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One killed, scores injured including IP


Military crackdown on Weliweriya protest:

One person was killed and scores were wounded when troops opened fire on an unruly crowds blocking the Kandy-Colombo main road yesterday.

The army said it had been compelled to fire as the troops had come under attack by those demanding the closure of a factory allegedly responsible for polluting ground water in the Rathupaswela area of Weliveriya.

Among the wounded were troops and police personnel including Weliweriya OIC IP Upali. Earlier the police backed by troops fired tear gas and baton charged protesters in a bid to clear the road.

Security contingents moved in after a tense situation arose in the Belummahara yesterday, when the villagers living in Rathupaswala, Weliweriya and surrounding villages, blocked the Kandy-Colombo main road for several hours from noon demanding the closure of a factory, which they claimed was polluting their ground water.

There were thousands of protesters from ten villages. The shops were closed and black flags were hoisted in protest  against the alleged water issue.

The police used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets in the evening to finally clear crowd, who disturbed the road traffic causing heavy congestion for several hours.

Following the police intervention in dispersing the crowd, 20 had been injured, hospital sources said.

The protests had been led by a Buddhist monk in the area for about a week, claiming that their drinking water was contaminated by chemicals released by the factory.

A court case against the factory is pending.

In a discussion representatives of the protesters had with Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa the latter promised to provide the affected villagers with water from bowsers to ease the situation and the company be temporally closed for two weeks.

~ ~ By Madura Ranwala


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