His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday expressed shock and distress over the Weliweriya incident and condemned the attack on people seeking sanctuary at St. Anthony’s parish in the town last Thursday, 01st August.
" We wish to condemn unhesitatingly the attack that was carried out by some elements of the forces on people who had sought refuge at St. Anthony’s Church, Weliweriya. It was sacrilege for anyone to enter such sacred precincts with arms in their hands and to behave in a violent manner there. Such actions cannot be accepted by anyone. It is always necessary that we preserve this sanctity of sacred premises of any religion and respect the people who enter such premises seeking protection. We request that those found guilty be punished without consideration of rank or status. We wish to reiterate at this point that we do not accept attempts to resolve questions either, taking the law into one’s own hands."
His Eminence said it was unacceptable, under any circumstances, the attacking of unarmed civilians during a demonstration. “We do not accept using one’s power in a repressive manner to suppress protests, even if they get out of control. For every question, the best way out is the way of peaceful dialogue and discussion."
His Eminence also urged all those affected in Weliweriya and people of the area to remain calm and patient.
Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Lakpriya Nonis said, " when the Army started attcking and shoorting at people, crowds of people ruches to the Church for safety. People hid themselves in the Church premises and some went to take refuge in the Convent as well. They shot at the church at several places. One police officer came and shouted at us in utter filthy language. The army had beaten severely, who running inside the church premises. One army personnel had held Rev. Sister Mary Therese, had pleaded with soldiers not to harm anyone, one of them placed a rifle at her chest had threatened her send the people out of the Convent. One of the victims who died, Nilantha Pushakumara, was beaten near the Church verandah."
Ravishan, a Catholic of Weliweriya, was to do the Adavanced Level exam in Commerce stream on Monday 05th August 2013, was shot by the Armed Forces at Weliweriya, while trying to return home. According to the Rev. Fathers at St. Peter's College, Colombo, his brain was heavily damaged with internal bleeding and was in the Intensive Care Unit at the General Hospital, Colombo for two days..
A 17 year old Akila Dinesh a student at Chandrajothy Maha Vidyalaya in Yakkala, and 20 year old Nilantha Pushpakumara from Udahenthenna, Gampolala were also killed during the Weliweriya protest.
Residents of Weliweriya, Rathupaswala and surrounding villages stage the protest on Thursday to demand the government to permanently close a factory that has allegedly contaminated the ground water with its chemical waste.
Weliweriya, for those less familiar with the geography of Sri Lanka’s conflict, lies in Sri Lanka’s Western Province, far from the battlegrounds of the North and the East.
Police had used tear gas and water cannon to disperse a group of residents blocking the Colombo-Kandy main road in protest against ground water contamination.
Armed troops were called in to assist the police in dispersing the protesters and that resulted in a tense situation with the protesters refusing to abandon their agitation.