Grieving families and the public eagerly await the findings of judicial investigations into the killing of eleven inmates at the Mahara Prison, just before Christmas 2020. Though initial pronouncements from government spokespersons indicated that the inmates had killed each other, subsequent revelations at the inquests that all eleven had died of gunshot injuries, demand that these investigations be transparent and impartial. That a protest for unquestionable rights such as clean water, edible food and protection from the Covid-19 virus preceded the tragedy, must also receive serious consideration in the investigations. Under no circumstances should these investigations suffer the same fate of previous ones into prison killings, by being swept under the carpet. The aggrieved must receive justice.
Friday Forum consequently reminds the Minister of Justice of his obligation to monitor investigations into the violence and update families, parliament and the public on the findings. Those responsible should be held accountable according to the law. If not, grievance will fester, and injustice will continue unabated.
Friday Forum also notes the worrying trends of violence against inmates, the drug menace and the overcrowding of our prisons over the years, and recommends that the government considers setting up a truly independent and effective mechanism to address these issues. In the absence of a representative body such as the Constitutional Council under the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the Constitution, the Friday Forum requests that a Task Force appointed by Parliament with the approval of all parties represented there, be empowered to independently and impartially investigate the current state of affairs in prisons and make recommendations for remedial actions from the perspective of prisoner rights.
Signed by: Bishop Duleep de Chickera, Mr. Chandra Jayaratne, Mr. Faiz-Ur Rahman, Dr. Radhika Coomaswamy, Prof. Camena Guneratne, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare, Mr Dhammapala Wijayanandana, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe, Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Dr. A.C.Visvalingam, Ms. Suriya Wickremasinghe, Mr. Pulasthi Hewamanna, Dr. Deepika Udagama, Rev. Dr Jayasiri Peiris, Ms. Manouri Muttetuwegama and Ms. Shanthi Dias.