Rape And Also Be Damned
It was the fourth of July. Pavithra and I were at the Women and Children’s Bureau of the Tangalle Police, by 9am. The whole division was bustling with activity. We found out that four more suspects had been arrested in the morning, in connection with the rape of a school girl. The school girl had been waylaid and held for six days… and raped. The Officer in Charge of the Bureau, Sriyani and her team were diligently going about their investigation. There was a look of determination on their faces. We hung back to catch a glimpse of the four suspects.
We sensed someone next to us. He turned out to be the father of one suspect arrested that morning. “Aney Madam, my son is an innocent kid. It is because of his association with bad friends that he has got entangled in this,” he wailed. There were many others who had gathered out of curiosity. “To every father and mother their sons and daughters are innocent. It’s others’ children who do wrong. If so, who raped this child?’’ queried one of them.
We caught a glimpse of the suspects. They were well clad. There was not a trace of remorse in their demeanor. They were being held on a serious charge of rape. Of a minor at that. A crime that was reported islandwide and one which caused massive public interest. Yet the suspects moved about with a casual air. No, it was more like disdain. We wondered if they realised the gravity of what they were facing or indeed if they cared tuppence.
We boast of our 2500 year ancient history. Men rape women and children with gay abandon. Political ‘clout’ and money is used to evade the deserved punishment. That too is part of our history which is not spoken of.
Thushari, is 13 years and 8 months old. She was in the 9th grade at the Narawalpita Maha Vidyalaya, situated in Hakmana, near Matara. Her father Tilake, a mason, and mother Baby Nona who wrapped beedi leaves have three daughters and a son. The eldest girl Anusha 16, was in the 11th grade of Narawalpita Maha Vidyalaya. The son too attends the same school and was in the 7th grade. The youngest daughter was only three-and-a-half years with Thushari being the second amongst the siblings.
Thushari fled from her home after a disagreement with her father on the 6th of June. But the 13-year-old girl had more than a mere disagreement with her father to contend with. There were other compelling reasons behind her decision. She had been raped by a neighbour…a married man, long before she fled her home. In her statement to the police she revealed all. She had been threatened by this man to flee her home lest he be found out someday. The compelling reason behind her running away from home was due to the continuous threats she had received from this man. The parents found out about this only after an investigation was launched.
Thushari, alighted a bus plying from Hakmana towards Hambantota, on that fateful day. Her final destination was not planned but she got off in Tangalle, was found loitering without aim when she was accosted by Lalith Waniyasinghe. She was raped by him. This set a chain of events which sent Thushari and her family spiraling down a precipice.
Currently, 20 persons are being held for questioning by the Tangalle Police on a plethora of charges. Rape, Aiding and Abetting Rape are only some of the charges. Three guest houses located in Tangalle have been used to commit these crimes. Namal Guest House, Anila Guest House and Field View Guest House have been named in the complaint.
Apart from the 20 in custody the Police are trying to track down the owner of Namal Guest House and his son, who are both suspected to be involved in this case. At the time of going to press they were still evading arrest.
We made our way to Namal Guest House. It is located by the beach but is smack bang in front of a Gemunu Watch Army unit. The Guest House by now was in charge of a relative of the owner who is absconding. Though the Army Unit was less than a stone’s throw from the guest house, none of the officers were aware of what went on right in front of them. They however informed us that a protest was to take place in Tangalle town later on.
The protest organised by a women’s rights group attracted only 25 to 30 people. We mingled amongst the town folk who were agitated but yet not willing to do anything affirmative. They did not want to be quoted nor their pictures taken. Some were so angry that they wanted to lynch the suspects in custody whilst others expressed opposing views. Yes, some felt the businessmen in custody were innocent. Those who were angry thought others defended the businessmen for profit or gain. Some blamed the victim and others blamed the parents of Thushari. Some others questioned how Thushari was bold enough to travel over 25 to 30 kilometres from Hakmana to Tangalle by herself, if she was not comfortable undertaking such a journey. Even going so far as to hint that she was a willing partner in this sordid saga.
This episode brought out the best and the worst in a typical village life scenario. Disgust enveloped us as we trudged our way to Thushari’s house. Perhaps we could find more there to get closer to the truth. How do we locate her house? Would we be bombarded with more of what we heard against this 13-year-old if we inquired from people to give us directions? We did not have to ask for directions. Everyone knew her house. Everyone knew about the incident. No surprises there.
We approached the roadway leading to the residence. Weeratilleke, a senior citizen perhaps a neighbour accompanied us. His expression was sorrowful. “This is an abominable crime. No point in delving into it. This child was innocent. I am not that close to this family. That is how it is with neighbours in a village. We have our differences. Yet truth must be told. That family is poor but innocent. They did not trouble anyone. When you visit the house you will know what I mean,” he said.
The footpath that led to the house of the victim was about 40 to 50 yards away from the road. “That is the house,” said Weeratilleke pointing to a wattle and daub hut with a thatched roof. The toilet was an “out house”, a hole in the ground variety with torn linolium sheets used for privacy.
I could not help but reflect on the comments made by some in Tangalle town. Those who defended the businessmen had clearly not known the background of Thushari nor her family. “After this incident this family did not want to stay in the house. They feel ashamed that such a thing had befallen upon them and the entire village had got to know. They went to the child’s maternal grandmother’s house, about two kilometres away, perhaps temporarily. Even the other children in the family have stopped going to school. Can you see that house?”, said Weeratilleke pointing to another in the distance. “That guy living there…Anura…was the one who first put this child in trouble. After this incident came to light we heard that this fellow had even done the same thing to her elder sister a day prior to Thushari leaving her home.”
Thushari’s sister Anusha had filed a complaint with the Police only after the investigation into her sister’s rape had commenced. She had kept it to herself out of fear. The Tangalle Police in the course of their investigations had produced Anusha before a medical officer and got confirmation of rape.
Mala is a neighbour of Thushari. On the 6th of June, Thushari had left her younger sister who is just three-and-a-half years old with Mala before fleeing her home. “I was cooking a meal at home in the morning. Thushari arrived at my house and asked me to keep an eye on her little sister. I asked where she was going. She said that she was going out with her mother on an errand. That is not unusual. We are close to that family and this type of thing has happened before too, so I agreed to keep an eye on the little girl. Those four children were often left at our house. My daughters are friends with the girls. I have not seen these two girls (Anusha and Thushari) going anywhere by themselves,” said Mala. She wished that the maximum punishment be dealt to those who had brought this tragedy upon this family.
We then trudged to Thushari’s maternal grandmother’s house. Evening had set in and there was a pall of gloom enveloping the house. We met with “Thilake”, the 38 year old father of Thushari. He was not given to many words. “How can I go back to that house. I cannot live there anymore,” he said.
Mala who took us to this house was of the opinion that Thilake’s family though wanting to go to a far away village like Embilipitiya or Sooriyawewa to rebuild there lives, could not afford to do so.
In times of trouble people do rally around pushing petty differences aside. Weeratilleke, though not on the best of terms with this family wished that the government or some benefactor would build this family an abode in order to help rebuild their shattered lives. “Thilake was a mason and the wife wrapped Beedis to put food in the mouths of these children. I do wish someone takes pity on this family and builds them some place to live,” he said.
Though this family moved to their grandmother’s house there is little hope for them in the long term. There were ten people living in that house before this family was forced to seek refuge there. It is also a humble home. It was here in this abode that we met Anusha. She too was of few words. It was almost as she had turned dumb after what happened to her sister and herself. She recalled that it was on the 5th of June that she was raped by her neighbour. We asked if she could put all this behind and resume her school career. “No,” was her reply. The firmness with how she replied indicated her resolve. It seemed as if the punishment has been meted out by society to the victims and their family and not to the perpetrators. Is this our society? This question kept reverberating through us umpteen times. The suspects have been brought before the long arm of the law. At least for the moment. Whilst the justice system takes it’s time, society has already set the ball rolling to sentence the victims and their families. The ordeal they would go through the trial stage is unthinkable. Anusha not wanting to go back to school and the family wanting to move as far away from their habitat underscores the fact that the society we live in has already judged the victims. Their sentence has begun.
There is no gainsaying that those who are found guilty of rape or molesting minors should be given the maximum punishment possible. But, what about the victims? Should our society not be educated to accept them with kindness and understanding through their period of grief? Often the sentence meted out by a court of law to perpetrators is less painful than that meted out to victims by an uncaring society. It is in the attitude of a people. None would want to be in Thilake’s or Baby Nona’s slippers…if they owned a pair.
List of Suspects
1. Shantha Senarath Wanigasinghe, Ambalanthota.
2. Gunawardanage Chinthaka, Tangalle.
3. Jayantha Wanigasinge, Tangalle.
4. Dimuthu Chadeepa Muthukumarana, Ranna. (Driver of the Min.Mahinda Amaraweera)
5. Lalith Wanigasinge, Tangalle.
6. Gallahevage Harshana Kamalaruvan, (married with 2 children. Owner of the Ruwan textiles, Tangalle)
7. Sujith Rohan Wanigasighe, Tangalle.
8. Basnayakage Darshana Thilan Karunasinghe, Rambukkana.
9. Pipun Asanka Amadoru, Tangalle.
10. Priyantha Wijethunge, Tangalle.
11. Kankanam Aarachchige Chandana, Tangalle.
12. Abeywickrema kankanamge Udara Lakshitha, Walasmulla.
13. Iroshana Sanjeeva Madugodage, Tangalle.
14. Supun Widuranga Andrahannadige, Seenimodara.
15. Palatupana Arachchige Rasika Pradeep(Davins Rasika) Ranna.
16. Warnakulasooriya Patabandige Janaka Chaminda, Tangalle.
17. Polwatta Galappaththige Pradeep Kumara(Selle Podi), Beliatta. Sella Katharagama.
18. Yohan Chamika Amarasinghe, (Habour worker), Tangalle.
19. Balapitiya Liyanage Anjana Kasun Ruvan, Tangalle (married with 1 child, member of the Municipal Council)
20. Pitadoova Gamage Nadeesha Sampath Lankathilaka, Tangalle.
Pretty ‘Ramani’ in Akuressa
Pretty Ramani, is 14 years of age and attends the Akuressa Porambay Junior School. After she finishes her sessions at school, she follows a private tuition class and walks home along the road that passes by the Akuressa Porambay Agricultural Centre. Her house too is situated in Porambay.
The watcher working in a temporary capacity at the Porambay Agricultural Centre is 57 years of age. Adjacent to this Centre is a Barber’s Salon where a 34 year old man was working as the barber. About a month ago Ramani was passing by the Agricultural Centre when the barber and the watcher had called out to speak with her in a very friendly manner. They promised to pluck some rambuttan fruits from the back yard of the Agricultural Centre. Ramani had no reason to fear two senior persons who showed kindness. They were well near her father’s age which made her even more comfortable. Mistake number one. She went with them. She was raped by these two persons. That was her first ordeal.
Ramani informed her mother of this incident who in turn made a complaint to the Akuressa Police. The two perpetrators were arrested and remanded, where they remain todate. Her fate would have been left to time and tide had not the Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police Lalith Jayasinghe following up on other piece of information that he had received. His information was that this child had been raped by yet another local politician . The politician was from the south. Matara Police who followed up on this information went after the local government politician. Having got wind of an impending arrest this local government politician made plans to move from Akuressa to Ratnapura. The Police too were aware of his plans and made their own arrangements to thwart his escape. On the night of 3rd June the Police barricaded the exit routes of Akuressa-Deniyaya and Akuressa-Porambay. By 9 p.m. on the 3rd of June the barriers were in place.
The politician was arrested near his home at Porambay by the Akuressa Police. Paruwa Liyanage Sunil (48) the Chairman of the Akuressa Pradeyshiya Sabha from the UPFA thus came under arrest. He is a married man and the father of four children. He owns four factories including the SLS Tea Factory in Akuressa town. Clearly a millionnaire, he was not wanting in money.
Ramani’s mother (44) was coincidentally working in one of the factories owned by the suspected politician. Villagers opine that since the mother of the victim worked in one of the factories the politician knew Ramani quite well. Ramani’s father works as a driver at Akuressa town.
A few days after Ramani was raped by the temporary watcher of the Akuressa Agricultural Centre together with the barber, the Akuressa Pradeyshiya Sabha Chairman accompanied the victim to Hotel Sarada owned by him. Our own investigations revealed that Ramani’s mother’s consent was given for this journey.
The mother had extracted a promise from the daughter that she must keep this liason a secret. Remember that this child in the eyes of the law remains a minor.
The politician in turn showered this girl with presents including a bicycle. She was not one to complain as she was the recipient of such largesse. Yet, the information received by DIG Lalith Jayasinghe led to secrets being revealed. She confessed to others raping her in addition to the two first mentioned in this article. Four others had raped her at the Sarada Hotel. Within a period of a month she had been raped by six people. Amongst the six according to her statement was a relative of the Chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha named Priyanga Indunil Wickremasinghe (44). He helped the Chairman with his political work but was also said to be a man of means. He too was married with one child and in his early forties . Wickremasinghe too was from Akuressa.
The opinion of villagers is that the Chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha is of loose moral character. He had kept Ramani in the Sarada Hotel for two consecutive days. The girls working in his factories are easy prey for him. He has thrown a massive party inviting politicians and his wealthy friends to his Hotel. Mocking the system he called it the Century Party. It was to announce his exploits with women had reached a century.
Ramani has given up her school career and is presently under treatment at the Matara Base Hospital. It is learnt that the Police are making plans to arrest her mother.
(Names of the victims have been changed )
She was not yet 7 years…Raped
Krishnakumari Dushyanthi is yet not 7 years of age. She is what one would call 6 years plus. She lived along Kirula Road, Kirulapone. She accompanied her mother and her 10 year old sister to the church festival at Kirulapone on the 30th of June. They watched the procession and went to her Aunt’s place around 8.30 pm. At her Grand-Aunt’s residence Krishnakumari was fed a meal of rice and curry by her very young aunt (Raveendran’s sister) who is just 12 years of age. Whilst all were partaking in the meal Krishnakumari’s Uncle Raveendran (18) returned home.
As usual Raveendran placed Krishnakumari on his lap and was playing with her. Raveendran was after liquor that night. Whilst all were busy eating and chatting away Raveendran carried Krishnakumari out from where all were seated but one pair of hawk eyes noticed them. Those belonged to her cousin who was feeding her. Krishnakumari followed her Uncle out of the house and Raveendran called his neighbour Ramesh to join them. About five hundred metres away the two of them together with the little girl came across another friend. He too joined them. The three youngsters took Krishnakumari along Thalakotuwa Gardens to a patch of land which was unlit and raped her. When Krishnakumari started to wail through pain Raveendran left her in charge of his friends and went back to his house.
There was chaos at the house. Krishnakumari’s mother and others were searching for her. Raveendran noticing the commotion went back to Thalakotuwa Gardens only to confront Krishnakumari crying in a loud voice… “Amma….Amma”. Between the commotion at the house and the wails of the child, Raveendran had to make a decision. It was a decision made in haste to cover his tracks. Fearing that the lass would spill the beans to the parents the three youth lifted her and threw her into the nearby canal.
A woman resident in the vicinity had heard the cries of Krishankumari. “Amma….Amma…”’ and then the silence that followed. Her suspicions aroused, the woman called the Narahenpita Police. She was not to know that the most dastardly act had been completed by then. By the time the parents complained to the Kirulapone Police about the missing child the time was about 10.30 p.m. By the time the Narahenpita Police informed the Kirulapone Police of report, the inquiries into the missing child had just begun. The Police visited Thalakotuwa Gardens and made a thorough search. They first stumbled upon a small child’s slipper. Krishnakumari’s mother, K. Mary identified her daughter’s slipper.
Raveendran too showed great concern and effort to search for the missing child but his body language was not lost on those who joined the search nor the Police.
Later that night the Police visited Raveendran’s house and took him to the Police Station for interrogation. It was during the inquiry that Raveendran found out that his younger sister had noticed Krishnakumari following her brother out of the house and said as much to the Police. Raveendran broke down during the intense interrogation and confessed to this dastardly crime.
Raveendran and his two mates have been remanded.
Neighbours who are distrought and concerned elders feel that little children should never be away from their mothers. A lesson well learnt. The medical report on this child showed that she has been subjected to rape over a period of a month and this was not the first instance.