Prison Headquarters said, 58 inmates out of 181 escaped during the 9 May riot in Thalahena, Malabe, when a prison bus was attacked.
Prisons Department Commissioner General Thushara Upuldeniya denied rumours circulating on social media that these detainees are being used to attack anti-government protesters.
He stressed that these detainees were not involved in any illegal activities and asked the public to take the necessary steps to return the 58 inmates currently out of prison custody to the Prisons Department or the nearest Police station without further harassment if they have any information about them.
He also said as part of a rehabilitation programme that has been in place for many years with the goal of providing vocational training to inmates and training them as skilled workers, inmates are sent to construction sites daily under the supervision of prison officials.
He said the Watareka Prison is carrying out this project, and that inmates are entitled to an allowance for this purpose.
“On 9 May afternoon, following the imposition of islandwide curfew, buses were attacked by a group of rioters in Thalahena, Malabe as they were returning to the prison guarding the construction company employees. The inmates disembarked from the buses in the middle of the crowd. Prison officials and residents were also hurt and rushed to hospital. During this incident, 123 inmates were safely retained, while 58 inmates escaped,” he said.
Six inmates involved in a fight in Malabe have admitted to being Watareka Prison inmates. According to the Malabe OIC, the majority of those injured were rushed to hospital, and six to eight protestors were taken to the Police station, where they later confessed to being inmates.
However, the OIC confirmed that these inmates have not been detained and are presently being held at the Malabe Police Station.
By Thameenah Razeek