Did Army officer beat Kandakadu inmate to death?
- Prisoners’ rights group alleges assault led to inmates’ unrest and escape
- Army says it has no involvement in Kandakadu Centre
- Rehabilitation chief assures strict action against any official involved
BY Safrah Fazal
The Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) alleged that the suspicious death of an inmate at the Kandakadu Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, following which the mass escape of over 500 inmates also occurred, was due to an assault by an Army officer.
Speaking to The Morning yesterday (29), CPRP General Secretary Sudesh Nandimal Silva claimed: “The Army oversees the rehabilitation of inmates at Kandakadu. As per the information we have received so far, an Army officer had assaulted the said inmate, which led to his death.”
He also claimed that according to sources, fellow inmates were provoked by this incident, leading to unrest and the subsequent escape.
Silva further claimed that a sound similar to a gunshot had also resounded in the area around the same time that the inmates had reportedly breached the gates at the main entrance and escaped the centre.
Last morning, the Police revealed that over 500 inmates of the Kandakadu Centre had escaped following a tense situation that erupted after the death of an inmate on Tuesday (28) evening. It was stated that a group of inmates had resorted to unruly behaviour following the death and the tense situation within the premises had continued from Tuesday night until early yesterday morning.
The Police and the Army launched a joint operation to control the situation and apprehend the inmates who escaped, according to Police Spokesman, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and Attorney-at-Law Nihal Thalduwa. By the evening, a total of 232 inmates who had escaped had been apprehended, according to Commissioner-General of Rehabilitation Maj. Gen. Darshana Hettiarachchi. A search operation was underway last evening in search of more than 200 other inmates who had escaped.
When contacted, SSP Thalduwa told The Morning that an investigation is being carried out by the Police (under the supervision of the Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of the Polonnaruwa Division, with further Police teams to be assigned) into the death of the inmate and that the gunshot in question may have been one that was aimed at the sky during the unrest.
According to Thalduwa, the inmates who are being rehabilitated under court orders and are surrendering to the Police will be questioned and produced before court on the legal charge of fleeing from court-ordered detention at a rehabilitation centre. While the relevant magistrate had visited the site where the body of the deceased lay, and the Police were subsequently taking action to move the body to the relevant hospital’s morgue for the post-mortem, the inmates had, according to Thalduwa, forcibly taken the body and moved towards the Somawathiya Temple. He added that the authorities were at the time attempting to bring the situation under control.
When The Morning contacted Army Spokesman Brigadier Nilantha Premaratne yesterday, he stated: “The Army has no involvement in the Kandakadu Centre, as it strictly comes under the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation. The Army only provides security for the outer perimeter and has nothing to do with the handling of the inmates at the centre.”
As per Thalduwa, Bureau of Rehabilitation Commissioner General Maj. Gen. Darshana Hettiarachchi has informed the Police that they would assist in taking strict legal action against any official who has been found to be involved in the incident of the suspicious death of the inmate.
Speaking to The Morning, Maj. Gen. Hettiarachchi explained that on Tuesday evening, the deceased’s instructor had questioned the said inmate after finding tobacco in his possession, which had later escalated into a verbal altercation. Hettiarachchi added that an investigation is currently being carried out by the Police as well as the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation as to what transpired following this incident and that the report will be presented within the upcoming days.
He also emphasised that those who arrive at the Kandakadu Centre are long-term drug abusers, and that within the first three to four months, they tend to be very irritable, stressed, and violent as a result of undergoing drug withdrawal. “Hence, fights between inmates and officials, as well as self-harming behaviour, are commonplace at the centre,” he said.