kanaka Herath denied hiding the fuel.

Sunday Times photographers Pradeep Bandara and Saman Wijeya Bandara captured these scenes in Rambukkana

He told the Sunday Times that the filling station had issued fuel on Sunday 17, from morning to evening. The fuel tanker owned by the cooperative society had been sent out on Sunday morning not to bring fuel but for a scheduled calibration at CPC, he maintained.

“It is still at the CPC,” he said.

He said that petroleum minister had clearly shown that the first petrol tanker had arrived in Rambukkana around 11:00am and another came to Rambukkana around 1:30pm, also as a part of the filling station’s regular orders, he said. 

However, Samagi Janabalwegaya, Rambukkana organiser, Ajith Senevirathne refuted Mr. Basnayaka’s claims. He alleged that the fuel tanker owned by the co-operative society had returned on the same day, on Sunday 17, with a load of fuel and was in fact seen by several people in Kegalle. It had never reached Rambukkana.

He insisted that the police check CCTV footage from Kegalle town, to verify.

CID arrests a suspect in connection with bowser incident

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) yesterday (23) arrested a suspect in connection with the alleged attempt to set fire to a fuel bowser during Tuesday’s unrest in Rambukkana.

The suspect is a 28-year-old resident of Dharmapala Mawatha, Pinnawala Watta, Rambukkana, Senior Police Spokesman Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) of Police Ajith Rohana said.

Videos and photographs that have been circulating on social media shows the suspect, wearing a green t-shirt and camouflage pants similar to those worn by the military, removing something from the section of the bowser that was on fire, throwing it away and walking away from the scene, police added.

The suspect was due to be produced before the Kegalle Magistrate’s Court last evening after the CID recorded his statement.

A 22-member CID team is now handling investigations into the matter. The team is headed by a Superintendent of Police (SP) and also includes an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and two Chief Inspectors (CI), SDIG Rohana said. The team has recorded statements from about 20 persons regarding the incident, while about 10 documents have been taken into custody as court products. Detectives were also analysing CCTV footage from the area, as well as videos that have been telecast in the mainstream media and social media.

One person was killed and more than a dozen suffered gunshot injuries after police opened fire on protesters with live bullets during Tuesday’s incident. The funeral of K. D. Chaminda Lakshan, the father of two who was killed in the police shooting, was held yesterday amid tight security.


Magistrate reprimands police, wants probe handed over to CIDThe Kegalle Magistrate has ordered that the police probe into the police shooting at the Rambukkana fuel shed protest be handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department.

Magistrate Wasana Navaratne’s issued the order on Thursday when lawyers appearing for the protester who was killed and others who were wounded questioned the impartiality of the police investigations. Fifty two-year-old Chaminda Lakshan, a father of two, died in the police shooting and scores were injured when police on Tuesday used live bullets to disperse protesters who demanded that they be issued fuel at the price that prevailed prior to Monday night’s upward price revision. The protesters claimed they made the demand because they believed the bowser carrying the fuel had come to the shed prior to the price revision.

The magistrate also sought from the Government Analyst an urgent report on the incident.

She reprimanded the police for filing just a two-page report on an incident in which a protester had been killed and scores wounded.

In view of the lack of interest and efficiency shown by the police, counsel appearing for the aggrieved parties made the application, seeking an order that the investigations be handed over to the CID.

An eyewitness told court that three people in civilian clothes were among a group of police officers who came to the scene from the Kegalle side. It was these three people who started throwing stones at the police, prompting a senior police officer to yell at the police officers and order them to fire tear gas. The eyewitness said he believe the three people were police officers in civvies.

While the protestors were fleeting, the senior police officer again shouted ordering the police officers to chase after them and shoot to kill them. Three-armed police officers who were behind a three-wheel near the railway quarters started to shoot the crowd. The witness said that he ran to a nearby village to save himself.

On Wednesday evening, the magistrate inspected the site where the shooting occurred and also the three-wheeler that was set on fire. Also present there were a large group of lawyers representing the victims of the police shooting.

The magistrate resuming the court session on Thursday around 9pm severely reprimanded the Police for erasing sections of the B report using correction fluid. She said action should be taken against those responsible. The magistrate had also visited the injured protestors who were being treated at the Kegalle hospital.

Meanwhile, appearing before an inquiry at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) on Friday over the Rambukkana shooting, Police Chief C.D. Wickremaratna denied issuing orders to shoot the protestors.

The commission also summoned the Central Province Senior Deputy Inspector General, the Kegalle Division SSP and the Officers in charge of the Kegalle and Rambukkana Police to give evidence.

Meanwhile, the remains of Chaminda Lakshan were handed over to his family members on Friday after an autopsy was carried out on Thursday afternoon. The funeral was held yesterday.

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