Allegations that the police was protecting chief suspect in abduction and rape case
Complaint made to Human Rights Commission
JMO report confirms rape of underage girl
14- year-old schoolgirl in Haputale was reported to have been raped by a bus driver recently. When the complaint was lodged at the Haputale Police Station, the female police constable who sources said was an IP (Inspector of Police), beat and terrified the girl.The statement was recorded in Sinhala although the victim was not fluent in the language. As a result the initial police statement differed from the victim’s plight and the primary suspect was not arrested. The constable has now been transferred to the Bandarawela Police Station; but this incident raises concern as to whether the police force is just, fair and humane.
“I was on my way home from Church on Sunday. I got down from the bus and was walking the rest of the way when a
three-wheeler with the bus driver and conductor of a private bus in which I occasionally travelled to school, stopped before me,” said the victim to the Daily Mirror. The three-wheeler driver had promised to drop her at her residence but took her to the bus driver’s residence instead. She got into the three-wheeler because she knew the men seated at the back. The
three-wheeler driver was a bus conductor as well. When the three-wheeler was travelling in a different direction she pleaded to go home but was coerced to enter the bus driver’s house.
According to Fr. Nandana Manatunga, human rights activist and the director of the Kandy Human Rights Office, she had been allegedly raped twice at the bus driver’s residence and had been locked in a store room. “She had been kept there for almost two and a half hours. It was the 19th of June, a Poya day. So the other occupants of the house had gone to the temple,” he said.
"The Asian Human Rights Commission said that the main suspect hails from a wealthy family and that the victim’s family believed that there had been a collapse in justice because they belong to the Tamil Catholic ethnic and religious minorities"
The victim revealed her experience to her mother a few days after the incident as she had been threatened not to speak about it. Immediately the mother lodged a complaint with the police. On July 7 the victim and the suspect were summoned to the police station where they were interrogated together.
“At the police station, I was interrogated side by side with the driver. The female constable asked a question from me and tried to verify my answer with the driver. This happened thrice. Then the constable reproached me for lying and ultimately assaulted me with her baton,” said the victim.The suspect was not taken into custody on that day.
“On July 8 they were questioned separately. The female constable told her not to tell the story to the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO). But the girl narrated the incident in detail to the JMO. Then she was admitted to the hospital for two days,” said Fr. Manatunga. The suspect was not arrested even then.
When asked why the female police constable tried to sweep the incident under the carpet Fr.Manatunga said that perhaps the suspect and the constable were related or close acquaintances.
“The following day he was produced before the Acting Magistrate but the police had not reported that she had been raped, and that she had been abducted and that there had been an attempt to rape her. The magistrate gave him bail,” he said.
“These police officers also made a story saying that this girl had an affair with the bus driver. The bus driver is a married man 29 years of age. His wife is pregnant,” he said. He further added that the fabricated tale was narrated to the Acting Magistrate, which was another ground on which the suspect was given bail.
“Initially the suspects were not arrested. The three-wheeler driver was not taken into custody and the police were trying to assist the suspect,” he noted.
“We met the SSP and made a complaint against the police constable. He told us that the girl has not revealed much details of the incident. But when the female constable was threatening her, holding a baton how could she reveal anything? She’s a child in grade 9. You need to talk kindly and get information from her. Now the girl reveals parts of the incident to us after the counselling we provided her,” he said.
The Asian Human Rights Commission said that the main suspect hails from a wealthy family and that the victim’s family believed that there had been a collapse in justice because they belong to the Tamil Catholic ethnic and religious minorities.
“We had to make a fresh complaint to the police ASP because we placed a complaint against the female constable who had recorded it before. In this new complaint the girl has mentioned a fourth suspect who was not directly linked to the rape but who had been involved in other incidents that led up to this. The suspects have clearly helped each other in committing the crime,” said Fr. Manatunga. The suspects are also alleged to have abused the victim and several other girls many times while travelling in the bus. The victim revealed this information only in the second statement to the ASP as she had been prevented from speaking when recording the first statement.
On August 3 four suspects were produced before Kandy Magistrate and two who were suspected of sexual assault were granted bail. The case was fixed for August 11. A lawyer appearing for the suspects said that this incident never happened but NGO groups are creating unnecessary problems. The report of the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) has confirmed that the victim was raped.
Elaborating further he said that this was a ‘gang’of bus and three-wheel drivers who lured Tamil schoolgirls. The main suspect who is a bus driver also owns a three-wheeler. “We feel that she is not the only victim. It seems that Tamil
schoolgirls who usually travel by bus have been victimised as this girl has been. But they have not made complaints and have been silenced,” the Catholic priest remarked.
He added that our country has been ruined by three-wheel drivers. “If there is a
three-wheeler stand near the estate, then these drivers act as if they are the rulers of the estate. I don’t know why the government has not taken action against this growing insecurity in many places where women are assaulted by three-wheeler drivers.”
Victim’s complaint is being investigated: J.U. Ramawickrama- SSP of the Bandarawela Division
“A complaint has been made against the said police constable and preliminary investigations are underway under an ASP. The officer has been transferred to the Bandarawela Police Station for disciplinary ground,” said J.U.Ramawickrama, SSP Bandarawela Police.
When asked if the lack of proper training had caused the police constable to act in such a reprehensible manner he replied in the negative, adding that the victim’s complaint is being investigated and that he would receive the report within two weeks.
the girl had been physically and verbally abused - Surangika Ranaweera
“The parish informed us of this incident and we immediately went to the girl’s place and got the information from her. We learned that the girl had been physically and verbally abused by the female constable inside the police station. The police have also not reported the correct facts to courts as they tried to protect the perpetrator. Father Manatunga and I met the SSP and we made a complaint against the police but we were able to get an order to have a fresh trial. Then we went to the police station and made a statement and went to the crime scene and we were able to arrest three perpetrators. Two bus conductors were arrested under the charge of aiding and abetting the crime. However, the three-wheeler driver is yet to be charged,” said Surangika Ranaweera, the attorney appearing on behalf of the victim.
We asked if the female constable was penalised for her actions. “She has called us and denied all allegations against her. We have already made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. We are not letting that matter go. There will be an inquiry in the near future. I am not personally involved with the case with regard to the constable, but I know action would be taken against her.”
“The bus driver was initially charged for abduction as the police did not disclose all the information as they were protecting him.The perpetrators are currently in remand. Since the bus driver would be charged for statutory rape, the case would be taken to high courts,” she added
She also spoke of other instances where the police have been penalised, “Police incompetency is a sad but common occurrence in Sri Lanka. Though our office has many cases in this regard, where we have penalised police officers under the Torture Act, it is difficult to penalise those in the police. Our country works through a system of bribery, corruption and influence. In this case for instance, many would wonder how the police can take the side of a rapist. But, when we analyse this case further we know that the perpetrator comes from a well-to-do Sinhala family whereas the girl is a Tamil and the daughter of a driver.”
Referring to the interrogation she said, “In this case we found that the child and the perpetrator were questioned together in the police station. Cases of rape, especially statutory rape, are normally never conducted like that. Generally when a complaint is lodged both parties will be questioned separately, especially in sensitive cases like this. In this case the rape victim and alleged perpetrator were questioned together because the perpetrator had influence over the police. They knew the girl would not disclose any important information if the perpetrator who had harmed her was beside her.