30 May, 2024


Justice For Ishalini & Soft Slavery

By S. I. Keethaponcalan

Dr. S. I. Keethaponcalan

I do not claim to be an expert on children’s issues or criminal law. My forte is political science and conflict resolution. Therefore, I am not writing this essay as an expert but to initiate a dialogue that hopefully will lead to Justice for Ishalini. Ishalini, a child by definition, was brought to Colombo and employed at parliamentarian and former minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s private residence in 2020. She was a Tamil girl from Dayagama, Talawakele. Ishalini was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Colombo National Hospital with severe burn injuries on July 3, 2021, and succumbed to death on July 15.

Despite the tragedy, Ishalini remains nameless and faceless. Other similar victims were a bit luckier. “Vidya” Sivaloganathan, who was raped and murdered, had a place in the news headlines. “Rizana” Nafeek, who was brutally beheaded, was in the international headline. Ishalini had no such luck. I am yet to see her name in a news headline. The media still refers to her as “maid” or “servant.” For example, one headline said, “The Post Mortem Report of the Maid at Bathiudeen’s Residence Submitted to the Court.” Another screamed, “Girl Working at Former Minister Bathiudeen’s House Dies of Burn Wounds.” Let’s spell her name, Ishalini. The “maid” and “girl” could disappear from attention soon.

Two fundamental issues are connected to Ishalini’s death, suicide, or murder: (1) her rape and death, and (2) the system that allows inhuman exploitation of a vulnerable group, Indian Tamil children from the plantation sector.

“Chronic Vaginal Penetration”

Ishalini’s so-called employment at Bathiudeen’s residence was problematic at multiple levels. For example, she started to work at Bathiudeen’s house at the age of 15. Sri Lanka raised the minimum working age from 14 to 16 in March 2020. Therefore, employing her at the age of 15 in 2020 was illegal. According to Section 43 of the Education Ordinance, the compulsory education age is 16. But Ishalini was working as a “servant.” Illegal. Therefore, her rights were violated by a lawmaker at many levels. Would the law punish influential personalities like Rishad Bathiudeen for violating child protection laws? Highly unlikely.

However, a crime has clearly been committed. The postmortem report suggests that there were signs of “chronic virginal penetration.” In other words, Ishalini had repeatedly been raped. In this case, I am hesitant to use the word “alleged rape,” because there is no reason to doubt the postmortem report. She should have been in contact with a very few men when she was employed at Bathiudeen’s residence. According to information from the Indian Tamil community in Hatton, Ishalini had a highly restricted life at Bathiudeen’s house. Therefore, it should not be that difficult to identify and punish the perpetrator. At this point, it is not clear that Ishalini committed suicide or was murdered. Both were possible scenarios. Therefore, I am sure the authorities are looking into this aspect. Even if it was a suicide, someone or people contributed to her death.  Ishalini could not take the abuse. That’s why Ishalini committed suicide. I am not sure if there is a Sri Lankan law that penalizes encouraging suicide. If there is one, it should come into play in this case.

Police: Commendable Job

So far, the authorities have done a commendable job on this case. Two police teams were formed to investigate the matter. In addition, the Attorney General appointed a special team to provide legal advice. According to the latest reports, the police have made three arrests, including Bathiudeen’s wife, Ayesha Sheyabdeen Bathiudeen, and her father, Mohammed Sheyabdeen. In addition, the broker who facilitated Ishalini’s employment has also been arrested. The broker’s arrest is especially encouraging. However, until the perpetrator/s of the crime are produced in the court of justice and punished, nothing is guaranteed.

Therefore, it is important to continuously monitor this case and keep up the pressure so that it is not used as political leverage against Bathiudeen. The demand for justice for Ishalini is not against any community. On the contrary, we have a collective responsibility to demand justice for Ishalini.    

According to police spokesperson Senior DIG Ajith Rohana, another 22-year-old woman, who “served” at Bathiudeen’s residence, was also sexually assaulted while working. The police have arrested Bathiudeen’s brother-in-law, Sheyabdeen Ismadeen, on the charge of raping the 22-year-old woman. She was also from Daygama. The whole scenario imparts the impression that a sex trafficking ring was in operation. This aspect should also be investigated.   

Soft Slavery

At the root of Ishalini’s abuse, rape and death was the practice of employing Tamil plantation children as domestic servants. I hesitate to use the term “employment” because it is not employment in the traditional sense. It is soft slavery. These “servants” are not paid legal or reasonable wages, and the idea of off-days does not apply as they are expected to work 24-7. Many undergo severe physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their masters. It is an inhuman practice undertaken for cheap labor. Many middle-class people cannot afford regular servants due to their own poverty. Hence, they opt for a vulnerable group from the plantation sector. It is an irony that even super-rich people like Bathiudeen take advantage of this practice. But not surprising. For some, it is a (falls) status symbol. A poor-looking servant running behind the family and “serving” is a status booster. The practice should be demonized and banned. The argument that the “masters” are “employing” these children to help them and their families is nothing more than bull crap.

In Sri Lanka, no other social group “sell” their children as soft slaves like the Indian Tamil community. Every member of the community, fathers, mothers, community leaders, political leaders should be ashamed of the practice of sending their children as servants. The Indian Tamil community cannot wash its hand on the Ishalini issue, saying they are the victims. They are a part of the problem. Therefore, they have a responsibility to take action, socially and politically, to stop this practice. This is precisely why the arrest of the “broker” is encouraging. He/She should be handed over the maximum punishment.

*Dr. S. I. Keethaponcalan is a Professor of Conflict Resolution at Salisbury University, Maryland. Formerly, he was a Professor of Political Science at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.                             

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  • 13

    ” In other words, Ishalini had repeatedly been raped. In this case, I am hesitant to use the word “alleged rape,” because there is no reason to doubt the postmortem report.
    It is unfair to assume that this has been raped until proven. Chronic Vaginal Penetration can happen if the girl had consensual sex or inserted objects as she wished. The situations should be analyzed. At the same time if the laws boast of not allowing employing girls below 16 years, if so what assistance is it providing to them and their families to survive during COVID without any income and any assistance provided?
    She went in order to earn some money to pay for loans taken by her family. If any crime has been committed, it should be correctly analyzed and proper steps taken to find a solution and punishment without causing unnecessary sensations.
    Looking for Justice is not government Ministers or Presidents duty. There should be a proper machinery to operate in order to seek justice not involving politicians.

    • 10


      Chronic mean rape. It means it was forcibly done, and there are wounds and scars.

    • 1

      I am in full agreement with you. Alone the medical reports based on CVP can not prove that the victim should be raped.

      You know if an independent commission would search how many of the underage are being abused in this county yet today, mosty in sinhala house holds, lot more about so called child abuses would come to light. At the time, honourable Ranjan Ramanayaka revealed lot more about the sexual harasements of the SAMANERA monks, those who rule th ecountry today ridiculed it out and it then went dissppear under the carpet. Now again, in order to attack the MINORITIES derana TV has been misleading the nation again.
      This should be a single incident. At the time, a young man found dead in Wimal Buruwanse s house, they were keen on keeping it away from the media. That is how extrajudicial killing victims are kept away from the media in this country. Even so called SANGA community would not utter a single word about that..
      This is wonder land robbed out by Rajapakshe criminals..

      • 0

        You are right. The media is busy crucifying Bathiudeen, while nothing is said nowadays about that other 15 year old who was raped by over 30 men. Is it because two of the men were a Buddhist monk and a Navy officer?
        Bad for Buddhism and the Ranaviruwos to talk about it, no?

  • 17

    Well said Keetha: Two Muslim Politicians names are clearly implicated in the US CIA-Saudi funded and masterminded Easter Sunday attacks by the National Thowheed Jamaat in April 2019. They are Rishard Bathudeen and M.L.M Hizbullah, who dance with the US citizen Rajapakse Brothers political parties (SLFP-PP) and the US Puppet Ranil Wickramasinghe’s UNP and now the SJB.
    These 2 Muslim politicians, who are corrupt criminals on many fronts, are protected by the embassies of their Foreign Funders – US and Saudis embassies in Colombo and Ranil is on record saying that arresting these Muslims would cause a diplomatic crisis.
    The CIA which set up the ISIS uses Muslim politicians religious organizations in Asia and Africa as their Cats Paw and Scape Goats to stage ISIS, Al Quaida, Boko Haram, etc projects to destabilize, and loot Asian and African countries.
    There is a long well documented history of the how US partners with Saudi to Weaponize Islam and set up ISIS and promotes Isalophobia. Now the project in Asia to to state a Buddhist-Muslim Clash of Civilizations as part of the US Hybrid war on the Rise of Asia led by China as the Growth Center of the World.

  • 27

    May that poor child rest in peace. May her parents be comforted. How more evil can evil get? How depraved can these people be? Hope they found the perpetrator’s/s’ DNA in her. What a terrible time that child must have been through.

  • 7

    hose like you based in the US should take on the US military-business-media-Intelligence Complex which is addicted to WAR and now Spreading Global Surveillance under the Covid-19 mask and link it to BLM protests. The US economy is addicted to war and the US only manufactures weapons and the US military business industrial complex must be De_Funded. BLM protestors must focus on and US internal violence to its 800 overseas military bases all of which need to be de-funded.
    The immunity and impunity that Bathudeen and Hizbullah enjoy due to US and Saudi Patronage must be exposed and stripped. They BOTH need to be arrested for Easter 2019 carnage. Rishard for keeping slave labour and enabling sex crimes against children in his house.

    Keetha: as you know, there is a long well documented history of the how the US DeepState partners with Saudi to Weaponize Islam and set up ISIS and promotes Isalamophobia, while using Muslims as their Cat’s Paw and Scape Goat to destabilize countries.. Now the project in Asia, Africa and the Indian Ocean Region to to stage a Buddhist-Muslim Clash of Civilizations as part of the US Hybrid war on the Rise of Asia led by China as the Growth Center of the World.

    • 2


      So who’s going defund them sans nuclear war is the question. They might falter if autocratic rule comes along and stimulates war, or they become ultra liberal, lose their focus and needed extra money for social services to look after e.g. failing citizens. Either way nuclear way will be stimulated. In the meantime we must work with them. They have their good points and their B3W policy will surely take the world towards more global property. Then all can gradually dismantle their WMD.

      And Bathudeen has already been arrested. Rise of Isis has been an unfortunate reaction by the US protecting its interests over places like Russia threatening to destabilize the US. They used it just once as foreign policy and now find it impossible to dismantle. In the meantime, the test of the Arab work is working with US.

      Btw, don’t call me names. You damage your argument that way. I realize you are frustrated, but open your mind to greater realities.

      • 1

        And the Buddhist- Muslim clash of civilization has been also there for a long time. Difference is, when places like Burma become rich with Chinese money, they subjugate their Muslims even more. And China will turn a blind eye.

      • 1

        Ok….apologies….you didn’t call me names, and you did not refer to me.

  • 9

    There needs to be a clear law that employing under 18 years should be jailed. Also another law that sexual abuse of under 18 years even with so called consent should be jailed. Legal sexual discipline will reduce the drug mafia who mind control people to a frenzy of forgetting what is right and wrong. All this is due to money mania and the lopsided inability to do some job and get paid for it. Lock up the useless rest.

    • 6

      Only Muslim men can have sex with underage women legally.

  • 13

    I endorse every word said by DR. S. I. Keethaponcalan.The pressure should continue until the perpetrators are punished and until the rights of children and young girls are guaranteed, economically and socially and education as a tool for upward mobility is assured so that dignity and self respect of the vulnerable groups are secured . Then and only then, fundamental rights/human rights have a meaning.

    • 9

      You are right. Pressure should continue until the truth is come out not only in this case but also with other similar cases and socio economic status improved of vulnerable groups are secured. But this is not the first case in Sri Lanka and vulnerable groups are continued to suffer for many decades. Do we have a statistics on how many under aged children are employed or working as servants in this country or even how many servants by ethnicity are still working in the residence of our politicians. You may find such servants in the houses of Tamil up country parliamentarians. So, as long as the poverty remains and political culture remains corrupted it is just a call as usual.

  • 3

    Thank you.

  • 8

    Horrible tragedies like this should remind us that civilization is a flimsy facade. The sexual predator lurking among us will jump at the first opportunity to victimize a vulnerable person. No amount of religious preaching or moralizing about traditional virtues will ever effectively combat this evil. Only the full recognition of the human rights of children and women, sex education starting from an early age, and tough implementation of the law without any corruption – will adequately deal with the problem.

  • 6

    Guys who did not dare to open their mouths when Tamil terrorists grabbed thousands of Tamil children forcibly and recruited as child soldiers are shouting as saviors of children. Recruiting children as combatants is a war crime and a human rights violation. But no one is talking about punishing the perpetrators. Even the UNHRC that make big noise about war crimes and crimes against humanity is silent on this issue.

  • 8

    Eagle Eye:
    But they say the Tamil children had no choice, the Sinhala army was going to kill them anyway. The kids were fighting for survival … sort of. Whereas the well-fed Sinhala soldiers were killing to earn their living, with the full backing of the State and the forcibly-recruited children turned Saffron-Mafia.

    • 1

      lol.ROFL LMAO.

    • 2

      What a dumb argument to justify ruining the life of about 3000 children recruited by Tamil terrorists as child soldiers.
      If I understood correctly, UNHRC has decided not to charge Tamil terrorists who committed war crimes and human rights violations because they have been rehabilitated. Another dumb argument.
      “But they say the Tamil children had no choice, the Sinhala army was going to kill them anyway.”

  • 5

    The case about the murder of 16-year-old Ishalini at Bathiudeen’s house reminds me of the Sinhala saying “Puhul hora karen dane”.
    I saw “Puhul Hora” everywhere. While delaying police investigations, “Puhul Hora” organized protests in support of the murdered girl. Even before taking statements from Bathiudeen’s family members, “Puhul Hora” sent Police teams to ‘interrogate’ Ishalini’s mother. “Puhul Hora” even directed two State Ministers-of-What to find fault with Ishalini’s mother for employing her underaged daughter. “Puhul Hora” made sure everybody talks about the mother breaching the law by employing an underaged girl as a domestic aide and circumstances that led to it, instead of rape, harassments and murder. Although the mother sent her daughter to Bathiudeen’s house for work, she has visited the house four times within 9 months, which shows that she was concerned about her daughter’s safety and well being.
    Is it that difficult to ascertain whether the death of Ishalini was a suicide or a murder? First of all, it is highly unlikely a 16-year-old would take her life by pouring kerosene and then lighting her body. It looks like Ishalini has been set on fire when she was in a lying position. Why did they do that? The audio tape of the conversation between Ishalini and her mother will provide necessary information.

  • 3

    Justice For Ishalini & Soft Slavery
    What is the admission report injuries leading to hospital and police report while with wording of the victim when she was live that is on file justifyes the cause of death.

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