Q:There have been a number of reports of child abuse in recent months, do you think that the responsibility of curtailing these incidents lies in the hands of the police and that they are doing enough to control the situation?
Not at all— because I feel that if there is very strong law enforcement in this country, we would not face a situation like this. Day in day out the situation is worsening. In the first half of this year alone there have been over 700 cases of child rape, reported to the police. Our culture is such that there is a stigma attached to incidents of this nature and therefore victims don’t want to seek justice. The unreported cases, I believe, must be about ten fold.
I feel the law is not being enforced properly and therefore the perpetrators feel that they can get away scot-free. In the past we have seen situations like this where the cases went on for years and years. Therefore I think we need to have very strong law enforcement, when it comes to crimes against children and women.
I also feel there need to be separate institutions to execute law enforcement when it comes to cases of rape and child abuse. We need immunity and protection for children and women who face situations such as this. Therefore my suggestion to the authorities is to have a separate court system and a separate group of institutions to deal with issues of this nature and bring about justice.
If you look at the long term statistics it is also very disturbing; from 2007 to 2011 there have been 6643 cases of abuse against women and 15, 158 cases of child abuse and child rape have been reported within that period.
It is pretty obvious that the type of people who commit these types of crimes; people who have some type of standing in society—they are in politics, they are in power or they have links to higher authorities.
Further it is a reflection of the mental state of the people of this country, where a father and a son can rape a girl together and rapists can talk about it and take pride in it.
Q: When it comes to dealing with this issue on a policy level where do you think the responsibility stops, who is ultimately to blame for this oversight in dealing with this issue?
I believe it is the judiciary, I believe it is the highest authority. I think the executive and legislature have a role to play as well. For instance look at some of the perpetrators; they are mostly political goons and they have immunity—look at the way they take the authority to speak to the OIC or the head of a particular police station and say “you have no authority I do as I want”.
I am glad to see that the government took a firm stand by sacking some of them from their party membership but eventually you know at the next elections they will be in the nominations list.
Q: Do you feel that this government at the moment is so concentrated on development and ‘infrastructure’ that they are overlooking the fact that we still have some very real post-war issues to deal with, the incidence of crime being one of them?
Absolutely. We are talking about infrastructure and development but for me development is when people’s lives are developed and you come out with the right values and righteousness is the key.
If this country is a sick nation then there needs to be some kind of treatment for these men, because if our value systems are deteriorating then something needs to be done about it—because I cant imagine the mental status of a father who will rape his own child.
I think installing social and cultural values has to be a prime objective, as much as we focus on developing the country in terms of infrastructure—there has to be a balance. I think that down the line we have lost something and I think this is why we have so much international pressure on the country to do something right.
It goes in line with restoring the dignity of the people in a post-war situation—whether it is their livelihoods or the national question. If you read the LLRC report then these are all recommendations contained within it and I believe the government and the president are very sincere in implementing these recommendations. The report is not talking about infrastructure in the north and the east; they are talking about being given a little respect.
Q: You believe the government is sincere in implementing the recommendations of the LLRC?
I’m hoping that they are sincere; I don’t think they are insincere because there are a few steps that they have taken—one can only live in hope. We hope that the people we appoint to high office will do the right thing and if they don’t then the people of this country need to stand up against it.
Q: It is generally noted by the psychologists and sociologists that when cases of this nature are reported by the media in an overly graphic manner, they tend to induce a certain gratification in the minds of would-be perpetrators who then go out and want to commit these crimes. As someone who has been part of the media do you feel the media too has a role to play, in managing a social issue of this nature?
Most of these cases are being reported in a very sensationalized manner, but when people band together to stand up for it—there is very little reporting of these efforts. The best example of this is that when I along with a whole group of women who are responsible for women’s issues and are working independently in their own institutions got together and called a press conference to talk about the work we are doing to protect women and children, the turn out at the press conference was very poor. We were also going to have a protest and again the turnout was very poor and the enthusiasm of the media or the people was not apparent.
And this is very sad, because when these cases of child abuse are reported in the media, the people start talking about it as a conversation at a dinner party but when it comes to doing something about it and out pressure on the authorities to take some action, people are very complacent. I believe that people who just watch and listen and do nothing about it are passive perpetrators.
I believe the media also has an important role to play in this and they need to give more publicity to events where people band together and try to stand up to these violent acts, these should be items of news value not the crime itself. There are media institutions which re-enact the scene; so what kind of an impression are we giving the younger generation by doing this?
The media needs to ensure that any would-be perpetrators are made aware of the fact that they will not get away with this type of crime—this creates fear in the mind of these criminals because they feel that they will have to face the consequences for their actions.
Therefore my grievance with the media is that just as much as you highlight the crimes; make sure you highlight the efforts to eradicate those crimes.
Q: Some are of the view that enforcing the death penalty would ensure that these types of crimes were reduced. What is your view?
I am not for the death penalty, because I don’t think that anyone has the right to take the life of another because that decision is to be made by God. Further it does not matter what you have, whether it is the death penalty or not if the law is not being enforced and there are loopholes where the accused can get away and the law is taken very lightly then what is the point of having the death penalty?
We have enough and more Acts in this country; we are a signatory to every declaration, convention and treaty in the world.
Leadership of the UNP
Q:There have been a number of romours with regards to the UNP and some imminent crossovers. There was also talk of a party convention? How do you address these romours?
I am nowhere in the crossing over range; I am a woman of principle and the UNP is my base party. I am ever grateful to the party, today I can speak here because of the party. This is the party that gave me the opportunity to go through the free education system, the open economy and free health care and help us rise up on all the gender indicators.
I am an UNPer and I believe that if there is a party that can put things right in this country, it is the UNP.
At this point the UNP’s concentration is to fight the upcoming provincial council elections and we are hell bent on winning them. There might be talk of division and crossing over but I think that all that is instigated by the opposition and therefore I disregard that information.
Of course there is talk of a party convention which is overdue
Q:You are talking of the UNP of old, but at present the party has failed to contribute anything constructive.
Yes I have heard that accusation over and over again. There is talk of us being divided and all that and I think that at this point we have got our act together. We have had our ups and downs but the Sajith Premadasa and Ranil Wickremesinghe are now on the same stage and they are carrying on the work of being a formidable opposition.