Government suspects hidden motive behind prison riot


The Government suspects a hidden motive behind the Mahara Prison riot in which a number of inmates were killed last night.

State Minister of Prison Reforms and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Sudarshini Fernandopulle told Parliament today that the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has been asked to investigate the incident.

The State Minister said the incident had occurred when prison officials had attempted to foil an escape attempt. The unrest had later intensified due to a brawl between remand prisoners and other prisoners, with prison officials opening fire at instances to contain the situation.

Eight prisoners have died and more than fifty injured prisoners are receiving treatment at the Colombo North Teaching hospital, she informed Parliament.

Fernandopulle further said that there have been riots and protests at a number of prisons during the last few weeks.

“Agitations initially started at the Boossa Prison and then continued to the Bogambara, Welikada, Kalutara, Weerawila, and Negombo prisons. A group of prisoners also tried to escape from the Old Bogambara Prison recently and the Mahara Prison yesterday. The attempts were foiled,” she explained.

In response to inquiries on the coronavirus prison cluster, the State Minister said that the cluster has increased to 1099 as of this morning, since the detection of the first patient on 27th October. Among the group, 386 are from Welikada, 46 from Magazine Prison, 157 from Colombo Prison, 198 from Mahara Prison, 175 from Old Bogambara, and 32 from Kuruwita.

Responding to questions raised on measures taken to contain the spread of the virus within prisons, Sudarshini Fernandopulle said visitation was cancelled to all prisons, while steps were taken to prohibit food being brought from outside. Court proceedings were converted to online sessions via Skype technology.

As there was an overflow of remand prisoners due to the special drug operations carried out by the Police, the remand prisoners and suspected Covid cases were placed in quarantine for 2 weeks at the Old Bogambara Prison in Kandy with a view to minimise congestion in prisons. Some prisoners suspected of Covid were also placed at the Pallansena, Galella, and Kandakadu quarantine centres.