Jaffna erupts after rape and murder of schoolgirl. But there’s more than meets the eye
Claim ‘people’s’ outcry was one of frustration is one thing; allegations it had racist and political undertones are another
On Wednesday, a tense situation prevailed at the Jaffna Court premises when some protestors stoned the court building and the police over an incident where an 18-year-old girl was gang raped and killed at Punguditivu in Jaffna. The protesters stoned the court for not handing over the suspects to them and urged the authorities to do so for . Police fired tear gas to disperse the angry protestors.
It was on May 13, Wednesday. Sivaloganathan Vithya who was a student of Mathiya Maha Vithyalayam in Pungudutheevu, Jaffna left the home at aroud 7 am to school. By the end of the school day, she still hadn’t returned to her home. After 4.30 pm her family felt worried that their daughter was missing for so long. They contacted her school and asked her friends which was when they realised that Vithya had never gone to school on that day.
Worried about their daughter’s whereabouts, the family went to the police station. The police implied that she may have run away from home and told the family to go home and search for her on their own. It was only after 11pm on that day, the police decided to act on the complaint about the missing girl.
Search for sister
The next morning her brother searched for her sister on the route she took from school to come home. During his search, he discovered one of her slippers in a location known as the 8th area of Pungudutheevu. Thereafter he followed the trail to a remote jungle area and found the body of his sister. It was a gruesome sight. Her legs were spread apart and were tied to two different trees and her hand was tied up to her head with her school tie and her mouth gagged with a piece of cloth. Her brother was shocked and when he saw her sister and he shouted out. Soon the villagers had gathered at the scene. Police arrived at the place and recovered the body of Vithya and send her body to a postmortem.
During police inquiries, three brothers were arrested based on information from the victim’s mother, Sivaloganathan Saraswathi. In the past, Vithya’s mother had witnessed a robbery committed at a doctor’s house by the suspects. It is believed that the suspects committed the crime as an act of revenge. Based on the statements of the three brothers, five others were arrested the next day. One worked in the Pradeshiya Sabha office of the area while the other four were employed in Colombo.
On the day of the incident, the suspects had arrived in Pungudutheevu from Colombo. It was here they had planned the gang rape and murder of Vithya. Soon afterwards, they left to Colombo. Thereafter again they came to Pungudutheevu and participated in Vithya’s funeral. After the funeral they tried to return to Colombo but they were arrested by police.
The same night, a Swiss national was caught by people in Pungudutheevu but there were no complaints against him in the police. After the intervention of the deputy minister of women’s affairs in the area and a prominent lawyer, the Swiss national was released by villagers people and he escaped to Colombo. The Swiss suspect was arrested on 19th at Wellawatta after UNP Jaffna head Dhuvarageshwaran’s complaint in Jaffna Police.
Hartal in Jaffna
A week later, on the 20th Wednesday, a hartal was called but already the day before [Tuesday], a tense situation had prevailed with the shops being forced to close in Kasthooriyaar road and in other areas. On Wednesday, there were protests all over Jaffna and later in the morning, the protesters moved to the Jaffna Court area. They proceeded to throw stones at the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court buildings damaging window panes and vehicles parked in the court premises.
Five police officers were injured and 127 people were arrested by police. STF and more police were deployed in the town area and the situation was brought under control. People were not allowed to the court area. The reason behind the tense situation on Wednesday was because the Swiss national was due to be produced in court on that day. However, because of the tense situation he was not produced on that day but was was produced later in court on Thursday.
All over Jaffna tyres were burnt to block traffic. Another 26 persons were arrested in Point Pedro. It is believed that a prominent lawyer is set to contest in next general elections representing the TNA and that there were some parties set to ignite this issue to make political gains. There were also calls to lawyers not to defend the alleged rapists in court.
Today Vithiya Sivaloganadan: Who’s next?
First they raped Manamperi
And buried her body alive
I did not speak
Because there was an insurrection
Then they came for women in Kahawatte
I did not speak
Because I was not from Kahawatte
Then they came for women in Nuriwatte
I did not speak
Because I did not live in Nuriwatta
Then, they came for Women in the North
I did not speak, because
Krishanthi Kumaraswami, Koneshwari, Isaipriya
They were not my sisters
Then they came for women with a different skin colour
Eight men gang-raped Victoria Alexandra
I did not speak
Because she was just a foreigner
Then they gruesomely gang-raped Rita John
Stabbed her body fifteen times
Left her murdered body on the Modera Beach
I did not speak
Because she was an Indian
She was asking for trouble
By walking on the beach
with her jewellery in the evening
Then they gang raped a woman in Wijerama
I did not speak
Because she was just a prostitute
Then they raped hundreds of virgins
And celebrated with champagne
in Akuressa and Monaragala
I did not speak
Because I was too scared of politicians
Then they raped Logarani
Threw her naked body into a sacred temple
Then they gang raped Saranya Selvarasa
I did not speak
Finally they raped
I did not speak
Because she is Tamil
She lived on a small island in Kayts
By Shamila Daluwatte
Protest against rape
Wear black and come to the protest at the Kanatte Cemetery Roundabout on Wednesday 26th at 4pm
Shamila Daluwatte has called for a protest against the rape incident near the Borella Cemetery (Kanatta roundabout) on May 26th Tuesday at 4.30 p.m.
She said, “We have to remove the veil of silence. Who says silence is golden; it is not always so. Do you know a celebration occurred to mark the 100th sexual intercourse with a virgin in Monaragala and then he contested for the nilame post of the Katharagma Devala? Did we protest? In Akuressa, more than 200 virgins were raped. Was there an investigation at least? In Jaffna, in the recent past, they raped Logarani, Saranya and now Vithya. If you want to show solidarity and demand justice for this victim, please come, wearing black, to Kanatta Roundabout on the 26th of May at 4 pm.”
JHU sees racism behind Jaffna hartal
The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) urged the police and security forces to implement the law against the angry mob that tried to take the law into their own hands in Jaffna by hiding behind the rape and murder of Vithya.
JHU media secretary Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe alleged that angry mobs were threatening the Sinhalese in Jaffna to leave that area. He said racist, separatist and terrorist groups were trying to gain their goals by hiding behind this incident that involved acts of violence.
People want law and order to prevail -Douglas Devananda By Kelum Bandara
Eelam People’s Democratic Party ( EPDP) Leader Douglas Devananda said yesterday the attempts by some politicians to secure the release of the suspects involved in the rape and murder of a schoolgirl , provoked people to protests in Jaffna on Wednesday.
Devananda said a leading woman politician from the Jaffna District and another person aspiring nomination from the Tamil National Alliance( TNA) tried to secure the release of the suspects.
For that, he said , people reacted with anger. He said people in the area have lost faith in law enforcement authorities due to some incidents in the past as well. However, they hoped the situation would end at least with the latest happenings [ in the political environment].
“People want law and order to prevail, “ he said.
Maybe people were afraid of their former government-unionist A. Rajkumar
Commenting on the situation, Jaffna University Teachers’ Union leader A.Rajakumar said,“ The Pungudithivu student was murdered in a cruel and heartless manner. At the same time the tense situation made by villagers on Wednesday 20th was also not good. People can’t take the law into their hand to give punishment. Some rumors have spread that politicians were involved this case. I have no idea whether politicians played a role in it. However we must consider that although there were so many rape cases in Jaffna in the past year, people did not get angry like in this case. Maybe people were afraid about their past government. But now the situation is different. After January people are feeling free to voice their opinions. So this could be a reason why people got very angry in Vithya’s rape.
Frustration led to outburst of anger over rapes in the North- MP Sumanthiran
Other elements behind violent demonstration
Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian, M. A. Sumanthiran spoke of the background leading to the horrendous crime that took place in Jaffna and the demonstrations which led to violence.
“This kind of sexual violence had been happening in the North and we have documented and raised the issue in several debates in Parliament and produced various statistics in support. Sexual abuse was worse in the Kayts area because there was a particular Tamil armed group that was in control there and there was no possibility for democracy at that time. The turnaround came only after the Northern Provincial Council elections. Even in 2011, TNA lost three local councils in the islands off Jaffna. We could not even go there.”
“But in 2013, the TNA won the Northern Provincial Council election in those areas and with that the situation changed slightly. But that armed group has some control and influence in those areas still. People are not able to bring that out because they [ the armed group] had the support of the Navy and the Army. So, people just couldn’t express their frustration over these issues. Last year it was alleged that navy personnel had abused two girls aged 11 and 9 in Karainagar. The matter had not been dealt with yet. So this time, after the change of government, people had a little space to bring their anger out and that was what had happened in Pungudutivu this time. It was a horrendous crime. All suspects were locals. We don’t know yet whether they had any connection to this armed group that was in control of this area. Even so, it is not the first time people have been able to actually demonstrate the oppressive injustice that women in particular had been suffering for a long time. So this is that expression we saw”.
When asked about Wednesday’s demonstration that turned violent, the Jaffna MP said until Wednesday it was a natural outburst of anger but some events that happened were not part of that.
“It looks there were other elements that were actually trying to help the suspects by preventing the police from doing their job. For instance there were four houses in Pungudutivu. Now the police don’t have evidence and they can’t collect DNA samples as evidence. There are elements working to destroy evidence to stop the proper process of justice taking place. We even identified those in that particular armed group who were behind the attack on the court house on Wednesday. A gang of about a hundred from a place called Mudali Kovil in Wattukotte had come and joined this protest. They were the ones who had started violence.”
Sumanthiran vehemently refuted the Jathika Hela Urumaya Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe’s view that violent demonstrators threatened the Sinhalese in Jaffna to leave that area.
“There is absolutely no indication that such a thing ever happened. I did not see any placard or slogan there [to that effect]. I challenge Nishanstha Sri Warnasinghe to say why he issued this provocative statement with absolutely no foundation.”
police did the right thing by apprehending all suspects and producing them in court. court will punish them according to the law of the land. I am deeply sorry to the family for the loss of this girl.
ANTON Saturday, 23 May 2015 10:40 AM
YES SHAMILA........ WE ARE WAITING TILL SOMETHING HAPPEN TO OUR MOTHERS, SISTERS, WIVES OR DAUGHTERS.
rob Knoxx Friday, 22 May 2015 05:38 PM
It is a well thought and a good poem By Shamila Daluwattewell done or best wishes
Rolland Manuel Friday, 22 May 2015 06:12 PM
Sir: It is my understanding that the Northern Province is policed entirely by Sinhalese police (of course,Tamils have no right to police their own people) and heavily militarised, again with Sinhalese army personnel who also have indulged in lawless acts against the Tamil population. Several murders and rapes remain unresolved till today
S.Mohan Friday, 22 May 2015 06:15 PM
The sense and essence in the lines by Shamila Daluwatte have of course come from the bottom of a humane heart. She expresses solidarity. No matter wherever they live - in any part of the island women must be protected against all sorts of assault and atrocities.
mohamed Monday, 25 May 2015 08:30 AM
yes,,,its time to wake up against this ....better late then never,,,,,,,