By V.Kanthaiya –
“He chained my handcuffs to a chair so I couldn’t move. Tried to remove my shalwar, I kept shouting and crying, but he was stronger than me. When he finished he went outside. A second official came to the room. He raped me too. Second official smoked cigarettes and then with that burned my breasts, my inner thighs and legs. Both men beat me. They bit my breast and my thighs. It was still dark when I was brought back to the police station the next day. The official who raped me first warned me not to tell anybody about this. They told me they would kill my husband. I started bleeding very heavily. I think I was pregnant prior to the rape and miscarried. “ – An account by a victim of sexual violence and torture by Sri Lanka Security Forces, We Will Teach You a Lesson, Sexual violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces, Human Rights Watch, February 2013.[i]
The Sri Lankan media is so much obsessed with unravelling details of the former ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen’s murder. They even cite the undisclosed sources to graphically illustrate the final moments of the ruggerite. As per the Sri Lankan popular English and Sinhala language based media, Thajudeen had been abducted by a vehicle belonged to Red Cross, but used by “Siriliya Saviya” a NGO run by Former first lady Ms. Shiranthi Rajapaksa. It is reported that his teeth and pelvic bones had been broken, his ribs had been fractured, his neck had been pierced with a sharp instrument and the muscles in his legs had been cut with a piece of broken glass. His body showed that he had been assaulted by blunt instrument.
Why the police department didn’t disclose this in 2012? Why didn’t it take legal action based on these findings? And now why they shamelessly tell us that there was a cover up? And why they have not taken any action against the officers who covered this up? Is this the only criminal case which had been “covered up” or any more cases meted out the same fate? If so, how many cases the department has re-opened for investigation? How long will it take to arrest the perpetrators? How long will it take those alleged perpetrators to get the bail? And will our legal system deliver the verdict with in our lifetime? And finally, will the perpetrators be punished or would be released citing lack of evidence? And once they are released, will they say the entire legal action is an international conspiracy and eat kiribath or they will simply have a “bottle party” to celebrate their “Nidaahasa”? And to whom should I ask this question? To the IGP? Defence Secretary? Prime Minister? Or the President of Yahapalanaya? Well! I have some more questions to ask and I feel it is better to ask them at the end of this article.
Suppose Wasim Thajudeen had been subjected to brutal torture at the hands of his assailants; my dear fellow Sri Lankans, he was not the first one and definitely not the last one to meet this agony.
The report “We Will Teach You a Lesson, Sexual violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces, released by Human Rights Watch clearly depicts that the torture and sexual violence on Tamils by the state’s security forces is not a summation of the isolated incidents by some rogue soldiers or officers, but it is a clearly drafted state policy and implemented by the glorified security forces of the country against Tamils, its own citizens. The security establishments kept it an open secret and a routine practice so that even the women members of the security forces assisted the rape and torture of Tamil detainees. [ii]
Though large number of minority Tamils were subjected to, the culture of torture and sexual violence and the impunity to the perpetrators in Sri Lanka started with the crackdown of the 1971 JVP rebellion. Still we hear the story of Premawathi Mannamperi who was tortured and murdered by the soldiers from 3rd Gemunu watch, Ceylon Army. Again, she was not the only one. The numbers are unknown. After four decades, Sri Lanka was in the headlines of global news media for the rape, torture and murder of Isai Priya, by its security forces. However, the same popular Sri Lankan news media, who still carry the story of Mannamperi, has shun away from informing the public about the gruesome fate meted out by this LTTE news anchor, probably due the “Smart Patriotism”.
The latest report by the UK based NGO Freedom from Torture (FFT) published this month, reveals that the practice of torture by the Sri Lankan security forces continues even to date (that means even in ‘Yahapalanaya’) and the political leadership is well aware of it.[iii]
In this last forty years of our country’s history, we have heard so many. Batalanda, Sooriyakanda, 4th floor of CID headquarters in Colombo, Matale mass grave site, Josep camp in Vavunia, Dehiwela, Kotahena,Chettikulam police stations, Veppankulam, Omanthai, Nelukulam army camps and countless accounts of the torture victims. However we have heard none of the members of the security forces brought into justice.
The key reason why the state uses torture and sexual violence on its own people is that state is well afraid of its own citizens. Take the Weliweriya massacres in August 2013. Why the military was deployed when the people agitating for the clean drinking water took it to the streets? Because the political leadership knows that masses can rise against the prevalent political culture of corruption and deceit. Despite the fact, that citizens are paying 11% (earlier 12%) of the value of most of the goods and service they purchase as tax, the state offers little. One such example is this article by Prof. Lasantha Pethiyagoda[iv]. The state is obliged to deliver the social welfare services to the masses. However the quality of public service is gone to the rock bottom and the common man (who is obviously poor) is frustrated by the service received from all the government institutions. Weliweriya is such example. When the common man of Weliweriya was denied of clean drinking water, he took the issue to the streets demanding his right for. The then Rajapaksa government considered it as another mode of terrorism and sent its ‘Heroes’ and who in turn killed two school children and an innocent family man who had nothing to do with the protest.
The state was and is unbiased in enforcing its policy of torture and sexual violence own citizens regardless of the ethnicities. Yet, the Sri Lankan society has never raised its voice against it.
The political leadership of the country has raised the status of the security forces from soldiers to semi-gods. The Mahinda Rajapaksa regime was so keen in marketing the war victory to use it as a base to remain in the power for decades. The regime did everything in its capacity to constantly remind the masses outside the north and east about the ‘second freedom’. It had been done through erecting war monuments, large hoardings, telecasting victory songs and above all the million rupee exhibition “Dayata Kirula”. The underlying concept of these efforts were to improve the image of the soldiers as ‘liberators’ and, through that the Mahinda Rajapaksa family as epic reincarnations of the legendary kings.
Because of this, any ‘smart patriot’ will never dare to raise his/her voice against the atrocities committed by these ‘semi-gods’ since he/she would be branded as a traitor and a terrorist. Therefore, I do not have any hope that the state’s policy of torture and sexual violence against its own citizens will cease in the near future, unless otherwise the Sri Lankan society wake up from its deep patriotic intoxication.
Now I ask my final questions.
Will the Police department find out the perpetrators of ‘White Van’ abductions? Will they say what happened to those ‘disappeared”? Will they arrest the assailants of Lassantha Wickrematunge? Will they arrest the abductors of Prageeth Ekneligoda? Will they find the murderers of Raviraj & Maheswaran? Again, Will the CID arrest those members of PSD who are alleged to commit the murder of Wasim Thajudeen? And finally, suppose those PSD members are sentenced by the court, Will our ‘Smart Patriots’ start a campaign to free those “War Heroes”?