Heads to roll at Sri Lanka Prisons? | Sunday Observer

Heads to roll at Sri Lanka Prisons?

With evidence mounting on narcotics related crime and corruption thriving inside the prisons system and the failures of the Department of Prisons coming starkly to light, top Government officials are reportedly discussing the possible removal of Comissioner General of Prisons, Nishan Dhanasinghe, authoritative sources told the Sunday Observer.

A series of accusations have been mounting against the Department of Prisons since the discovery of three mobile phones and five SIM cards from the remand cell of Arjun Aloysius and Kasun Palisena in the Colombo Remand Prison early this month.

The raid was conducted based on information gathered by the intelligence services. Hot on the heels of this discovery on July 9, the Police recovered 103 kilograms of heroin in Kalubowila and Battaramulla, while it was later revealed that the main agent responsible for bringing down the haul, identified as Dharmaraja Suseendran alias Soosai, was a prisoner on death row under maximum security at the Welikada Prison, but freely engaged in drug-dealing. Meanwhile, recent Police investigations have also revealed that six identified convicted prisoners have been freely taking and receiving calls from within the confines of the Welikada prison. In March this year, a condemned prisoner in Welikada had made 3,950 calls while receiving 360 calls in return even from overseas including countries such as Malaysia and the UAE.

The calls are going through from Welikada, despite signal jammers situated on the premises with jailers being paid up to Rs. 2,000 per minute for phone calls made by prisoners, a senior law enforcement official told the Sunday Observer. Mobile phones were being used within the Welikada premises even to give senior cops tip-offs about incidents happening inside, the official added.

According to Ministry of Law and Order sources this information gathered was relayed to the relevant Department of Prisons officials at a meeting held recently attended by relevant agencies including officials of the Ministry of Law and Order, Ministry of Prisons, Sri Lanka Police and the Department of Prisons to discuss recent revelations regarding the corrupt activities taking place within the prison walls.

When the Sunday Observer contacted Commissioner General of Prisons Nishan Dhanasinghe, he claimed no such information was presented to him. “However, I requested for a report from the Police Narcotics Bureau but have not received it to-date,” he said.

Despite the denial, the Ministry of Justice and Prison Reforms is in the throes of a full-scale investigation into the corruption inside the country’s prison system.

In a lightning move on Thursday, Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorale summarily disbanded the Prisons Intelligence Unit, in a bid to shatter links between prisoners and prison authorities. Minister Athukorale said she had received an astounding number of complaints about mobile phone use and drug-trafficking inside prisons in the country. She added that Department officials had also failed to act on information provided by the Prisons Intelligence Unit.

According to the Minister, they have now obtained intelligence reports regarding the prisons and malpractices taking place within the system. “We will take a decision according to the information received,” she said, adding that no decision, however, has been taken yet. When asked by the media if the Commissioner-General will be removed, the Minister said that such a decision had not yet been made. “Any decision taken will be revealed in due time,” she said.

However, highly placed sources in the law enforcement community, particularly dealing with narcotics smuggling and organised criminal networks, believe a shake up in the Department is pending in the light of the stream of allegations and President Maithripala Sirisena’s jolt out of the blue to reintroduce the death penalty to curb drug-related crime happening within the prison walls.