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Sunday, 18 November 2012

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Aftermath of Welikada shoot-out

The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has taken over the inquiry into the violent incident at the Welikada Prison last Saturday when 27 inmates were shot dead by security forces when they were confronted by armed prisoners in the prison. Sleuths have begun recording statements of several Special Task Force (STF) officers and prison officials who witnessed the bloody incident that afternoon, Police Media Spokesman SSP Prishantha Jayakody told the Sunday Observer.

According to police sources CID sleuths recorded around 15 statements of prison officials and STF officers who were involved in the incident. “Several more statements have to be recorded and the inquiry will take some time before we conclude the entire investigation,” sources said.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) has assisted the CID by conducting inquests on the death of the 27 prisoners and help relatives of the victims to identify the bodies.

Firearms

The CCD said the 27 dead persons have been identified by their kith and kin and their bodies handed over to the relatives last Tuesday except for five bodies still lying at the hospital morgue at Borella.

Of the 11 prisoners who escaped from the Welikada Prison seven surrendered to the Borella Police station on Sunday while five escaped with firearms during the shoot-out. Several police teams have been despatched to track down the armed escapees who pose a danger to civilians. Police have flashed several messages to police stations to be on the look out for armed criminals and arrest them.

Meanwhile, a prisoner who escaped from the Welikada Prison last Saturday was arrested by the Ruwanwella police last week.

He has been identified by the police as H.B. Thusith Sarada who was hiding in a house at Dehiowita. The inmate is a resident of Madiwela, Kotte. He was allegedly involved in a killing in the Mirihana police area recently.

The 80 odd firearms stolen by the rioting prisoners from the armoury have all been recovered except four. The police are now investigating how the prisoners broke open the armoury despite tight security and whether any prison official helped them to take the weapons.

However, with the deployment of security forces in the prison, the attempt made by prisoners to break open the second armoury was prevented in the nick of time.

The riot which broke out on Saturday around 4.15 p.m continued till the wee hours of Sunday morning before it was quelled by the army commandos. Some who died in the shoot-out have been identified as Don Gayantha Pushpakumara of Nugegoda, Gamage Samantha Fernando, Kulawela Withanage Don Sameera, Malin Wijesinghe of Dehiwela, Devaraja Malvarage Sugath Kumara of Kalubowila, Ranasinghe Arachchige Janaka Lasantha of Horana, Asitha Sanjeewa Dissanayake of Grandpass, Dinuk Sanjeewa Rajapaksa of Mount Lavinia, Ramanathan Bala Perumal of Bandarawela, Asarapulige Jothipala alias Kapila of Grandpass, Kankanamalage Milinda Thilendra Pelpola alias Malan of Kotte, Sri Harshi Mathikeerti Perera alias Manjushri of Piliyandala, Nirmala Atapattu of Piliyandala, Thushara Chandana alias Kalukumara of Nawinna, R. Susantha Perera of Ratmalana, Mohamed Wije Rohana alias Gundu of Borella, Malin Samara Perera alias Konda Amith of Dehiwela, M. A. Tissa Kumara of Kegalle, T. H. Leslie de Silva of Hikkaduwa, M. Salaldeen Mohamed Azwardeen of Colombo 12, Weligama K. Asanga Udaya Kumara, Walage Lasantha Wijesiri of Galle, Ratnaweera Patabendige Leslie of Rajagiriya, Warnakulasuriya Mudiyanselage Sarath Weerasooriya of Galgamuwa, Sarath Prasada Silva of Ratmalana, Mohamed Rashmi Naufer of Akkaraipattu, Kannaku Perumalge Priyantha of Karandeniya and Liyana Arachchige Anura.

The brutal riot engulfed the Welikada Prison when a group of prisoners mostly hardcore prisoners languishing for murder, rape, those for drug related offences and those in the death row, broke their cells and attacked the STF in the prison engaged in a search operation for smuggled heroin and mobile phones. The inmates who attacked the STF officers were a small group of people numbering about 20. However, when the STF retaliated, word began to spread to other areas of the prison, and a full scale riot erupted thereafter.

Underworld

According to police sources hardcore prisoners serving sentences have often communicated with the underworld by using smuggled mobile phones in the prisons.

The underworld bosses had even killed their opponents in the past while serving jail terms. Notable among them was the mafia's godfather Nawala Nihal who was abducted and killed by vigilantes after his release from prison.Following the riot last week it is reported that prison officials were not equipped to take prisoners to courts due to handcuffs and chains being stolen by the rioting prisoners.

It is reported that around 200 prisoners from Welikada are taken daily to attend various courts in the Western Province. However, according to the Commissioner General of Prisons P.W. Kodippili, prison officials commenced taking prisoners to courts on Wednesday. The Commissioner General recently expressed suspicion that the rioting prisoners had inside help from some prison officers to break into the prison armoury. He said that corrupt prison officers are very much against police raids inside prisons to search for drugs and mobile phones. According to officials, four of the escapees are convicted prisoners while the fifth is a suspect. The four weapons including a gas gun taken away by the prison escapees have not been recovered yet. Forty-three people sustained injuries in the riot. Among them were 13 STF officers including its Commandant, DIG Ranawana.

The Government has appointed a high-powered committee to probe Friday's clash between the inmates of the Welikada Prison and the police sought a court order to direct media institutions to hand over video footage and photographs of the clash to assist the CID in its investigations.

Kodippili told the Sunday Observer that the situation at the Welikada Prison has returned to normal and Prison officers have begun escorting remand prisoners to various Magistrates' and other High Courts in the Western Province where cases have been filed against them.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka will commence an investigation on last week's riot at the Welikade Prison in Colombo.

The Commission will investigate and prepare a report on the incident that killed 27 inmates and injured 43 others following the riot. The Welikade prison was built in 1841 by the then British Colonial Government under Governor Cameron.

The Welikada Prison also known as the Magazine Prison with maximum security is the largest prison in Sri Lanka covering an area of 48 acres. The prison is overcrowded with 1,700 detainees exceeding the actual number that could be accommodated.

 

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