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18th October 1998

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Iqbal Athas case

Next hearing on December 14

The two airmen alleged to have raided the residence of The Sunday Times defence correspondent Iqbal Athas were last Wednesday ordered by the Gangodawila Magistrate to appear in court on December 14.

The CID informed courts that they were awaiting instructions from the Attorney General's Department and therefore needed another date to submit a full report regarding the case.

Magistrate N.V. Karunathilleke turned down a plea by defence counsel to relax the order issued on the two suspects to appear before the CID every fortnight between 9 a.m. and 12 noon and said that the matter would be reconsidered on the next date of the case.

Mr. Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, senior counsel who is watching the interests of Mr. Athas said he believes that the two Airmen would be indicted in the High Courts.

Squadron leaders Rukman Herath and S.P.Kannangara are the suspects in the case.

Mr. Hemantha Warnakulasuriya with Mr. Tyronne Silva and Mrs. Vijitha Wickremasekara watched the interests of Mr.Athas.

A.R.C. Perera with Ranjini Mendis, Dilum de Abrew, Christopher de Alwis, Ganesh Dharmawardena, D.R.A. Kannangara and Kapila Liyanage appeared for the defence.

Deepavali plea: Stop using the Tamils as pawns

By S.S.Selvanayagam

In a Deepavali plea the main Hindu body in Sri Lanka has called upon the government and the opposition to stop using Tamils as pawns for their political gains and rise above party politics in solving the ethnic conflict.

The All Ceylon Hindu Congress (ACHC) also appealed to all Hindus to avoid Deepavali festivities tomorrow and instead assist the suffering refugees.

The ACHC said President Kumaratunga and the opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe need to take a joint initiative for an immediate and unconditional cease fire followed by all party talks to find a just political solution.

The ACHC pointed out that Deepavali marked the day on which injustice and evil forces were destroyed to restore justice and enlightenment.

"Innocent people have been suffering for several years. The government and other parties must take steps to restore peace with justice, equality and dignity for all," it said.


The sea that united them looked on hapless as the butchers of the
Modera beach mauled Rita

By Shelani de Silva

The love story of a courageous seaman Sudanthiran Manoharan and the quiet and caring Rita John goes beyond the ocean to their first meeting when the ship in which he was working touched in Bombay a few years ago. From then on their romance bloomed with Sudanthiran meeting Rita whenever his ship docked in Bombay. Last month they were married and were honeymooning when the bride from Bombay was raped and killed in the most gruesome manner at Modera causing local and international concern over the increasing rate of violence especially against women in Sri Lanka.

The couple who entered wedded life last month with much hope and aspirations for the future was robbed of it on a lonely stretch of beach on a gloomy Sunday evening at Crow Island in Modera.

It was with much pride and joy that Sudanthir came to Sri Lanka a few weeks ago to introduce his bride to his family. The Manoharan family was overjoyed and had made preparations to welcome their new daughter-in-law from Bombay. Everything was done in a grand style despite the short notice they received. The reception was held for the couples close family and friends and not surprising Rita received a warm welcome from all her in-laws.

As a regular practice the couple usually takes a stroll on the beach, but never go too far off. It is in the same manner that Sudanthiran and Rita decided to take a short walk on Sunday evening despite a slight drizzle.

But what lay a head of them will haunt Sudanthir, the Manoharan family and the whole of Modera for a long time. Walking a few feet away from their home the couple was attacked. Rita was kidnapped and brutally gang raped. The body was discovered the next morning dumped in a mud pit in Crow Island.

As the shock waves of the tragedy flow from the Modera beach to Bombay, Rita's family has requested that the body be sent there to be buried according to Indian customs. Rita's body was to be flown to India yesterday afternoon accompanied by her shattered husband and in-laws, but later it was decided to have the funeral here to facilitate investigations into the crime.

Rita's father-in-law a retired Senior Superintendent of Police Jude Mohan Manoharan told The Sunday Times what had happened. "Usually there is a large crowd at the beach in the evenings and on that particular day there had been a few people earlier on in the day.

"But towards evening it was getting dark and cloudy. In fact I asked the couple why they were going for a walk in the rain but they said that they were not going far and would be back home in a few minutes.

My son did come home in a few minutes but without his bride only screaming and bleeding ,"he said.

"I heard someone knocking on the gate, it sounded like someone was trying to break open the gate. I ran to the gate and I saw my son without his shirt screaming. He said they had taken Rita and told me to call the police. Then he ran back. I called police emergency. Within minutes the police arrived and the desperate search began. Since nothing was discovered we returned home, but Mano stayed on at the police station till about 2.00. Then we managed to bring him home, promising that a full search would be resumed early morning.

"When we got to the police station next morning I was called in by the officers and given the bad news. I broke down. Later the police broke the news to my son, " Mr. Manoharan said.

Several residents in the area told The Sunday Times this particular stretch of beach was always crowded specially during the weekend. Even on weekdays it is frequented by couples. But they urged the authorities to have a police post claiming that there were a lot of drug addicts .

The former SSP said he also had appealed for a police post in the area since it was lonely at times.

Rita who comes from a large family has five brothers and five sisters. She was a loving and caring person.Mr. Manoharan described Rita as quiet and loving.

" We did not know how she would mix with our family. But any doubts were cast away at the airport itself when Rita in hallowed tradition went down on her knees to worship me and my wife . Very often when we watched TV she would come and sit with us. She even called us Mummy and Daddy. She was a rare child,"he said.

Rita had won the hearts of not only her mother and father in law but also her sisters-in-law. They had planned to go on a holiday to Bandarawela last weekend but had to cancel the trip due to a transport problem.

Mr. Manoharan said Rita's family in Bombay were also horrified by the tragedy but were facing it with courage. The two families have never met but they will do so in Colombo- not to celebrate the wedding but to hold a funeral service for Rita while the eternal unwritten music of the sea takes on a mournful copy.

Who got this gang rapist released 15 times?

The rape gang leader who has been taken into custody in the shocking Rita John rape and murder case was nabbed 15 times earlier for rape and robbery offences but was released allegedly through the intervention of a businessman, residents claimed.

They told The Sunday Times the suspects identified as Ajith, Nissanka, Asiri and Laksman had been notorious for gang rape and robberies of gold items especially from women who went to the Crow Island beach area.

They are also alleged to have been involved in snatching gold chains and other items from people going to the famous Hindu kovil in the area.

Angry residents who put up effigies of the suspect with banners calling for severe punishment, accused the police of being responsible for the horrible crime that the Ajith gang had allegedly committed last Sunday a crime which was shameful not only to Modera but to Sri Lanka as a whole.

Residents alleged that Ajith was released often on the influence of a wealthy mudalali who was either a 'fence' buying the gold or even an accomplice in their crime.

They also allege that the mudalali had built a mansion in the area by encroaching on a public road.

On the fateful day the rape and murder gang was seen drinking at a bar close to the Pradeepa Hall in the afternoon.

Thereafter they had gone to the beach for a draw of ganja and drugs. This was what they normally did. Until fully intoxicated they waited on the beach to rob or rape innocent victims, the residents said.

"Why couldn't the police take necessary action when cases of rape and robbery from the beachfront were reported on other occasions," one resident asked.

When Manoharan asked his wife to run for safety while he was on the ground fighting, one of the suspects had shouted "Ajith it's enough, let him go."

The name Ajith was mentioned to the Police when Manoharan gave evidence. This gave the Police the clue to who was behind the whole saga.

The Police had little difficulty in finding the suspect apparently because they were familiar with the whereabouts of the gang, residents allege.

Groups call for death penalty

Following the gruesome rape and murder on the Modera beach several groups are calling for the reimposition of the death penalty as a deterrent for serious crime.

image"We want capital punishment to be imposed on those who commit rape,drug trafficking, and murder. We have always looked into social problems. But with the rape and murder of Rita Manoharan we feel the government should take immediate steps," said A.B.C. de Silva who heads a forum of state corporation workers.

He said that in several cases including Rita's tragedy, the offenders were not given the due punishment and this was leading to an escalation in crime.

Mr. de Silva pointed out that one of the suspects in the Rita Manoharan case had been nabbed for alleged rape earlier but was released on bail.

He said the forum would launch a public awareness campaign regarding the need to act sternly against criminals.

Meanwhile Women's Affairs Minister Hema Ratnayake has sent a letter of condolence to Rita Manoharan's family condemning the rape and murder and assuring that justice would be done..

An Indian High Commission official Told The Sunday Times Rita's family had requested the High Commissioner to make arrangements for the body to be sent to Bombay.

Meanwhile the Colombo Mayor Karu Jayasuriya has ordered a clean-up campaign along the Crow island after residents made urgent appeals in the aftermath of Rita's murder.

' It belongs to the Coastal Conservation but we will light up the area and clean up the area with the co operation of the residents," said the Mayor, disclosing he had got upto 40 petitions.

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