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News

Sri Lankan minister resigns after threatening to kill Tamil prisoners

A file photo of Sri Lankan activists demanding the release of Tamil detainees held in custody for long periods without trial, outside the main prison in Colombo on October 16, 2015. (Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

SRI Lanka’s minister of state for prisons management Lohan Ratwatte tendered his resignation on Wednesday (15), days after he allegedly threatened to kill Tamil prisoners during his visit to the country’s north-central region, a senior official said.

Ratwatte’s resignation came as pressure mounted on him after Tamil political parties sought his arrest over the incident.

The resignation was accepted by Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Kingsley Ratnayake, the presidential spokesman, said.

Ratwatte allegedly went to the Anuradhapura prison on September 12 and forced two prisoners to kneel and threatened to kill them.

Galen Ponnambalam, the leader of the Tamil National People’s Front, confirmed the incident.

“The TNPF can confirm that on the evening of September 12, the state minister for prisons had gone to the Anuradhapura prisons, summoned the Tamil political prisoners and had got two of them to kneel in front of him,” he said in a tweet.

Ponnambalam said the minister had threatened to kill Tamil prisoners.

The local media reports alleged that the minister had visited the main prison in Colombo to show the gallows to a group of his friends late at night before heading to the north-central town of Anuradhapura.

He was allegedly carrying his personal weapon into the prison which the prison officials said was an illegal act.

The minister’s office has denied any such incident involving the minister, the local media reports said.

The United Nations condemned the incident.

The UN resident coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, said that it is the duty of the state to protect the rights of prisoners, the Colombo Gazette reported.

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