BY W. K. PRASAD MANJU
Sivaloganathan Vithya’s mother Saraswathie says that out of the nine suspects who had raped Vithya, three are brothers and involved in illegal activities in the area. People are well aware that this group was involved in drugs and other narcotic rackets. It is possible that some Police officers also had connections with them.
Following are some excerpts of this interview:
Q : Mother, I am not sure whether you are in a position to engage in a discussion. We would like to know a little about your memories of Vithya. If it is upsetting for you, you need not discuss her with us. We wish to share your grief with you
A: Even if I cry for the rest of my life this grief will never diminish. Whenever a discussion is held, I will still be saddened. Therefore, it wouldn’t make a difference so I’ll talk about my daughter Vithya. (Vithya’s mother Saraswathie wailed loudly)
Q : Do you remember the day Vithya was born
A: Vithya was born at the Mankulam Government Hospital on 25 November in 1996. The war was on at that time. Both sides were attacking each other. We were in great fear. We lived for a while in a bunker built near our house. Since we were asked to select a name beginning with ‘V’ we named her Vithya. She was very pretty like a doll. My husband and I thought she was the youngest who would bring fortune to our family.
Q: What about the other family members
A: My elder daughter is Nishanthini. She is studying at the Management Faculty of the Vavuniya Campus. She stays at a relation’s house in Vavuniya. My son is Nishanthan. He is engaged in paddy-farming. He also works as a labourer. When his father fell ill, my son is the one who took over the responsibilities of the family. He could not continue with his education. He wanted to provide a good education to his elder and younger sisters.
Q: What is Vithya’s father’s profession
A: He was engaged in paddy farming. My husband could not work for two years. He says he has body pain. Medication has not done any good for him.
Q: Are you from Punguduthivu
A: Yes, we are from Punguduthivu. When the war broke out we went to Mallavi in Mankulam. We lived in temporary accommodation provided for displaced people. It was during that time Vithya was born.
Q: How did you return to Punguduthivu
A: The war ended in 2009. In 2010 we returned to Punguduthivu.
Q: What was Vithya’s daily routine
A: She wakes up at around 4:00 a.m. The she does her studies. From 6:00 a.m. she helps me with cooking. She sweeps the garden. Then she leaves home at 7:30 a.m. Vithya attended Punguduthivu Maha Vidyalaya. When school is over at 2 p.m. she returns home. Then she has a bath or a body-wash. After having lunch she watches television. Then she attends evening classes at school. She has classes about two or three times a week. Otherwise she plays at home during the evening. Two friends who live nearby also join her. She plays badminton with them. We have a goat and two dogs at home. She also plays with them. If her sister is there she plays with her too. Sometimes she quarrels with her sister and brother. Then she attends to her ailing father. She watches television at 7:00 p.m. She has dinner at about 9:00 p.m. and then studies until midnight. She makes tea for all of us at night. My daughter Vithya was a light to the entire house. Today that light has gone. (Saraswathie once again breaks down, crying).
Q: Was Vithya interested in her school work
A: She was interested in learning. Vithya attended Nallaru Vidyalaya up to Grade 6. Then she was admitted to Punguduthivu Maha Vidyalaya. She was studious and enjoyed extracurricular activities as well. Both male and female students in the entire school loved her. She was devoted to her school work and extracurricular activities.
Q: Apart from education, what are the other things she was interested in
A: Vithya was very fluent in English. She did not know Sinhala. But she was fond of Sinhala people. There were several important sports festivals in Jaffna in 2013 and 2014. Sinhala students participated in the sports festivals. They were held at the Bombadi Vidyalaya and Duraiappah Stadium in Jaffna. She told me that even though she was not fluent in the language she had held the Sinhala children by their hands and spoken to them. The Sinhala daughters who came from the South said Vithya was very beautiful.
Q: What was Vithya’s ambition
A: She was very keen on becoming a journalist. She was well versed in English. She was a member of the school debating team. She also joined the Media Unit. She was interested in becoming an announcer. She was a member of the school drama team as well and she liked acting.
Q: Did she like sports
A: Yes, she was very clever at running. Vithya won in the competitions held in Jaffna where children from the South participated. She was fond of every sport. She watched many of the matches our cricket team played in. When they won the match she applauded before the television. Vithya was very sad when Sri Lanka lost the World Cup Tournament.
Q: Who was Vithya’s favourite cricketer
A: Lasith Malinga was her cricket hero. She liked even Malinga’s hairstyle. Vithya acted out the action Malinga engaged in when he took a wicket. When she shouted aloud she got a scolding even from me.
Q: Did Vithya like watching Tamil and Hindi films
A: Yes. Her favourite Tamil actor was Wije. However, she used to watch Hindi films. Sharukh Khan and Katrina Kaif were her favourite actors. In addition, she also liked Jacqueline Ferdinandez who had replied to one of her letters. She particularly liked the Hindi programme titled Meinasiri.
Q: What was Vithya involved in at her school in the evenings
A: Vithya supervised the school gym. She liked to engage in physical exercises. Everyone who came to the gym was fond of her. She worked at the gym mostly in the evenings.
Q: When Vithya was engaged in such activities did her school appreciate her work
A: Yes. She was made the School Captain. In addition, all the students loved her. It was very obvious during the past few days.
Q: Vithya went to school on a bicycle. In addition, could she drive any other vehicle
A: Vithya could ride motorcycles and drive hand tractors as well. She used to ride her brother’s motorbike. She did not have any fear, even in her younger days. She was fearless in going forward for anything.
Q: Did Vithya help you to cook
A: Yes. She helped me when I cooked in the morning and at night as well.
Q: What was Vithya’s favourite food
A: She was not too fond of eating rice. However, she loved eating Samosa and Laddu. She preferred to eat rolls, cutlets, patties and mixture, mostly. She liked jelly too.
Q: Vithya was quite pretty. Has she mentioned anything about her good looks
A: She said she would take to acting some day and used to go in front of the mirror and act out certain parts. I used to laugh when she did such things. She then asked me with some pride, whether she could not act. She was very pretty from her younger days. She was like a doll. (Saraswathie bursts out crying again).
Q: Did you hear of a love affair involving Vithya
A: No. She had never mentioned anything about a love affair. She always wanted to study well and do a job.
Q: Did boys crack jokes and tease Vithya
A: She used to get along well with everyone. If someone said something as a joke, she would scold him. When she returned home she told me everything. After that she would forget the whole incident. Then she associated with them as usual.
Q: Has anyone cracked any jokes at Vithya’s expense on her way somewhere and made her cry
A: No. Nothing like that has happened.
Q: How far is it to Punguduthivu Maha Vidayalaya from home
A: About two kilometres.
Q: Did Vithya go to school alone
A: No. There were two girls who lived close by. The three of them went to school on bicycles. She also returned home with them.
Q: How did Vithya go to school and return, on the days when her friends were not there
A: Then her brother took her to school on his motorcycle and brought her back.
Q: Had Vithya ever faced any problem on her way to and from school
A: I was not aware of anything like that. May be someone would have said something to her, I don’t know. If it had been something significant Vithya would have definitely told us.
Q: How did Vithya go to school on Wednesday 13 May
A: She went to school on her own. (Saraswathie begins crying again). The two friends were not well and they did not come. She said she wanted to leave early and went off. Her brother had gone out for a short while. Vithya said her brother was getting delayed and went.
Q: What were Vithya’s last words to you
A: Vithya left home on her bicycle at about 7:25 a.m., after I had given her a cup of tea. She said she was leaving and would come back. (Saraswathie once again wails loudly).
Q: What time did you start looking for Vithya
A: Usually, Vithya used to return home around 3:00 p.m. When she did not return at that time, my son and I went to the school. There is a boutique near the school which belongs to one of our relatives. When we made inquiries from him, he said she did not come to the boutique at all. When she goes to school, she usually goes to the boutique. When we went to the school, we were told that Vithya had not been there. We got really scared. We told them that Vithya left home for school. When we were searching around the school, some people said that it would be better to inform the Police. My son and I went to the Kurukattuwan Police and told them about the missing child. As it was only a Police check-point they said they could not accept the complaint. They asked us to go to the Kayts Police. Then we went to the Kayts Police Station and made a complaint. It was about 6:30 p.m. The complaint was not recorded until a Woman Police Constable (WPC) arrived. When the WPC came she recorded the complaint at 9:00 p.m. A Police officer said she was a young girl and she must have eloped with some boy and asked us to search for her for some more.
Q: Who was the police officer who said that
A: I do not know his name.
Q: Then what did you do
A: We were helpless. We didn’t have any vehicle to go in search of the girl. The Police Station was about 15–20 kilometres away from home. We returned home and searched for Vithya until midnight.
Q: Did the Police come to search for Vithya
A: No. The villagers got together to search for her. Then at about 5:00 a.m. we recommenced the search. My son and another group went in one direction. Our two dogs also went with them. There is another road about 1 ½ kilometres away from home. That road is very isolated. The dogs started barking. Vithya’s bicycle was lying on the ground. A dog found one of her shoes. My son and a few others went in that direction. It was a very deserted area. My son fainted while shouting Vithya’s name. When his sister’s body was spotted in that condition, what brother wouldn’t have reacted like that? With that shout my legs became lifeless. When I saw the devastation that had befallen my daughter, I thought what is the use of my living further. (Saraswathie starts wailing again).
Q: Did the Police arrive then
A: Yes. The Police arrived at about 10:00 a.m.
Q: The three main suspects are brothers of the same family. How far was the home of these three men situated from your house
A: About 1 kilometre or so.
Q: Was there evidence to suspect them
A: Yes. They were involved in illegal activities in the area. The residents were well aware of their involvement in drugs and other narcotic rackets. It is possible that some of the Police officers also had connections with the group. It was due to the effort of the residents of the area that the suspects were arrested. They confessed that they had committed the horrific crime. Now nine suspects are in custody.
Q: Had there been any threats on Vithya from the suspects before
A: Vithya had not told us about any such threats. However, as she was very pretty, they would have been attracted to her. Under the influence of drugs they must have decided to do something to the girl. I feel that they would have planned to commit the crime a few days ahead.
Q: Have you given evidence in cases against the suspects before? There is a rumour that the crime was committed to take revenge
A: It’s not true. I have never given any evidence against them. It is a story fabricated by the killers. They wanted to rape and kill my pretty daughter.
Q: If there are drug dealings in the area, haven’t the residents informed the Police about them
A: There were drug dealings for a while in the area. The Police are aware of them. But they did not take any action. If they had taken action, my daughter would have been alive today.
Q: How were the final rites of Vithya done
A: My daughter’s body was in a sealed coffin. The final rites were carried out at the Manakkadu Cemetery which is about two kilometres away from home.
Q: How did one suspect suddenly leave Jaffna and end up in Wellawatte
A: One of the suspects was a person named ‘Swiss Kumar’. He had come from Switzerland. He had been a member of the gang. It was ‘Swiss Kumar’ who videoed the crime committed on my daughter. He is a former Tiger member. Then he left for Switzerland. A person from the Law Faculty had helped him. He is the one who had come in his car and said he was going to hand over ‘Swiss Kumar’ to the Police and taken him away and secretly sent him to Colombo. Then the residents of the area got together and handed over this person from the Law Faculty to the Police. He was the one who said that ‘Swiss Kumar’ is staying at a hotel in Wellawatte. He had been in hiding waiting to go abroad. Then we informed Deputy Minister Vijayakala Maheshwaran.
The deputy minister acted swiftly and the Wellawatte Police arrested ‘Swiss Kumar’. The suspect who attempted to save ‘Swiss Kumar’ had intended to contest Jaffna from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). We complained about it to Mavai Senathirajah of the TNA. He said that such a person will not be allowed to contest from his party.
Q: What did President Maithripala Sirisena say when he came to Jaffna
A: His arrival in Jaffna was a great honour for us. The President said that all the offenders will be punished as soon as possible. That was our only request. He said that since he also had a daughter he could feel our grief. The President said with sorrow that he considers Vithya as his daughter. We told him that we were hoping to go to Vavuniya. The President said that once we arrive in Vavuniya he will arrange for all the facilities. I am thankful to Deputy Minister Vijayakala Maheshwaran who provided us with this opportunity to meet the President.
Q: Why did you decide to leave Punguduthivu and go to Vavuniya
A: Living in this environment reminds us of Vithya’s gang-rape and brutal killing. To get rid of such sad memories we are leaving for Vavuniya. Punguduthivu is an out-of-the-way area. We are scared to live here. We have a feeling that we have been isolated. We have relatives in Vavuniya. Our elder daughter is studying there. Therefore, we would like to go there.
Q: When will you go to Vavuniya
A: According to our traditions when someone dies, we have to stay in that house for 45 days and perform the necessary rites. After that we will leave for Vavuniya.
Q: Do you have anything else to say
A: What else can I say? Entire Sri Lanka got together on behalf of my daughter Vithya. All the schools commemorated Vithya simultaneously. The entire world is crying because of Vithya. I thank all of them on behalf of Vithya. Do not let what happened to Vithya happen to anyone else in this small country. We should join together to prevent and stop such crimes. I am counting my fingers until the day that these mean people who were involved in the offence are punished properly.