Thalatha cracks the whip on Sri Lanka prison management

ECONOMYNEXT – Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorale yesterday vowed tough action against corrupt prison officials after disbanding an intelligence unit that had failed to deal with criminal activities orchestrated from behind bars.

Athukorale, who is also in charge of prisons, said inmates were able to contact people outside despite repeated attempts to remove cell phones from all prisons. She disbanded the prison intelligence unit last week after reports that convicted drug dealers continued their illegal trade from jail.

“What is the point in having a prisons intelligence unit if drugs are freely available within the prisons. Mobile phones are being used inside the jail,” she told reporters at her home constituency of Ratnapura over the weekend.

She was yet to decide on reinstating the prison intelligence unit, but official sources said a major shake up in the administration of prisons was on the cards.

A serving top law enforcement official is tipped to head a new structure that will be tasked with cleaning the huge corruption within the ranks of jailors, the sources said.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, an ardent opponent of capital punishment, has also faulted prison authorities for allowing convicts to organize crime from prisons. President Maithripala Sirisena has said he was adamant to press ahead with hangings for drug dealers.

However, Minister Athukorale made it clear that the country was still a long way from ending the moratorium on capital punishment which was last carried out in 1976.

Sri Lankan courts regularly hand down capital punishment to those trafficking or possessing more than two grams of heroin or similar narcotics as well as for grave crime such as rape and murder. However, the death sentences are not carried out and instead turned into a term of life imprisonment.

“There has to be a lot of work before we can bring back hangings. We need to have investigations into the cases of those condemned for drug related offences,” Athukorale said. “We need reports from the Attorney general’s department. It is only after all that we can take a final decision,” she added. (COLOMBO, July 28, 2018)

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