Why Is The Welikada Prison In The Center Of Town?

welikada riot

Photo from the Daily Mirror


I’ve been to the Welikada Jail, where the recent riots and slaughter of nearly thirty people took place. It’s a strange place, right on a main road with prisoners going in and out (on work detail I guess). There’s a waiting room and a canteen and you enter through a vaguely secure tunnel. But it’s really a rather open jail. Here are my comments from an earlier visit, with some lawyers:

Welikada is an open prison. There are buildings, but the space between them is open. If you walk right you get to the garbage side, where there is an eeriely dark building playing eerie prayer music. It’s eerie. I think that’s where the extra bad people go. Walk up and you enter a sawmill. Another striking thing is that Welikada is a work prison, so the prisoners have 12-inch saws, 12-foot saws, hammers, chisels, etc. All the equipment is British, colonial era stuff. The rice is cooked in huge boilers, the vegetables are cut on huge wooden tables (with large knives, by prisoners). There’s also an enormous laundry with those heavy coal powered irons and large, industrial machines.

In another room the men are making furniture. So they have saws, chisels, vises. Looks like decent furniture, I guess. Asked what one of them was in for and he said murder. (Welikada Prison, What I Remember)

The issue with Welikada is that, well, it’s a jail and people want out. I think it’s definitely not as horrific as, say, American jails but there are still obviously drugs and weapons inside. Whenever there’s a search prisoners get riled up, and this time things seem to have gotten way out of hand. I mean, there were prisoners on the roof holding assault rifles.

What makes this so much worse was that all of this happened essentially in the middle of town. Prisoners could walk five feet out and catch a trishaw, indeed, they’re still looking for some that escaped. It also meant that the riot snarled traffic and injured civilians, like photojournalists. Which makes you wonder why the prison is even there.

In fact, they are going to move the prison from that big and valuable block of land, just as they’re also moving the prisons out of central spots in cities like Kandy. What has happened is that the prison system really hasn’t changed since colonial days, so you get spots that were once on the outskirts that have now had a city spring up around them. I mean, the Kandy prison is near a shopping mall. At the same time, conditions haven’t really changed either, and we obviously have more prisoners.

So it’s a bad situation overall. They need to move the prisons out of city centers ASAP, and make them more humane as well. Wouldn’t hurt to reform the justice system as well, but that may be too much to ask.

RSS feed | Trackback URI

9 Comments »

2012-11-14 12:52:34

Well, Borella was probably a remote suburb when the prison was built, and it was stuck out there with the fuel storage depot and the railway yards. We all thought it was crazy to have the Army HQ in the middle of the city too. These things don’t happen in planned out cities, and eventually the move has to be made. I think the Kandy prison was also moved after a series of jailbreaks.

sack
2012-11-17 16:07:12

Since the prison was established in 1841, boralla would have been a village at best. or probably it was a jungle?

2012-11-17 20:21:22

Exactly. Think Pannala or somewhere off Homagama and you get an idea of what Borella was back then. People would go there to hunt wild boar in the mid 19th century, I’ve read.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
 
 
shammi
2012-11-14 17:51:10

The prisoners would have been more manageable if the likes of Duminda Silva didn’t get away so easily with murder in broad daylight.

The last instance when there was a sudden raid on the prison in search of drugs, the word was that rioting prisoners had hammered the poor police officers asking them to first go get the big shots like Mervyn Silva.

 
Lutronman
2012-11-14 19:49:51

This is prime land in Colombo! Perch value today Rs.2 million plus. Do your own maths. The thing is this government has got the shakers & movers in their grasp. Wait a few months a Chinese or Indian conglomerate will put a City within the city!

2012-11-17 20:22:49

People have been asking for the prison to be moved as far back as the 1980s. I believe the Kandy prison was moved after several jailbreaks.

 
 
Frederic
2012-11-17 18:57:56

What the hell are you on about?

 
Satakay
2012-11-18 08:26:35

This is prime land in Colombo! Perch value today Rs.2 million plus. Do your own maths. The thing is this government has got the shakers & movers in their grasp. Wait a few months a Chinese or Indian conglomerate will put a City within the city!

Yes, Rakapaksha’s well get another billion Rupees from selling this prime land and good on them too.

 
sack
2012-11-19 09:23:02

I think you may need to go a little more further (away from homagam or pannala) to imagine what walikada was back then. :)

 
Name (required)
E-mail (required - never shown publicly)
URI
Your Comment (smaller size | larger size)
You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

email indi AT indi.ca.


Recent Comments


Damian Poosa (2000-2014) (1)

greene: innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raajioon.

How The BBS Attacks (A Tale Of Two Cities) (5)

shammi: But you do agree that not arresting G.A. Gnanasara and any other lawbreakers from both sides will only serve to deepen this mistrust? If you don’t, you must be living in said land.

Liberal One: I was talking about the distrust between Sinhalese and Muslims. If you think distrust between these two communities didn’t exist before Gnanasara thero entered the scene you must be living in the la la land of the Colombians.

shammi: “I’m not 100% sure how to start to address this issue.” O Liberal One, there’s only one way. Arrest all those who broke the law, G.A.Gnanissara first, the fellows who assaulted the trishaw driver, Molotov cocktail mixers,...

Buddhism And Racism (2)

Johan: Temples tend to be quite skilled at fund raising for building projects within temple premises; perhaps they could mobilise those skills to raise funds to rebuild the damage wrought in Aluthgama and Beruwela. If you go to a particular...

Nandasiri Wanninayaka: Nice to see you are blogging again.

What A Colombo Revolution Might Look Like (Thailand) (6)

Shirley Silva: Good analysis but you failed to mention that unlike in Bangkok a good shower would send the UNPs scuttling home. Above all there is a big leadership vacuum. No charismatic leader like in Thailand

sharanga: Good constructive criticism.

sharanga: >the electorate is too ill-informed to decide This is almost always true in any country. It’s one of the greatest faults of democracy. The electorate is ill-informed and as public choice theorists put it, systematica...

Anti Christian Christmas (2)

Jack Point: I found this video very disturbing. https://www.you tube.com/watch? v=EUHCQyxK3ps&a mp;feature=yout u.be http://dbsjeyar aj.com/dbsj/arc hives/27450

Damian Poosa (2000-2014)

Our family cat Damian passed away last night. He was an American cat and it was fitting that he passed on the Fourth Of July. Damian was an ornery cat made happy by the love and care of my sister and parents. I brought him home on the day of my high school graduation (a stunningly thoughtless thing, in hindsight) and my sister and mother actually raised him. He then travelled back to Sri Lanka and had a great time till he got old.

How The BBS Attacks (A Tale Of Two Cities)

This seems to be the basic BBS gameplan (for fucking up everything we’ve worked so hard to build after the war). It’s a cycle of outrage, riot, fear, repeat. It’s like the eightfold path to not being a Buddhist:

Buddhism And Racism

Buddhism is not racist. The ideas and practice of Buddhism involve meditation, perception of impermanence and ultimately what we would call a renunciation of self. Being a Buddhist, however, is not just that. Being a Buddhist fundamentally involves taking refuge in three things – the Buddha, the Dhamma (his teachings) and the Sangha (the community of practice). As a Buddhist, this is why the violence in Aluthgama is so troubling. Becomes it comes cloaked in the colors of the Sangha. The main racists and instigators of mob violence are monks.

The Tragedy In Aluthgama

I haven’t written here in a while because, well, I guess I haven’t had much to say. I’m been writing about food and leisure at YAMU but, well, somethings gotten in the way of that now. In a way we could sense it because of the constant halal debate on YAMU, which is mainly a food site. That food issue in many ways has become a touchstone for the Muslim/Buddhist tensions rising in this country. Yesterday those tensions seemed to explode in Aluthgama and Beruwela on the Western coast. The racist BBS staged a rally there and then paraded thru the streets. This exploded into violence, attacks on businesses and homes.