Lessons from a parent killing at school


The media gave wide publicity to the killing of a parent by a soldier guarding a school. The father of the child went to the school answering a call from the school informing him that his child was ill. The soldier had refused the parent permission to enter and shot him, when the parent attempted to enter.

The military is deployed in support of the police; not the other way round. That is the law. Therefore, meeting the parent and questioning him on the purpose of his visit is clearly the function of the police. The army enters the scene only when the police calls for assistance; not before.

It ought to have been quite clear to the police and army personnel on duty at that school, that this parent is not an Islamist extremist terrorist; nor even a terrorist of any other kind. The security personnel would have definitely searched him and satisfied themselves that he was not carrying any bombs or other weapons. Therefore, there is no justification whatsoever to use maximum force, in this case shooting to kill. It should have been quite possible for the police and army personnel present there to overpower and arrest him, if this parent insisted on going in.

They could have informed the principal and or the teacher to come over to the gate and take charge of the parent.

After it was discovered following the search that the parent was not carrying any weapon or explosive device, there was no justification at all to open fire. The situation could have been and should have been handled without opening fire.

In the most unlikely event, if opening fire was unavoidable, the soldier could have fired below the knee applying the principle of minimum force.

When I joined the army, way back in the 60’s this principle of minimum force was drilled well and truly into our heads under training.

This incident shows the wisdom of the rulers of India. They never deploy the country’s armed forces on internal security duties.

A few years back, Mao guerillas (they are very strong in India) overran a camp in Telengana and killed all seventy plus in the camp. It shook India and the people started to criticize the Government of India for not deploying the army. The Service Commanders openly and publicly told the government NOT to deploy the armed forces as it was "too lethal." And the Indian government bowed to their advice. This is the lesson we in Sri Lanka can learn from India at least after this tragedy.

And no wonder Nehru and Gandhi were able to forge one nation – the Indian nation – out of many nations. If a Service Commander gave such sensible advice to the government of Sri Lanka, that would have been the end of his career. Under some governments we would have had to live by the day in fear of the dreaded white van, until he gets visas for himself and his family to flee to a country that respects life, no matter what religion, no matter what colour, what nationality.

It is claimed that this parent attempted to grab the soldier’s gun. We have heard this explanation times without number. There is no one in Sri Lanka so obtuse as to believe it anymore.

And as for the inquiries that are being conducted by the authorities, the outcome will be either the dead man is to blame or time will bury it.


E-mail : rpcdesilva@gmail.com

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