Sri Lanka's prisons are about three-fold overcrowded and the remanded prisoners in many prisons agitate demanding bail, PCR tests and quarantine. The COVID-19 cluster in prisons has exceeded 1,000 now but the number of PCR tests is still low.
The prison authorities say that prisoners in Mahara rioted, attempted to escape, set ablaze the record room and other buildings, took two officials hostage and the prison officers shot at the prisoners to control them.
By now, 11 prisoners have been killed and more than 100 prisoners have been injured due to the attacks on November 29, according to prison sources. Deputy Director of Ragama Hospital Dr. Sarath Premasiri said on November 30 that the condition of 10 of the prisoners was critical. Three prisoners of them have already died now.
Many of the patients are COVID-19 positive. The agitation started with the demand of the prisoners to conduct PCR tests and quarantine them. A large number of naked prisoners were seen transported in hired buses out of the prison yesterday. The prisoners said to the relatives who had gathered near the prison that they had been transported somewhere for quarantine.
Wives, mothers, children, siblings and other relatives of the prisoners were seen weeping near the prison and Ragama hospital pleading police and other officials to inform them of the plight of their loved ones.
Some women were shown on television channels begging the authorities to stop shooting the prisoners. In one scene, a video showed the shock of a young mother carrying a baby when she heard police announced the death of her husband.
The slain prisoners are not convicted and they are only suspects.