The Justice and Prisons Affairs Ministry has sought the Attorney General’s (AG) instructions regarding an order issued by the Right to Information (RTI) Commission concerning a request for information regarding former State Minister of Prisons Management and Prisoners Rehabilitation, Lohan Ratwatte’s alleged abuse of prisoners.
Earlier, the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) has requested the RTI Commission to initiate legal action against the Justice, Prisons Affairs and Constitutional Reforms Ministry’s non-compliance with the order issued by the Commission to release a committee report on the incidents of Ratwatte having allegedly forcibly entered two prisons and having intimidated several inmates in 2021.
The CSR has since requested the RTI Commission to initiate legal action against the Ministry for non-compliance with the order issued by the Commission to release a committee report on the said incidents.
When contacted by The Daily Morning, Journalist Tharindu Iranga Jayawardhana, representing the Research Team of the CSR which had filed the appeal with the RTI Commission based on which the relevant order was issued, said that the Ministry had not released the report despite the Commission’s order to release it before 23 February 2023. Accordingly, he said that the CSR had requested the Commission in writing to initiate an inquiry into the Ministry’s non-compliance with the relevant order, and to file cases in the relevant Magistrate’s Courts against the relevant Information Officer of the Ministry, the officials who prevented the report from being released, and the Ministry, under the RTI Act, No. 12 of 2016.
Meanwhile, when contacted by The Daily Morning to query about the matter, Ministry Secretary, Wasantha Perera said: “The Ministry has sought the AG’s (President’s Counsel Sanjay Rajaratnam) instructions regarding the order. The necessary actions will be taken when the instructions are received.”
The RTI Commission on 2 February ordered the Ministry to release the report of the one-member committee comprising retired High Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena, which was appointed to investigate the incident in question, thus concluding the hearing of an appeal filed by the Research Team of the CSR.
On 12 September 2021, it was alleged 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 detained under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (reports state between eight-16 such prisoners), ordered them to kneel, and proceeded to threaten two of them at point blank range, telling them to accept their offence/s and to submit to authority. It was also alleged that prior to this incident, on 6 September, 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.