Relatives of dead Kalutara prisoners shed light on mobile phone racket
The Prison Reforms Ministry has ordered the Commissioner General of Prisons to submit an immediate report over allegations that Kalutara Prison inmates were given extensive access to mobile phones, the Sunday Times learns. The Ministry has also instructed to probe allegations that some prison officers had provided this service in exchange for cash.
Prison Reforms Minister D.M. Swaminathan called for the probe following testimony by relatives of prisoners killed in the prison bus attack in Kalutara on February 27. Relatives giving evidence at the magisterial inquiry at the Kalutara Magistrate‚Äôs Court on Thursday (16), said their loved ones phoned them almost daily from within the prison.
Asith Sasanka Thilak Mallikage (29), the brother of Sanchaka Kalana Thilak Mallikage (30), one of the five prisoners who died in the attack, told court that his brother would call him often and would tell him to deposit money by way of the ‚ÄėeZ Cash‚Äô method or through reloads to the phones of jailers as they would not let him speak to his family otherwise. ‚ÄúHe would sometimes tell me he was speaking from the phone of a jailer and to deposit Rs.500 or Rs.1000 at a time,‚ÄĚ Mr. Mallikage told the inquiry. He said he believed the mobile phone use within the prison was connected to the fate that fell his brother and others.
Some of the widows who gave evidence at the magisterial inquiry before Kalutara Chief Magistrate Bharathi Wijeratne said their husbands would call them almost everyday, often at night.
Prisons Reforms Ministry spokesman Dumindu Bandara confirming that the minister had called for a probe said the Prisons Commissioner General has been instructed to submit the report within a week.
Police have routinely expressed frustration that crimes including murder, extortion and drug smuggling were being directed by underworld figures from within prisons. Even Aruna Damith Udayanga Pathirana alias ‚ÄėSamayan,‚Äô the underworld leader who was the main target of the February 27 ambush, is suspected by police of being behind the murders of at least three rival underworld figures within the past year. Police say mobile phones play a major role in helping underworld figures to direct such attacks from inside prisons.
Prisons Department Spokesman Thushara Upuldeniya told the Sunday Times¬† that the use of mobile phones inside prisons was not a new revelation. He also said authorities could not rule out the possibility that some inmates had mobile phones hidden inside the prison, which they used for various purposes. As for the allegation that prison officers provided access to mobile phones in exchange for money, Mr. Upuldeniya urged people with information to come forward.
‚ÄúNot long ago, we indicted about 12 prison officers at the Magazine Prison for receiving money from prisoners via the eZ Cash method. We will take strict action against such officers but people have to come forward and give information,‚ÄĚ he stressed.