By Asiri Fernando
The Justice Ministry, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Prisons Department are set to launch three separate inquiries into the incidents at the Mahara prison that took place on Sunday evening. The riot resulted in the deaths of eight inmates, sixty-two injured, and parts of the prison being set ablaze.
The CID probe follows the Inspector General of Police (IGP) C.D. Wickramaratne, being instructed by the Defence Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, to initiate an inquiry into the incident. State Minister of Prison Reforms and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle, told Daily FT that an internal investigation will also be carried out.
The Ministry of Justice also appointed a five-member committee, chaired by former High Court Judge Sarojini Wijewardena, to investigate the incident. Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Prison Reforms and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Nishan Danasinghe, has been appointed as the Secretary to the Committee.
According to Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, prison officers had to use force to control the riot, prompting inmates to set fire to the prison’s kitchen and records room. The riot took hours to control as police rushed four teams, backed by Special Task Force (STF) commandos, to assist and provide security to the surrounding area.
59 inmates and three prison officers were hospitalised, while eight persons were killed during the incident, with law enforcement and the fire department battling the blaze till the early hours on Monday.
“A special team lead by a Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) has been appointed to conduct an investigation into the deaths and the incident. We have provided information to the court to conduct a magisterial inquest. The magisterial inquest will likely be held on Tuesday, with the remains of the dead kept at the mortuary of the Ragama Teaching Hospital,” DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that police forensics officers have begun to process the crime scene for evidence. Police will also begin estimating damages to public property today, the spokesman said.
Moreover, according to DIG Rohana, 178 inmates who were infected with COVID-19 have been moved to a prison facility in Colombo following the riot. Further, 78 suspects, who were in remand custody at Mahara Prison and had been granted bail prior to the incident, have been moved to the Addalaichenai quarantine centre in Ampara to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine program prior to release.
Nearly 600 policemen including 200 STF personnel have been deployed to provide security around the Mahara Prison perimeter and surrounding areas.