Three Tamil prisoners killed by Sinhala inmates
[TamilNet, Friday, 12 December 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Reports reaching Colombo today revealed that three Tamil prisoners among those who transferred recently from the Colombo magazine (Welikada) prison to the Kalutara jail were killed today in an attack by Sinhala prisoners allegedly incited by some prison officials. Seven others were injured and have been admitted to the Nagoda hospital in Kalutara.
Two of the dead were identified as Maruthalingam Tharmalingam 24, and Shanmugarajah Sivanesan 27.
The Commissioner of Prisons Mr. S. Karaliyadde denied the incident but the Kalutara Superintendent of Police confirmed the deaths in the prison attack.
In a similar incident fourteen years ago, Sinhala prisoners in Colombo's Welikada jail, instigated and backed by officials, attacked and massacred 53 political prisoners in July 1983 during the mass Sinhala pogrom against the Tamils.
The problem began on November 27 when Tamil prisoners who were being held in the Welikada prison decided to go on a hunger strike to protest against their detention without being subjected to any judicial process under Sri Lankan law.
They commenced their protest fast on top of the Welikada prison roof with the slogan " Release us or initiate inquiries on us". These prisoners were severely attacked with batons and were pushed down from the roof.
Warders, who are mostly Sinhalese, tore up their books and clothes in the cells.
A photographer of the Tamil daily, Virakesari who went to cover the protest fast at the Welikada prison that day was manhandled by the Police.
Some prisoners were force fed with bread soaked in water.
The government covered up the assault on the prisoners by transferring them immediately to the Kalutara prison.
The next day the Sinahala press published the version given them by the Police and the Prison officials.
The Divaina on November 28 said in a banner headline that explosives had been found in the cells of the Tamil prisoners.
The Lankadeepa asserted in its headline story that day - "Tigers make duplicate keys to escape from prison. Plan to attack prison officials and escape revealed".
This paper also said that explosives had been found in the possession of the Tamil prisoners.
The Divaina pursued the matter in its editorial on December 2.
It castigated prison officials at Welikada for letting "Tigers smuggle fuses and other implements required to make bombs into the prisons".
Tamils arrested indiscriminately in the southern and central parts of Sri Lanka, including the city of Colombo and its suburbs are locked up in large numbers for long years in prisons without inquiry. They are sometimes assaulted and ill treated.
On February 19, last year a large number of Tamil political prisoners were ferociously attacked by Sinhala convicts and prison officials.
No action was taken by the authorities about this incident.