The Sri Lanka Army says members of the Armed Forces are legitimately empowered to exercise force, if the situation deems necessary as security to public property, key installations, vulnerable points and human lives, falls within their purview.
Issuing a statement, the Army said the forces and the Police in terms of provisions, vested in them by the Constitution have been empowered to enforce law and order of the country and maintain the same in order to protect the country’s people, public property and the country.
The statement added this has been practised since independence, through which sovereignty, freedom of expression and free movement as enshrined in the Constitution is upheld and exercised as it has distinctly manifested in the most recent months during protests that began in May this year.
The Sri Lanka Army also added that no major incidents of violence of considerable nature have been reported during law enforcement during protests, including on the 9th of July in Colombo, Fort.
The statement claimed that the Chief of Defence Staff, the Commanders of the Tri-Forces, and the Inspector General of Police on more than three occasions publicly appealed to protesting groups to remain calm, safeguard state buildings and to resolve issues constitutionally with the exit of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The Army also revealed that all heads of the Armed Forces and the Police during meetings with the acting President and Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and political party leaders during the past 72-hours have requested that a resolution be accelerated to the issues, including political instability through constitutional provisions, and unanimously maintained that peaceful protests should not be dealt with full force, but with minimum force as long as protesters do not resort to violence.
The Sri Lanka Army said irrespective of these assurances, it has been unfortunately observed that certain protesters, purposefully deviated from its proclaimed ‘non-violent’ approach and continued to breach law and order as of last (13) afternoon and resorted to violence by trying to place the Parliament complex as well as the Speaker’s official residence under siege while destroying Police barricades with heavy machinery, in an attempt to take control of Parliament which is the sole legislative body that can only exercise the sovereignty of the country and democratic values in conformity with Constitutional provisions.
The Army claimed by 7pm yesterday unruly mobs, unresponsive to repeated appeals of army personnel, tried to forcibly enter Parliament and harassed and attacked troops on duty using clubs, iron rods, stones, helmets, and snatched two T-56 weapons with ammunition rounds caused injuries to a dozen of army personnel, leaving two of them unconscious who have since been admitted to the Colombo National Hospital and the Colombo Army Hospital for emergency treatment. The Police have been alerted of the loss of the two T-56 weapons, that are in the possession of the protesters.
The statement added Army troops used minimum force after firing several shots in the air and held some of the individuals who were inciting others too to harm Army personnel and the Police. However, Army personnel along with Policemen brought the situation under control and took all precautionary security measures by dispersing protesters.