The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) today called for the immediate resignation of State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Lohan Ratwatte for the authorities to initiate a credible investigation into the alleged incidents, and action taken without fear or favour.
In a statement, the CPA stated that it was deeply disturbed by media reports of two incidents this week where the State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Lohan Ratwatte is alleged to have abused his position by entering two prisons inebriated, and attempted to assault remand prisoners.
On Sunday 12 September, the State Minister is reported to have entered the Welikada Prison with a group of friends. Subsequently he is reported to have travelled by helicopter to Anuradhapura where he had entered the Anuradhapura Prison and ordered two suspects at gunpoint to kneel down in front of him.
The CPA announced that both these incidents reflect the alarming trend of flaunting political office for personal gratification, the callousness and disregard for the rights of prisoners and human dignity, the use of arms to threaten individuals and the contempt for the rule of law in Sri Lanka.
The CPA also noted that such incidents occur against the background of previous incidents of violence including several prison riots which led to the deaths of inmates with no known domestic process of accountability.
This is compounded by past incidents of violence linked to the State Minister including his alleged involvement in the murder of ten Muslim youth in Udathalawinne in 2001 where he and several others were indicted for the murders but subsequently acquitted. In such a context of impunity, there are genuine fears of evidence tampering and witness intimidation that will undermine an independent process meant to investigate and hold perpetrators accountable, the CPA added.
The CPA observed that these two incidents occurred whilst Sri Lanka’s human rights record is being discussed at the ongoing 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).