The video footage of the armed prisoners waving their weapons from rooftops and military tanks thronging Baseline Road gave the impression that the riots were as frightening as the two midnight air raids by the LTTE a few years ago. It was a wartime north coming to Colombo. Until then overnight shootouts were strictly battlefield scenes. After the T20 World Cup Final, Colombo stayed up till late; its citizens with their hearts in their mouths.
The shootout started shortly after inmates of the Welikada prison broke out from the main gate of the prison and attempted to flee in a trishaw parked near the entrance at around 6 in the evening, while opening fire at the STF personnel at the scene. The STF counter-fired killing a number of the fleeing prisoners.
The prison uprising began last afternoon shortly after around 300 STF personnel together with the prison officials carried out a raid after authorities received information of a major drug racket and other illegal activities being conducted within the prison premises. The raid lasted for three hours, with the authorities recovering mobile phones and drugs.
This however, is not the first incident of this nature that occurred within the Prison walls; and one would highly doubt it would be the last. In January this year, an unruly group of inmates in the Magazine Prison damaged prison properties, set the Prison archives on fire and left 36 persons injured. This was again reported as an act of expressing ‘displeasure’ at the action taken by a superintendent to crackdown on narcotic related activities in the Prison.
A Prison could never be a trouble-free place given the nature and the histories of its inmates. It is a well-known fact that these places have become the knowledge hub of criminals where tactics, expertise and sometimes drugs are exchanged to and fro. While the majority of the prison officials are law-abiding who discharge their duties with the aim of busting such actions, there is also a minority who support this mafia for their own benefit.
Despite the writing that adorns the prison wall, “Prisoners are people too,” rather than rehabilitating the errant individuals, the prisons have become breeding places for rebels who would at the deprivation of their daily dose of drugs snap at the prison personnel. It is time to make them live up to the ‘people’ label; or look for a fresh supply of officials who are human enough to convert them.
This is of course a very evident case of poor administration by the MR Govet: This is just the begining of disasters and there will be many more of this nature to come. MR is the sole responsible person who should answer to 27 deaths and entire distruction took place.
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