By Tush Wickramanayaka –
Conduct a Thorough and Impartial Investigation – Are you Serious?
Do you recall the helpless 11year old who was subjected to corporal punishment in school, isolated, called a buffalo, refused an eraser, refused a toilet break, refused participation in class activities resulting in mental breakdown? No….?
How about the 11year old girl whose case file was taken home by Mrs Kusum Jayawardena, staff member at Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), who divulged the information to family and school, which resulted in a cascade of events leading to severe mental abuse? Yes, of course you do….!
My complaint of corporal punishment at Gateway College, Negombo was accepted by HRCSL in January 2018. After commencing inquiries with Ministry of Education, Seeduwa Police and Board of Investment (BOI), the case was abandoned in April 2018 claiming that International Schools do not fall within the purview of Human Rights Commission. Obviously, this fact was known to those conducting the inquiries who were convinced of the severity of the incident, which prompted use of legitimate discretion to intervene promptly. However, it appears that HRCSL buckled due to external pressures. There has been no effort made to ensure that all students of Sri Lanka are protected by the Ministry of Education Circular No 12/2016 banning Corporal Punishment, currently applicable only to government schools causing stark discrimination against a large population of our children.
I made over five phone calls and 2 emails requesting an appointment to meet you, wrote three letters directly appealing to you, spent over three hours in one day at the Commission meeting various officials but I have not heard a murmur from you to date. Your lack of empathy is unfitting to hold such a prestigious public post, funded by tax payers like me.
I find your statement, “The Commission urgently calls for a thorough and impartial investigation” regarding the alleged abduction of Employee of Swiss Embassy, neither a government nor a private institution of Sri Lanka, hypocritical and laughable!
HRCSL Attains A Grade Accreditation – Are you Serious?
HRCSL was established via Act No 21 of 1996. There is no section on Conduct of Staff or Disciplinary Procedures relevant to Staff.
I complained to HRCSL on 29/01/2018. On 16/02/2018, Mrs Kusum Jayawardena shockingly confessed to taking my daughter’s case file home and divulging confidential information. This conversation was recorded by me. On 19/02/2018, Commissioner, Ambika Sathgunandan, whilst listening to the recorded conversation, held her head in utter disbelief of what she referred to as “Serious Breach of Confidentiality”. She admitted such serious professional misconduct had NEVER occurred at the Commission.
On 19/02/2018, I re-submitted a seven page complaint of the corporal punishment and a separate four page complaint regarding the “Serious Breach of Confidentiality”, requesting an urgent inquiry and appropriate disciplinary action.
A Staff Member of HRCSL commits a serious violation of Human Rights setting a new national record!
HRCSL Violates Paris Principles – Are you Serious?
Adopted in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, the Paris Principles require National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to:
Protect human rights, including by receiving, investigating and resolving complaints, mediating conflicts and monitoring activities; and
Promote human rights, through education, outreach, the media, publications, training and capacity building, as well as advising and assisting the Government.
After months of failed communication, in July 2018, the Commission requested a copy of the call recording. I was hopeful and looking forward to finally be able to explain how an innocent child was subjected to inhumane mental abuse as a consequence of lapse of judgement by Mrs Kusum. I was determined to set a precedence in ‘lessons learned and reconciliation’ process where we could collectively act to avoid similar circumstances and spare the mental torture of victims and families.
However, I received a letter on 28/01/2019 from Secretary, HRCSL. “I wish to inform you that the matter was taken up at the board level of the Commission on 15/11/2018…The Board was of the opinion that Mrs Kusum had indeed discussed the complaint with her family members. Mrs Kusum was requested for explanation of the matter after which she explained herself and expressed remorse for her conduct. Hence the Board decided to close the matter…”
The matter was concluded without any opportunity for the complainant to attend the inquiry, there was no investigation made to the welfare of the victim, there was no mediation done to stop further abuse of the victim and there was no monitoring done to ensure the victim and family are spared of harassment.
HRCSL neither protects nor promotes the Human Rights of a child!
The Plot Thickens – Are you Serious?
Following the saga of events of ongoing harassment of the entire family, I complained to National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crimes and Witnesses, established via Act No 4 of 2015.
Hamid Ghazali Hussain, Commissioner of HRCSL and Board Member of the Authority was a panellist at the special inquiry on 08/08/2019. He revealed that you and he were members of the Board that concluded Mrs Kusum’s case. Mr Hussain insisted that certain comments made by me expressing my displeasure at the way HRCSL mishandled my daughter’s case resulting in compromise of my child’s welfare were struck off the record. On 15/08/2019, at the third successive medical examination, it was concluded unequivocally that my daughter had suffered severe mental abuse at Gateway College. Even though the other two panelists have signed the final report, Mr Hussain has deliberately refrained to do so, preventing the prosecution of perpetrators. Please listen to attached call recording bellow:
At the dawn of a new political era, when the citizens are desperately clinging to the faintest hope of change, in a country riddled with corruption where the law is from a scene of a Western cowboy movie and justice is a scene from La-la Land, we hear the helpless explanation from a decent civil servant of the Authority, “apita wada ihalin inna ayata erehiwa karanna puluwan dewal seemithay” (we cannot take action against the people above us).
Your statement regarding the alleged Swiss Embassy incident, “Not only must justice be done on behalf of the young woman who may be traumatized …the larger issue of the need to reassure the public must also be addressed’, is ironic.
HRCSL requires an urgent and thorough clean up like the rest of the country!