Justice to muffled cries | Sunday Observer

Justice to muffled cries

11 July, 2021
A suspect in the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl at Mount Lavinia covers his face from the media prior to a court appearance
A suspect in the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl at Mount Lavinia covers his face from the media prior to a court appearance

The degradation of moral values in a fast paced world is an age-old discussion. Sri Lanka has had the misfortune of hearing stories of rape, murder and other heinous crimes committed against the innocent and defenceless, often by the hands of the trusted and next of kin.

The abduction, rape and murder of four-year-old Seya Sadewmi were one such incident that gripped the nation a few years ago. Yet, the heightened concerns for the safety of children and protecting women and girls from sexual perpetrators slipped into the shadows as did her name.

Even though the culprits were given the punishments, the devil still lurks in the shadows ready to strike as long as law enforcement and society at large lacks vigilance.

According to the Penal Code amendments in 1995 and 2006, rape or abuse of a child below 16 years with or without consent, and procuration and trafficking of persons are punishable offenses.

Section 360 of the Penal Code states that anyone who incites child abuse can either be imprisoned for more than 10 years or fined or both.

Yet, we see crimes against women and girls being committed over and over again despite laws being in place.

The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) Chairman Prof. Muditha Vidanapathirana said during the first six months this year, they received 4,000 complaints related to abuse and sexual molestation of minors. During the same period, 48,000 telephone calls were received in this regard. The total number of complaints received last year was 8,165. The NCPA urged the public to make complaints regarding child abuse by calling its 24 hour hotline 1929.


The latest incident in this recurring wave of crime is the sexual molestation of a 15-year-old girl using the online platform for trafficking.

The girl had been sexually exploited in the Mount Lavinia area for over three months with advertisements placed on social media for prices varied at Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 30,000.

The Mount Lavinia Police on June 8 made the initial arrest of a 35-year-old man directly in connection with the trafficking.

So far, 35 suspects have been arrested on suspicion for obtaining the services and four of them have been identified by the victim. The victim stated at the identity parade that the four suspects – a cardiologist, Deputy Chairman of the Mihintale Pradeshiya Sabha and two gem businessmen, did not inquire into her age before they obtained sexual services, adding that she was advertised as above 18 years.

The Colombo Additional Magistrate granted bail to the four suspects each on a cash bail of Rs. 25,000 and a personal bail of Rs. 2.5 million, stating that bail would be revoked in the event of interference with the investigation or pressurising the witnesses of the case. Their case will be heard again on August 19.

The other suspects were also arrested on charges of aiding and/or abetting in the crime and directly obtaining the sexual services. The latest arrest was another website owner who advertised the teenager. He is in remand custody until July 20. A captain of a ship with several of his crew members, a law enforcement officer, a man in robes and a Maldivian ex-minister who oversaw one of the key Ministries in the country that of finance, are among those arrested, leaving clear doubts of the education and value system in the country.

The court remanded former Maldivian State Minister for Finance and Treasury Mohamed Ashmalee until July 16. The local government member’s SLPP membership was suspended and the party is to conduct a disciplinary inquiry against him.

Next of kin

According to Police Media Spokesperson Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) Ajith Rohana, the cardiologist attached to the Navy had been practicing in several hospitals in Colombo. Following the directives of the Ministry of Defence, the Navy Commander Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne suspended the services of the naval surgeon with immediate effect in a bid to pave way for investigations and judicial proceedings, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

A separate internal investigation is also being conducted by the Navy consequent to the Defence Ministry instructions. The suspect is not permitted to enter any of the Navy establishments until further notice, the statement added.

As in all such cases, a family member or those who are close to the victim have a bigger hand in the crime and this case was no different.

According to reports, the victim had allegedly been raped by several males in her family when she was younger and the main accused is one of them.

Society has degraded to such a level that the mother of the girl has been part of the crime to promote the child to customers to earn a quick buck. The mother was taken into custody. Even the hotel owners failed to raise the red flag and conveniently turned a blind eye when middle aged men came with a teenager to book a room.

The manager and a receptionist of the hotel at Bambalapitiya were remanded until July 16.

Society’s responsibility

“A majority of sexual crimes against children occur with the knowledge of society and by the hands of those respected by society,” State Minister of Women and Child Development Piyal Nishantha said. Therefore, it is important to create a value and attitudinal change in society to view children with love instead of as prey, he added.

Vehemently condemning the incident, the State Minister said that whatever the loopholes in the legal system, the ministry would go to all lengths to bring the perpetrators to justice regardless of the positions they hold.

Regarding measures the State Ministry plans to put in place to address the backlog of child abuse cases in Sri Lanka, State Minister Nishantha said his ministry will work with the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and the Justice Ministry to establish special courts in each Province to hear child abuse cases. It is reported that over 20,000 cases are pending at present.

However, the State Minister reiterated that protecting of children from sexual predators is not only the responsibility of the State but also the responsibility of all citizens and urged the public to join hands to protect the future generation. So far, the police had done a commendable job in bringing the perpetrators to book. There were almost daily reports of arrests in this case and the police are continuing their investigations.

Special mention needs to be made of the Mt. Lavinia Police Chief Inspector (CI) Dileepa Perera who initiated the investigation into the case of the teenage girl on a tip-off. The first arrest was made when the suspect was at a temporary accommodation at Mt. Lavinia. The suspect is a father of four.

More reports are heard about a cyber sex crime from Matara where an employee of a leading mobile company was arrested for alleged online sexual exploitation of several school girls. The suspect had exploited students by claiming to provide Zoom packages to assist with studies and later exploited them via internet while obtaining their nude photographs.

The arrest was made following the complaint of a school principal in Pitibeddara that students at the school are becoming victims of cyber sex abuse. The suspect, a resident of Thambuttegama was produced before the Morawaka Magistrate.


As encouraging as it is to see suspects being arrested and produced before courts, it would have brought equal satisfaction to see child abuse cases being expedited and the public witnessing convictions.

Recent police reports showed that this sadly is not the case. Police crime data released on June 14 showed that out of the 2,055 cases of child sex abuse, cruelty to children, and rape cases reported last year, none resulted in convictions. Data revealed that the cases included 26 sexual exploitation cases, 76 cases of cruelty to children, and 1,953 rape cases related to children. Investigations are ongoing in a majority of these cases.

As it is popularly known, justice delayed is justice denied. Therefore, the authorities need to take immediate measures to expedite child abuse cases and provide redress to the victims. This would also serve as a deterrent. As it is rightfully pointed out, it is the responsibility of the public as well to be vigilant and proactive to protect the future generation.