State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners Rehabilitation Affairs Lohan Ratwatte has resigned from the post.
Sending a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Ratwatte said that he seeks the resignation following recent controversies regarding alleged break-ins to Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons.
“Since I do not wish to make the government suffer due to the controversies I seek your recommendations on me resigning from the post,” he said.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) called on the government to immediately remove Ratwatte and have him arrested and charged after an immediate inquiry for allegedly threatening to kill prisoners in Anuradhapura prison on Sunday (12).
The alleged incident in Anuradhapura Prison came after the reports on a State Minister under the influence of alcohol entered Welikada Prison with a group of his friends and abused prion officials who tried to avoid them going towards the prison gallows.
According to the Morning, which exclusively reported the news on Monday (13) among this group was a beauty pageant winner who made national headlines a couple of months ago. The Morning confirmed that this State Minister is also Lohan Ratwatte.
TNA MP Ganjendra Kumar Ponnambalam yesterday (15), said that the TNA confirmed the break in to the Anuradhapura Prison was conducted by Ratwatte.
In a series of tweets Ponnambalam said,
“On the evening of the 12th of September the State Minister for Prisons has 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 them pointed his personal firearm at them and had threatened to kill them on the spot.”
“The TNPF condemns in the strongest possible terms this dastardly behaviour of the State Minister. Tamil political prisoners are already traumatised for being held in detention under one of the most draconian pieces of legislation known to the world, the PTA. Even worse they have been remanded fir several years, some even more than a decade with no evidence against them and no indictments being served. To have the Minister who is supposed to look after their affairs threaten to kill them can’t possibly make their trauma any worse! The TNPF calls for the immediate resignation of the minister and for him to be stripped of all portfolios,” Ponnambalam said.
He added that the TNPF wishes to point out to the Co-group of countries on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC to understand the futility of the UNHRC and containing Sri Lanka within an institution that will never deliver on a reluctant state that has mastered the art of avoiding accountability.
A minister can behave in this manner when UNHRC’s gaze is on Sri Lanka,only shows how unperturbed the state is with regards to the UNHRC. If Sri Lanka is not taken beyond the UNHRC to the ICC as a matter of urgency, the plight of Tamil victims stand to deteriorate far more, he stressed.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa 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.
Following the alleged incidents, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer-Hamdy tweeted
“It is the duty of the State, as per the Mandela Rules, to protect the rights of prisoners. In our work on prison reform and drug rehabilitation UN SriLanka works to strengthen capacities to uphold the rights of all those in custody & condemns any ill treatment of prisoners,”
Eventhough, the Prison Spokesperson and the Prison Commissioner keep saying that such incidents have not been reported to them, President’s Spokesman Kingsly Rathnayaka announced that Ratwatte has confirmed the alleged incidents.
However, Ratwatte will continue to hold the portfolio of State Minister of Gem & Jewellery related Industries, despite resigning as the State Minister of Prison Management & Prisoners’ Rehabilitation.