Assassination and assault of prisoners at Mahara Prison

Press Release

Assassination and assault of prisoners at Mahara Prison

Nine unarmed prisoners have been shot dead and more than 70 others have been injured and hospitalized after being fired at them allegedly by prison officials during an incident at the Mahara Prison. These prisoners have been imprisoned or remanded on court orders to keep them safe in government custody. We seriously accuse the government for failing to protect the lives of prisoners held under government protection.

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While we strongly condemn this brutal act we must say that this is not the first time this has happened. On two previous occasions, in 1983, the massacre of a large number of Tamil prisoners at the Welikada Prison took place. In 2012, 27 prisoners were shot dead by the S.T.F. under the leadership of Gotabhya Rajapaksha former Secretary of Defense in the previous Government. This shows that the government cannot even save the life of a prisoner in their custody.  As usual, in the case of Mahara, the government claims that the prisoners attacked the officers on duty and tried to escape. This is a blatant lie. In contrast, while a large number of prisoners were injured, only two officers suffered injury. We also condemn with disgust the attempt of the Minister and the Government for alienating   responsibility of this brutal attack to an invisible force and save their skin.

We can just imagine the congestion in the prison when thirty-three thousand detainees are held in a prison where only eleven thousand prisoners could be accommodated. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that inmates are worried about the spread of the corona virus. due to overcrowding.  Due to inordinate delay of the Sri Lankan judiciary, even those who can come out on bail are not allowed to do so. The long trial delays and the lack of prison facilities had caused serious unrest among them. Under these circumstances, it is only natural that protests should arise among the prisoners. The government may think it is easy to quell those protests with the power of guns. We would like to emphasize that the explosive nature of prisons shows only the inability, weakness and dictatorial nature of that administration.

  • Conduct an impartial inquiry into the incident!
  • Pay adequate compensation to the dead and injured!
  • Ensure the safety of prisoners!

On behalf of the Left Voice organization

Niel Wijethilake

Acting Secretary