Opposition demands independent probe as prison riot death toll reaches eight

The Opposition today demanded an independent investigation as the Mahara Prison riot death toll reached eight.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament that an investigation led by a Government official cannot be accepted.

He said that there needs to be an independent investigation into the incident.

MP Premadasa further questioned the probability of ascertaining the truth behind the cause for the riot through an investigation headed by the Secretary to the Ministry of Prisons.

“The investigation must be impartial to ascertain the truth. How can it be so if the investigative team is headed by someone involved in prison affairs?” the Opposition Leader questioned.

Premadasa said that the riot had reportedly broken out after some inmates demanded PCR tests as the coronavirus spread in the prison.

The Government has failed to take adequate measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus within prisons, which have been overcrowded recently, he said.

The Opposition Leader urged the State Minister of Prison Reforms and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Sudarshini Fernandopulle to appoint an independent committee to investigate the unrest at the Mahara Prison.

Meanwhile, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that there are reports more inmates are dead and injured from the incident.

He further said that eight prisoners were kept in a single cell which should only hold two prisoners at a time. This overcrowding of prisoners has caused congestion within prisons and discomfort to prisoners during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting them to protest.

The prisoners had staged protests to demand for PCR tests, quarantine facilities and hospitalisation following the outbreak within prisons, MP Dissanayake informed Parliament.

Pointing out it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure the health and security of prisoners in custody, he said the Government had failed to address their demand.

The lack of response of the Government ended in a large scale unrest to break out at the Mahara prison and more agitations to take place in various other prisons over the last few weeks, he said.

MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake further said the Government must take responsibility for the unrest at the Mahara Prison.

The Police and hospital authorities said earlier today that the death toll from the Mahara Prison unrest has increased to six.

They said 35 inmates and 2 prison guards sustained injuries in the incident and were admitted to hospital for treatment. (Colombo Gazette)

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