Sri Lankan state minister Lohan Ratwatte forced Tamil inmates detained in the Anuradhapura prison to kneel down at gunpoint on Sunday, sources revealed. Ratwatte was allegedly under the influence of alcohol when he entered the premises and demanded Tamil prisoners to perform the humiliating act.
It is understood that Ratwatte also took his friends along to the prison, who were also inebriated, and threatened Tamil prisoners that he would kill them on the spot with his gun if they did not obey his orders.
Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, a Tamil parliamentarian from the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF), wrote in his official Twitter handle that his party “can confirm that on the evening of the 12th of September the State Minister for Prisons has gone to the Anuradhapura prisons, summoned the #Tamil political prisoners and had got two of them to kneel in front of him.”
(2) The State Minister had them pointed his personal firearm at them and had threatened to kill them on the spot.
— Gajen Ponnambalam MP (@GGPonnambalam) September 14, 2021
Ponnambalam condemned the act of Ratwatte as “dastardly” and called for his immediate resignation.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) also urged the Rajapaksa government to remove Ratwatte from office immediately and launch an inquiry into his death threat to Tamil prisoners.
We call on the government to immediately remove the State Minster for Prison Management and have him arrested and charged after an immediate inquiry for allegedly threatening to kill prisoners in Anuradhapura prison on Sunday 12th September
— TNAMedia (@TNAmediaoffice) September 14, 2021
The President’s Media Division announced earlier today that Ratwatte took responsibility for his actions and has decided to resign from his post.
TNA Member of Parliament (MP) M.A.Sumanthiran tweeted that the resignation is "not enough." And he called for a full-scale inquiry into Ratwatte's act in prison.
That’s not enough. He must be arrested and a full-scale inquiry must be conducted and he and all responsible must be prosecuted. #Prisoners are wards of the #State and the their protection cannot be compromised in any way. https://t.co/8byw3b0MFI
— Abraham Sumanthiran (@MASumanthiran) September 15, 2021
However, although he has resigned from the office of State Minister of Prison Management & Prisoners’ Rehabilitation, reports reveal but will continue to be a state minister for jewel-related industries.
Former Human Rights Commissioner of Sri Lanka Ambika Satkunanathan criticised that Ratwatte could continue as a state minister with a different portfolio even after committing such a base act.
In #SriLanka, a Minister can commit an act that would constitute a crime & remain a Minister.
— Ambika Satkunanathan (@ambikasat) September 15, 2021
Lohan Ratwatte has a history of mass murder and irresponsible behaviour with firearms. He led the killing of ten unarmed Muslims during the 2001 general elections for which he was convicted and sentenced by the high court. He was later acquitted on flimsy grounds.
More recently, in late December 2020, he terrified hotel guests in Kandy by firing gunshots into the air reportedly due to anger.