By Charles Sarvan –
Qadri Ismail, in his ‘Responding to Aluthgama‘ (Groundviews, 10 July 2014) is not writing about Tamils but about the vicious (state-countenanced, if not instigated) attack on Muslims by fanatical Buddhists. Yet passing comments can be revelatory and significant. I quote: “…during and after the war, the Sri Lankan military has systematically raped Tamil women – and, yes, even men – mostly in the north. Not occasionally or in a sudden fit of insanity. Systematically.” (For the full article, click here )
18 July 2014. The media today carries reports that two Tamils girls, aged 10 and 11, were raped in Jaffna by a Sinhalese sailor. The children are receiving treatment in hospital.
Other “incidents” involving adults pass unrecorded for several reasons. A complaint can be made only to the army who are, invariably, the perpetrators: sheep complaining to foxes and wolves about attacks by foxes and wolves. This, in turn, results in bullying and with punishment of different kinds. Why complain when there is no hope of justice and every possibility of further harm? Then there is the factor of shame, particularly in what is a “traditional” society: rape is often simply not talked about, much less reported.
But rape is a form of torture. It has been found that those who have been tortured, or have undergone a similar extreme experience, never recover. They never regain their former self, and remain for ever tortured or raped. In short, what was a single happening is, in fact, life-long.
Rape has both physical and psychological effects, among the latter are:-
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – feelings of severe anxiety and stress
Flashbacks – memories of rape as if it is taking place again
Guilt and shame
Distrust of others; uneasy in everyday social situations
Feelings of personal powerlessness – victims feel the rapist robbed them of control over their bodies
Suicide or attempted suicide
In Sri Lanka, in the areas occupied by the army – more in the North than in the East – a whole population has been delivered to security personnel to do what they will with them. Even Sinhalese civilians can act as they please vis-à-vis the Tamils knowing that the army and the police are with them.
This state of affairs is not dramatic, such as the shooting down of a Malaysian plane or the onslaught on Gaza, and so the world is unaware and, being unaware, unheeding.
I quote from Colombo Telegraph, 18 July 2014:
“The Colombo High Court sentenced UPFA strongman and former Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Sampath Chandrapushpa Vidanapathirana and three individuals to 20 years rigorous imprisonment for the murder of British national Khuram Shaikh and raping his girlfriend in December 2011.
There was heavy lobbying worldwide for the prosecution of Shaikh’s killers to which included the British government as well as the MP for Shaikh’s home constituency – Rochdale, Simon Danzuk. The delay in the proceedings of the murder case turned into a major issue in the run-up to the Commonwealth Summit in Colombo last year, which prompted the main suspect -Vidanapathirana’s indictment that was carried out soon after the conclusion of CHOGM last year.
Vidanapathirana and five others were accused of brutally murdering British national and International Red Cross worker Khuram Shaikh at a hotel in Tangalle on Christmas Eve of 2011. The men were also charged with assaulting and raping Shaikh’s girlfriend Victoria Alexandrona.”
Irrespective of the skin-colour, ethnicity or the class of the victim, rape is a heinous and utterly despicable crime; one that, by implication, shames all men. However, having said that, one notes the factors leading to conviction in this particular case: Khuram Shaikh was not only a British national but an employee of the International Red Cross. His female friend was not from some third-world country but a Russian national. Pressure was brought to bear on the Sri Lankan government by the British government at the highest level. In short, much was at stake for Sri Lanka. (No doubt, Sampath Chandrapushpa Vidanapathirana will receive special treatment while incarcerated and perhaps, as has already been suggested, once “the dust dies down” and attention shifts, his sentence will quietly be commuted for good behaviour.)
What then of the rape of anonymous women, “faceless”, voiceless and helpless? That such crimes are not vigorously investigated and most severely punished is a damning indictment of the government. At the least, by its inaction, the government is found to be guilty. It is particularly sad and ironic of an Island that claims to preserve the teachings of the Buddha is in its purest form. The essence of Buddhism is not power; not violence, bullying and rape but high morality and deep compassion. When a sailor, a member of the state’s armed forces commits rape with impunity then, finally, the state is the rapist.
Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? (Lamentations, 1:12)