Three Tamil prisoners in Colombo were killed and seven injured on December 1 in an attack by Sinhala prisoners allegedly incited by prison officials.
"The latest attack on Tamil political prisoners had a political motive and was quite clearly premeditated", Dharmalingam Sidarthan, MP for Vavuniya, said after speaking to the Tamils who were attacked.
The prisoners, suspecting an impending attack, had locked themselves inside block B of the jail. When the Sinhala mob began to break through the main entrance of block B armed with swords, the Tamils had run to their cells to lock themselves in.
Three prisoners who fell while running were attacked, and two were killed on the spot. The other ran towards a military sentry nearby and pleaded to be saved. The soldier simply stood by as the mob hacked the Tamil youth to death.
The problem began on November 27 when Tamil prisoners who were being held in the Welikada prison decided to go on a hunger strike to protest against their detention without judicial process. They commenced their protest fast on the Welikada prison roof.
The strikers were attacked with batons and pushed down from the roof, and warders tore up their books and clothes. Some prisoners were force-fed with bread soaked in water. The government covered up the assault on the prisoners by transferring them immediately to the Kalutara prison.
The next day the Divaina newspaper reported in a banner headline that explosives had been found in the Tamil prisoners' cells. The Lankadeepa asserted in its headline that "Tigers make duplicate keys to escape from prison. Plan to attack prison officials and escape revealed."
Tamils arrested indiscriminately in the southern and central parts of Sri Lanka, including the city of Colombo and its suburbs, are locked up in large numbers for long years in prisons without inquiry.
The surviving Tamil political prisoners have demanded to be transferred immediately to the Welikada prison in Colombo and that only political prisoners be held in that jail.
[Abridged from TamilNet: