Sri Lanka probes prison minister for alleged prisoner threat
COLOMBO (AP) — Sri Lankan Police are investigating an incident where the prisons minister allegedly threatened two detainees from ethnic minorities inside a prison. An official stated Wednesday.
Lohanratwatte, the state minister of prison management and rehabilitation, resigned last Wednesday after being accused of threatening two Tamil prisoners. He was also accused in forcibly entering another prison to show his friends the gallows. Dullas Alahapperuma, a spokesperson for
Government, said that a police investigation was underway. He said that Cabinet ministers discussed the allegations on Tuesday, and Justice Minister Ali Sabri requested approval to open a separate investigation led by a retired judge.
Tamil minority lawmaker Gajen Ponnambalam stated that Ratwatte summoned Tamil prisoners at the Anuradhapura prison, which is about 200 km miles (north of Colombo). Ponnambalam tweeted that he “got two of them kneeling in front of him, pointed his personal firearm at their faces and threatened to kill them on spot.”
Ratwatte belongs to the Sinhalese ethnic minority. Tamil lawmakers demanded that the government arrest Ratwatte.
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International also called for an inquiry, saying “the minister must be held to account for his actions.”
Separately, local newspapers reported that a government minister had forcibly entered Welikada prison in Colombo with his friends to show them the gallows.
Although the name of the minister was not published in the newspapers, the office of the president stated that Ratwatte had admitted responsibility for the incidents at the two prisons and offered his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
There was no immediate comment by Ratwatte regarding the announced investigation.
Sri Lankan prisons are highly congested, with more than 32,000 inmates crowded into facilities with a capacity of 11,000.
Twelve inmates were killed last November and 100 other people were injured in a riot that broke out at a prison near Colombo.
Tamil rebels tried to establish a separate state in a 26-year civil conflict but were defeated by government troops 2009.