Defence Secretary orders IGP to launch special probe

Defence Secretary Major General (Retd) G.D.H. Kamal Gunaratne has instructed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) C. D. Wickramaratne to conduct a special investigation into the tense situation reported at the Mahara Prison yesterday.

Issuing a statement, the Defence Ministry said the directive was issued today after it was noted that several inmates had reportedly attempted to escape the prison premises demonstrating unruly behaviour.

“Initially, the Prison officers got involved in easing off the situation. However, when it was noticed that the incident escalated to an intense riot, they had summoned Police and Special Task Force to the premises. Subsequently, the Police arrived at the scene and strengthened the security of the outer perimeter of the Prison,” the Ministry said.

The Defence Ministry further said that the agitated inmates set fire to the Prison Health Office and Stores areas and it had raged until this morning (30).

The Department of Prisons has confirmed that the fire has been completely doused and the routine Prison operations have resumed, it added.

Following the Defence Secretary’s directive, IGP Wickramaratne instructed the Criminal Investigations Department to conduct a full and immediate investigation into the unrest at the Mahara Prison.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Ali Sabry has also appointed a five-member committee to probe the riot at the Mahara Prison. The committee will be chaired by former High Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena.

Chief Legal Adviser of the Justice Ministry President’s Counsel U. R. de Silva, Justice Ministry Additional Secretary Rohana Hapugaswatta, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Ajith Rohana, and former Commissioner General of Prisons Gamini Jayasinghe are the remaining members of the committee.

The committee, which has been tasked with investigating and proposing long-term recommendations on the unrest, has been instructed to submit an interim report to the Justice Minister within a week and a complete report by the end of one month.

Earlier today, State Minister of Prison Reforms and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Sudarshini Fernandopulle told Parliament that a committee headed by the Ministry Secretary has been appointed to investigate the incident.

She further said that the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) too has been requested to investigate the unrest.

A tense situation had erupted at the Mahara Prison last evening as prison guards had opened fire at a group of inmates who had attempted to escape after being informed that some prisoners had contracted the coronavirus.

Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said the Mahara Prison has suffered extensive damages as a result of the fire ignited by inmates from the prison during the unrest.

A total of eight inmates were killed in the incident, while nearly 69 inmates and two prion officials who were injured in the incident are receiving treatment at the Colombo North Teaching hospital in Ragama. (Colombo Gazette)