The Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners has accused the Yahapalanaya Government of granting impunity to the culprits who were behind the shooting incident inside the Welikada prison in 2012, which left 27 inmates dead and 43 injured.
“Despite promises of “good governance” and freedom of expression from the new government, there have been threats and intimidations to the eyewitness, the Go Rights Collective and it’s members and authorities seems unwilling to take actions,” the committee said in a special report.
According to the report, based on the testimony of the eyewitness, the Commissioner General of Prisons was seen inside the prison in the morning of 10th November 2012 (after midnight on 09th November) and thus, it is believed that he is aware of names of the Army officers present at the time of the shooting. According to the report, the 27 inmates were killed by the Army and the Special Task Force (STF) following what was reported as a search operation leading to the riot between the army, STF and the inmates.
Detailing the failure by authorities to take steps to stop the continued threats on the eyewitnesses, the Committee said that Sudesh Nandimal Silva, who was an inmate at the time of the incident, and was identified as an eyewitness to the event, has been continuously threatened by various groups since he was released from prison and after he and other groups renewed their call for justice to the victims following the change of government in 2015.
Sudesh Nandimal has reported being followed by various people and vehicles – including a black colour jeep (model Pajero with number 62-0761) which he was informed by an officer at Maligawatte Police, belongs to the Police Narcotics Bureau. On 17th March 2015 Sudesh Nandimal had lodged a complaint with the Maligawatta Police station (CIB I 148/146) on being followed by an unknown group of people. In several instances, Nandimal was also called a Sinhalese Tiger, including by the former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
On 19th March Nandimal had written to the Inspector General of Police, referring to the above threats and requesting for protection and action against those responsible (Complaint no. CIB (1) 265/64.) “On 2nd October 2015, four men had met Sudesh Nandimal in Moratuwa and warned him that his life would be in danger if he continued to pursue the matter and if they had to go to jail. Sudesh Nandimal had lodged a complaint to the Moratuwa police station (complaint no CID I 276/139) regarding this incident,” the report said.
The Committee also said that in addition to letters to the President and Prime Minister and complaints to the CID and HRCSL, families of those massacred and their supporters, particularly the Go Rights Collective and Peoples Collective against massacre of Welikada Prisoners, had organized a public campaigns seeking legal action against those responsible, relief for families and publication of inquiry reports by various Committees and Commissions.
In his eyewitness account, Nandimal said that at around 12 midnight the Army had had stormed into the prison while shooting. Nandimal had seen a prisoner named T.H. Lester de Silva dead as a result of this shooting. The prisoners had heard that few prisoners namely Jothipala Kapila, Manjushri and Marlan were brought in from the Chapel ward to near the M ward by the Army. The prisoners had heard these prisoners screaming, and understood that they had been assaulted and shot. The Army and the Prison Intelligence unit had told this to the prisoners including the eyewitnesses. The Army had given updates of what was happening with the purpose of intimidating the prisoners.
“According to Sudesh Nandimal, an officer in civil cloths wearing a yellow t-shirt had come with the Army with a piece of paper, which Nandimal believed contained a list of names. This officer also had a pistol. Sudesh Nandimal had later been told by an Army officer that three prisoners Mohamad Wijerohan alias Gundu, R Susantha Perera and Nirmala Athapathu were taken out from their cells and had been killed. Sudesh Nandimal had stated that there were several Prison Officers including the Commissioner General of the Prison P.W. Kodippili, inside the Prison at the time officer with the yellow t-shirt had come with the Army,” the report said.
“The officer with the yellow t-shirt had been shouting and had asked for a Prisoner named Thushara (Full Name: A. Thushara Chandana) alias Kalu Thushara. He had demanded the Prison Officials to show him this prisoner. At this point one Prison Official had shown him Thushara, saying that if not there could be problems to other prisoners. This Officer had grabbed Thushara and assaulted him. Thushara had shouted saying “Mr. Rangajeewa don‟t kill me”. It is at this point that the eyewitness Sudesh Nandimal had realized that this person in the yellow t-shirt is officer Rangajeewa. Some other prisoners there had said Rangajeewa is from the Police Narcotic bureau. Officer Rangajeewa was heard as saying “we told you not to clash with us”. It was later understood that Thushara had filed a case at the Human Rights Commission against Rangajeewa. The prisoners including Nandimal and Hewa Dalugodage Sahan Sri Keerthi (another eyewitness) had later been told that another prisoner who was killed, Niramala Athapathu’s mother had also filed a complaint at the Human Rights Commission against Rangajeewa, who is accused of murder,” the report added.
Read the full report here