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Victim/witness protection 24/7 hotline launched 

  • Prisoners’ rights group launches 0712717000 

BY Dinitha Rathnayake 

The office of the Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) launched a round-the-clock emergency mobile hotline (0712717000) that can be contacted by those seeking help for the protection of victims of crime and witnesses, including the victims and witnesses themselves.

Speaking to The Morning, CPRP Chairman Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera said that this hotline would operate 24 hours a day to help victims and witnesses.

“There is no system in this country to help victims or witnesses and to educate them on related matters. Our Committee saw this issue as an urgent need and it is the main reason to launch the hotline. This hotline would help the public on any occasion when they become victimised or become a witness, and all necessary guidelines from advice to advocating would be given to them. Sometimes, people are helpless during the weekends, since the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sri Lanka are closed during that period. But since our hotline works on weekends, we hope it would be a great help for the society.”

Sri Lanka has a National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses; however, the activists claim this largely non-functional. 

Meanwhile, investigations over incidents at the Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons, which involved former Prison Management and Prisoners Rehabilitation State Minister Lohan Ratwatte, are still pending. 

In this regard, the Committee has raised questions regarding Parliamentarians who hold licenses for their guns from the Secretary General of Parliament under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

“We sent this letter one month ago to the Secretary General of Parliament asking about the MPs who possess a gun license. Anyone should respond within 14 days, under the RTI Act. However, still, we didn’t get any response.”

Ratwatte is accused of intimidating and threatening prison inmates at gunpoint after allegedly forcibly entering the Anuradhapura Prison premises. The matter is being inquired into by the HRCSL, the Prisons Department, the Criminal Investigations Department, and retired High Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena, who are supposed to produce reports on the issue.