02/20/2012, 00.00
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Catholic fisherman's killing by police a "beastly deed"

by Melani Manel Perera
This is how Mgr Norbert M. Andradi, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, describes the incident. Anthony Warnakulasooriya, 35, was among the demonstrators protesting against hikes in fuel prices. A year ago, a 21-year-old Catholic man died during pension reform protest.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - "Such deeds deprive human life of any value. The authorities should take responsibility and do all they can to ensure that beastly attacks like this do not happen again," said Mgr Norbert M. Andradi, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka. He was speaking about the death of Anthony Warnakulasooriya, a 35-year-old fisherman killed during a demonstration against higher fuel prices. Police used tear gas and water cannons to quell the protests. Some agents even fired live ammunition.

The fisherman's funeral was held last Saturday at his parish church, St Sebastian Catholic Church in Chilaw-Wella (North Western Province). Some 1,500 security agents, soldiers and members of the Special Task Force patrolled the site.

The bullet fired by a police agent hit Anthony in the back of the neck. But on that day, others were also seriously wounded as well. One, Sebastian Regan, is Colombo's national hospital with a chest wound. Another was hurt in the knee. A third one lost three fingers in one hand as he tried to push away a teargas canister. Anthony left a wife and two children.

"Anyone using firearms, like police, should be very careful," Fr Noel Dias said. "You can't play with human life. Today, we are here to remember an innocent young man who lost his life to a single bullet."

"People started to protest when the cost of living became unbearable because of taxes," said Fr Sarath Iddamalgoda. "If you excluded remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad, the government has nothing to pay for mega tourist projects, highways and airports. So, it decided to tax fuel, rice and bread. Such behaviour violates human rights because it directly hits people."

Anthony Warnakulasooriya is the second Sri Lankan citizen to die during protests. On 30 May 2011, thousands of workers in a Free Trade Zone organised a demonstrations against the new pension plan. During clashes with police, Roshen Chanaka, 21, was killed.


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