drama at Welikada Prison
Does the mutiny at the Welikada Prison on Tuesday have any semblance
to the events that unfolded at the Galle Prison, a few days ago when two
prison inmates were shot by Prison officials when they attempted to flee
from the Galle Prison.
The two prison inmates were admitted to the Karapitiya Hospital after
being shot at by Prison officials. Prisons sources said that one man was
serving a jail term while the other had a court case pending.
However, the shooting sparked a riot in the Galle Prisons in which
three prison officials sustained injuries while attempting to quell the
The injured officers were admitted to the Karapitiya Hospital
following a scuffle with the prisoners. Although the attempted jail
break was foiled, tension ran high at the Galle Prisons with several
inmates agitating for more freedom and restrictions of rules at the
prisons to be lifted.
Following the unrest at the Galle Prison on Tuesday, an organised
deadly riot broke out on Tuesday morning at the Welikada Prisons where
1,800 prison inmates were housed.
They were mostly drug dealers, men and women connected to drug
related offences. Among the 1,800 prisoners were hardcore LTTE cadres
held for various crimes. There were 180 of them at the Welikada Prisons.
The riot at the Welikada Prisons broke out around 10.00 a.m. on
Twenty-eight prison inmates and five prison officials were injured
when they attempted to quell the riot to restore law and order at the
Welikada Prison, Police Media Spokesman, Superintendent of Police, Ajith
Rohana told the Sunday Observer.
He said the buildings that house the Prison library, the registry
where the personnel data of prisoners were kept, the kitchen, stores and
the laundry were completely gutted when the inmates set them ablaze.
Steps were taken to transfer the 180 LTTE cadres housed at the Welikada
Prison to other prisons as officials feared they would be attacked by
the rioting inmates.
In 1983 following a riot at the prison several hardcore LTTE cadres
including Kuttimani were beaten to death by other prison inmates.
The spokesman said Senior DIG Asoka Wijetilleke has instructed the
Director of the Colombo Crime Division, Superintendent of Police D.R.L.
Ranaweera to investigate the Prison riot.
Meanwhile the CCD sources said they have recorded statements of more
than 40 inmates at the Welikada Prisons and the sleuths will probe
whether any corrupt Prison official had instigated the inmates to attack
They will also probe how the inmates came to possess knives and
swords while in the prisons. The damage caused to the prison buildings
and equipment has been estimated at Rs. 7.5 m according to Prison
The riot broke out around 10.a.m when the Prison inmates were barred
from meeting the newly appointed Superintendent of the Welikada Prison
who had taken action to curb smuggling of heroin, mobile phones and
other prohibited drugs into the prisons.
They were mostly smuggled into the prison complex along with food
parcels brought by relatives of prisoners. The measure to scrutinise
food parcels and other stuff brought from outside angered many
prisoners, mainly drug addicts.
According to figures provided by the police of the 1,800 prison
inmates at Welikada, 1,500 of them were involved in drug related
offences. Some were convicts serving jail sentences while others were in
The situation went from bad to worse when rioting prisoners climbed a
roof top of a building and started hurling stones at officials below on
duty and at passing vehicles on the Baseline Road at Borella. Some
prisoners even attempted to escape by breaking the main gate at the
The Prison officials were compelled to open fire on them to prevent a
mass exodus of prisoners. In the melee several policemen along with
police riot squads and Army personnel arrived at the scene to provide
security to the Welikada Prison.
The Colombo Fire Brigade vehicles along with vehicles from the Air
Force Fire Brigade that arrived to extinguish the fire were also
attacked by rock throwing prisoners.
Owing to the riotous situation, the police closed Baseline Road for
more than five hours to prevent injury to people and damage to vehicles
due to stone throwing prisoners.
The move to close Baseline Road resulted in a heavy traffic
congestion along other roads in the Borella junction.
The congestion also prevented school children from returning home
early after school.
Two years ago, a similar riot took place when 63 policemen armed with
a search warrant from court carried out a raid at Welikada Prison to
bust up a drug running operation.
Police had prior information the drug racket was run by convicted
prisoners serving long-term jail sentences.
However, the raid which commenced on November 7, 2010 around 7.00
a.m. ended in disaster. When policemen attempted to move 2,600 prison
inmates from their cells to commence a search, furious prisoners armed
with poles, bottles, and stones attacked the policemen. Following the
attack, Police Special Task Force (STF) Commandos were rushed in there
to rescue the policemen. Some policemen escaped by locking themselves
inside the prison cells.
In the meantime, 300 additional policemen from Kelaniya, Meegahawatta,
Dematagoda and Mirihana stations were rushed to prevent prisoners from
However, when the riot ended many hours later, 44 policemen and four
prison officers who sustained injuries were rushed to the National
The then Commissioner General of Prisons, Major General V.R. de Silva
appointed a committee to probe into the prison incident. The Criminal
Investigation Department (CID) also investigated the incident.
The then Minister for Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms, Dew
Gunesekera said the attack on the policemen was not a planned one. The
minister said the police had raided several Prisons on November 7 with
search warrants from courts.