By Tush Wickramanayaka –
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brother hood – United Nations Charter 1945
Equality, Justice, Hope
What do you do when a young citizen is ignored as a right’s holder by the Government and judiciary of Sri Lanka? You go to the UNHRC in Geneva!
“We have the honor to inform you that your communication dated 18th August 2019, which you submitted to the Human Rights Committee for consideration under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, acting on your own and on behalf of your minor daughter A L W C, has been registered as communication No 3793/2020.
In accordance with rule 92 of the Committee’s rules, a copy of the communication has been sent to the State party today, with the request that any information or observation in respect of the question of admissibility and merits of the communication reach the Committee.”
The State Party has until March 2021 to respond.
“We have the honor”…the honor…that a child of a small community of 25 million citizens reached out to the Supreme High Command that ensures the rights of 7.8 billion humans. It’s a drop in the ocean but every drop is counted as EQUAL and everything we do in the name of our children MUST be in the best interest of the child; universal gospel of child protection.
This is a case where the entire child protection mechanism failed highlighting the gross inefficiencies that leave our vulnerable children at risk. When authorities are crippled, when officials are immune and when systems fail to ensure the welfare of citizens, it is inevitable that individuals and civil society organizations step up to resolve such inadequacies. Such national level activities are often labeled as NGO falsely insinuating that activists are propagating a foreign agenda for which they are handsomely funded. This is a feeble attempt to discredit and harass the activists whose honest intentions are to create equality, justice and hope for their own citizens.
When my daughter was forced to kneel in front of a male teacher and physically hurt for the nth time at Gateway College, Negombo in 2018, the Chairman, Harsha Alles and Principal, Devika Alldis actively contributed to mentally abuse a defenseless 11 year old. Tools utilized to harass us were Stickers, WhatsApp groups, Alumini FB posts, Website and letters “urging” two bright stars that brought Glory to Gateway in Academics and Extra Curricular Activities to leave the school succeeded in breaking the spirit of two young citizens.
To this date Gateway has refused to establish a Safeguarding Policy recommended by Pearson Edexcel International, a transparent Complaints Mechanism or ensure compulsory Child Psychology Training as a minimum qualification for all staff. The total lack of responsibility and accountability to safeguard a child whilst in their guardianship is the ultimate dishonesty of an award winning educator. Read more here.
The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and Attorney General (AG) are deliberately dragging their feet on filing criminal charges. On 2nd February 2019, the seventh calling date of my daughter’s case, the NCPA informed the Hon Magistrate that the Attorney General had instructed to file charges on Penal Code 314, Simple Assault instead of the 308A Cruelty without considering the evidence from Government Analyst’s Report. The Hon Magistrate refused to accept the instructions. More than one and half years later, the case has not moved an inch forward due to the lethargy of AG and NCPA.
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) violated my child’s rights in cold blood. In August 2019, at a special inquiry conducted by the Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crimes and Witnesses, my daughter was diagnosed with Severe Mental Abuse for the third consecutive time. Hamid Ghazali Hussain, Commissioner of HRCSL and Board Member of the Authority who was a panelist at the special inquiry on 8th August 2019 deliberately absconded from signing the 30 paged comprehensive report and the investigation remains unresolved. Although such unethical persons should be banned from holding public office, I am certain they will resurface in service copulating dishonesty.
Sri Lanka Police attempted to dismiss the case by siding with the abusers. OIC Seeduwa Police acknowledged he was manipulated by Gateway Authorities and admitted to unprofessional conduct in harassing me on his official FB page calling me “pissu”. He was later transferred, allowing such scumbags to remain in Sri Lanka Police permitting abuse of other victims but the complaint to National Police Commission remains unresolved.
The lid of the coffin of child protection was laid in November 2019 when Maithripala Sirisena as outgoing President caused a devastating shock by pardoning Jude Jayamaha, ‘Royal Park’ murderer. Jude Jayamaha from a wealthy high profile family was convicted to 12 years in prison. He murdered a Swedish teenager in 2005 outside of her family apartment. His subsequent appeal against his jail term was rejected and he was sentenced to death instead, a sentence upheld by the Supreme Court in 2014.
The lid of the coffin was nailed firmly shut by the incumbent President Rajapaksa on 28th March 2020, when he released Staff Segent Ratnayake, ‘Mirusivil murderer’ shocking the Covid-19 ravaged island paradise into utter disbelief. This commenced the downward spiral of national crisis in child protection leading to three consecutive cases of gruesome sexual abuse ending in murders of 7 month old, 11 year old and 17 year old children and record breaking revelation by Sri Lanka Police that a child is sexually molested every two hours since January 2020.
The blatant dishonesty of the Grand Daddy of our nation when he promised to protect our children by creating a safe and secure land is unfathomable.
It is indeed an honor when citizens, especially the younger citizens appreciate their rights and responsibilities. It is an honor when the citizens are bold and courageous to hold the Authorities accountable to promote and protect the rights of citizens. It is an honor when the citizens are empowered not only to ensure the rights for themselves but to become beacons of fortitude to generations that follow. After all, as global citizens of the 21st century, the final deliberation of the UNHRC in this case will help mold child protection into a binding cast on a platform never reached before in Sri Lanka and worldwide.
We do not expect miracles but we strive for a glimpse of EQUALITY, JUSTICE AND HOPE to the inhabitants of our paradise island!
*Dr Tush Wickramanayaka, Chairperson, Stop Child Cruelty Trust