( August 7, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) The exiled rights group journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka has vehemently condemned the barbaric attack by the Sri Lankan military on unarmed civilians in Weliweriya. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the rights group has further called for 'accountability from Sri Lankan and international corporations whose market ventures poisoned the drinking water of Sri Lankan citizens.'
"While this brutal attack and the government response calls for an independent inquiry, once again it confirms the demand to investigate Sri Lanka’s military and its political leadership on crimes against humanity committed during the war' said the statement.
The group, founded in 2009, comprising exiled Sinhala and Tamil journalists was instrumental in exposing grave crimes committed by the Sri Lankan state armed forces during the final phase of country's civil war.
The full text of the statement follows:
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka vehemently condemns the latest deadly and barbaric attack by Sri Lanka military on unarmed civilians and journalists as an extension of systematic crimes continuously committed against democratic protests by the armed forces led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. It also calls for accountability from Sri Lankan and international corporations whose market ventures poisoned the drinking water of Sri Lankan citizens.
On the first of August, armed forces in battle gear fired live bullets at men, women and children demanding clean water in the Gampaha district of western Sri Lanka. Demonstrators at Weliweriya were assaulted with hefty makeshift clubs and a variety of weapons. Official figures suggest that three teenagers were killed while it is feared that the death toll could be at least seven. Several among the injured dozens admitted to hospital are in a critical condition. JDS has received reliable information that a majority of dead and injured have head and chest injuries caused by bullets and blunt weapons. Female and male journalists covering the protest on a major highway were intimidated and had their camera equipments and footage forcibly destroyed.
Thousands from the Gampaha district rallied to protest on the Colombo - Kandy highway after talks with senior government leaders and factory managers held on the 29th of July broke down. Villagers were urging the closure of factory owned by a blue chip company discharging toxic waste contaminating ground water. The health of over 10,000 families have been affected due to the contamination of ground water by a Hayleys group subsidiary, Dipped Products PLC that produces rubber gloves and sells them to United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia and a large market in the European Union.
Military forces led by Brigadier Deshapriya Gunawardena and Col.Shyamal Silva were deployed to launch an attack on protestors, villagers and bystanders. Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake who took over the responsibility of commanding Sri Lanka Army on the day of this brutal attack announced the appointment of a board of inquiry (‘to look into all aspects of the incident’) led by adjutant general of the military Major General Jagath Dias. Brigadier Gunawardena and Major General Dias were senior officers attached to 58 and 57 Divisions of the Sri Lanka Army accused (by leading international bodies) of genocidal crimes against Tamils during the Sri Lanka government war with Tamil Tigers. It is highly unlikely that an inquiry by partners in an alleged war crime will deliver justice to victims in Weliweriya.
While this brutal attack and the government response calls for an independent inquiry, once again it confirms the demand to investigate Sri Lanka’s military and its political leadership on crimes against humanity committed during the protracted war against the Tamil people. JDS also calls upon worldwide partners of Hayleys group to call for corporate accountability and justice for victims.