More trained personnel to combat child abuse
By Faraza Farook
With child abuse proving to be a serious problem and the need for counselling
increasingly felt, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) is to
concentrate on skills development of multi-disciplinary sectors this year,
Prof. Harendra de Silva said.
In addition to increasing its activities regards awareness and advocacy,
amending laws and improving rehabilitation programmes, the NCPA will concentrate
largely on training counsellors, psychologists, police etc. to deal with
the problem of child abuse.
'We are hoping to have training programmes for different sectors. We
want to train counsellors in schools and ensure that each school has at
least one counsellor,' Prof. de Silva said.
With the aid of a World Bank funding which is yet to be approved, the
NCPA has drawn up a five-year plan for training psychologists and counsellors,
and going down to the grassroots level to train every person who will have
to deal with the issue.
Prof. de Silva said foreign trainers are to be invited to conduct a
training programme for psychologists, which is to be held by the end of
More counsellors are to be recruited and trained to carry out NCPA programmes,
Prof. de Silva said. He said in the next one and half years, the NCPA,
with the help of funds from the International Society for Prevention of
Child Abuse and Neglect plans to conduct training programmes for multi
Moreover, several amendments to laws are to be introduced, Prof. de
Under awareness and advocacy the NCPA is to distribute three new posters
to hospitals and schools, which convey messages on child abuse. The production
of video songs and tele documentaries mainly in the form of teledramas
are to play a major role in disseminating information on child abuse to
Meanwhile, the Government has allocated a ward at the Kandana hospital
for the NCPA to set up a rehabilitation centre. Presently repairs and refurbishment
work is being carried out to accommodate the centre.
While advancement in technology has given rise to abuse over the internet
and abuse by paedophiles is a major problem especially along the coastal
belt, incidents of incest rank much higher in Sri Lanka with many mothers
going to West Asia for employment.
A report on the' Good practices in combating sexual abuse and sexual
exploitation of children and youth in Asia' by the Economic and Social
Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has commended the national
coordination mechanism called on by the NCPA in tackling child abuse. The
ESCAP report was released at the recently concluded Second World Congress
Against Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Japan in December where
120 countries participated.
The 5th report on the Implementation of the Agenda for Action adopted
at the First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
held in Stockholm, Sweden in August 1996 ranked Sri Lanka among 20 countries
where serious attempts were being made to combat the problem. Sri Lanka
and Nepal were the only two countries in the South Asian region to be included
in that list.
TULF wants people power for peace
By Chris Kamalendran
TULF President M. Sivasithamparam who returned to Sri Lanka yesterday after
medical treatment abroad called on the all communities to come together
in building on the peace initiative taken by the new government.
He said the Ranil Wickremesinghe government had in its first month shown
the people and the world it was sincere in its efforts to find a lasting
political solution. While countries like Norway and India were throwing
their full weight behind the peace moves, it was necessary for people of
all communities also to come forward to take initiative to improve the
environment for peace.
Meanwhile a Norwegian delegation is due to arrive in Sri Lanka this
week to brief the government on talks held in London with LTTE spokesman
Anton Balasingham on Friday. The Norwegian delegation for the London talks
included Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen, special envoy Erik Solheim
and Kjersti Tromsdal of the Foreign Office.
According to reports, the LTTE spokesman welcomed the government moves
to address humanitarian issues first by relaxing the economic embargo on
the north to allow a free flow of goods.
The Norwegian initiative came after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
and LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran formally requested Oslo to resume
its facilitatory role.
People's peace group going north
By Shelani Perera
More than 3000 people will visit Wanni next month in a familiarisation
and goodwill visit to the North in the wake of peace talks between the
Government and the LTTE.
The visit which is organised by the Association for Servicemen Missing
in Action is schedule to begin on January 26. The group will hand over
5000 gift parcels to families in the area along with greeting cards from
The Association's president, E.P. Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times
they had got permission for ten members to meet the LTTE political wing
"We will tell the LTTE of the people's desire to have peace and stress
that peace talks are the only way out of the conflict. Our priority will
be to bring peace to the country, this can be done by encouraging both
parties to come to the negotiating table. We feel that once this is achieved
we can also get our children released and also stop the war," he said.
Mr. Nanayakkara said the people's peace group would travel to the north
in 75 buses.
Eighteen vehicles still at large
Eighteen vehicles belonging to the former Forest and Environment Ministry
now titled Environment and Natural Resources, which were used by PA political
supporters have yet to be returned by them though the last date for such
return was January 1.
The numbers of these vehicles are: Izuzu trooper jeeps 65-1572, 65-1574
and 65-1577, a Toyota double cab 59-1276, Mercedes Benz 65-0957 and Pajero
32-2427 all listed under ex-minister D.M. Jayaratne. A BMW 18-5711, Volvo
300-0622 , Pajeros 65-0622 and 32-9913 and an Izuzu Trooper 65-1578 all
listed under ex-minister Nandimithra Ekanayake.
A Mitsubishi 65-3185, double cabs 58-0072, 64-1350 and 32-9912 listed
under ex-Deputy Minister Munidasa Premachandra.
The other vehicles still to be returned are 17-6673, 32-3629 and an
Transvestites at the receiving end
Despite strict laws banning homosexuality in Sri Lanka the Police who are
supposed to curb the practice are themselves brutally indulging in homosexuality
harassing transsexual sex workers, a study has revealed.
One of the biggest harassments faced by transvestites who practice homosexuality
is from the Police, Assistant Professor of Criminology of the University
of Missouri – St. Louis, Jody Miller says in her research on violence and
harassment against Sri Lanka's transsexual sex workers.
Her research focusing on the violence, coercion, culture and the law
governing these sex workers has revealed that police and sometimes Army
personnel harshly harass transvestites, because they are gay, but at the
same time use their services.
"The Police take advantage of the fact that transsexual guys are scared
and have a feeling of insecurity and thus harass them," Ms. Miller said.
Much harassment by adolescents and young men in their 20s also takes place.
According to Ms. Miller, Police and Army personnel pick on transvestites
and ask them to perform sexual acts. No payment is made for the services,
instead, the policemen grab any money in their possession. Sometimes, policemen
watch-out for clients who pick a transgender sex worker and then pounce
on the client to extort any money he has.
In one incident, 37 men in remand prison had anally and orally raped
a transgender sex worker arrested and kept in remand overnight, Ms. Miller
said. "The guards did nothing and for days after that, the man couldn't
sit down while his face was swollen and bruised," she said.
Transgendered persons, Ms. Miller explains, feel they are men on the
outside but inside they feel 'like women'.
"They have a feminine identity. Thus, they sometimes dress like women,
pluck their eye brows, wear make up and their love for men is like that
of a woman" she said.
Most transgender sex workers keep their activities a secret from their
homes, Ms. Miller noted. She said that while none have been rejected from
their family, most keep their activities such as wearing women's clothes
and engaging in sex work to themselves.
Their clientele is men and they serve only as homosexuals. However,
their clients are not necessarily homosexuals as they come from varied
walks of life – some young, some old and others married. Most of them start
very young and work mostly on the streets. It was interesting to note that
these men who have embraced feminism address their colleagues as nangi
The youngest encountered during the research was an 18-year-old, Ms.
Miller said while the oldest was 41 or 42, the average age being the late
20s. Many of those in their late 20s were worried about what their future
will hold, she said as they began to worry if they would become less desirable
which will mean that they will lose their only source of income – sex work.
The research has also revealed that many transgender sex workers expressed
concern about sexually transmitted diseases. It was also noted that despite
insistence on the use of condoms, clients often refused to use them. Regardless
of the many awareness campaigns on sexually transmitted diseases, it seemed
that the clients were the least interested in practicing safe sex.
Transgender sex workers are largely concentrated in Colombo while some
are in Anuradhapura, Ms. Miller said. Despite being largely discriminated
against by society, transgender sex workers have a demand and homosexuality
has grown to be a big industry in Sri Lanka. Yet, Sri Lanka's Vagrants
Ordinance and the Penal Code against homosexuality continues to be in place
depriving homosexuals of their right to live free of stigma and harassment.
In 1995, the law governing homosexuality was expanded after much opposition
from various groups when a minister took it up for repeal.
"Society is being hypocritical," Ms. Miller said, adding, "Society stigmatises
homosexuals as being gay, but this same society seeks their services".
Incidentally, the harassment of transgender sex workers was much harsh
than that of women sex workers. Since Sri Lanka has a male dominated society,
Ms. Miller says, people don't find a man acting like a woman acceptable
while a woman being dominant like a man is accepted.
Transvestites are not seen as fully-grown human beings who deserve human
rights and since these men take on a female identity, the situation is
made even worse, she noted. There are multiple stigmas in being transgender
for three reasons – being sex workers, being homosexual and having a feminine
However, homosexuality is the least accepted even in the western world
except in the state of Vermont in the US where a law has been passed allowing
homosexual marriages. In many countries the practice has not been accepted
legally though there is cultural acceptance, Ms. Miller said.
Iqbal Athas case
Evidence concluded: addresses begin
By Ananda Kumara
The evidence given by the Defence Correspondent and Consultant Editor of
The Sunday Times Iqbal Athas, was a fair account of what happened in his
house that night.
If there were slight contradictions they could be ascribed to the state
of shock and fear that he was in when a pistol was pointed at his head,
said Senior State Counsel Preethi Padman Surasena before High Court Judge
Sarath Ambepitiya on Thursday.
He was making his address at the conclusion of evidence in the Iqbal
In this case Air Force officers Squadron Leader H.M. Rukman Herath former
bodyguard of the Air Force Commander and Squadron leader S.S.P. Kannangara
who was in charge of the Special Airborne Force were indicted with committing
criminal trespass, intimidation and unlawful entry with weapons into Mr.
Athas' residence in Nugegoda on February 12, 1998.
Continuing his address Mr. Surasena said the CID took over the investigation
when it was found that the Mirihana police had not been impartial in their
State Counsel said the defence position was that the two accused had
gone to Mr. Athas' residence looking for women but that position could
not be true as the evidence of the aide Subramaniam was that was they told
him that they wanted to publish an article in the newspaper and wanted
to see Mr. Athas.
The defence also tried to make a point of Mr. Athas having mentioned
about a pistol being held to his head only after 13 days but Subramaniam
had in his evidence on the day of the incident itself said that he saw
the intruders pointing a pistol at his master's head. The defence story
was as attempt to misrepresent the facts to court, counsel said.
The defence position on the identification parade was that photographs
of the two accused were shown to Mr. Athas and his wife. Mr. Surasena raised
the question as to why Mr. Athas had identified only one accused and his
wife also identified another while Mr. Subramaniam could identify none.
The first accused did not make any statement from the dock and it was
the defence witness Eric Amaranath Weerasinghe, an Air Force officer, who
said that he saw the first accused at the Officers' Mess at 9.05 p.m. on
that day by which he tried to show that the first accused was not in a
position to be in Mr. Athas' house.
However later when he was cross examined it was proved that his evidence
The witnesses for the complainant were from various institutions and
they had no connection with the investigation of this case Therefore nobody
can charge that their evidence was false and that it was fabricated.
In addition counsel said that for the purpose of proving that the accused
was somewhere else when the incident took place it should be proved that
the said person was practically unable to go to that place at the same
time due to the distance between the two places.
Otherwise that defence could not be accepted.
It cannot be said that the identification parade was not conducted properly
merely depending on the fact that a witness could identify one suspect
and he could not identify others.
The defence witness Sqn. Ldr. Eric Weerasinghe said that he had no personal
interest in this case but later it was revealed that he had gone to the
Gangodawila Magistrate's Court to meet the accused.
At first he denied having gone but later when a photograph of him with
the accused was shown to him he accepted the fact that he had met the accused.
He said he went on official duty. However later it was revealed that he
and the accused were at a party together.
Weerasinghe gave evidence in uniform and thereby tried to show that
he was representing the Air Force but later he was asked to show cause
by his senior officers why he donned uniform when he gave evidence.
Mr. Surasena raised a question why the first accused did not make any
statement from the dock that he was in his official residence at that time
if he really had been at home.
President's Counsel Srinath Perera appearing for the first accused stated
he wanted to establish two points-that the identification parade was not
conducted properly and that his client was in the Mess when the incident
He said that the incident complained of might have happened but his
client was not involved in it.
He was at his official quarters at the time of the offence.
The witness had made his statement independently without even knowing
at that time that the first accused would be indicted in a criminal case.
Counsel said several Air Force officers were questioned by the CID in
connection with the alleged incident but the identity cards of only the
two accused were taken by the CID and handed back more than 45 minutes
It was questionable that only those two people were indicted.
It would seem that the CID wanted to somehow bring this case to a completion
as the newspapers had given much publicity to the incident.
Referring to the identification parade counsel said a police officer
had gone to Mr. Athas' house to inform him of the parade.
Normally a telephone massage would have been given for Mr. Athas to
be present but in this case there was a deviation. It was probable that
the police officer carried with him the photographs of the accused.
Counsel submitted that there was an invisible hand behind all this effort
to indict his client. In fact defence witness Sqn. Ldr. Weerasinghe was
transferred to Mankulam after he gave evidence.
Further proceedings were adjourned for January 17.
Senior State Counsel P. P. Surasena with State Counsel Amendra Seneviratne
appeared for the prosecution.
Mr. Srinath Perera PC with Christopher de Alwis appeared for the first
accused. Mr. Anil Silva appeared for the second accused. Mr. Daya Perera
PC with T.G. Gunasekera watched the interests of the aggrieved party, Iqbal
and Anoma Athas.