- Individuals backing protesters claim that justice won’t be served if investigations are headed by the Police
- Agitators are not satisfied with how the investigations are taking place
- The protesters are determined to bring about a change and are working day and night to achieve their objectives
- Protesters claim that political authorities are working with the Police and taking repressive measures
Today (June 9) marks two months since the Galle Face protest began and a month since peaceful protesters in front of Temple Trees and at the Galle Face Green were attacked. Much has happened since the attacks took place, but the protesters continue to work towards the common objective of putting an end to a corrupt governance structure. Their primary demand is the demand for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down. However, in response, the head of state recently said that he would not leave as a failed President.
Despite unlawful arrests, questioning by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), warnings and repressive measures taken by law enforcement authorities, the protesters are determined to bring about a change and are working day and night to achieve their objectives.
Victims of May 9 attacks and their fight for justice
Several peaceful protesters who suffered injuries following the May 9 attacks are still recovering. More than the physical wounds they have been impacted psychologically. However, they are determined to fight for justice.
The Daily Mirror spoke to three peaceful protesters who suffered injuries. This is how they related their stories.
“We are stronger than before”
P.S Anuranga from Sevanagala was one of the peaceful protesters who was attacked on May 9. He has been at the Galle Face protest site since April 9. Having been employed at a restaurant in Udawalawe, Anuranga had visited the protest with no intention of remaining. “But when I saw the dedication and commitment by others who were at the protest I wanted to remain and contribute,” he said in an interview with the Daily Mirror. “I was mainly involved with logistics; making sure that everybody who comes here gets his or her share of everything from a toothbrush to meals. I hardly slept prior to the May 9 incidents as I got heavily involved with the activities taking place,” said Anuranga.
Indunil hospitalised following a blow to
However, on May 9, Anuranga suffered a heavy blow to his head. Video footage shows one individual, later identified as ‘Arabi Wasantha’ beating Anuranga on his head. Anuranga fall at the very instant he was beaten and was carried away by two Police officers. The impact of the blow was such that Anuranga’s left hand is now paralysed. “I saw Vishwa moving towards the mobsters while capturing live footage with his phone. But I saw people coming to beat him. I was near the statue and I was going to save him. Two police officers held me and it was then that somebody came from behind and beat me. I didn’t know who Vishwa was. The only thing I knew was that those mobsters were going to attack him,” he recalled.
Anuranga still cannot move his fingers and is receiving physiotherapy treatment. “Each finger has to be trained to function again. Even though they arrested the individual who beat me justice hasn’t been served yet. The CID officials obtained a statement around 12 days after I was attacked. But this wouldn’t have been the case if a politician or a prominent person was attacked. I’m also glad that no politician came to see me or anybody who was injured while they were in hospital. That shows where their priorities lie. They don’t care much about people in this country. All of us are fighting for our rights. They haven’t arrested
Johnston Fernando, Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon and even the former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Why such double standards? Some have gone to the UN demanding justice. The entire country has seen how the violence started and who instigated the attacks,” said Anuranga.
It’s been a month since the attacks took place and its two months for the aragalaya. I appreciate the support extended by the lawyers fighting for the people, who are demanding justice. I also like to thank the staff at the Colombo National Hospital for attending to our injuries
– Priyanga Vishwajith from Ambalantota
However Anuranga feels that certain things have changed at the site at present after the May 9 attacks. “But we have to get things back on track. We will work towards achieving our goal.
Around 2000 people came to attack around 50 people. They may have thought that by attacking us they have put an end to the ‘aragalaya’. But we are stronger than before and we will keep fighting, I will keep fighting to ensure that nobody else would experience what I did. I will fight until the system changes in a manner in which justice is served to victims of injustice,” he said.
“I thought I was going to die”- Vishwajith
Priyanga Vishwajith (fondly known as Vishwa) from Ambalantota has been working on teledrama sets as an assistant director while also engaging in social service, planting trees and supporting underprivileged communities in his capacity. He is one among the group of protesters agitating in front of the Presidential Secretariat. “On May 8
A permanent scar on Anuranga’s head
we received news of a possible attack to ‘MainaGoGama’-which is in front of Temple Trees- planned for May 9; the day which marked a month since the Galle Face protest commenced. On May 9 we didn’t have a big crowd at Galle Face. At around 10 am we heard that several supporters of the former Prime Minister had visited Temple Trees and that they were going to attack the Galle Face protesters. We then gathered as many people as possible and formed a human chain. Subsequently two protesters from MainaGoGama came and said that they are being attacked. By the time I moved towards GotaGoGama I saw tents being burned down and the manner in which these mobsters were attacking people. I wanted to capture everything on video and I switched on live camera and moved forward. I then saw these mobsters trying to attack someone and I went that way. I then realised that I was the only person there. I saw the mobsters coming towards me and I started running. Then about five people gathered around me and attacked me. They hit my neck and face with such force that I thought I was going to die. I remember an officer from the riot police coming towards me and helping me to stand up,” he recalled.
Vishwa was subsequently hospitalised for three days. “As soon as I was discharged I returned to the protest site, without going home. I cannot get myself to leave the aragalaya until we achieve our objectives. After I was discharged I identified two of the five people who beat me. After obtaining all their details I submitted them to the Police. They were arrested later on. But the other three people haven’t been arrested yet. Despite there being videos and photos of them, these people are still free. We haven’t seen justice being served to peaceful protesters as yet. The masterminds too are still free.
“It’s been a month since the attacks took place and its two months for the aragalaya. I appreciate the support extended by the lawyers fighting for the people, who are demanding justice. I also like to thank the staff at the Colombo National Hospital for attending to our injuries,” he said.
Vishwa said that the agitators will fight for the rights of all citizens in the country and ensure a secure future for the next generation. “We won’t vacate the place until the failed rulers leave,” he said in his parting remarks.
“I can’t feel my legs”
K. M Indunil Senarath Bandara from Anuradhapura, another protester who volunteered at the Youth Centre, is wheelchair-bound following the May 9 attacks. “On May 9 there were less people at the Galle Face protest site. We spotted a drone and we suspect that it was sent by those who came to attack us. We informed the Police about the mobsters who were coming to attack us. I saw around eight people heading towards the youth tent and amongst them was Milan Jayathilaka. I tried to run away and I was beaten at that instance. I suffered blows to my head and spine and fell. I realised that I couldn’t walk and felt a shortness of breath. Subsequently a friend took me to hospital,” recalled Bandara.
Today Bandara’s legs are paralysed and medical reports indicate nerve damage in his spinal cord. “I’m receiving Ayurveda treatment at present. I can’t feel my legs. As soon as I was discharged I returned to the protest site because we were there with so much passion to make a change,” he said.
Although Bandara has lodged a complaint against those who attacked him- including the masterminds- he is not satisfied with how the investigations are taking place. “The Police provided full protection to these mobsters. We like to ask whether the Police officers have sufficient gas, fuel and essential items? They too are inconvenienced by the shortages, but they continue to protect the rulers. We will continue the protests until our goal has been achieved,” he affirmed.
Speaking further Bandara extended his gratitude to the staff at the Colombo National Hospital and everybody else who helped him following the attack.
“People are being arrested without a reason” – Perera
Apart from the fact that several perpetrators are still free, many peaceful protesters were either arrested or taken in for questioning by the CID. Recently, Attorney-at-law Senaka Perera- heading the People’s Lawyers Association- was questioned by the CID in connection with a voice recording. “On May 9 I lodged a complaint with the Kollupitiya Police requesting the Police to take action against the mobsters. But they didn’t respond. As such the attacks took place with the support of the Police. There was no tear gas, barricades or water cannons to stop these mobsters. Despite there being so many photos and videos of mobsters they choose to ignore this evidence and continue to go after the protesters,” said Perera.
The attacks took place with the support of the Police. There was no tear gas, barricades or water cannons to stop these mobsters. Despite there being so many photos and videos of mobsters they choose to ignore this evidence and continue to go after the protesters
– Senaka Perera Attorney-at-law
He said that the Police continue to instill fear in people by calling them, going to their houses, warning them of arrests etc. “People are being arrested without a reason. Likewise, the political authority is working with the Police
Indunil receives a warm welcome on his
with such repressive measures. I was taken in for questioning in relation to a voice recording and they wanted to confirm whether I had instructed some protesters to gather and engage in violence. The department that is so concerned about social media activists etc., cannot apprehend the masterminds of the violence. There’s no law for Mahinda Rajapaksa and Deshabandu Tennakoon,” opined Perera.
He further said that the government continues to suppress people and people will continue to protest until the country returns to some sort of normalcy.
“ Ranil Wickremesinghe too has proved that he cannot sort this mess. Even though he came to pump some oxygen to the Rajapaksa regime, what we see is that the patient is dying. We will continue our fight until justice is served to the people and victims of injustice,” said Perera.
“Appoint an independent commission to probe May 9 attacks”
– Ven. Sugathananda thera
Speaking at a press briefing to announce a protest march organised today to mark a month since the attacks took place and two months since the protests commenced, Ven. Tampitiye Sugathananda Thera said that the President doesn’t have a mandate anymore. “In a recent interview with Bloomberg President Rajapaksa has said that he will not leave as a failed President and that he has two more years in office. He gained power by spreading extremism and all those attempts have now been exposed. It has been a month since the attacks took place, but they are not apprehending the masterminds including Mahinda Rajapaksa, Deshabandu Tennakoon and Johnston Fernando. Where is the law in this country? All the masterminds are being protected by the Police and tri-forces. Justice won’t be served if investigations are headed by the Police. We therefore request the Government to appoint an independent commission to probe into the May 9 attacks and apprehend perpetrators,” the Thera said.
“We vehemently condemn repression”- Fr. Pieris
Airing his views at the press conference Fr. Jeewantha Pieris said that even after a month since the government-supported mob assault took place the perpetrators are still free. “So many peaceful protesters who took to the street have been arrested illegally. We vehemently condemn this kind of repression and want the government to serve justice to victims. This situation was created by the Rajapaksa regime and now Ranil Wickremesinghe too has come into the picture. We will be fighting peacefully until they renounce power,” said Fr. Pieris.
A travel ban was imposed on Fr. Pieris as part of the investigation to apprehend perpetrators of the violence.
“CID questions people as per the law”
– SSP Thalduwa
Even though Police statistics claim that over 2500 people have been arrested in connection with the May 9 attacks many who featured attacked are still free. Responding to a query on why many haven’t been arrested, Police Spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that even though many people arrived at Temple Trees, only a few were engaged in the attacks. “Even at the protest site, there were only a few people. Hence we should be able to get hold of the remaining suspects soon,” said SSP Thalduwa.
Even at the protest site, there were only a few people. Hence we should be able to get hold of the remaining suspects soon
SSP Nihal Thalduwa
When asked why many people at the protest site are being taken in for questioning by the CID, he said that the process of obtaining a statement is a tedious one. “One officer is allocated for each case and he cannot engage in any other work. Usually when there’s a complaint we have to obtain statements to proceed with the inquiry. The CID questions people and obtains statements as per the law. It is a normal procedure that is being followed and there’s nothing to be surprised about it. The CID is carrying out their duties to ensure justice,” said SSP Thalduwa.
The Fort Magistrate court issued an arrest warrant on former minister Johnston Fernando yesterday. However, four individuals including former state minister Sanath Nishantha were further remanded till June 15,2022 while MP Milan Jayathilaka and 13 others were released on bail.
Disclaimer: Wounded protesters push for justice through blood, sweat and pain - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view