Prison riot leaves two dead


  • Agitated by Covid-19 rumours
  • Hungry prisoners start a fire

By Skandha Gunasekara

Two inmates were killed and several others hospitalised after Police opened fire to control a riot within the Anuradhapura Prison yesterday (21),  with unconfirmed reports indicating that the prisoners were protesting the housing of an inmate who was infected with Covid-19.

Police Spokesman SP Jaliya Seneratne told The Sunday Morning that inmates had staged a riot by starting a fire within the prison.

He said that as the situation had spiralled out of control, authorities had been compelled to open fire to regain control.

“The inmates were wreaking havoc within the prison to the point they attempted to escape. Prison officers were forced to shoot and there was one casualty,” he said.

SP Seneratne said that a total of five inmates had been admitted to the Anuradhapura Hospital, one of whom had succumbed to his injuries by the time he reached the hospital. A short while later, another inmate also passed away, bringing the total deaths to two.

According to the Police Spokesman, even at the time of writing at 9 p.m. yesterday (21),  the situation was not under control as authorities were unable to enter the prison due to the riot while the Special Task Force Riot Control Unit and prisons officials were at the scene.

SP Seneratne also added that he had no information of an inmate at the prison infected with Covid-19.

Army Spokesman Brigadier Chandana Wickremasinghe said that Army troops had been deployed at the scene.

“(The) Field Commander of the Ground Forces in Anuradhapura informed me that the Army had secured the perimeter of the prison but that there was still unrest within. The troops are on standby to contain the situation,” he said.

While noting that he too had heard reports of a coronavirus patient, he said he had no official information and that people must not fall prey to rumours.

“There are no official reports, only talk and rumours. A coronavirus patient is a possibility with the crisis being faced by the country, but we must be careful about the spread of misinformation,” the Army Spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) President Senaka Perera said that the rioting had begun due to reports of four Covid-19 positive inmates being housed in the prison as well as the frustration of inmates due to the shortage of food as a result of a lack of visitors over the past few days.

“There were reports that around four people with the coronavirus were in the Anuradhapura Prison this morning. In addition, there has been a shortage of food because the curfew has stopped visitors from coming. Both these issues had resulted in the prisoners carrying out a protest,” Perera said.