By Azzam Ameen
Following the alleged incident where former State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Lohan Ratwatte entered the Anuradhapura Prison and attempted to degrade and punish Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suspects by ordering them at gunpoint to kneel down in front of him, The Morning learns that the detainees affected Ratwatte’s behaviour have requested to be transferred to other prisons.
Speaking to The Morning, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Kavinda Jayawardhana who visited the prison along with SJB MPs Mano Ganesan and Rohana Bandara yesterday (18), said that the detainees have asked to be transferred to the Jaffna prison as they fear for their safety.
Jayawardhana also explained that the detainees are of the opinion that Ratwatte’s acts were not racially or ethnically motivated.
“One detainee who was in prison for 13 years confirmed that Ratwatte pointed a 9mm loaded pistol at them. He said that everything the media reported was correct. However, he also told me that there was nothing racial about Ratwatte’s behaviour. It was only that he was under the influence of alcohol,” he told The Morning.
Additionally, the difficulties faced by the SJB delegation in gaining access to the prison complex was also revealed.
“We informed them prior to our visit. When we arrived, they did not let us in. We had to stay outside for about 45 minutes. Eventually, we had to call the Speaker and inform him that as Parliamentarians, it is our right and privilege to intervene in such situations. Following this, the Speaker spoke to the Commissioner and we were allowed inside,” Jayawardhana said.
It was also mentioned that the SJB will urge the government for the release of these detainees who have been in prison for many years.
“Some have been inside for years under the PTA without any charge. We will raise these matters in Parliament. No one in this country should have their rights compromised, whether they are a prisoner or a free man. This is a crime against humanity and we will take action,” he stated.