By Piyumi Fonseka
An RTI filed by the Daily Mirror has revealed that even the preliminary investigations into the assault of prisoners at Angunakolapelessa super prison in November, 2018 are yet to conclude and the Ministry of Justice has received only an interim report into the incident despite the ministry’s earlier claims.
This RTI revelation contradicts the early news reports that the two minister-appointed committee reports on the assault had already been handed over to the ministry. According to news reports which had quoted ministry authorities, the first committee report had been handed over to the subject minister Thalatha Athukorala in January and the second report in March.
Filing the RTI in May, 2019, the Daily Mirror had requested the reports compiled by the two minister-appointed committees which had supposedly been handed over to Minister Athukorala recommending action against those who were involved in the assault.
“According to the instructions of the ministry’s legal division, the information requested by your RTI (the two committee reports) could be issued only when the investigations into the prison incident concludes,” the Ministry of Justice and Prison Reforms stated in the reply letter.
Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) in January, made public the CCTV video where unarmed prisoners at Angunakolapelessa prison were seen running out of their ward with pillows and bed sheets while prison officials were repeatedly beating them using batons. Due to the delay of the reports, the CPRP filed a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court in February, seeking an order to access the two committee reports.
On the day of the CCTV video made public, Minister Athukorala instructed the Prisons Commissioner General to appoint a three-member committee to provide a report regarding the incident. Prisons Commissioner (Administration/Intelligence and Security Divisions), H.M.T.N. Upuldeniya headed the committee. In the backdrop of the first committee, the second committee was appointed by the Minister to probe the assault of prisoners and it comprised Senior Assistant Secretary of the President’s Secretariat P.M. Nanayakkara, Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and Disaster Management Mrs. B.M.M.M. Basnayake and Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Mrs. G.D.A. Swarnalatha.