Tangalle killing of a British citizen on Christmas Eve 2011  | Namini Wijedasa in an exclusive e mail interview with victim’s brother Nasir Shaikh Every day, even when snow lies deep on the ground, Mohammed Shaikh visits a grave at the Rochdale Cemetery to mourn the passing of a son who was murdered in Sri Lanka. [...]


Khuram killing: Brother asks will justice prevail despite inordinate delay


Tangalle killing of a British citizen on Christmas Eve 2011  | Namini Wijedasa in an exclusive e mail interview with victim’s brother Nasir Shaikh

Every day, even when snow lies deep on the ground, Mohammed Shaikh visits a grave at the Rochdale Cemetery to mourn the passing of a son who was murdered in Sri Lanka.

Khuram Shaikh, a 32-year-old British Red Cross worker, was stabbed to death in Tangalle on Christmas Eve, 2011. His family said yesterday, they could not understand why his case was being held up.

“It is extremely disappointing,” Khuram’s brother, Nasir, told the Sunday Times via email. “The wheels of justice are moving far too slowly. To take so long to complete the investigation and then to give them bail and bring no charges, sends out the wrong signal.”What is happening is very much at odds with the assurances the family was given by senior officials, in the aftermath of Khuram’s death. “When you hear eyewitnesses to the attack on the BBC, explaining very clearly what happened, you wonder why they’re not making progress on this case,” Nasir reflected.

The victim Khuram Shaikh on a holiday

Khuram was killed when he intervened to save a local worker from being harassed by a drunken group at a Tangalle hotel. It was a New Year’s Eve party. There were many witnesses. His partner, Victoria Alexandrovna, was also attacked. In a press statement issued at the time, Nasir had expressed confidence that the Sri Lankan authorities would ensure justice. 

Eight suspects were arrested and remanded. Among them was Sampath Vidanapathirana, 24-year-old Chairman of the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha. In November, all eight were enlarged on bail. Despite mountains of evidence—boosted by eyewitness accounts—none have been indicted.

In December, Additional Solicitor General Suhada Gamlath told the Sunday Times that indictments will be served in a month. But events have proved that Nasir and his family have little reason to trust the justice system now. 

“It’s very upsetting to read articles by Sri Lankans that show they have no confidence in their own justice system,” Nasir said. “What we know about the justice system is what we’ve been told by Sri Lankan officials.”

“We’re obviously in close contact with people there and receive regular updates,” he continued. “We are expecting the rule of law to apply, and the Sri Lankan Government to do the right thing. Justice has to prevail. There is a lot of interest in this case in the UK and further field. People are expecting justice to be done.”

The family is still grappling with the pain of losing Khuram. It was a daily struggle that didn’t get any easier. “We all desperately miss him,” Nasir said. “He’s left a big gap in our lives that will never be filled.” Ironically, the trip to Sri Lanka was to have been a safe, relaxing break way from his work in “really dangerous places”.

The Shaikhs are now campaigning internationally for Khuram’s killers to be convicted. A Facebook page called ‘Justice for Khuram Shaikh’ has 822 followers, despite having been set up recently. 

Nasir said their quest started to gain momentum around the anniversary of Khuram’s death, “when it became apparent that the case was not being fast-tracked as we had been promised”.

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk has taken the lead. People from all over the country and beyond have asked how they could get involved. “Khuram’s story really touched people, because they’re horrified that such a brutal attack could happen at an idyllic tourist resort, and angry that justice is being denied,” Nasir explained. 

The family remains hopeful that the Sri Lankan authorities will do the right thing. “But it’s hard to understand why the case is being held up,” Nasir reiterated. “A thorough investigation with all the evidence should have delivered justice by now.”

How come SL is British airlines’  Top Destination for 2013?
The ‘Justice for Khuraim Shaikh’ campaign not only keeps his memory alive, it also raises awareness of what can happen to tourists in Sri Lanka, Nasir Shaikh said.“We cannot shy away from the fact that Khuram was at a ‘private’ function on holiday, in what was supposed to be a safe environment,” he pointed out. “This should not have happened, and those behind this terrible tragedy cannot be allowed to get away with it.”

Nasir stressed that it was important for any tourist considering getting on a plane and holidaying in Sri Lanka for justice to be served. “If the rule of law does not apply, then this is a lawless country where everyone is potentially in danger,” he said. “There are many people in the UK looking at Sri Lanka as a potential holiday destination. But beyond the nice beaches and hotels, they want to know that there is an impartial justice system that they can have confidence in.”

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk slammed a British airline company for naming Sri Lanka as its top destination for 2013. In a statement issued last week, he called the decision “irresponsible and unethical”.

Among other things, Mr. Danczuk accused the airline turning a blind eye to the fact a British tourist was brutally murdered at a Sri Lankan resort, “and over 12-months later, the Sri Lankan Government has failed to hold anyone to account for his death”. In promoting Sri Lanka as an idyllic holiday destination, the airline’s destination manager had talked about endless beaches and elephant treks “But he doesn’t mention the fact that the British Government’s travel advice page says sexual attacks in Sri Lanka are increasing,” Mr. Danczuk said. “Last year saw 700 child rapes in the first six-months alone, with politicians from the country’s governing party named as suspects in several cases”.

He asked why the airline was making Sri Lanka its top recommendation for New Year travel, when the British Government warns tourists to “exercise a high level of vigilance” and talks of “organised and armed gangs” frequenting tourist areas.

“Growing a tourist industry shouldn’t just be about investing in hotels and building luxurious beach resorts,” the MP stressed. “This means very little when the rule of law doesn’t apply and justice is denied to a British tourist who was murdered in appalling circumstances.”

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