Home News Police spokesman resigns from Ali Sabri’s committee 

Police spokesman resigns from Ali Sabri’s committee 

Police spokesman resigns from Ali Sabri’s committee 

Police Media Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana has resigned from the committee appointed by Minister of Justice to investigate the Mahara Prison incident.

In a letter to the Minister Ali Sabri, the DIG stated that as the police spokesman, he would hold media briefings on various issues, including the Mahara prison incident, and that if he is to be a member of the committee, there would be a conflict of interest. He also points out that media briefings cannot be held if he is a member of the committee.

Commenting on this, the Police Media Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said, ‘The Minister of Justice has appointed me to a committee headed by High Court Judge Sarojini Kusala Weerawardena to investigate the Mahara prison incident. I informed him that as the media spokesperson, some kind of problematic situation could arise if I am to take part in this committee. The Minister had put his faith on me but I had to decline his proposal and ask him to appoint someone else instead of me.

‘However, as the Police Media Spokesperson, I have to constantly comment on this to the media. Then it is not ethical to be a member of this committee of inquiry. That’s why I wrote this letter.’

Update : 9.00 AM

The Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said that number of inmates at the Mahara Prison  were hospitalized on various occasions from last night (30) to 3.00 am today (01) and the number of injured has increased from 60 to 107 by this morning.

He stated that many inmates were injured in internal conflicts inside the prison and that the inmates had clashed with each other. 


Update : 17.30 PM

Police Media Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said that there is a delay in identifying bodies of those who died in the prison incident due to the destruction of documents, prisoner numbers and photographs at the Mahara Prison.

He said that a magisterial inquiry and a post mortem will be held after identifying them and an investigation has been launched into the incident.

At present, the number of injured inmates has risen to 59, with 2 prison guards were injured and eight inmates have died, he said. He further said that the bodies of the eight inmates have been placed at the Ragama Hospital and further investigations are underway.

Mr. Rohana said that crime scene investigators from Gampaha, Kelaniya and Negombo police divisions have already been deployed to obtain scientific evidence regarding the incident inside the prison and that these investigations are being carried out under the supervision of a Senior Superintendent of Police in the Kelaniya Division and a team of 10 persons has been appointed for this purpose.

He said all the warehouses, archives, office, Superintendent’s office, the office of the Assistant Superintendent and the office of the Chief Jailor in the prison had been destroyed and an assessment records of which had been set on fire or damaged are to be taken.

He said that 78 prisoners who had been granted bail but needed to be quarantined are being transferred to the Adalachchena Quarantine Center in the Eastern Province and 187 inmates who have been confirmed to be infected with Covid-19 will be transferred to a special unit at the Colombo Prison. 

“A further 200 STF officers and about 400 police officers are currently deployed in these areas under regular patrols to guard the surrounding areas and guard the prison. Although the condition of the prison is now largely under control, maximum security has been put in place to ensure the normal functioning of the prisons,” he said.. 

Update : 16.55 PM

Two Army buses carrying inmates came out of the prison and the inmates’ relatives were blocking the two buses. They question where the detainees are being taken.

Update : 16.45 PM

Officials of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka told relatives of the detainees that all those seriously injured in the incident at the Mahara Prison had been taken out of the prison. The commission officials who went to the Mahara prison premises to inquire into the situation said this when the inmates’ relatives blocked their vehicle and questioned them as they were leaving the prison premises.

The commission officials said that several people who were slightly injured were taken away a moment ago and now there is no problem.

Update : 13.20 PM

State Minister for Prisons Sudarshani Fernandopulle said that investigations into the Mahara prison incident will be handed over to the CID.

She said in Parliament today (30) that the Mahara prison incident must be investigated and that she believes that there is an invisible hand behind it.

She also stated,

“A very unfortunate incident was reported at the Mahara Prison yesterday. There was an escape attempt in the Mahara prison. Although the officers were able to stop the attempt by shooting, huge property damages were caused inside the prison. There was a fire. The police have deployed the anti riot squad and the special task force to suppress all such activities. Unfortunately, 8 people have died and 50 have been hospitalized in this incident.

“Just as a committee headed by the Secretary was set up, we are ready to have an independent committee.. We also want to find out who is involved in this. It is important for us as the Ministry of Prisons, as a government to find out who is supporting this. We are ready for that.. We will hand over the investigation to the CID because it is very important to find out who is involved in this to avoid such incidents in future. 

“However, not only in the Mahara Prison but for the past two or three weeks we have witnessed protests by many inmates from time to time. It started from Boossa. Next the inmates of the old Bogambara prison tried to escape. Officers shot and killed one person and were able to stop that attempt. We saw Welikada, we saw the agitations in Kalutara, then Negombo. This is like a wave. We also saw the Weerawila protest. We saw this as a wave going through every prison. Due to the government’s policy of prioritizing drug raids, a large number of drug traffickers are imprisoned today.

“Prisons Capacity, Detention Capacity , where 11,000 can be held there is now congested with about 32,000 inmates. We have to accept that. Also, as soon as the second wave of Covid-19 started in Minuwangoda, a special program was launched in prisons in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. Particularly all visitors were barred from entering the prisons.

“Also, bringing food and drink from outside was stopped. Bringing detainees to court was minimized. Especially with the help of modern technology, we have made arrangements to hear court cases via Skype. ”

 Update : 12.55 PM
At a media briefing held at the National Movements for a Just Society office in Rajagiriya today (30), the Chairman of the Prisoners’ Rights Protection Committee, attorney at law Senaka Perera said that action would be taken nationally and internationally against the killing of detainees and prisoners under the protection on government. He was referring to the deadly clash at the Mahara prison that left at least eight dead. 
He said that the committee would take immediate action against those responsibles and stressed that the request of the detainees was very reasonable.
He called on the authorities to take necessary steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 within inmates and detainees and stated that incidents like this would cause the whole country to undergo serious problems. He was speaking at a media briefing held at the National Business Office for a Just Society in Rajagiriya today (30).
Update : 12.20 PM
Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake said in Parliament today (30) that the killing of prisoners or detainees who are in state custody is a serious anti-democratic situation.
It was mentioned that over the past few days, the inmates and detainees have been asking for PCR tests, the authorities have been unable to do so and due to that, 183 Covid 19 cases had been reported from the Mahara Prison.
He emphasized that instead of attending to the issue, the security forces had opened fire on detainees and prisoners. He said this was a serious anti-democratic action. He said that the government should take responsibility for the lives of detainees and prisoners who are in custody of the state.
Opposition leader, MP Sajith Premadasa stated in Parliament today (30) that an investigation through the Ministerial Secretary, into the incident at the Mahara Prison in which 8 inmates were killed and a large number of others injured, can not be trusted.
The opposition leader said it is the responsibility of authorities to protect the rights of citizens, irrespective of the fact whether they are inside or outside the prison, and expressed his displeasure at the government’s inaction until a Covid 19 cluster was created inside the prison.
He also pointed out the need for an impartial and credible inquiry into this incident.
Update : 11.20 AM
A large number of inmates who were released on bail by the courts has also been at the Mahara Prison yesterday(29). 
Their relatives say they had to stay in the prison because of the delay in testing for Covid-19 infection.
Wife of one of the detainees said her husband had been granted bail but had not been released yet. 
She added, “My husband has already been released on bail. But still we hear nothing of him. These guys are silent. They say they ‘ll give us a call once he’s granted bail.” 
Q – What was the Court?
A – Mahabage. We bailed him out.
Q – How long has he been in prison?
A – Three months now. We have four children and we hardly make a living.
Q – What did you hear from prison after he was granted bail? 
 A – We were told in the evening of 23rd…. On the 24th, we were told that he will be released once his PCR test is done. They were all lies. Then again we were told that we would have him today. Still no news of him. These people are doing a great injustice. 
Q – What were you told when you asked them now?
 A – Nothing. Not a single thing. If bail is granted, there should be a way to talk to this man, at least to find out if he is alive.
Another detainee’s Mother told: 
Q – Why was he brought in? 
A – He was taken by the police for a crime that he did not commit. He was falsely accused of consuming heroin. They put him forth with thousand grams of heroin and imprisoned him. 
Q – How long is it now? 
A – It’s been three months now, sir. They don’t even allow me to see my child. I just want to see the him, to make sure he is okay.
Q – Where are you from? 
A – Giritara. I’ll do anything to see my child. I have no use of my life without him. For god’s sake please let me see my child.
Q – Were you not allowed to make any phone calls? 
A – No. Not at all. It’s been three months now. I just want to see him. Not to take him home. 
Q – Are you certain of his presence here?
A. I’ve been visitting him for about a month now. He was here. I will die without him.
Another detainee’s father said: 
“I was told on Friday that he would be released on Tuesday. Again on Tuesday, I was told he would be released on Wednesday. On Wednesday again I was told that he would be releasee on Thursday. It has been 30 days now and 10 days since he was granted bail. Ten days passed but we were told nothing. We come in the morning and stay until 4pm just to leave with nothing.”
Update – 9.30 AM

The locals of the area say that even after 12 hours since the incident in Mahara prison, gun shots can be still heard.

They claim that they heard few fired shots at 7.20 am today.

The death toll has risen upto 8 and about 45 people were injured and hospitalized so far. Relatives of several prisoners had gathered there and they were dispersed by the Anti-Riot squad. Ambulances were seen coming out of the prison from time to time.

Prison officials have not yet said which parties are carrying out the shootings and why. Although an attempt was made to contact the Commissioner of Prisons to inquire about this, there was no response from his mobile phone.


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