08/16/2018, 15.49
SRI LANKA
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Inmates protest on women’s prison roof demanding more food and faster trials

by Melani Manel Perera

After Justice Ministry reassure them, 25 inmates suspend their protest. Prison administration accuse relatives of smuggling drugs in food brought from the outside. The "accusation is false,’ says Anglican clergyman. The prisoners “protested not only for themselves, but for all prisoners."

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Some 25 inmates at the women’s wing of the Welikada Prison in Colombo began a protest on Monday to demand respect for their rights, including “faster trials’ and "No restrictions on food brought by relatives".

Yesterday, after the prison administration agreed to a review of their cases, the prisoners suspended the protest.

“The women's demands are reasonable. All inmates must be treated as human beings and not like objects," said Rev Sathivel, an Anglican minister and coordinator of the National Movement for the Release of Political Prisoners, speaking to AsiaNews.

The protest was sparked by the prison’s decision to limit outside food. According to the administration, drugs are smuggled into the penitentiary inside the food.

For Rev Sathivel, "the accusation is false, and the prisoners did the right thing to go on the roof. They protested not only for themselves, but for all prisoners."

"Limiting the food brought into prison by family members is not the best choice. A more effective control mechanism should be found," he said.

The prisoners’ rights coordinator believes that it is "right to protest when the authorities pay no attention to verbal requests. At the same time, it is really sad that they [the prisoners] should have gone thus far to have their fundamental rights respected."

Unofficial sources have highlighted the awful conditions of Sri Lankan prisons. Specifically, the Welikada Prison is supposed to hold 200 inmates; instead there are more than 1,500.

After the start of the protest, Justice and Prison Reforms Minister Thalatha Atukorale said that apart from the protests, it is not possible to speed up the prisoners' trials and justice must run its course.

However, last night, after a meeting with the minister's spokesperson, the protesters decided to suspend their action and came down from the roof. They changed their minds after the Ministry reassured them that it would look into the delay of their cases.

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