ECONOMYNEXT – A Sri Lankan male has been arrested for being in possession of 50 canisters of tear gas, allegedly stolen during a recent protest in the vicinity of parliament, police said.
According to a police statement, the Welikada police had launched an investigation regarding a group of protestors who had allegedly attacked a police three wheeler carrying tear gas and three officers in the vehicles before attempting to make off with the canisters.
The incident had occurred when police had been dispatched to control an anti-government protest at the Polduwa Junction on July 13.
The Welikada Police had arrested a suspect on Sunday July 17, and later apprehended 50 tear gas canisters found in his temporary housing in Borella.
The accused, a 31-year-old male from Polonnaruwa, is to be produced in court on Monday July 18.
Welikada police are conducting further investigations on the matter.
Sri Lanka’s protestors have been facing a new, stronger type of tear gas since the initial protests in Mirihana, in front of ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence in March.
Protestors have taken to fighting back in various ways, including throwing back live tear gas canisters sent their way.
Sri Lanka has also seen much unrest in recent weeks, with protests intensifying and leading to confrontations between protestors and security forces.
While activists and opposition lawmakers accuse the government of overreach and violent suppression of peaceful protest, the government claims that “fascist” elements within the protest movement are deliberately engaging in violence seeking to destabilise the country and overthrow democratic institutions through extra-constitutional means. Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency on Monday.
The Police and Armed Forces have been accused by critics of “state sanctioned terrorism” and failing to use minimal force on even peaceful protestors. Social media was recently filled with recordings of unarmed civilians being attacked by uniformed officers from the Police, Army or Special Task Force.
A recent attack on unarmed journalists during a protest in front of Wickrememsinghe’s residence was met with widespread criticism.
Police have been cracking down on protestors, and reports of tear gas and water cannon attacks have become commonplace in Sri Lankan life, along with fuel queues, food and medicine shortages, and frequent planned and unplanned power cuts. (Colombo/Jul17/2022)