Within 24 hours of video footage of a Sri Lankan soldier assaulting a civilian at a petrol station emerging, the military launched an investigation into the incident and sent out a press release accusing “invisible elements” of trying to “ridicule members of the Army”.
Footage of the assault at a petrol shed at Yaggahapitiya in Kurunegala had been widely shared earlier today. JDS Lanka identified the soldier in the video as identified as Lt. Col. Viraj Kumarasinghe, Commanding Officer of the 1 Sri Lanka National Guard.
The soldier who was seen kicking a civilian waiting to buy fuel at a petrol station in #Yaggahapitiya, #Kurunegala in north-western #SriLanka has been identified as Lt. Col. Viraj Kumarasinghe, Commanding Officer of the 1 Sri Lanka National Guard of @Sri_Lanka_Army. pic.twitter.com/ifsvBc4s3d
— JDS (@JDSLanka) July 4, 2022
Within hours, Army Spokesman Brigadier Nilantha Premaratne said that the military had begun an “internal investigation into the incident”.
However, later in the day, a statement from the army staunchly defended soldiers from any wrongdoing and instead lashed out at the media and civilians lining up for fuel.
It claimed that video footage had been “intentionally edited or projecting only one side or tail end of the dispute” and said “Army personnel are being humiliated or verbally abused”.
“Such attempts go quite contrary to basic media ethics, too,” the statement continued.
“Those media clips, needless to reiterate, some of which project Army members as a ‘repressive force’ of undisciplined, impolite nature, are being produced by invisible elements in order to serve different agendas of their masters in order to ridicule members of the Army and cause animosity between civilians and Army personnel.”
Fuel crisis : Video of an Army officer assaulting a civilian in a fuel station has gone viral in Facebook
— NewsWire (@NewsWireLK) July 3, 2022
The statement concludes,
“members of the public are very humbly and kindly requested to coordinate with Army personnel with broader understanding and cordial nature since they have been deployed in respective areas for your own safety and protection as you all have admirably done in the past, too.”
Several incidents of Sri Lankan military brutality have been noted in recent weeks alone, gaining traction across the Sinhala South.
In the Tamil North-East, such incidents have become more routine, with the army frequently harassing and detaining Tamils. Last month, the Sri Lankan army opened fire at a petrol station in Mullaitivu, with video footage showing soldeirs pelting objects at locals. It ended up blaming a "drunken mob" for the incident.