Govt takes full responsibility for Mahara prison riot: Keheliya

ECONOMYNEXT – The government takes full responsibility for the violence that erupted at the Mahara prison on Sunday (Nov 29), Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said.

However, highlighting the incident as if it were the only one of its kind in the world is not fair as similar prison riots have occurred in countries like Italy in the wake of COVID-19, he said.

The minister told reporters at the weekly cabinet press briefing today that the inmates could’ve been under the influence of some unnamed psychiatric pills. Various measures taken by intelligence operatives and prison officials to prevent drugs from getting inside the prison appear to have been circumvented, he said.

At a separate press conference today, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana told reporters that some 21,000 psychiatrist pills were stored at the Mahara prison’s infirmary, adding that police will investigate why such a large number of pills were ordered. Rohana claimed that the pill in question is used by heroin addicts as an alternative drug.

Minister Rambukwella speculated at the cabinet press briefing that the Mahara prison riot could be an attempt to sabotage the government’s efforts to prevent such incidents from taking place in prisons.

Co-cabinet spokesman Minister Udaya Gammanpila said four separate investigations are underway into the incident: by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and by three committees appointed by the Prisons Commissioner, the State Minister of Prison Reforms, and the Ministry of Justice.

Meanwhile, DIG Rohana announced his resignation from the five-member committee appointed by Justice Minister Ali Sabry to investigate the incident.

Rohana said that as he currently functions as police media spokesman and conducts regular media briefings about current issues including the prison riots issue, there would be a conflict of interest if he acted as a member of the committee.

The death toll from the riot rose to 11 today with 117 reported injured. As of this evening, 38 of the inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. (Colombo/Dec01/2020)

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