Special treatment for Welikada Prison massacre suspects ? | Sunday Observer

Special treatment for Welikada Prison massacre suspects ?

Welikada Prison Superintendent confirms IP Rangajeewa and Emil Ranjan Lamahewage moved to prison hospital without court order; lawyers for victims claim suspects also have access to mobile phones

In a shocking twist, prison authorities confirmed this week that the two main suspects in the Welikada Prison massacre of 2012 were being housed at the prison hospital without a court order, purportedly for their “safety”, but lawyers for the victims said they were being given preferential treatment and special privileges while in remand custody.

IP Neomal Rangajeewa of the Police Narcotics Bureau and former Commissioner General of Prisons Emil Ranjan Lamahewage are reportedly whiling away the time in prison hospital, where a special isolated ward of two beds have been created for them away from other prisoners, the Sunday Observer learns.

To date there is no court order to transfer the two suspects of the gruesome alleged massacre of 27 inmates in 2012, to the prison hospital premises and no medical recommendation has been obtained to transfer the remand prisoners, prison sources told the Sunday Observer.

However speaking to our sister publication Resa, the Superintendent of the Welikada Prison, M.F. Lafeer said, the Commissioner of Prisons has the power to decide on where to house inmates based on security concerns.

Confirming that both Rangajeewa and Lamahewage were now being held in a section of the prison hospital not reachable by other inmates, he claimed the decision was made taking into consideration their safety and security within the facility.

Superintendent Lafeer added that neither suspect is suffering from any health issues at the moment.

However, the lawyers for the aggrieved parties along with families of the main witnesses to the case claim the preferential treatment goes beyond merely housing them in a special section, away from other prisoners.

According to Attorney at Law, Senaka Perera who represents a victim of the killings, and who is also the President of the Committee to Protect Rights of Prisoners, both Rangajeewa and Lamahewage were being allowed the use of mobile phones.

“Allowing suspects of such a serious case to use communication devices creates a dangerous situation,” he said, adding that they have received information on the various preferential treatment being granted to the duo within the prison complex.

Perera also noted that despite reports claiming they were being housed at the prison hospital, in fact, they are being held in what was earlier the restroom of the prison’s jailers, located well away from the in-house hospital. A section that earlier housed eight beds has been cleared with only two beds put in now thereby reserving the area exclusively for their use, he alleged.

Prison authorities have refused to confirm the allegation.

But the accusation of preferential treatment is one denied by the Prisons officials. According to the Spokesperson for the Department of Prisons, Thushara Upuldeniya the duo are not being given any special treatment as such. “They are monitored by a team of officers and intelligence personnel” he said, adding that they ensure the suspects are held according to Prison rules and policies.

Upuldeniya said, however, Rangajeewa and Emil Ranjan will continue to be held in a separate facility due to obvious security concerns as they are being accused of an incident that occurred within the Welikada Prison where they may be unpopular due to their roles in law enforcement. “We will ensure that no harm comes to them” he said adding that no incident which may be a threat to the security of both have occurred yet.

However, while the security of two of the main suspects was being ensured, lawyers and families of the witnesses continue to experience intimidation and even death threats with no special protection being made available to them and their complaints merely languishing in Police record books.

In the most recent case in early April the wife of one of the main witnesses to the case Chamila Buck was threatened with a gun by two men. She said a gun was put to her head at her own residence in Kiribathgoda, with the men cautioning her and threatening to shoot her dead.

“They said oluwa kuduwenna thiyenawa, eka nisa parissamin jeewath wenna before they walked away,” she said.

Chamila said she has previously been threatened on social media, by a user whose name appeared as “Ranga” who sent her pictures of her own family in what she perceived was, as a threat.

This incident had occurred several days prior to Rangajeewa and Lamahewage being arrested in March. Following the two arrests Chamila’s house was raided by the Police in civvies without a legal search warrant. While officers on the day had refused to answer her questions pertaining to the sudden raid, she said, later she was told the Police acted on a tip-off that Chamila was brewing illicit liquor.

According to Lawyer Senaka Perera, previously the house of yet another witness, Sudesh Nandimal Silva was attacked while Perera himself has received a number of threatening calls.

A complaint was even made to the witness protection unit of the Police on the advice of the courts to gain protection for those being intimidated, Attorney Perera said. “But we were told as she is merely the wife of a witness the unit does not apply to her,” he said.

But in fact, it was the statements of the witnesses that eventually led to the arrests of Rangajeewa and Lamahewage for their connection to the prison killings on November 12, 2012, which led to the death of 27 inmates. The forceful entry of the army to the prison in the guise of an illegal weapons raid resulted in chaos and blood.

The post-mortem revealed that the dead prisoners had suffered kill shots to the chest and head. Eyewitnesses claim they were shot at close range. All of the victims had been on the list carried by Rangajeewa that fateful night, a Committee of Inquiry Report into the incident has found.

And as for Lamahewage’s connection to the incident, a senior prison official, an eyewitness for the state giving evidence had identified him as one of the masterminds behind the massacre.

While the case will be taken up again on May 8, if the situation remains the same Lawyer Senaka Perera said if necessary he would make representations regarding the preferential treatment being received by the likes of Rangajeewa and Lamahewage within the prison while the lives of witnesses and their families including that of lawyers representing them on the outside remain at peril.

But according to him, even the courts have its limits. “Once those prison gates close, we cannot control what happens within,” he said adding that therefore it was up to Prison officials to act in a fair manner.