An individual has died while 29 others have sustained injuries following clashes between protesters and Police in Rambukkana yesterday.
Several persons including police officers are continuing to receive treatment in hospital following the incident.
The Kegalle Teaching hospital confirmed at least three persons are in critical condition.
Meanwhile, Police curfew imposed in the area last evening to control the situation will continue until further notice.
Police Media Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa confirmed that curfew was imposed in the area on the directives of the Inspector General of Police.
SSP Thalduwa requested the public in the Rambukkana Police area to remain within their residences as violating curfew will be considered an act of disrupting public law and order.
He also requested individuals travelling through the Rambukkana Police area to resort to alternative routes during this period.
Unrest broke out in Rambukkana last evening when Police opened fire at a group of protesters.
Police confirmed that officers opened fire at protesters after the situation in the area turned violent.
Protesters were blocking the main Kandy-Colombo railway line from Rambukkana from 1:30 last morning and also blocked the Rambukkana-Kegalle Road, and Kurunegala and Mawanella roads entirely demanding a solution to the fuel crisis.
The protesters also parked a diesel bowser across the rail track. Railway authorities were compelled to cancel several trains owing to the disruptions along the railway line.
Police Media Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said Police requested protesters to disperse from the area several times.
The protesters attempted to set fire to the fuel bowser while a three-wheeler was torched by the protesters according to Police.
The Police Media Spokesman said since protesters were damaging public property, officers fired tear gas to disperse them.
He said protesters then retaliated and attempted to attack Police officers on duty.
SSP Nihal Thalduwa said they were unable to defuse the situation and gunshots were fired.
He said additional Police officers have been deployed to control the situation in Rambukkana.
Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police CD Wickramaratne claims Police were ordered to fire below the knee at protesters in Rambukkana.
In a special statement to media, the IGP said individuals at a filling station adjacent to the Rambukkana Railway Station commenced a protest around 1am yesterday (19), owing to the fuel shortage.
He said by morning the protesters had blocked the Rambukkana Railway line obstructing train operations.
The IGP said the Rambukkana Police at the time attempted to meet their demands and organised two fuel bowsers. However, he said protesters didn’t allow the first bowser to pass the railway crossing and brought the bowser to a halt across the road, removed the battery of the vehicle and let out the air in the tyres.
The IGP added the protesters took hold of the second bowser as well, and demanded that they be provided fuel at the old CPC fuel prices and allegedly continued to behave in an unruly manner.
IGP Wickramaratne said all trains travelling through Rambukkana were unable to operate, inconveniencing commuters.
He claimed that Police repeatedly advised protesters from morning to disperse, adding that after almost 12-hours, they began rioting and also set a three-wheeler on fire.
The IGP said the group also attempted to set a fuel bowser on fire and continued to disregard Police orders, leading Policemen to initially assault protesters with batons.
IGP Wickramaratne added as protests continued in order to control the situation, tear gas was fired. He noted that at the time several protesters dispersed, while another group remained at the scene, and they broke up to smaller groups and used stones from the railway line to attacks Policemen.
The IGP said they assaulted Policemen who surrounded the bowser from being set on fire, and as the lives of Policemen were in danger, and the bowser being set alight would have led to massive destruction and to both public life and property, minimum force was used to control protesters.
He added Police then fired in the air first and still failed to control the protesters, following which orders were issued to fire below the knee to disperse the protesters.
The IGP said an ASP and 10 Policemen were injured while several protesters also sustained injuries and were hospitalised.
He claimed curfew was imposed in the Rambukkana Police area to maintain law and order, and requested the public to refrain from engaging in violence and to contribute towards upholding law and order.
The IGP said investigations, supervised by the Police Headquarters, will be initiated to determine if Police used extra force.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Public Security Rt. Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis says an investigation will be conducted to determine if Police used excessive force during the protest in Rambukkana yesterday (19). Speaking to media, the Secretary said yesterday’s incidents were unfortunate, adding that Police attempted to disperse protesters with minimum force such as tear gas and baton assaults. However, Secretary Alwis said the protesters acted violently, and also attempted to set fire to 33,000 litres of fuel. He said Police acted in order to prevent a disaster from occurring, had the fuel bowser been set alight, in order to protect public life and property, and as a result opened fire at protesters. Alwis stated that alternate methods were used to disperse the protesters, but to no avail, prompting Police to open fire which resulted in one individual succumbing. He said an investigation board has been appointed, comprising a Secretary of the State Ministry, an Additional Secretary of a Ministry, and the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Public Security to determine if excessive force was used. He urged the public to uphold peace, and to refrain from engaging in violence.