The 33 Indian convicts and the five remand prisoners in Welikada prison were safe, the Indian High Commission said on Saturday morning. Clashes between security personnel and prisoners inside claimed over 15 lives since last evening.
“The High Commission has been constantly monitoring the situation since the time the clashes broke out. The Sri Lankan authorities have told us that the Indian prisoners are safe,” High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Ashok K Kantha, told The Hindu.
The Indian High Commission has sought consular access to the prisoners, but this demand has not been acceded to. “We are in touch [with the Sri Lankan officials.] We want to individually ascertain that the prisoners are safe. Hence we have sought access to the prisoners,” Mr.Kantha said.
The High Commission has also deputed a senior diplomat to meet prison officials and ascertain the situation in Welikada. “Our main concern is the welfare of Indian prisoners,” he added.
The prisoners have been without food or water since last afternoon. The Army had managed to take control of the prison in the early hours of Saturday. One source said that the combing operations inside the prison was being conducted in an elaborate manner, and it is only after this is completed will anyone else, including the Indian High Commission and relatives, be granted access to the prisoners.
Many anxious relatives have been crowding in areas close to the prison to get information of their kith and kin. But prison officials have reportedly told them that they will be able to comment on individual cases only later. Some relatives were also at the National Hospital, trying to figure out if their near and dear are among the injured.