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Destitute children from two orphanages in the Dambulla-Sigiriya area are allegedly being taken to a nearby hotel to be sexually abused by foreign perverts, a Sunday Times investigation has revealed.
This paedophile network, with now notorious Belgian connections, involves prominent hoteliers, travel agents and even a Buddhist monk, angry villagers told us.
When we visited the boys' and girls' homes, outwardly everything seemed to be prim and proper, but we sensed that something was wrong somewhere. Though reluctantly, an inmate revealed that the children were often taken to a hotel nearby, but she did not give further details, except to say the orphans had been taught to speak Belgian and German. The reasons were obvious.
Our information and investigations reveal that some officials and patrons of these homes include rich foreigners, tour operators and prominent Sri Lankans. It is alleged that others too are aware of these sordid happenings, but are ignoring or covering up the scandal. We found that two years ago an orphanage run by a Belgian in this area had been raided and subsequently a case filed for alleged sexual abuse of the children. The then Belgian Ambassador had called for an inquiry and sought details, but little information was received and the Belgian authorities themselves suspected a cover-up.
Recently a Belgian tour operator attached to one of the biggest tour groups in Antwerp opened an orphanage in Mattegoda. The chief guest was a senior government Minister. Ironically, Lions Club and a Rotary Club were also major contributors to the setting up of this home. When the conduct of Belgians in the child sex area are being questioned worldwide, local organizations need to be careful to whom they extend their benevolence, residents say.
This same Belgian tour operator is involved in running the Dambulla-Sigiriya orphanages, we found. So much so, the home for girls has been named after him.
When we investigated the two homes, it was clear that the children lacked nothing in material terms. The homes are well constructed and clean. The children enjoyed facilities that few other homes provided.
During the investigations we found the Administrative Director of one these orphanages, a monk, was a regular visitor to a hotel. An executive of a hotel is reportedly a major fund raiser for the orphanage, as he works closely with the Belgian tour operator in the travel trade, and he has visited Belgian in the cause of business.
We found that the girls' home has still not been registered. According to an official of the Department of Probation and Child care, the application for registration had been turned down by the Department because the board of management had not met the required standards. In other words, their credentials were in question. The Child care Commissioner has also written to the Police Chief requesting him to close down the orphanage, as it was suspected that unhealthy activities were taking place. According to the Orphanages Ordinance, any child to be taken into an institution has to go through the Department. But so far not a single child taken, by this illegal orphanage had been approved by the Department, Director S.Rannuge said. Moreover the orphanage itself is not functioning according to the rules of the Department, he said.
Obviously, officials of the orphanage were aware they are now under close scrutiny and our visit was eyed with suspicion. A girl in the absence of the matron said the inmates were no longer taken to the hotel, although five months ago when she had joined the orphanage, the girls had gone on such visits. Most workers in these orphanages have not been there for long. Most of them had joined just five months ago. The boys were not free to talk to us most of the time, as at least one of the ladies-in-charge made it a point to follow us.
The boys' home has 24 inmates, the youngest being just four years. The oldest boy at the home is 18 years old. These boys engage in brick making, which is sold to nearby hotel construction sites. Although the home earns considerably from these sales, the boys are paid, little or nothing. The inmates include orphans, children from broken homes, refugee children and children left voluntarily by mothers seeking employment abroad.
The people in the area around the boys' home are deeply concerned about regular visits by bus loads of foreigners. They also question the lifestyle of the Administrative Director.
Children of both these homes have foster parents, who send cash and gifts to them. It is alleged that the Belgian tour operator who organizes regular fund-raising events, encourages the participants to adopt Sri Lankan children. It is said that the two orphanages are maintained by the funds collected from these programs where nearly 1500 people participate. The Belgian tour operator is said to be funding the girls' home from his personal money.
An article in Leo Soir, a Belgian magazine describes Sri Lanka as a ' 'privileged destination for lovers of very young boys'. It says that unlike in Thailand or the Philippines, there are no bars or red light areas in Sri Lanka, but a well-organized network. The magazine says the paedophiles come mainly from Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavian countries. The report reveals that the biggest share of the money goes to the person who supplies the child, while the owner of the place also receives a share. Usually the foreigners who have access to children come back every year seeking a similar treat from one or two dozen children per day, the magazine reveals. The paedophiles pay nearly 6000 to 9000 Belgian Francs. (Rs.10,800 to Rs. 16,200)
We found that the Belgian authorities investigating the recent Detroux child abuse and murder scandal, have discovered that a Belgian tour operator who has opened up orphanages in Sri Lanka was allegedly involved in child abuse. The Provincial office of the Probation and Child care Department has been receiving complaints from villagers and accordingly the Provincial Commissioner in Kandy has visited the orphanage recently. The Divisional Secretary has written to the Provincial Commissioner stating that he would not allow a permanent deed to be given for the occupied land or permission to run the orphanage. The Kandy Provincial Commissioner in reply has questioned that if permission had been given for the functioning of the home, how and when the monk had got the approval.
A decision has not yet been taken regarding the boys' home in Dambulla. The main problem for the provincial probation officers is that there is no place where they could send the children if the home is closed.
The monk involved in this controversy said many people were against the opening of the orphanage and since it was successfully run they were spreading false stories about things happening in the boys' home. But he admitted that with the influx of tourists to Dambulla, exploitation of children could occur.
The head of the Child Desk at Police Headquarters, DIG Nizzam said legal snags and long-drawn trials which were a trauma to the child victims were problems which needed to be solved in tackling the issue.
Other police sources pointed out that in some developing countries where child sex was rampant, they had implemented laws where tourists who were even seen with local children could be prosecuted.
They said in latest paedophile arrests made in Negombo, a Swiss national had allegedly lured the children into sex through the viewing of child sex videos and other pornographic material. This paedophile had also helped these children financially. At the time of arrest the children tried to prove their innocence by saying they were going to the man's house for English tuition. This Swiss national who was living with his step daughter in a plush house held a resident Sri Lankan visa and was a leading businessman.
Already eight paedophiles have been arrested and deported. They were Belgian, Swiss, British, Canadian and German nationals.
We have gone as far as we could in exposing this horrible threat to our children. We have played our role as responsible journalists with a social consciousness. Now the Government must act.
It must be further noted that the law enforcement authorities should widen their investigative base and work closely with police stations around the island. It is our view that the law enforcement authorities have not grasped the magnitude of the problem which has plagued our country. It is important that the authorities investigate the number of new children's homes being set up by foreigners. There are many that have gone unnoticed. However we must take into account that the Child Desk set up by the police has just begun to function and it would take sometime before it widens its operations.
Prabhakaran, son of Velupillai, alias Thambi, alias Kari kalan, is indicted on 712 charges implicating him and his colleagues in the Central Bank carnage. Prabhakaran till recently, when the white dove of peace was perching on top of 'Subash Hotel', Jaffna, was not a terrorist but a militant. Nor was he the head of the most ruthless terrorist Organisation in the world.
You would perhaps wonder how the police got all this information, evidence and witnesses to show that Prabhakaran was directly involved in the Central Bank bombing. Though the whole world pointed the finger at him, how would one prove it in a court of law? Where is the evidence? Did the police get the assistance of Scotland Yard, the FBI, the CIA or the Mossad to solve this mystery? No, the evidence was always there, to prove most of the killings and the acts of terrorism committed by Prabhakaran & Co. No previous government or their Attorney Generals had taken meaningful steps within our legal framework, to charge him or even at least name him as a possible suspect. All governments believed that the Olive branch extended by Prabhakaran, covering the T 56 underneath it, was genuine. There are others who benefited by expounding the cause of Prabhakaran in the name of peace. These were the foreign funded N.G.O's. Prabhakaran with the help of these organizations, bought time, and discussed peace, when he was in a tight corner and then attacked more ferociously than ever before.
All right-thinking people who are firmly committed to the rule of law will applaud Attorney-General Sarath N. Silva for the bold step his department has taken in indicting Prabhakaran. These steps are long overdue but it is better late than never. At the same time, the public will pose this question to the genial A.G. "What about the assassination of President Premadasa and the Presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake?" When President Premadasa died the minds of our people were so conditioned that they gladly believed any rumor based on their petty likes and dislikes. They believed what they wanted to believe. Though even the simplest of arguments could be adduced to dispel such beliefs based on wild rumors, the believer did not want to reason out and reject these beliefs. One main reason for such rumors is that when someone is assassinated in this country, hardly anything happens in courts. No court inquires into these assassinations. Therefore, many people do not know what happens to the investigations. They believe there is some mysterious hand behind these murders. Therefore, no police officer would dare to investigate them.
When President Premadasa was killed some tabloids quickly put forward the suicide theory. The Criminal Investigations Department did a thorough investigation into the assassination. When the site of the crime was washed, some papers went to town, showing hidden motives.
It was politically expedient for the opposition to absolve the real killers and impute with conjecture that there were other dissidents in the UNP who were responsible for the murder of President Premadasa. The tabloids created so much confusion that the Premadasa family requested the appointment of a Special Presidential Commission to probe the assassination. When this request did not receive much attention it caused further concern and strengthened the rumor that President Premadasa was done to death by forces other than the LTTE and that is why the Government was not appointing a commission. It was so alleged by the tabloids and some people believed.
Most political murders of recent years took place during the 17 years of UNP rule. During this time the Emergency was in force and the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act were invoked. The Criminal Procedure Code was of little use in relation to acts of terrorism which included political killings. The police nevertheless continued with their investigations. Suspects were arrested and produced in court. As they were kept under detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act no inquiry was conducted by the Magistrate. The reports that were filed were secret reports; only the Magistrate and the Prosecution had access to them. It is believed that the dossier of statements of witnesses recorded by the police in relation to the assassination of President Premadasa gives explicit description of Prabhakaran's involvement, how Pottu Amman the intelligence chief of the LTTE, on the instructions of Prabhakaran kept Babu and others near vantage points and how Babu got access to 'Sucharitha' and how the assassination was accomplished. Any CID officer who assisted in the investigations, will confirm there is overwhelming evidence against Prabhakaran and Company to indict them for the murder of President Premadasa. If this is authentic, then the Attorney General must file another indictment against Prabhakaran and Co. for their involvement in the murder of President Premadasa The people will then know that the rumors conducted by some self seeking person are far from the truth.
When Gamini Dissanayake and other prominent members of the UNP leadership were killed by a female suicide bomber, the IGP came over the media and said there was not enough evidence to conclude that the LTTE was behind the killing. From the manner in which the explosion took place, it was evident, who was behind the killing. When Rajiv Gandhi was killed, within minutes the 'BBC' quoted the local police and said that Mr. Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber of the LTTE. The Indian police conducted investigations and framed charges against Prabhakaran implicating him with the murder of Rajiv Gandhi. The action taken by the Indian police removed any doubts as to the involvement of the LTTE. The people in India knew about the arrest of LTTE suspects and paid no heed to the rumors.
The action taken by the Indian Government in charging the leaders of the LTTE with the murder of Rajiv Gandhi was not taken kindly by the LTTE. The LTTE propaganda machine is handled by veterans. They, against all odds, were trying to absolve their leader from this crime. We suffer from such myopia that when it suits us, for petty political gain, we would accuse the former regime for some of the killings committed by the LTTE. Remember the wall graffiti when Lalith Athulathmudali was killed some accused Gamini of planning it while the DUNF accused the UNP leadership, Tigers revel in such situations. The police had enough evidence against the LTTE. The UNP never had the guts even to name Prabhakaran as a suspect. The position would have been quite different if, immediately after the death of President Premadasa, Prabhakaran was named as a suspect and he and others were charged with the assassination.
Some cynics are laughing at the idea of indicting Prabhakaran. Any law student will tell that even though summons or a warrant may never be served or executed on Prabhakran after the necessary proclamations, evidence can be led in the High Court in absentia. And if he is found guilty only a Presidential pardon will reprieve him of the sentence. It was the politicization of our police and the Attorney-General's department that prevented taking steps against Prabhakaran and not the want of evidence. There are few committed police officers who have specialized in investigating into terrorist activities. They have by sheer perseverance and dedication been able to detect the activities of the Tigers.
Kandiah Lingeswaran was arrested on September 6, 1993 near Pettah, while he was traveling in a bus to go to Wellawatte. The Naval officers who arrested him found a pistol in his pocket. Lingeswaran was handed over to the Army. It is alleged that he confessed he was involved in the murder of Lalith Athulathmudali. In his confession he is alleged to have said of Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman were involved in the conspiracy. Senior CDB officers are quite conversant with the procedure involving the recording of confessions, and the difficulty to bring home a conviction when the suspects are charged in court merely on the strength of the confession. The Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations make confessions admissible if recorded by a police officer not below the rank of an Assistant Superintendent of Police. Nonetheless the courts always treat these confessions with circumspection. Whether the confession is voluntary is ascertained before the courts act on the confession. It is quite natural for the suspects to challenge the confessions adducing duress, coercion or torture.
It is indeed a spectacle to see the state counsel leading evidence of the police officer, and striving to impress the court what a kind hearted gentleman the police officer was when he recorded the confession. He would dare not raise even a finger against the accused. They would infer that the suspect was so impressed by the kindness and mercy shown by the police officer that he was compelled to pour out his heart's contents, and tell the truth and nothing but the truth.
Then on the other hand the defense would suggest all manner of torture which may in today's context surpass putting the suspect on the 'rack'. The courts after a long drawn out inquiry usually reject the confession stating that it had been obtained involuntarily by the police by the use of third degree methods. Thus the case gets thrown overboard and the accused gets out scot free. This may even happen though there may be other evidence to corroborate the testimony of the suspect, like the recovery of items including weapons. It is a mockery to say that confessions are obtained by the police without any threat or compulsion. It is equally ridiculous to say that all confessions are false and the police are constantly framing people. It is alleged that the police extort confessions unlawfully, but nevertheless get most valuable evidence from them. Due to these restraints CDB officers seek a fool proof method of obtaining conviction in court. They were advised presumably by the A.G.'s department. If the accused had decided to confess and if the police were convinced that Lingeswaran was one of the prime suspects in the murder of Lalith Athulathmudali, then the best option available to the police was to take the suspect before a Magistrate and get him to record the confession. In this procedure there was this risk; if the accused denies his involvement in the alleged offense to the Magistrate then that will ensure to the benefit of the accused.
The police took the additional precaution in producing Lingeswaran before the Chief Magistrate Colombo. A judicial confession was recorded in two days. Immediately after the confession was recorded Lingeswaran was named as a suspect in the Lalith Athulathmudali murder. What happened to Lingeswaran thereafter is very interesting. The confession made to a judicial officer, the Chief Magistrate Colombo was sufficient under normal circumstances to indict the suspect. Then it is the function of the High Court judge to decide whether the confession made by Lingeswaran, alias Rahulan, alias Palan, alias Thuna, was admissible or not or whether the confession was voluntary or not? But Lingeswaran was called by the Commission. There he alleged that when he made the confession to the Magistrate in his chamber, a CDB officer who interrogated him was present in the chamber of the Chief Magistrate. A lawyer who is practicing at the Magistrate Court, told me that the Chief Magistrate was highly respected by every member of the bar and was a judge of the highest caliber. He was shocked to hear that one would dare to allege that the Chief Magistrate would record a confession in the presence of the police. Lingeswaran is no longer a suspect in the Lalith Athulathmudali murder case; nor is his name called with 'Soththi Upali and the others'. What has happened to him no one knows.
Srima Dissanayake, the widow of the late Gamini Dissanayake, has lamented and expressed concern over the delay in appointing a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry to probe the assassination of her husband. I do not know whether any one addressed his mind to the terms of reference in the warrant appointing the said Commission. I give below the terms of reference as I perceive it
( I) Whether after the election of Gamini Dissanayake as the presidential candidate of the UNP, the government controlled media make deliberate and malicious attempts to tarnish his name as the person or one of the persons responsible for burning the Jaffna Library. Was there a direction to systematically carry out this campaign in order that the Tigers could later justify the assassination of Gamini Dissanayake?
(2) Was there a deliberate attempt by the authorities to prevent Mr. Dissanayake from holding a meeting at Grandpass or at Kotahena at the usual places where political meetings are held? Did someone who knew about this murder directed the authorities to allow Mr. Dissanayake to hold this meeting as planned only near the; Thotalanga Public Market which was most suitable for the planned attack?
(3) Did any politician or politicians know about the assassination in advance and did he or they say that the Grandpass Totalanga meeting will be the last meeting of Gamini Dissanayake?
(4) Did Lawrence Thilakar leave his abode in Paris and fly to Singapore a few days before the said murder? Did Thilakar meet anyone and have a secret discussion which may have had a bearing on Gamini Dissa-nayake assassination?
(5) Soon after the assassination, was there a conscious attempt by the Government to absolve the LTTE and implicate dissident groups of the UNP with the killing?
(6) Did LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham justify the killing?
Mrs. Dissanayake must note whether the commission is held now or in the future, the people of this country have had enough of listening to official witnesses who are either interdicted, charge sheeted or not promoted, or waiting for an extension of their service, giving evidence, or to listen to alleged self confessed murderers, heroin addicts, prostitutes and other criminals, implicating politicians and others who are out of office. Even if the King Sathyawadi Harischandra gives evidence he will not be believed by the public.
I believe there is overwhelming evidence available with the CID to indict Prabhakaran and Co for the murder of Gamini Dissanayake.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that his party will not give any promise that cannot be fulfilled. The most attractive promise he could give to the educated voter, and to the intelligentsia of this country is to repeal of the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry Act. This horrendous piece of legislation can be used by any regime to character assassinate their political opponents.
The other promise would be to remove Criminal defamation from the Penal Code. But as via media I would suggest that if anyone who cries that a certain newspaper has defamed him, he should be able to prosecute the Editor only by way of a private plaint, and not involve the state machinery to investigate and prosecute editors.Continue to the News/Comment page 5 - * Chin-Chin Kollas for Sinhala Kellas, * Japan: one-dimensional Superpower
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