SRI LANKA: The murder of the British national and the rape of the Russian lady at Tangalla allegedly by a local politician close to the government 

AHRC-STM-001-2012-01.jpgThe murder of Kuram Shaikah Zaman (32), a prosthetic expert who was working in the Gaza Strip for the International Committee of the Red Cross allegedly by a local politician, accompanied by a gang has led to a sharp criticism against the failure of the Sri Lankan government to maintain law and order and encouraging lawlessness and criminal behaviour.

Zaman and an associate, a Russian lady by the name of Ms. Victoria Alexandrovna, (23) went to Sri Lanka for short vacation. A number of foreign girls, including Victoria were enjoying a party when the chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha, Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana, wanted to dance with the girls; however, they refused. The infuriated chairman started a quarrel with the girls and Zaman, who was outside at the time came in and tried to stop the altercation. At this stage Zaman was assaulted and stabbed with a sharp instrument; he was also shot at, according to the reports of eyewitnesses.

AHRC-STM-001-2012-02.jpgAfter the attack Victoria was brutally raped and was found naked by the time the police arrived to investigate. She also suffered blunt trauma and sustained a skull fracture. According to an eye witness she was raped even as she lay bleeding from the head wound.  (photo left: The alleged murderer, Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana, in the company of president Rajapakse)

Several eye witnesses who had seen the incidents and made statements are now being threatened and are expressing concern for their own safety. Meanwhile several journalists who have reported the incident have also received death threats and reported the matter to their media agencies.

A government spokesman’s first reaction to the media was to deny the rape. This is the usual pattern of government spokesmen who tried to defend government politicians even when they are involved in serious crimes.

This murder and rape does not come at all as a surprise. Throughout the country similar gruesome murders and rapes were reported during 2011. The Asian Human Rights Commission has repeatedly brought these cases to the notice of the public stating that the criminal justice system has been brought to a halt due to the political control of the policing system. The local politicians, on many occasions, have acted in a wild manner, due perhaps to the political patronage they have from the government.

Due to the publicity this incident has attracted Chairman Vidanapathirana surrendered to the police. On assurance of anonymity, a policeman explained that such surrenders are nothing but a game. All the conditions of how to deal with the situation and the manner in which the surrendering suspects are to be released are all prearranged, he said. The whole process of criminal investigations is so manipulated by the government politicians that in many similar incidents the suspects have escaped any criminal punishment. The most glaring example is that of Duminda Silva, a Member of Parliament and a close associate of the Rajapakse family who was known to be a drug dealer and who was responsible for the attack that led to Baratha Laksman Premachandra and several others being killed. Duminda Silva was never named as a suspect in the reports of the criminal investigations submitted to court. The government’s excuse was that the police have failed to name him as such.

The murder and rape of these two foreigners is the result of the failure on the part of the government to take the necessary measures to maintain law and order. The murder and rape are not accidental incidents but one of the many gruesome crimes that are taking place throughout the country due to the failure of law enforcement system.

The Rajapakse regime has clearly shown that it cares little about the law. Every kind of illegality has been permitted and the criminal investigation system has been brought to a standstill.

Lawlessness is part of the ruling style of the Rajapakse regime. The government claims, as its right, to engage in any kind of illegality for the maintenance of its power. Assaults of opposition parliamentarians inside parliament itself has now become the rule and this kind of behaviour is condoned by the president and the hierarchy of the regime who are for the most part, members of the same family.

Assassinations, death threats and other forms of intimidation of the media are so frequent and still no investigations take place into the complaints relating to such allegations. It is as if the Rajapakse regime has given a holiday to the officers of the Criminal Investigation Division.

The absence of investigations into serious crimes is the rule now. When some incidents become social scandals some persons are arrested and then a government spokesman claims that the crime has been solved. However, thereafter hardly any criminal process takes place and many such suspects, particularly those who are close to the government, are let loose after their initial arrest.

The result is that the policemen themselves, as well as the public have lost faith in the whole mechanism of law. The cynical comments could be heard about this system constantly.

This murder and rape and the similar incidents will keep on happening as long as the Rajapakse regime belittles law and criminal justice. The responsibility for this murder and rape lies not only on the culprits but also on the Rajapakse regime as a whole.

The statement of the wife of Mohamed Sali Mohamed Niyas (Loku Seeya shows the kind of gruesome murders taking place in Sri Lanka).

According to the post mortem, he was strangled and his throat slit. He had also been pounded in the head and stabbed a number of times. He was also administered 3 injections of unknown chemicals. I am still an unable to imagine how brutal that had been. The body had over 100 kgs of weight strapped on to it which was wrapped with barb wire. The body was then covered with polythene and secured further with chicken fencing. It also had something like an anchor attached to the body. In spite of all that it had washed ashore to Akkarai Paththu. The body was flown back home and the funeral proceedings conducted.

What has happened in this incident is an extension to foreigners of two countries of what is normally happening to Sri Lankan citizens all the time. This incident should be an eye opener to the government the respective countries as well as to others about the state of lawlessness that prevails in Sri Lanka.

Without local and international effort to undo what the Rajapakse regime does to the legal system of Sri Lanka the future of all citizens as well as the visitors to Sri Lanka will remain a dismal one. There is regret at the moment about the adverse impact of this incident on tourism. However, the problem is not one of tourism alone. It is about a total failure to create the opportunities for a decent way of life in the country.

The Asian Human Rights Commission while condemning this incident calls upon Sri Lankans as well as the international community to boldly resist the Rajapakse regime’s undermining of the rule of law in Sri Lanka. This descent to animal-like behaviour can only be stopped if the Rajapakse regime changes its policy of taking complete political control of the police. As long as the nation’s law enforcement agency is unable to act to protect society from crime there is no way to stop similar incidents from happening again.

Kindly see the AHRC’s New Year message for Sri Lanka

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-001-2012
Countries : Sri Lanka,