Tamil PTA prisoners file FR against Ratwatte
- Request SC to take action on incident at A’pura Prison
- A’pura Superintendent, Prisons CG, Ali Sabry, AG, named other respondents
BY Pamodi Waravita
A group of eight Tamil prisoners filed a fundamental rights (FR) petition at the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday (30 September), requesting for action to be taken against the alleged serious offences committed at the Prison Complex on 12 September by former Prison Management and Prisoners Rehabilitation State Minister Lohan Ratwatte.
The prisoners are detained at the Anuradhapura Prison Complex under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979 as amended (PTA).
“When I visited the 10 prisoners who faced this incident on 25 September, the requirement that action be taken against the incident was clear. A total of eight of the 10 prisoners have thus come forward to file a FR in the SC,” Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Spokesperson and Parliamentarian President’s Counsel (PC) M.A. Sumanthiran told The Morning yesterday.
The petition is SC FR 297/2021. The petitioners are, namely, Poopalasingham Sooriyapalan, Mathiyarasan Sulakshan, Ganesan Tharshan, Kanthappu Kajenthiran, Rasathurai Thiruvarul, Ganesamurthi Sithurshan, Meiyamutthu Suthaharan, and T. Kantharuban. Sumanthiran PC and Attorney-At-Law Kesavan Sajanthan will appear on their behalf. The respondents are Ratwatte, Superintendent of the Anuradhapura Prison M.H.R. Ajith, Prisons Commissioner General (CG) H.M. Thushara N. Upuldeniya, Justice Minister M.U.M. Ali Sabry PC, and Attorney General (AG) Sanjay Rajaratnam PC.
They have further sought a declaration to be made that their FR, guaranteed under Articles 11 (freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment, or punishment), 12(1) (right to equality and equal protection of the law), and 12(2) (freedom from discrimination and the right to non-discrimination) of the Constitution, have been infringed.
The petitioners have further prayed for interim orders for their transfer to prisons in the Northern Province, preferably the Jaffna Prison, and for them to be enlarged on bail.
On 12 September, an inebriated and pistol brandishing Ratwatte had flown in a helicopter to the Anuradhapura Prison where he had summoned a group of Tamil political prisoners detained under the PTA (reports state between eight to 16 such prisoners), and ordered them to kneel, and had proceeded to threaten two of them (Sulakshan – prisoner number 141 whose case is being heard at the Vavuniya High Court – and Tharshan), at point blank range, telling them to accept their offence/s and to submit to authority.
Prior to this incident, on 6 September, Ratwatte had, together with a group of friends, also under the influence of liquor, forcibly entered the Welikada Prison premises after 6 p.m. and proceeded to view the gallows. As per Section 39 of the Prisons Ordinance, a MP who wishes to pay a visit to a prison can only do so between the hours of 5.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m.
The Prisons Department, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), and the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) have since commenced investigations into incidents, whilst Ali Sabry PC appointed High Court Judge (Retd.) Kusala Sarojani Weerawardena to independently inquire into the incident.
Ratwatte resigned from his post of State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation on 15 September and he claimed to have, as per a Tweet by the President’s Spokesman, accepted responsibility for the incidents at the Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the same Tweet mentioned, had accepted the said resignation. However, in subsequent statements made to the media, Ratwatte had denied all allegations against him.