Covid-19 ‘third wave’ in prisons

  • Prisoners’ rights group warns of ‘Mahara’ repeat


Amidst the Covid-19 third wave, the Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) has raised numerous concerns of a potential repeat of the deadly unrest that occurred at the Mahara Prison Complex in November 2020, due to rising fears of the spread of Covid-19 among prisoners.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday (4), CPRP Chairman and Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera said that some unrest had occurred at the Angunakolapelessa Prison Complex on 2 May, where prisoners had asked for better health regulations within the complex as a number of prisoners had tested positive for Covid-19. However, Perera alleged that their demands made from the authorities had fallen on deaf ears and therefore warned of a repeat of the unrest that occurred at the Mahara Prison Complex.

Rights groups have noted that housing facilities of the prisons have been filled to nearly twice their original capacity.

Responding to these concerns, Department of Prisons Media Spokesman and Prisons Commissioner Chandana Ekanayake told The Morning that the “minor incident” at the Angunakolapelessa Prison Complex was resolved now.

State Ministry of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Affairs Secretary Maj. Gen. (Retd.) V.R. Silva told The Morning last week that among the two main measures that had been taken to stop the spread of the virus within the prison system was a mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test being conducted on all convicts before being sent to jail.

In November 2020, some unrest was reported at the Mahara Prison Complex, following rising fears among the inmates about the rapid spread of Covid-19 within the prison complex. The unrest ultimately resulted in 11 deaths and left 108 injured, with media reports showing that prison guards had opened fire at the prisoners. Prisoners at the Welikada and Angunakolapelessa Prison Complexes also held protests regarding the Covid-19 situation in the days preceding the Mahara Prison unrest.