Army officer assaults cop over fuel, while another dies in a queue 

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Yesterday (23) saw the death of another person who was waiting in a queue leading up to a fuelling station in Horana, while an Army officer severely assaulted a Police officer at the Dummaladeniya filling station in Warakapola.

The death was reported from the area of Batagoda in Anguruwatota, Horana, and the deceased was a 63-year-old who had been waiting in queue for nearly seven days to obtain diesel. This follows the death of a 53-year-old three-wheeler driver who succumbed to a cardiac arrest while waiting in line for fuel at the Wekada fuel station in Panadura on 16 June, while a 64-year old man died while walking to join a liquified petroleum gas (LPG) queue on the same day. Yesterday’s death has brought the total number of such deaths reported at or around fuel and LPG queues to approximately 10.

Meanwhile, Police said that the Army official, who is a Lieutenant by rank, had assaulted the Police officer on Wednesday (22) following a verbal argument between the two at the filling station.

According to Police Media Spokesman, Senior Superintendent of Police and Attorney-at-Law (AAL) Nihal Thalduwa, the injured police officer was admitted to the Warakapola Base Hospital on the same day, while the Army officer was arrested by the Police. Thalduwa said that the suspect has since been released on bail after being produced before the Warakapola Magistrate’s Court yesterday (23).

He also said that the Police and the Army are conducting two separate investigations into the incident.

There have been several incidents of clashes between people in recent times, as large crowds have gathered near filling stations due to the prevailing fuel shortage in the country. Considering the situation, the Government took steps to deploy Police and Army personnel near filling stations to control crowds.

Meanwhile, three people who were under the influence of alcohol were arrested on 22 June for unruly behaviour and obstructing the duties of police and army personnel at a filling station in Pelawatte, Meegahatenna. Reportedly, the arrestees are aged 37, 38, and 40 years.

In another development, another person was placed under arrest for unruly behaviour in Magallegama of the Nikaweratiya Police Division. He was identified as a 45-year-old residing in Nikaweratiya area.

The death toll at fuel and LPG queues now stands at approximately 10. Victims have been men between the ages of 43 and 84 years, where the majority had died due to cardiac arrests. In March however, a 29-year-old resident of Colombo 14 was stabbed to death at a fuel station in Nittambuwa after an argument broke out with a three-wheeler driver who was also in the queue.

Queues for fuel stretching over multiple kilometers were observed in many areas across the country yesterday as well, as consumers continued their wait for hours, and in some cases, days.