We, the signatures to this statement express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family Vindya Sivaloganathan who was gang raped and murdered in the village of Pungudutivu in Kayts. We also condole with the community in the village and support their call for an immediate response from the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are arrested an prosecuted.
Summary justice without due process of law contravenes the rule of law, and acts of violence against courts and law enforcement agencies must not be condoned. However these agencies must also fulfill their responsibilities to ensure that citizens are protected from violent crimes, and that perpetrators are punished and brought to justice without inordinate delays.
The details revealed from accounts in media surface again a grave situation of breakdown of law and order, and the failure to effectively respond to violence against women and girls. Vindya, the 18 year old school girl appeared to have been the victim of a brutal revenge rape by a gang of men of varying ages after an evening of revelry and partying. This demonstrates clearly how violence against women and girls is perpetrated by men with a sense of impunity. This brutal conduct is trivialised and even legitimised in environments where liquor and or drug abuse at social events is tolerated. The allegations that the police responded to that initial complaint from the family that Vindya was missing , by suggesting that she had probably eloped with her boyfriend is shocking. Yet, there is evidence from other parts of the country that such a reaction is not uncommon when people seek assistance from law enforcement agencies for acts of violence against women and girls. The men who perpetrated this grave crime clearly felt that they were not accountable for their horrendous behaviour, and could avoid sanctions and punishment.
We also wish to state that as citizens we are appalled that the personal suffering of the victim and her family and community have been ignored by senior opposition politicians who to take advantage of the response to this incident in the Northern Province, by alleging conspiracies and threats to national security. We appreciate the effort of senior police personnel in preventing breaches of the peace, without further violence, in the tense situation created by the gang rape and murder in Pungudutivu. However this response must be accompanied by other initiatives to create public confidence in the manner in which law enforcement agencies respond to complaints and prosecutions. The lapses that have emerged and have been experienced in other parts of the country, in these cases must be addressed immediately, not just by ad hoc responses like the transfer of police officers, but long term interventions to address the phenomenon of violence against women and girls.
We call upon the government, the opposition and the judiciary to recognize and address the real issues of breakdown of law and order, impunity, and the widespread legitimization of violence against women and girls in all areas of the country. Politicians, law enforcement agencies including the judiciary must collectively, fulfill their official responsibilities to prevent such conduct. They must all contribute to creating an environment of zero tolerance for such violence. It is the continuing failure of institutions entrusted with the responsibilities of effective law enforcement and law and policy reform that has fostered a culture of impunity, and exposed women and girls to the brutal male violence that Vindya suffered.
Prof. Savithri Gunesekera
Silma Mohideen Ahmed
Shreen Abdul Saroor
Shantha Lal Ariyaratna
Kusuma Egoda arachchi
S.M. Subaratna menike
Women and Media Collective
Association of War affected Women
Centre for Social Concerns
Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum
Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere (PEaCE)
Citizens’ Voice for Justice and Peace
Kantha Shakthi Forum
Uwa Wellassa Farmer Women’s Organization