In Vithya’s name let there be justice to all child victims

Yesterday on the remote island of Pungudutivu, the residents celebrated, they lit crackers and cooked milk rice.

For the past two years however they had been anguished and fearful as one of their favourite daughters had been brutally gang-raped and murdered in one of the most gruesome crimes ever committed in this country.
And all seven men who were sentenced to death for that crime are from this little island.

Eighteen-year-old Sivaloganathan Vithya was one of the brightest students at the Pungudutivu Maha Vidyalayam. She had won a scholarship to one of the leading girls’ schools in the country, Vembadi Girls’ College in Jaffna.

She belonged to a poor family which had some help from relatives living overseas. During most of the war years her family lived in a camp for the internally displaced. With some help from relatives Vithya was able to spend several years in Colombo attending school there.

After the war ended she moved back to the island with her family, and lived on what her brother, a handyman, earned from plumbing and other odd jobs he got.

She was cycling to school on the morning of 13 May 2015 when she was abducted. She was taken to awooded place, stripped, her breasts cut-off, gang-raped with her legs tied to two separate trees and then murdered.

Yesterday a three-member panel of judges found seven of the nine men guilty of various charges in this crime.

They are Poopalasingam Jeyakumar, Poopalasingam Thavakumar, Mahalingam Sasitharan, Thillainathan Chandrahasan, Sivathevan Thushanth, Jeyatharan Kohilan and Mahalingam Sasikumar alias Swiss Kumar.

The most shocking aspect of the crime is that it was done to produce a rape-murder pornographic video.

According to reports, it is a growing industry, particularly in the South Asian region.

The Court heard from the State Attorneys and the Police that Mahalingam Sasikumar, a native of Pungudutivu and current resident of Switzerland, was the mastermind behind the crime and that he had videotaped the entire gruesome act.

They said there was evidence that Sasikumar was linked to the Swiss underworld that was making these live rape-murder videos and selling them for large sums through pornographic websites.

Sickening as the act was, it is truly appalling that there are those who pay money to watch these videos.

Sasikumar was one of the leading lights in the island community. He frequently came home from Europe and would throw big parties for his friends who would get drunk and create mischief on the island, some residents told our reporters.

After the murder, he had been caught by residents, but was allowed to escape and was allegedly escorted to Colombo by a senior Police Officer.

In court yesterday one of the judges, M. Ilanchellian, said that a local Member of Parliament and State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran had helped Sasikumar escape.

He was eventually re-arrested in Colombo and faced justice.

The islands off Jaffna have seen several cases of rape and murders of women in the past ten years. Many have gone unsolved with the law enforcement agencies paying scant attention to them, particularly during the war years.

One is in Court in Kayts, but alarmingly delayed as many cases are in Sri Lanka’s overstretched judicial system.

So we can, as a nation, be proud that a poor girl from an underprivileged family from a minority community in a remote corner of the country was given justice and that also swiftly in relative terms.

President Maithripala Sirisena has mooted an idea that many families of victims of such crimes and human rights activists have been asking for some time.

When he visited Jaffna shortly after Vithya’s murder he had said the government would establish a judicial system that will deal with crimes committed against children.

This is an excellent idea. Because a typical case takes an average nine years to be concluded from the time the complaint is made to the date the verdict is given, it is vital that justice in these cases not be delayed.

It has been reported that some cases where teenage girls had been raped the trials were called after the victim had married and had children of her own.

The horror of the crime committed against Vithya at a time she was looking forward to a better future will not fade away.
But in her name let’s create a judicial system that brings justice to all other child victims as well.

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