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Wednesday June 29th, 2022

Sri Lanka prisons minister resigns after opposition MPs demand removal, legal action

State Minister Lohan Ratwatte – Image credit: Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Prison Management State Minister Lohan Ratwatte has tendered his resignation from the portfolio over an incident alleged to have occurred in the Anuradhapura prison.

In a letter addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dated Wednesday (15), Ratwatte has – short of accepting responsibility or apologising for the alleged incident – requested the acceptance of his resignation as State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation.

“Having performed all tasks of this ministry quite successfully so far, and with the intention of not putting the government in a difficult position in light of reports appearing in the media at the moment regarding the ministry,  I voluntarily request your acceptance of my resignation as State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation as of September 15, 2021,” he said in the letter bearing the ministry letterhead.

Ratwatte is also State Minister of Gem & Jewellery Related Industries. There is no indication so far that he has resigned from this portfolio.

The privately owned Daily Mirror reported that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had telephoned Ratwatte from Italy and asked him to step down, followed by a call to President Rajapaksa.

The President’s Media Division meanwhile said in a statement that the president has accepted the resignation letter.

“Lohan Ratwatte, State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation has tendered his resignation, acknowledging his responsibility for the incidents that took place at the Welikada and Anuradhapura Prison premises,” the statement said.

The Welikada incident reportedly occurred prior to the Anuradhapura one, involving an allegedly unathorised entry to the prison’s gallows.

Earlier on Wednesday, the opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) called for the state minister’s removal and arrest over the allegations.

Related: Sri Lanka opposition calls for legal action, sacking, of prisons minister

Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) MP Gajen Ponnambalam first made the allegation on Twitter on Tuesday (14) when he claimed the “state minister of prisons” had “gone to the Anuradhapura prisons, summoned the Tamil political prisoners and had got two of them to kneel in front of him.”

“The State Minister had then pointed his personal firearm at them and had threatened to kill them on the spot,” the MP claimed.

The TNA called for an immediate inquiry to be followed by charges filed against the state minister.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has also called for removal of a “government minister” following the incident at the Prison.

“I vehemently condemn the disgraceful and illegal behaviour of a government minister at the Anuradhapura Prison Complex. This disgusting, unlawful act amply exemplifies the anarchical situation that exists in our country,” he tweeted.

“It is incumbent upon this government to protect the human rights of all citizens of our motherland. This unlawful and despicable act is a further illustration of the precipitous decline in the present human rights situation in our country,” he added. (Colombo/Sep15/2021)

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