Prison welfare fund locked up

Welfare Committee members threaten to resign
By Leon Berenger

The Sri Lanka Prisoners Welfare Association, of which President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the patron, was yesterday rocked with dissent with committee members threatening to resign en-masse as the government has failed to pay funds allocated in last year’s budget for prisoner welfare.

SLPWA President Sam Wijesinha said that the government grant of Rs. 700,000 for prisoner welfare this year through the national budget was not given despite several reminders to the Rehabilitation and Prisons Reform Ministry.

“Ministry officials pass the buck, each time the matter is raised. This has been going on since June and has led to anger and frustration among the committee members,” he said. Mr. Wijesinha said the matter would be taken up at the association’s annual general meeting next Sunday and a decision would be taken by the 40 member committee whether to continue functioning.

“Funds collected by the SLPWA are also not kept with the committee but sent to the Prisoners Welfare Fund that is monitored by the Ministry and the Commissioner General of Prisons,” he said. Prisons Reforms Ministry Secretary A. Dissanayake said the budgetary allocation was being withheld because the SLPWA had failed to submit the performance report for the previous year. “The money will be released as soon as we receive this report. This is the standard procedure,” he said.

Funds collected by the association are used for prisoner welfare projects such as the building of toilets, providing medicine and nutrition and in some cases seeing to prisoner families’ needs such as educational requirements.

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