SRI LANKA: The need to introduce studies in Killology — Part Two 

Newspapers have published discussions between the president and the representatives from the Rathupaswela, Weliweriya incident. A possible settlement was mentioned by way of the removal of the factory, Venigross Ltd., a subsidiary of Dipped Products PLC, from its present location. However, the reports do not mention a word about the killings of at least three persons and the injuries caused to many others by the assaults of the soldiers.

Surely the killings of the three persons should have been the main issue of concern to the president during this important meeting with the representatives, who are grieving their losses. It would be abnormal if the president himself was not grieving about the loss of the lives of these three innocent persons, two of whom, Akila Dinesh and Ravishan Perera, were 16 and 18 year-old boys. Further, the circumstances of their deaths are now well publicized. Akila Dinesh was far away from the actual protest and was merely watching out of curiosity about the event in which the villagers, who would have been known to him, were involved. Ravishan Perera was on his way to fetch his mother after work. They were not killed by accidental fire and their injuries, such as the shot to the head that killed Ravishan Perera, show deliberate shooting done at close range.

The question of these killings and the other injuries caused by the assaults is a matter that concerns not only the villages in the area but the entire nation. Such killings and the infliction of injuries by the security forces are, in fact, of primary concern of any nation where such things happen.

Soldiers and combatants do kill each other in combat. However, what happened in Weliweriya was not killing in combat by any stretch of the imagination.

The question of vital concern to the people as a whole is as to how these soldiers killed outside combat. Many reports and research work clearly demonstrates that the soldiers of any nation do not find it easy to kill, even in combat. More soldiers avoid having to kill than those who, in fact, deliberately shoot to kill, even in the midst of intense warfare, as shown by research.

‘Prior to World War II it has always been assumed that the average soldier would kill in combat simply because his country and his leaders have told him to do so and because it is essential to defend his own life and the lives of his friends. When the point came that he didn’t kill, it was assumed that he would panic and run.

During World War II U.S. Army Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall asked these average soldiers what it was that they did in battle. His singularly unexpected discovery was that, of every hundred men along the line of fire during the period of an encounter, an average of only 15 to 20 “would take any part with their weapons.” This was consistently true “whether the action was spread over a day, or two days or three.”‘

On Killing – The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

However, the problem that we have in Sri Lanka in the recent killings at Rathupaswela, Weliweriya and other instances of large scale killings is that such killings have been done outside of a combat situation. This is a matter that should be deeply probed by everyone who looks at this problem from whatever point of view. For example, Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission is supposed to be investigating the incident that took place last week at Rathupaswela, Weliweriya. The Commission should ask, above all other questions, the question about how soldiers could kill outside a combat situation. Surely the president should have asked this question himself. Any responsible statesman would have been seriously bothered by the action of the nation’s soldiers engaging in such killings outside combat.

What is even more perplexing is that all the information so far available to the public clearly shows that the soldiers were not acting on a sudden spur of emotions but following a well thought out plan. When the soldiers arrived, one of the first things they did was to shoot out the street lights and then disconnect the power for the area. Even the attack on the nearby church is supposed to have happened because there were lights on in the church due to it having its own generator.

The soldiers could have wanted to conduct their actions in darkness for two reasons. One obvious reason is that they did not want their actions to be seen by others and did not want to be identified. They would also not want to have their photographs taken as the taking of photographs has become quite easy these days with mobile telephones and pocket cameras. There were also reports of attacks on journalists and cameramen.

However, there may have been a further reason why they preferred darkness. It may have been because they would not have to see the faces and expressions of their victims. In killings or any other acts of violence, seeing the victim’s face works as a deterrent.

Added to this is the fact that the task of dispersing the crowd was taken out of the hands of the police and assigned to the soldiers. This indicates a design to commit deliberate acts of violence under the pretext of dispersing the crowd.

If the police were to do such an exercise they have their own rules to follow and their own superior officers to give them orders. By taking it out of the hands of the police, those who sent the soldiers there took the situation under their control and wanted to do it in their own way.

Therefore, the issue of killing outside combat raises questions, not only about the soldiers who, in fact, carried out the actions, but also those who were directing them. The aim of those who were directing the action was to cause the killings and other kinds of injuries.

The question that the Commander-in-Chief should have asked himself was: How has this kind of thing become possible under his command?

However, finding answers to these questions is essential if people are to have an explanation about what took place at Rathupaswela, Weliweriya. That issue is much more vital than the relocation of the factory.

For the first part of this statement, please see here.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-145-2013
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Freedom of expression, Judicial system,