The expiry dates of the tear gas fired by the police in the Galle Face struggle had passed way over 20 years with some manufacturing dates going back to 2000. And 6,000 such canisters had been used in the first four months of the Aragalaya alone compared to 2, 000 rounds fired during the last 10 years, an exclusive report revealed today.
The police have purchased about 40, 000 canisters of tear gas in the last ten years since 2012 and over 8, 000 had been used in various protests since then, out of which over 6, 000 had been fired during the height of the Aragalaya from the incident outside ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence in Mirihana in March 20022 to July 2022.
An exclusive report released by the investigation team of the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) led by freelance journalist Tharindu Jayawardena with the backing of the Right to Information Commission disclosed many startling facts about the condition of the tear gas used by the police during the Aragalaya.
The report titled ‘Tear Gas – Tears of Twenty Million’ was released to the public at the CSR Auditorium yesterday, that revealed the police have used tear gas in numerous instances, which were supposed to have passed its expiry dates about 10 to 20 years.
Journalist Tharindu Jayawardena said a special investigation was commenced by them last September after victims of these protests complained that they had immensely suffered from the tear gas used in the crowd dispersion.
“As a journalist I have gone to cover many Inter University Student Federation protest campaigns in the last decade and had been subjected to numerous tear gas attacks. But the ones we experienced during the Aragalaya are far more serious and painful than those in the past. Therefore, we felt the urgency to run an investigation about the tear gas used as many alleged that the police were using expired canisters,” Jayawardena said.
So we sought information from the Police Department on several occasions through the Right to Information Act but the latter didn’t furnish with relevant and adequate information. Thereafter during four appeal hearings of the RTI Commission, the police were ordered to furnish full details but some vulnerable information has not been provided to date.
The RTI Commission will act legally through the Magistrate Courts against the Police Department in due course, Attorney Manushika Cooray addressing the gathering said.
The expiry period of a canister is usually five years but we have evidence that police used gas purchased in 2000, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2017 and 2019.
This is clear violation of public health as these gases are used to disperse crowds and not to kill them with respiratory and other complications. Whereas about two to three deaths reported during the Aragalaya were owing to complications that rose in tear gas attacks.
Rev. Father Rohan Silva of the CSR and Attorney Suren D. Perera also addressed the gathering. (Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana)
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