Dismissing allegations that Special Task Force (STF) personnel stormed the prisons at Welikada in an arbitrary manner last Friday, Police Spokesperson, Senior Superintendent of Police, Prishantha Jayakody claimed the STF had been invited by prison authorities to conduct a surprise raid.Contrary to this claim, there were arguments in many quarters that the STF should have obtained a court order prior to conducting such a raid. “In my view, there is no necessity for such a process,” asserted SSP Jayakody.
Friday’s prison drama was the worst witnessed after the 1983 July prison riots where Sinhala prisoners rampaged the cells of Tamil political prisoners on two occasions killing 52 Tamil inmates. Friday’s gunfire from both sides resulted in 27 dead and 42 injured. Several hardcore criminals convicted for life and some sentenced to gallows have reportedly led the battle against the STF forcing the latter to fire tear gas canisters to bring the situation under control. “These hardcore criminals had then broken into the armory and grabbed automatic weapons to fire at the STF,” claimed the Police Spokesperson.
Latest investigations have revealed that the mob had been led by an ex-husband of a film star and a Basnayake Nilame charged for the murder of the two Buddhist monks at the Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya.During the exchange of fire, the Commandant of the STF, DIG R.W.M.C. Ranawana was hit in the abdomen by a bullet and rushed to hospital. STF explosives expert, Chief Inspector, Dimuthu Samaranayake too was rushed to hospital with gunshot injuries on the chest and neck areas, sources from the Colombo National Hospital said.
The latest reports from the hospital said that DIG Ranawana and CI Senenayake were now recovering after surgery. A number of prisoners had reportedly escaped during the shootout. Two of them were captured by the Borella Police while another three had surrendered to the prison authorities.
Prison sources said they were now taking a roll on the number of inmates to ascertain how many had made the incident the opportunity to escape.
Prisoners who grabbed arms from the armory shot at random in an indiscriminate manner resulting in a number of bullets being sprayed in vehicles that were plying on the Baseline Road at the time of the incident.
In the exchange of fire, hardcore prisoners and reconvicted criminals identified as Jothipala, Marlon, Lester de Silva, Gunda, Kalu Thushara, and Amila succumbed to gunshot injuries. Prisons and Rehabilitation Minister, Chandrasiri Gajadeera making a statement in Parliament yesterday told the House that a three member committee had been appointed and a top level inquiry has been initiated and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) called into assist the police in the investigation.