Lankan Minister threat to Tamil prisoners: Bar Association statement

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) have expressed its concerns over recent threat incident against Tamil political prisoners. In a statement BASL said that Association is deeply disturbed at the reports of the alleged criminal conduct on the part of the State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Affairs and Gem and Jewellery related Industries Mr. Lohan Ratwatte which seriously calls into question his eligibility to hold office in the government any longer. The BASL understands that Mr. Ratwatte has now tendered his resignation from the office of State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Affairs but not from the office of State Minister of Gem and Jewellery related Industries.

The allegations that Mr. Ratwatte forcibly entered the prisons at Welikada with other persons and that he flew to Anuradhapura and forcibly entered the prison there and intimidated prisoners at that prison are acts of gross impunity and a threat to the rule of law.

“The allegations against him are such that Mr. Ratwatte can no longer command the trust or responsibility of not only a government minister charged with duties in respect of prisons, but also as a minister holding any other portfolio and as a Member of Parliament.

Such acts of impunity are ones which should be investigated fully and impartially and if proved be visited with penal consequences. It is imperative that independent and impartial investigations into these alleged criminal acts are conducted expeditiously. The BASL has noted time and again that the State has a duty to protect prisoners in their custody.

By tendering his resignation Mr. Ratwatte has accepted responsibility for his conduct and therefore he has forfeited his moral right to hold any office in government, ministerial or otherwise.

The BASL furthermore calls upon all relevant authorities including the Hon. Attorney General and the law enforcement authorities to act forthwith in dealing with these serious acts of impunity allegedly committed by Mr. Ratwatte,” the statement concluded.

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