Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Prime Minister regrets treatment of lodge residents

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake expressed regret at the recent transport of Tamil speaking persons who were living temporarily in lodges in Colombo and the suburbs to their places of permanent residence in the North and East.

He said the Government accepted responsibility for what happened and assured that such incidents would not happen again.

Mr. Wickramanayake said this at a press conference held at the office of the Prime Minister in Colombo, today (June 10).

Earlier (On June 8) President Mahinda Rajapaksa had called for an immediate report from the Inspector General of Police on the manner in which the exercise to transport Tamil persons living in lodges in Colombo and its suburbs to their places of permanent residence in the North and East was carried out on June 7, and about reports regarding hardships and inconvenience caused to the persons concerned.

President Rajapaksa called for this report taking serious note of the concerns expressed by Hon. Members of Parliament, Civil Society organizations, Human Rights organizations and activists, religious leaders and the media relating to the exercise leading to the vacation of temporary lodgings by Tamil persons primarily from the North and East of Sri Lanka, when more than 300 persons residing in Colombo and its environs were transported to the North and East.

Prime Minister Wickramanayake told the media today that as much as the Government accepted the kudos when public officers did something good, it was also ready to accept the responsibility for any wrong or bad acts of public officers. It was in this spirit that the Government accepted responsibility for the wrong act of transporting these people.

He said that all citizens had the right to live in any part of the country, which is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. There was accepted procedure in law to question or detain any persons about whom the authorities had reasonable cause for suspicion. People should be able to live without threats and intimidation anywhere in the country, and those who obstruct this act in violation of the Constitution, he said.

Asked what disciplinary action the Government would take regarding any public officers responsible for the transport of these Tamil persons, Mr. Wickramanayake said that was an internal administrative matter, and in any event no comment could be made on this now as it was the subject of a case before court.

The Prime Minister said it was natural for people to question how two volunteer workers, from a group of six had been abducted in Colombo and transported to Ratnapura where their dead bodies were found, with their having to pass several security check-points on the way. While the government condemned these abductions and killings, the probe into this was

under way. A probe was also on into the nine bodies found earlier this week at Wennappuwa.

He also said a truck carrying over 1,000 kg of C4 explosive had been recently found. Had it exploded in Colombo it would have destroyed half the city. That truck too had passed several check-points and had been cleared by a police station before it was found. There could be valid questions among the public as to how that bomb-laden truck could have passed all those check-points.

The Prime Minister explained that due to the prevailing situation involving acts of terror, security in the city and suburbs had been tightened. Despite this, there had been two bomb explosion in the city recently,

leading to the loss of innocent lives. These security precautions would cause hardships to the day-to-day lives of the people, and the Government called upon the people to bear with it in the current circumstances.