Tight security for first Black Thursday funeral

Monday, 5 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  •  17 year old Akila Dinesh laid to rest in the tense Weliweriya town
  • Total fatalities from clashes rise to 03
  • 02 more at National Hospital in critical condition
  • Opposition claims 07 dead from clashes in all
  • Residents hoot at police during post-funeral protest march
  • Ranil visits home of second victim
By Dharisha Bastians A tight security cordon was in place in Weliweriya yesterday for the last rites of 17 year old Akila Dinesh Jayawardane, the first victim of Thursday night’s violence in the Gampaha District town. The death toll from violent clashes that erupted when troops were deployed to quell a public protest over a ground water contamination crisis had risen to three by afternoon yesterday. The Government deployed hundreds of elite police forces to control crowds of mourners even as news reached Weliweriya that the number of fatalities from Thursday’s violence had risen further, with the death of 29-year old Nilantha succumbing to his injuries at the Colombo National Hospital last afternoon. The third victim suffered a large intracranial haemorrhage and head bone fracture, hospital sources said. The second fatality, 18 year old Ravishan Perera also died in hospital on Saturday (3). Two more victims from the clashes remain critically injured at the Colombo National Hospital. The intensity of the violence against unarmed civilians has caused journalists, analysts and residents to dub August 1 Black Thursday. Notably, there were no army personnel stationed in the town for the funeral after residents accused troops of opening fire on them during a demonstration demanding clean water on Thursday night. The army has launched a probe into the allegations. Police Special Task Force personnel and Riot Police squads lined the streets of the small town as the 17 year old Akila’s prefects and school mates from Sri Chandrajothi College Yakkala bore his coffin from his residence to the Weliweriya General Cemetery last evening. His weeping mother Priyangani Jayawardane, refused to believe her son was dead and begged the schoolboys to open the coffin to “allow him to breathe.” She lost consciousness during the ceremony from grief, according to eyewitnesses. “The death of this child is a blow against humanity,” a Buddhist monk speaking at the funeral said. The monks stressed the importance of a peaceful funeral, because those were the wishes of his grieving family. Also present at the funeral was Western Province Senior DIG Anura Senanayake. DIG Senanayake pledged on Friday (2) that the schoolboy’s funeral would be taken care of by the Government. Residents of Weliweriya and surrounding villages marched in protest through the town following the funeral, heckling and booing the police. Police officials on duty remained calm despite the provocation.   Ranil visits second funeral home Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe visited the home of the second victim from the violent clashes in Weliweriya, Ravishan Perera last evening. Perera, a resident of the Bandarawatte village in Weliweriya succumbed to his injuries on Sunday afternoon at the Colombo National Hospital. The 18 year old was transferred to the INtensive Care Unit in Colombo after he suffered massive bleeding in the brain, according to hospital sources. Surgery could not be performed on the victim because his condition was too unstable, the sources said.   Govt. is hiding true death toll: Mangala The Opposition charged yesterday that while the official death toll from the Weliweriya clashes remained at three, independent sources were confirming that at least seven people had died when the military was sent in to quell a public demonstration last Thursday. United National Party Legislator Mangala Samaraweera demanded that the Government release the actual number of people killed during the clash. “The Government has to answer who ordered army Commando units used to fighting brutal LTTE terrorists to shoot innocent civilians,” Samaraweera charged in a statement released to the media. The Government is attempting to hide the true death toll from the world, he charged.   Army internal probe within two weeks: Commander Army Commander Lt. General Daya Ratnayake said the army board of inquiry set up to investigate the army’s conduct during a demonstration for clean water in Weliweriya would submit its report within two weeks. The incident took place on the new Army Chief’s first day in his new position. Speaking to reporters in Kandy after paying homage to the Mahanayakas yesterday, Lt. Gen. Ratnayake promised an independent probe into the Weliweriya violence. Stressing that discipline was a top priority for the army, the new Army Chief said that if army personnel are found guilty they will be dealt with accordingly. Investigations will be conducted to determine whether civilians or media personnel were unfairly dealt with, he said. A special five member board of inquiry headed by Adjutant General of the Army, Major General Jagath Dias will probe the Weliweriya incident.