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Abuse of an Autistic youth

16 September 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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How safe are the differently-abled?



Therefore many of these employees are quite vulnerable to these kinds of abuses. Since this incident took place in the workplace, the employer should also be held responsible for this
Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa


There have been several stories read and heard through several media about people who were born and/or made disabled due to various reasons. But the saddest and the bitter fact is they are often isolated in society. However, most of them exemplify that they possess a lot of talent and skill in various fields. 
So the differently-abled, in many instances, choose to be self-employed and that is the only interaction that they have with society. Within this spectrum, those with mental disabilities are quite exceptional. Autism is one such condition characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted and repetitive behaviour. Very rarely do these individuals with autism become independent and strive to give something back to society. 
Following is the story of an ambitious youth with autism who faced nothing but injustice and harassment from society. Speaking to the Dailymirror , his family members and some experts called for severe action against the perpetrators.


The case of Kesara Kahandaliyanage
Speaking to the, Malathi Kahandaliyanage, mother of Kesara Kahandaliyanage, a 23-year-old boy with autism related the rather disturbing story about how society treated her son. “My son was diagnosed with autism but we, as family members, didn’t want him to face the repercussions of having this condition. He has always shown an interest in cooking, and therefore, he was employed at Chariot, a renowned restaurant in the city for around two-and a-half years before he took up a job at Green Cabin. He was very keen in going to work but on June 12, 2015, he told one of my daughters that he was not willing to go to work anymore. This kept us wondering but it was only then we realized the situation he was faced with. Since his communication is quite poor, he had explained all in a conversation via SMS with her. This totally shocked us and prompted us to lodge a complaint with the Police. In the meantime, I also spoke to Chanaka Rodrigo, Managing Director of Green Cabin, and when I said I need to meet him he ignored my request and refused to meet me. According to him and the Human Resource Department, this sort of incident had never happened in their organization. But there was no apparent reason for my son to fabricate such a story. 

After having lodged the complaint with the Police, we took him to the Government Medical Officer (GMO). He took several tests, and in his report he mentioned that in addition to bullying and verbal abuse against him, he had also been sexually harassed. The Police arrested four suspects in this connection. They were in custody for three weeks, and one of them was found to be 18 years old. He was released on bail taking his age into consideration. 
I wrote to the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Department on July 26, but until now I haven’t received any response to it. I took him to many psychological therapists and all of them directed us to various places but it has not been of any use. As a single mother I have done everything within my capacity. I lost my husband in a suicide bomb attack at Kirula Road in 2001. At the time of his unexpected death, he was a Senior Marketing Executive at the Ceylinco Group of Companies. My only hope is to see an AG Dept official during the next Court hearing which falls on September 17, and all what I want is justice to be served to my son.”


He is in a traumatized state: Kesara’s  sister
Relating her story about the incident, Nuwanthi Kahandaliyanage, the sister of the victim said that it all happened on June 12. “We went on a trip in June and Kesara had to take leave for 2 days. Since my mother was diagnosed with flu, the doctor advised her to stay away from work, and therefore we had decided to go down South. It was only then that Kesara realized that he shouldn’t necessarily go to work every day and on different occasions he used to take leave. He was quite enthusiastic about going to work and everybody was so proud of him because although he had a condition he was able to be more responsible and independent than the others with similar conditions. This motivated him to work hard and he was a happy boy. So while everything was going smooth, I got a text message from him through a social media saying that he wanted to quit his job. He was unhappy about his wages so I thought it might have been due to that. When I indulged in a conversation with him only he said that he was slapped. This totally made me so furious and I asked what else he had to face. Then he said he was verbally abused and said that four people named Weerasuriya, Eranda, Jayantha and Mahen were allegedly involved in this incident. Since he was suffering with autism he doesn’t know as to how to explain certain things and we didn’t have any other way of learning what exactly had happened. They had also threatened to kill him if he told this to anyone. When we took him to the GMO he said that he had been sexually abused and this had been going on for quite some time. He had two friends named Kelum and Nilantha and this used to happen when they were on leave on Saturdays. The next Court hearing is on September 17 (today) and my only wish is to see justice being served to him,” she concluded.


Private sector employees are quite vulnerable to these incidents: Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa
In his comments on the incident, Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Pradheepa Mahanamahewa said that although there is a law against sexual harassment in the country, still such law has not been enacted in the private sector. “Therefore many of these employees are quite vulnerable to these kinds of abuses. Since this incident took place in the workplace, the employer should also be held responsible for this. It is no matter whether the victim is a male or a female, the law can be taken into hand. Under section 365 A of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka, a case can be filed for unnatural gang abuse and also the employee can request for a constructive termination. In the employment law, constructive termination occurs when an employee resigns as a result of the employer creating a hostile working environment. In addition to that, the victim’s party can go ahead with a private complaint with the consent of the AG’s Department as an alternate option.” 


Quite a challenging situation : Clinical Psychologist
In her comments about the incident, Chrishara Paranawithana, a Clinical Psychologist said that general therapies could be conducted but beforehand there needs to be an assessment done. “It is quite a challenging situation. These children are quite vulnerable to these incidents. Those who are doing the crime know that even if they do something the world at large would not know because their speech is impaired. In most instances they also do not know how to cope with these types of situations. They should always be taken care of. There is also the trauma aspect that we need to look at. There are psychological interventions that these children have to follow in order to get to normal.” 


Case is still going on: Green Cabin HR
When contacted by the Dailymirror , the Human Resource Department of the Green Cabin said that they do not wish to disclose any information regarding the incident due to legal proceedings in the Courts.
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