Families of prisoners in the Anuradhapura prison who were verbally abused by State Minister for Prison Management and Prisoner’s Rehabilitation Lohan Ratwatte during a break into the prison earlier this month have retained legal counsel to represent them in what could amount to several criminal and other offences.

The cases are expected to be brought in the high courts in Vavuniya and Mannar in early October.

After breaking into the prison on the night of the 12th of September, the state minister had singled out prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and had threatened to kill them with his personal firearm. The state minister had reportedly been drunk at the time.

According to legal sources, the state minister allegedly committed offences under the Offensive Weapons Act, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment which Sri Lanka has ratified and the offence of intention to murder which is a cognizable offence not requiring an arrest warrant for the offender to be taken into custody by the police. The offence carries a 20- year mandatory term of imprisonment.

Soon after the incident and under pressure from the media and Tamil political parties the state minister stepped down from his role in prisons management but continues to retain his other portfolio of State Minister for Gem and Jewellery Related Industries. Although he took responsibility for his actions he said he didn’t behave towards the prisoners the way it is being claimed he did. The Minister for Justice Ali Sabry apologized to the victims and families during a parliamentary session last week.


A CID inquiry into the incident was triggered following a complaint by the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has also started an inquiry. In a familiar trend the government appointed a former High Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardene to also look into the matter.

One week before the Anuradhapura incident the state minister went to the Welikada prison with friends for a tour of the gallows. He is reported to have been drunk then too.


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