17th August 1997

Sandarekha gives way to Chandralekha

By Mudliyar

Sandarekha was a girl of 12 years. She was as innocent as a flower. Her father could not feed her; the grandmother was looking after this innocent child. Sandarekha had starved for several days for want of food. The only source of income was a meagre dole given to her grandmother, who was a leper. A gentleman who had an NGO to help the leper community in Sri Lanka used to come and give the grandmother a meagre allowance.

The grandmother pleaded with the Mahathmaya and wanted him to take Sandarekha as a domestic aide. A few days later the Mahatmaya found that Sandarekha was not so innocent as she was thought to be. She was fighting with the other servants who were with the Mahthmaya for a number of years. After discussing with his wife, Mahatmaya decided to drop Sandarekha at her home. Two or three days later the Mahatmaya was surprised to see that the Thalangama Police had surrounded his residence. There were a number of policemen armed with T 56 rifles, who came into the house and arrested him. At the Police Station he found, that Sandarekha had made a startling accusation against him. He is supposed to have raped this girl who was under fourteen years of age several times. Later this matter went to one of the most respected officers of the Attorney General’s Department, Mr. Upawansa Yapa, P.C., the present Solicitor General who agreed with the recommendations of all the officers from the most junior State Counsel that the accused ought to be discharged.

Then came the bombshell. The tabloids and the media awaiting for an opportunity to castigate the Government, saw or read into the order made by the Attorney General political interference purely on the material submitted to him. The walls were full of posters of innocent Sandarekha and the denial of justice by the government..

Then came the second bombshell. Sandarekha was left destitute and was in the care of a convent where, she confessed to a Judicial Officer that she was raped by her own father, and she made these accusations against Mr. Elster Perera at the instance of her father, in order to extract some money from Elster Perera.

Now comes the third bombshell. The same newspaper which carried out a massive campaign against the interference by the Attorney General to deprive the innocent and the poor access to justice, has published an incident which on the face of it, is even worse than what happened to the innocent flower Sandarekha. Sandarekha has given way to Chandralekha a mother of two children. The rapist has a different face and a different position. Instead of a retired Superintendent of Police, a young Magistrate from Mahawa is the alleged rapist.

Hultsdorp was aghast at these revelations.

We thought it was the duty of this column to investigate this allegation and inform the general public of the true situation. No paper would dare to publish an affidavit by a complainant as a news item, as it would incur the penalties of not only civil defamation, even criminal defamation, and no other newspaper than The Sunday Times knows the pain and anguish that an Editor has to undergo if he is charged with criminal defamation. Yet this column thought if these allegations are true it is extremely important to focus the attention of the public, even at the risk of entertaining a suit of criminal defamation.

After investigations we found that this was a shameless conspiracy hatched by some persons in remand and a prison officer and two other persons in high places who did not like the tremendous service that the magistrate has done to rehabilitate the criminals in the area, through mediation and getting the criminals to follow a life free of crime. In order to achieve this with the help of the Police and some temples of the area he has got the criminals who had been convicted and sent home to participate at ceremonies in various places of religious worship and to get them to recant and repent for their previous crimes.

According to the affidavit filed by Chandralekha, her husband was a manufacturing jeweller, but it also transpires that her husband has over a dozen cases filed by various Police Stations for having manufactured gold plated jewellery and obtained moneys from Banks by pawning them as 22 carat gold jewellery.

The Police filed charges under the Public Property Law. Though the Magistrate could remand any person accused of committing an offence under such a law indefinitely, the Magistrate had granted bail, but the accused’s brother-in-law one Sumathipala who had stood surety had come forward and decided to withdraw from the bond as he found that this man allegedly had another wife in Colombo. Apparently according to well informed sources there was at least one prison officer who had befriended Chandralekha. When the accused was produced on the 17th of February, 1997 he had thrown a bottle and a bag containing human faeces. This is not the first time nor will it be the last time that accused would throw various objects at Magistrates.

Some people knows that such acts are done with the connivance of the prison officers, as it is impossible to hand over a parcel to any accused without their knowledge.

After this incident the Magistrate transferred all the cases to another Court. There, when the case was called on the 23rd of April, 1997, the accused informed the Magistrate that he wanted to make a statement. There he made a very important statement. He told the Galgamuwa Magistrate, Mr. Sampath Wijerathna, that when he was at the remand prison hospital, someone who claimed to be from that newspaper met him at the hospital and took a statement from him, and later someone unknown to him told him to make a statement to the Magistrate. Then they could give wide publicity to the statement.

Some prison officers who knew that this man had earlier made similar complaints of rape against Police Officers, Prison Officers and others including lawyers were keeping a close tab on his activities.

He had instructed his wife to make this false complaint and written some letters to the wife explaining or describing verbatim the manner in which the complaint should be made. These letters were taken over by prison officers in the guise of taking them to the wife and taken photocopies of them and kept them with them.

According to the affidavit filed by her which appeared in the newspaper the Magistrate had asked her to come to Kurunegala near Janakala Kendraya on the 1st of November, 1996, and the Magistrate met her there and took her from Kurunegala to Gampola and at the Gampola Rest House the Magistrate had taken her to a room and discussed his family matters and offered to look after her and promised to give her a plot of land from Nikaweratiya and then suggested to her that she should have sexual intercourse with him for three months so that he could have a child from her and that he would release her husband after three months.

When she refused the invitation, the Magistrate raped her four times at the Rest House, Gampola. Even on the next day the Magistrate wanted to keep her but when she refused the Magistrate dropped her at Mawathagama and warned her not to inform any one of this incident. On the 6th of November, 1996 when the husband was brought to Court she explained to her husband all that happened. This is indeed a shocking revelation.

We have in our possession a photocopy of the draft petition given to Chandralekha by her husband with necessary instructions to her to be forwarded to Her Excellency The President, to the Attorney General, to a Human Rights Organisation and to the Minister of Justice. According to the draft petition prepared by her husband in his own hand writing she had gone to the Kurunegala Shopping Complex at the instance of two lawyers to enable her to make a secret statement to the Magistrate. She went there on more than two occasions but did not meet the Magistrate. Then one day the Magistrate came to the Janakala Kendraya at Kurunegala and took her to a hotel at Gampola, and while he was driving he was feeling her legs. At the hotel room the Magistrate asked her details about her husband’s cases and he promised to discharge her husband. After dinner he informed her that he was married to a doctor from Gampola, and as he does not have a daughter he wanted to adopt her daughter, and promised to bequeath all his properties in the name of her daughter. He wanted her to have sex with him for three months so that he could have a child from her and after she conceives he would release her husband, and if she informed anyone about this suggestion he would remand me, and he wanted her to meet him every Friday and Saturday.

Finally she states that she had been threatened with death, and she is mentally depressed and she knows that the only way she could get her husband released from Court is to succumb to the pressures of the Magistrate and get sexually abused by him. Therefore she appeals to the Minister of Justice and to the Attorney General to get her husband released on personal bail.

The last paragraph of the draft petition is very interesting. She states that she is making this statement at her own free will and it is the truth and nothing but the truth and she swears that she had not been coaxed to make this statement. The husband has given clear instructions in writing and told her to get the draft petition typed and sign it and send it under registered cover to Her Excellency The President, The Attorney General, The Minister of Justice, Chairman, Judicial Service Commission and to the Secretary, Human Rights Lawyers Association situated at Cotta Road, Borella.

Anyone reading the contents of the draft petition and the affidavit will see clearly that the draft petition prepared by the husband in his own hand writing does not have a word about his wife being raped by the Magistrate.

In fact the appeal by his wife to the authorities is to intervene and get her husband released to prevent her from being raped by the Magistrate.

I have with me a letter written by the President of the Lawyers Association at Maho commending the extraordinary work done by this Magistrate to rehabilitate criminals, which has been extremely fruitful. It is my feeling that there is a concerted effort to attack the Judiciary and to lower its estimation in the eyes of the public.

This kind of malicious and vicious petitions are sent by people who have not been able to get the relief that they wanted from Courts.

Even if a Judge has committed a misdemeanour, it is for the Judicial Service Commission to take cognisance and act on it.

Even if the accusations are found to be false, and the Magistrate is exonerated, if there is an inquiry, no amount of publicity will erase the pain of mind and the mental trauma that he would have undergone after this incident became public.

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