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Sri Lankan govt is blocking legal action on Minister Ratwatte’s threat to kill Tamil prisoners

Police Media Spokesman, Senior Superintendent of Police, and attorney-at-law Nihal Thalduwa has told “The Morning” that  it is not possible to take legal action against State Minister of Plantation Industries Lohan Ratwatte forcibly entering the Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons and intimidating several inmates in 2021 until the relevant party that appointed the committee makes a decision regarding the implementation of the relevant recommendations.

From the statement is is clear that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Cabinet of Ministers as well as Ranil Rajapaksa’s cabinet of Ministers have blocked police taking legal action on human rights violations of Tamil inmates in Anuradhapura prison.

Read  Sri Lanka Brief Update: Impunity papers 01 – The case of Minister Lohan Ratwatte

The news report published by The Morning:

Although the Police is to initiate action recommended by the one-member committee that investigated the incident of then-State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and incumbent State Minister of Plantation Industries Lohan Ratwatte allegedly forcibly entering the Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons and intimidating several inmates in 2021 once the directions of the Cabinet of Ministers are received, the relevant report is yet to reach the Cabinet.

Under the directions of the Cabinet, then-Minister of Justice and incumbent Foreign Affairs Minister President’s Counsel M.U.M. Ali Sabry appointed a committee with the sole membership of former High Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena to investigate the said incidents. The committee has, in its final report, recommended for the Police to file a B-report under several charges, including those of attempted murder, in the Anuradhapura Magistrate’s Court against Ratwatte if they (Police) have not done so already.

When The Daily Morning recently queried Police Media Spokesman, Senior Superintendent of Police, and attorney-at-law Nihal Thalduwa as to whether the Police would implement the relevant recommendations, he said that it is not possible to do so until the relevant party that appointed the committee makes a decision regarding the implementation of the relevant recommendations. “This committee has made recommendations, but the relevant party that appointed it (committee) should decide whether or not to implement them.”

However, when contacted by The Daily Morning yesterday (16), Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, Prisons Affairs and Constitutional Reforms Wasantha Perera said that the report has not been referred to the Cabinet. “It has not been sent to the Cabinet. It has however been forwarded to whichever institution that was requested to conduct the inquiry.”

In September 2021, The Daily Morning exclusively reported that an inebriated and pistol-brandishing Ratwatte had flown in a helicopter to the Anuradhapura Prison, where he had summoned a group of Tamil political prisoners, ordered them to kneel, and proceeded to threaten two of them at point blank range, telling them to accept their offence/s. It was also alleged that prior to this incident, Ratwatte had, together with a group of friends, under the influence of liquor, forcibly entered the Welikada Prison premises after 6 p.m. and proceeded to view the gallows.

The report prepared by the Weerawardena Committee mentions several crimes allegedly committed by Ratwatte for which there is credible evidence. Among them are using a weapon in a prison (the Prisons Ordinance), using a weapon to commit an offence (the Firearms Ordinance), attempting to bring the State to disrepute, causing disaffection against the Government among its people, attempted murder, criminal intimidation by threatening to cause death, causing hurt, and causing hurt with a dangerous weapon that are stipulated under the relevant provisions of the Penal Code.

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