Sri Lankan Prison Minister Resigns After Allegedly Threatening to Kill Tamil Prisoners


Sri Lanka’s Minister of State for Prisons Management Lohan Ratwatte tendered his resignation on Wednesday, days after he allegedly threatened to kill Tamil prisoners during his visit to the Anuradhapura prison in the country’s northern central region, a senior official said. Ratwatte’s resignation came as pressure mounted on him after the Tamil political parties sought his resignation and arrest over the incident. The resignation was accepted by the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Kingsley Ratnayake, the presidential spokesman, said.

Ratwatte allegedly went to the Anuradhapura prison on September 12 and forced two prisoners to kneel and threatened to kill them. His act prompted the Tamil parties to condemn his behaviour and call for his resignation.

“We call on the government to immediately remove the state minister for prison management and have him arrested and charged after an immediate inquiry for allegedly threatening to kill prisoners in Anuradhapura on Sunday, September 12,” the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said in a tweet. Galen Ponnambalam, the leader of the Tamil National People’s Front tweeted also confirmed the incident.

The TNPF can confirm that on the evening of September, 12 the state minister for Prisons had gone to the Anuradhapura prisons, summoned the Tamil political prisoners and had got two of them to kneel in front of him, he said in a tweet. Ponnambalam said the minister had threatened to kill Tamil prisoners.

The local media reports alleged that the minister had visited the main prison in Colombo to show the gallows to a group of his friends late at night before heading to the north central town of Anuradhapura. He was allegedly carrying his personal weapon into the prison which the prison officials said was an illegal act.

The relevant minister’s office has denied any such incident involving the minister, the local media reports said. The incident and act of the minister has also been condemned by the United Nations.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy said that it is the duty of the State to protect the rights of prisoners, the Colombo Gazette reported. In our work on prison reform and drug rehabilitation, UN Sri Lanka works to strengthen capacities to uphold the rights of all those in custody and condemns any ill treatment of prisoners, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy tweeted on Wednesday.

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