Sri Lanka: Former Air Force Officer Rapes Ten-Year-Old Girl
September 6, 2011
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
In a widely reported incident it has been revealed that a former air force officer has raped a ten-year-old girl when she accompanied her mother as she was preparing a school for the coming term. This happened at the Telijewele Royal College where the school was a centre for the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level examinations. After the holding of exams a group of teachers and other government servants held a drinking party to which this former air force officer was invited.
The girl had been playing with her sister when the former air force officer dragged her into an empty classroom and violated her. When her cries were heard the adults in the school ran to the room and found the girl sitting in pool of blood. After intervention from members of her family and many others she was taken to a hospital.
Meanwhile, the suspect fled the scene. It was later reported that the teachers, the security guard, an office assistant and a police sergeant and a constable have been arrested over this incident. The suspected air force officer is said to be a brother of the police constable.
This incident which has shocked the people of the area, as well as the nation as a whole, is not an isolated incident. Earlier seven women in the Kahawatta area were killed in separate incidents over the space of a few weeks and after the probe it was found that a disabled soldier was responsible for these murders. That incident also shook the whole village and various assurances were given to appease the people who took to the streets in large numbers to protest these incidents.
In another series of incidents now known as episodes relating to grease yakas, village mobs pursued some persons who they suspected of either engaging in criminal activities or where perceived as coming for criminal purposes. The villages in many parts of the country complained that the suspected persons fled to either military camps in the vicinity or police stations. The government claimed that such persons were merely local criminals. However, in the circumstances of Sri Lanka it is most unlikely that criminals would run to a military camp or a police station to seek protection. The very fact that these suspects fled to such places created the strong suspicion that they were former soldiers.
The impression that at the time of the conflict with the LTTE soldiers were given license to engage in illegal assault and even rape in the conflict areas is an allegation made often by many persons in these areas and also by human rights organisations who managed to collect information on the violence which took place under those circumstances.
A former major general who later died in a bomb explosion admitted to a foreign lady observer in the presence of a Sri Lankan lawyer that he had allowed his soldiers who were, in fact, risking their lives for their country, free rein. The lady observer, representing an organisation, was shocked by the officer's statement and issued him a cheque as a contribution for him to buy condoms so that at least the women would be protected from pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease. This major general also said that his instructions were that the soldiers should not leave any evidence of such incidents as this could lead to human rights investigations. However, the instruction not to leave evidence has ominous overtones.
Why all this is relevant now is because all those who engage in such actions freely under the circumstances of an intense conflict are now living in a free society. Such actions create psychological traits which lead to a change of behaviour and such persons are very likely to repeat such behaviour in the future. The Kahawatta incident and now the Telijewele Royal College incident are severe warnings to society of a tremendous danger that exists in their midst.
The government blames the grease yaka incidents as the work of people taking the law into their own hands and warns that such actions will be dealt with in the way terrorism was dealt with. However, the government fails to ask the question as to why large numbers of rural villages in many parts of the country have participated in taking the law into their own hands.
Any observer who is aware of the collapse of Sri Lanka's policing system will not be surprised when the people try on their own to stop persons who they perceive as ones coming for criminal purposes. The fact that there had been misadventures and innocent persons became victims of such mob action do not in any way vitiate the psychological and social factors that generated such a deep sense of insecurity throughout the country. A lawless policing system and some former soldiers who may take to crime are grave enough social events which could cause anxiety among the ordinary folk of the country.
It is a rational response to this sense of insecurity that is required from the government. Threatening to deal with this with anti-terrorism measures is not a rational reaction to such an important societal issue. Sober reflection on the present situation is required and in doing so the problem of a fallen policing system and the existence of some former soldiers who are accustomed to violence are considerations that should be taken seriously.
The incident relating to the ten-year-old girl has an urgent message to the society as a whole. Innocent citizens including small girls are becoming victims of lawless elements produced by the state itself. If radical measures are not taken much worse incidents will take place under the present circumstances.
The Asian Human Rights Commission calls upon all the people of Sri Lanka and also concerned persons in the international community to demand, not only a legal inquiry into the little girl's tragedy, but also a thorough societal inquest into the causes of which resulted in such brutality and violence.
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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