Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

TNA Visit to Welikade Prison

by Tamil National Alliance, March 16, 2007

Even after spending one year in the remand prison most of them are in the dark about the charges for which they are being held....The 42 prisoners have not been visited by the ICRC ever though they have been in prison for one year.

Statement by six TNA members of parliament after visiting 42 Tamil political prisoners at Welikada prison in Colombo

Forty two Tamil political prisoners we met

We visited the Welikade prison on 9 March at 11.00am to look up 42 Tamil political prisoners who are being held for one year now in Welikada prison by the Government of Sri Lanka. The ages of the 42 prisoners ranged from 16 to 62. Twenty three of them are married men. Even after spending one year in the remand prison most of them are in the dark about the charges for which they are being held. They made the following complaints to us about the conditions under which they are being held.

They have no leisure activity available except one newspaper.

They have been given no clothing to date. Neither have they been provided any soap, toothbrush or toohthpaste. They have not been given any mat or pillow or bed sheet to sleep. They sleep on the bare concrete floor. Five of them sleep in one small cell and it is crowded.

The amount of water available to them to clean is also limited. There are given one tank of water and it can be stretched to three small buckets of water per person per day.

They have access to only two toilets and even these two are in very poor condition. Even these two toilets are opened for a fixed time during the day. If any of the 42 prisoners need to go to the toilet outside this time they use a plastic bag to defecated which they later empty in the toilets when the toilets are opened.

They have no access to medical facility. Living in crowded cells under very poor hygiene they all suffer from impetigo. The prison guards suggested a particular medication. When the prisoners' visitors brought this medication for them the guards stopped the visitors from taking the medicine to the prisoners. This is the type of sadistic pleasure that the Sinhala guards are permitted to enjoy by the prison authorities.

The 42 prisoners have not been visited by the ICRC ever though they have been in prison for one year. We find this situation very disturbing, especially when we are aware how keen the ICRC is to visit Sinhala prisoners held by the LTTE. Especially when there have been no record of such abuse of Sinhala prisoner held by the LTTE.

A further six Tamil political prisoners mixed with common Sinhala prisoners

We also met six other Tamil political prisoners who are kept with common Sinhala prisoners. The common Sinhala prisoners subject the Tamil political prisoners to harassment. The two groups do not speak each other's language adding to the fear of the Tamils. The Tamils in this prison constantly fear death at the hands of the Sinhala prisoners given the past history of murders of Tamil political prisoners at the hands common Sinhala prisoners.

We also like to state the case of two brothers, one of whom was among the six we met, who are held in two separate sections of the Welikade prison as political prisoners. The younger of the two was arrested and was held in Welikade. The older brother, who is from Vavuniya visited the young brother in Welikade a few times. The guards at the Welikada prison warned the older brother that he too will be put in prison if he visits any more. Following this warning, one day, in Vavuniya, the older brother was returning from market with a bag of things when 15 Sri Lankan army surrounded him and placed two grenades in his bag and then arrested him. Now both brothers in Welikade jail.

We appeal to the human rights community to take the necessary efforts to ensure that Tamil political prisoners are kept in the same district of their origin so that their family will be able to visit them and where such abuse of prisoners will be better monitored.

Signed by :

K Sivanesan (TNA MP for Jaffna)
S Jeyananthamoorthy (TNA MP for Batticaloa)
Selvan Adaikalanathan (TNA MP for Vanni)
M K Eelaventhan (TNA List MP)
K Pathmanathan (TNA MP for Amparai)
E Ariyanenthiran (TNA MP for Batticaloa)