Shocking new video has emerged showing scenes of inmate unrest inside the Mahara Prison complex, while jailers jeer and laugh while taping the entire episode.
Audio from the tape depicts jailers and prison officials thriving in the entertainment on the grounds below, as prisoners clash and run wildly around the yard.
“කොට්ට පොර බලනවා වගේ බං” one of the prison officials remarks watching the scenes, referring to the suspended pillow fights traditionally played in villages during the Sinhalese new year festivities.
“They should be allowed to hit each other” another one is heard remarking in the audio.
The video shows inmates clashing with poles and running away from what sources inside the complex said were terribly overcrowded indoor conditions.
Colombo Telegraph learns that the video was shot hours before armed STF troops were sent in to end the protests. The ensuing shooting killed 11 inmates and injured over 100 more. Nine of the inmates killed in gunfire inside the prison had tested positive for the corona virus postmortem, doctors said. Over 120 inmates were admitted to hospital for treatment from gunshot and other injuries, and at least 38 of these inmates had also tested positive for the deadly virus, hospital authorities said.
Inmates at Mahara and other incarceration centres around the island have been engaged in protests about overcrowded facilities that were making Sri Lanka’s prisons a breeding ground for the corona virus. According to Government ministers who responded to questions in Parliament, said more than 1000 prisoners islandwide had contracted COVID-19.
Prisoners rights activists are pleading with authorities to release prisoners arrested for petty crimes or unable to meet bail conditions in order to reduce the pressure on prison facilities and curb the spread of the virus inside jail houses.
Colombo Telegraph learns that while the local media in Sri Lanka has secured a copy of this video, which purports to show unrest by the prisoners which resulted in the troops being called in to use firearms to end the protests, most news organisations broadcast the video without the accompanying audio depicting jailers enjoying the show.
Prison officials have failed to deal with the unrest inside the prison as mandated by law, including issuing warnings by loudspeaker and shooting at the ground or shooting at the legs of prisoners if the unrest is entirely uncontrollable. Instead armed soldiers shot inmates dead, actions, legal experts say, could result in murder charges being brought against the shooters.
Custodial death is a standard part of the criminal justice system in Sri Lanka, with suspects and prisoners regularly being shot dead by police and STF officers amidst prison unrest or “on the way to show a hidden weapons cache”. Perpetrators of these murders have never been brought to justice.