By Mirudhula Thambiah
Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, Vijayakala Maheswaran, said the Police failed to arrest the main suspect of the Punguduthivu rape and murder at the appropriate time. She had made all possible attempts to surrender the suspect but Police failed to take immediate action and come to the scene of the crime.
“The Police officer who did the mistake will be identified soon and will be dealt with,” she said.
Following are excerpts:
: There are allegations that you helped the Punguduthivu main suspect to escape from the case. How did he escape to Wellawatte.
A: Unregistered media networks are publishing wrong information to tarnish my image. I was present at the spot to hand over the suspect to the Police, but the Police failed to reach the spot immediately. If they had arrested the suspect on time, the Court complex and Police stations would not have been attacked.
This issue had tarnished the government’s image due to certain Police officers who failed to fulfil their duties. This was proved but I do not want to criticize this issue any further. I will criticize this further with accurate evidence in Parliament.
The issue had been referred to Courts and all nine suspects have been produced. I also received a special letter from the IGP stating that remedial action will be taken immediately in connection with the incident.
: Did you make any statement to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in connection with the Punguduthivu incident.
A: No. Until now they did not record any such statement. They did not approach me in this regard.
: Do you feel that the National Child Protection Authority and Children’s and Women’s Bureau are functioning properly in the North? Are you observing their functions as the Deputy Minister of Women Affairs.
A: We are observing the work of the National Child Protection Authority under our ministry. They are functioning independently under our government after the change in the regime. All officials, from District Secretaries to others were appointed recently under our government. We have formed groups in areas in which such incidents are taking place, these groups include both women and men under our ministry to look into incidents.
: There are allegations that such children and women related issues have increased after your government came into power. How do you justify this.
A: Children and women related incidents were never exposed to the public. Our government established democracy in this country after a decade, and now such incidents are being exposed to the public.
CID officials are not following individuals, and telephone conversations are not recorded. We have freedom. We can come out to the roads and say that we are against injustice. This government has exposed all issues; it is transparent to the International Community. Those who are against our regime are trying to tarnish our image.
: Sri Lanka is a democratic country, anybody can stage protests. Jaffna Court complex was under attack by the protestors. It is learnt only some committed the attack, yet most of them who are innocent are imprisoned. Do you feel there is actual democracy in connection with this incident? Don’t you feel that the people are unnecessarily facing problems.
A: If a crime takes place, it should be controlled. Nobody has the right to damage State property. These protestors have attacked the Courts. Such crimes cannot be pardoned. These people have made a terrible mistake by attacking the Courts. They should have launched a silent protest avoiding violence.
We suspect that such crimes were committed by those who were hired by negative parties. The Court attacks were not carried out by the people of Jaffna. Those who actually damaged the Court escaped from the place, but people who were watching the incident were forcibly arrested by the Police and are now in jail.
In my opinion people should refrain from watching such incidents, it is better for them to stay at their own places and to avoid going to the places where there is violence. Most of those who are in remand were the public who were passers-by and was caught by the Police. Innocent public like school children and youths were arrested by the Police. The arrests of innocent persons in the Court attack incident were brought to President Sirisena’s attention. But the President or the others including me do not have any power to act in this regard because the issue has been referred to the Judiciary.
: What action did you take on this issue to release the innocent persons.
A: Two weeks before when the President visited Jaffna we referred this matter to him. However, the Police were involved in arresting the others connected to the incident by referring to the CCTV footage.
We condemn this act. As the incident is now over, they should not be arresting students. I feel as the people of Jaffna acted against Police they were angered and now reacting beyond the limits. But I wish the innocent persons will be released by the Courts soon.
: Earlier you were blaming the former government but currently similar crimes and incidents are being carried out in the time of your own government. Now tell us, who will you blame.
A: This country is in the hands of the President and Prime Minister. They have devolved certain powers to the Police. The Police officers have to sit for examinations to get their promotions. Therefore, the officers are doing their duties to their utmost ability and they cannot fulfil everything at once.
: Jaffna Public Library was burnt when a UNP Government was in power in the 1980s, while certain other political issues of the minorities, like the 1983 riots was also experienced during the same party’s government. In such a situation, why did you choose the UNP.
A: Because my husband Maheswaran, who was a parliamentarian was slain backing a UNP candidate at the 1999 Presidential Election. He contested in the parliamentary elections in year 2000 and secured a seat to the legislature. It was his decision to join the UNP.
Until 1 January 2008 he was thrice elected to the Parliament. Twice he was elected from the Jaffna District and once from the Colombo District to Parliament. Many Tamil representatives from Jaffna lost the elections in the Colombo District but Maheswaran managed to enter Parliament.
I had to face injustice when my husband was assassinated while observing special prayers at the Ponnambalawaneswarar Temple. I did not choose the UNP as I had to face injustice at that time.
The UNP leader and the former President made many requests for me to contest under their tickets to Parliament to continue the work carried out by Maheswaran.
However, I discussed this with the TNA and I requested to allocate a seat on their ticket to increase the representation of Tamils from the Jaffna District. I only had one aim. That was to do away with Tamil armed groups, by all Tamil representatives contesting in one party. I discussed with parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah and he promised to come back with a positive move. But later they had to face problems relating to seat allocations. Therefore, I decided to contest under the UNP ticket and secured my seat in Parliament. I wanted to contest under the TNA ticket and I was ready to resign my MP post under the UNP.
: Recently there was a statement by the EPDP that their party was not responsible for your husband Maheswaran’s assassination. Did you point at them at any moment.
A: It was very clear that the Tamil armed group had committed my husband’s assassination. In 2007 Maheswaran spoke in Parliament during the last stages of next year’s budget. Since he delivered a strong and harsh parliamentary speech, his security was withdrawn by the former government. Who is that official who did away with the security? This official withdrew the security and handed over to a Tamil armed group to observe him.
Some Tamil representatives from the North felt insecure about Maheswaran entering Parliament from the Jaffna District. This was one reason why I chose to contest from the Jaffna District.
EPDP’s statement regarding my husband’s assassination proves that they had some connection with the incident. I only mentioned about the Tamil armed group, they do not have to panic in this regard.
The former government ended my husband’s case. I was pressurized in Parliament. However, I will find out very soon who the actual culprit is.
: There are allegations that drug use, rape incidents and teenage pregnancy cases have increased during your government’s regime. What is your view.
A: These cases were at peak even during the former regime but it was not exposed. As our government is democratic such cases are brought to the notice of the public.
We have already formed groups on behalf of our ministry to track down such issues. We have to wait and see what the future repercussions will be and whether the Police would take action or the young boys and girls would have to solve these problems.
: You continuously stressed about the releasing of lands from the High Security Zone during the former regime. But now your government has taken over, lands were released, yet people are prohibited from entering their lands and Police officers have stopped the people from entering. Now what justification will you make.
A: It is not correct to blame the government because some officials are acting negatively. We take the responsibility to warn such officials to refrain from such acts.
Accordingly 95% of the lands that are in the custody of the security forces belong to the people. If the security forces want to expand the Palaly Airport they can fill the sea and reclain a land area.
Therefore, we assure the people that their lands will be handed over to them from the security forces. I represent the North so I shall concentrate on the issues prevailing in my area, but land issues relating to the East should be addressed by the TNA.
: Are you aware that there is no children’s Judge in the North? The Jaffna Magistrate is tackling all child related cases. Don’t you think it is necessary to appoint such a Judge.
A: I will definitely take necessary action to appoint one. When juvenile cases were taken up by Northern and Eastern Judges in the past, they were threatened by politicians and former governments. In such situations, Judges were given punishment transfers to stop them from performing such duties.
: Your party promised to reduce the militarization in the North. But after the Court incident it is learnt that militarization has yet again increased. Why.
A: Military personnel may walk on the streets but they do not interfere with the public. If you take the Punguduthivu incident, the main suspect was caught by the public and was attacked. When the specific person was attacked the Navy personnel in Velanai were just watching the incident.
They did not interfere. This shows that security forces will not interfere anymore in public issues under our government.
: The Police Department has transferred some officers after the Punguduthivu incident. Do you feel only transferring would absolve them of their mistakes.
A: These Police officers have been transferred, while some have been demoted. But I would like to point out that transfers have been made with regard to Police officers who did not commit mistakes.
But others who were behind the incident are just remaining in their positions. I have brought this matter to the notice of the President and the Prime Minister. We will see changes in the near future. The particular Police officer who committed the mistake will be identified and will be dealt with.
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