The heads of Sri Lanka’s army and police force publically clashed today, after the war-crimes accused military head Shavendra Silva demanded an inquiry into two Sri Lankan police officers, after they stopped a group of masked and armed soldiers on unmarked motorbikes near protests outside parliament.
A statement released by the Army said,
Shavendra Silva has requested the Inspector General of Police to immediately conduct an inquiry into the 'unethical and ill-mannered behaviour' of two Police officers (Assistant Superintendents of Police) and initiate disciplinary action against them when a four -member team of Army Riders on the directions of the Director Operations of the Army HQ arrived at the road entrance to the Parliament complex this evening (5).
Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne (Retd) has also already informed the IGP and the Secretary to Ministry of Public Security in regard to the incident and requested them to inquire into the unacceptable conduct of those Police Officers (Ends).
The statement from the army comes after the group of soldiers were seen with the guns pointed in the air, as protests took place in the South earlier today, sparking outrage amongst Sinhala social media users.
So I guess I completely lost it.
but it was infuriating to witness @GotabayaR and his hired goons trying to break up a peaceful protest using guns. There were children, youth, and elderly in the crowd!Why bring guns into their midst?Who are you trying to shoot?#GoHomeRajapaksas https://t.co/Ap1KqrSFVz pic.twitter.com/J5VD49T1rq
— Marlon Ariyasinghe (@exfrotezter) April 5, 2022
A four-member team of masked armed soldiers drove toward the crowd of protestors before being stopped by the police line, after being confronted by protestors. In footage captured by demonstrators, police officers appear to take the key out of the ignition of one of the bikes.
The footage widely circulated online led to some commentators to note that the soldiers wore similar uniforms to those from the newly raised 1 Corps, which is based in Kilinochchi. A video released by the 1 Corps states that the new unit "is the highest tactical organization” in the Sri Lankan army, with a range of units including the war crimes accused 58 and 53 Divisions. The new unit will “eliminate the internal and external threats to our motherland” the narration continues.
Other commentators were however, also quick to note that the presence of unmarked armed military personnel intimidating the local population, was not a new occurrence on the island. Across the North East, the Sri Lankan military has constantly surveilled and harassed the Tamil and Muslim populace. Despite the armed conflict ending nearly 13 years ago, militarisation is rampant across the North-East.
All those getting outraged & asking, since when is it legal for army to roam around on unregistered bikes & not be clearly identifiable as army, pls note:
Whether or not an act is illegal hasn’t prevented the military & police from breaking the law in. https://t.co/E1b2iacwNr
— Ambika Satkunanathan (@ambikasat) April 5, 2022
The surprise and shock amongst Sinhalese about this sort of footage is interesting. Tamil journalists and papers, have covered these sort of incidents for years and this is shared widely on SM. Yet it was always ignored/covered up in the south. Will that change now, is the q. https://t.co/JsJgZYctZB
— Mario Arulthas (@MarioArul) April 5, 2022
Though significant sign of times, *nothing* in this video or encounter would have gone the way depicted in recent past (& even today) if Tamils were protesting in North/East. There would have been bullets & blood. Police wouldn't have intervened. Paramilitaries would have shot. https://t.co/0MgSjZQxPm
— Dr. Sanjana Hattotuwa (@sanjanah) April 5, 2022
Mullaitivu-based journalist K Kumanan tweeted footage from November 2021, depicting masked riders circling Tamil protestors who were commemorating Maaveerar Naal.
— kumanan (@kumanan93) April 5, 2022
Sri Lankan Military in Mullaitivu - November 2021