Young mother gang-raped and murdered

Place: - | Courtesy: TamilNet
| Date: 19991205

A young woman was gang-raped and murdered by unidentified gunmen near Kannakai Amman Temple in Punguduthivu, an islet off Jaffna peninsula, Tuesday night, residents said. Her body, covered with Palmyrah leaves, was found yesterday morning, about 100 metres from her house, they added.

Sources said the victim, Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal, was in her house with her child and her brother. Around 8 p.m on Tuesday, the gunmen suddenly entered the house, raped the young mother, after forcibly removing her brother from the house.

Residents said the body was found the following morning, with clothes stuffed in her mouth.

The Jaffna Magistrate, R.T.Vignarajah, went to Pungudutivu to hold the magisterial inquest into this death. The victim's body was brought to the Jaffna teaching hospital, Wednesday evening, for further investigations, court sources said.

Meanwhile, Mr.Jegan, District Organizer of the Eelam Peoples' Democratic Party brought this incident to the notice of the Security Forces Commander in Jaffna and Douglas Devananda, the EPDP leader.

A Sri Lanka Naval detachment is based in Pungudutivu. People of the area suspect some Navy personnel were involved in this crime.

Investigate gangrape/murder of young mother: President

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has told the Defence Secretary to conduct an investigation into rape and murder of a young mother, allegedly by the security forces, said sources in Colombo.

The President is reported to have ordered him to submit the investigation report to her, the sources added.

The young mother, Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal, was gang-raped and murdered on Tuesday night. Her body was found yesterday morning.

Local residents blame Sri Lanka Navy personnel for the crime. No one has been arrested so far in connection with the incident.

Meanwhile the Jaffna Magistrate today ordered the Police to send the body of the young Brahmin woman to Colombo for examination and report of the Judicial Medical Officer.

At the conclusion of the inquest, Mr.R.T.Viknarajah,Magistrate said that there were signs to show that the woman, 29 year-old Saravabavananthakurukkal Sarathambal had been murdered after being raped.

The Magistrate further instructed the Police to make arrangements for a relative of the woman to accompany her body to Colombo.

At the inquest, Chandrasekara Iyer Rajasekara Sarma, 19, gave evidence.

He said the deceased was his elder sister. On the day of incident he was in home listening to a radio program. Suddenly four persons with shoes forcibly opened the doors of the house and entered. They then squeezed his neck not to shout and dragged him away.Thereafter they dragged his sister away. They spoke in Tamil with Sinhala accent.

Witness said he did not know what happened to his sister thereafter. He then went to the nearby navy camp and complained to the public relation officer there. But the P.R.O. did not take any action.

Dr. Sri Rajeswaran said in his evidence that there were several injuries on the body of the woman.

Meanwhile, tension prevails in Pungudutivu village over this incident. Residents there said that earlier two young women were raped but not murdered. This time a woman had murdered after being raped. Residents have appealed to the authorities to allow them to live elsewhere.

Jaffna women condemn Sarathambal rape, murder

A large number of women took part in a public protest Thursday evening, condemning the gang-rape and murder of a young mother, Sarathambal. The meeting, organised by the Women Development Center, was held at Navalar Cultural Hall in Nallur, near Jaffna town.

Ms. Saroja Sivachchandran, Director of the Women Development Center, who presided the meeting said time had come to take concrete steps to stop brutal actions against women by military forces.

Attorney-at-Law Ms Linga Thurairajah said on her return from Bangladesh after attending a conference on women liberation, she had come to know the brutal rape and murder of Sarathamabal.

Mr.S.Paramananthan of the Movement for Justice and Peace and Ms R.Jeyarajah, Principal, Jaffna's Hindu Ladies College also spoke.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mrs. Saroja Sivachchandran informed the audience that a full report of the proceedings of the meeting would be sent to the Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunge.

BRUTAL GANG-RAPE AND MURDER OF YOUNG WOMAN BY SRI LANKA NAVY

On the evening of Tuesday 28th December 1999, Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal, of a Hindu Brahmin family, was forcibly dragged from her home, in Pungudutivu, near Jaffna Peninsula, by Sri Lankan Navy soldiers. They then gang-raped and murdered her in cold blood. The body of the 29 year-old mother was found the following morning, under leaves, not far from her home near Kannaki Amman Temple.

As the news of yet another horrific rape and murder case of a Tamil woman by Sri Lankan security forces reaches the world outside the island of Sri Lanka, President Chandrika Kumaratunga was reported to have ordered an immediate investigation on 30th December 1999. The Sri Lankan government, it appears, wishes to act speedily to avoid the involvement of human rights organisations in the matter.

IMPUNITY According to the witness of Sarathambal’s neighbours the real suspects have already been transferred from the area to prevent action being taken against them. This is a familiar method used by the Sri Lankan government to avoid scrutiny. The climate of impunity continues to reign. It has frequently been pointed out that when the Sri Lankan government does, in rare cases, order an inquiry into human rights violations, the motivation stems from a desire to silence public and international criticism, rather than a genuine commitment to protect human rights and prevent further violations.

RAPE AS WEAPON OF WAR The Sri Lankan security forces are still using gang-rape and murder of Tamil women and girls, with chilling and systematic regularity, to subjugate and terrorise the Tamil people. Rape is being used as a weapon of war. The Sri Lankan government is in grave breach of its obligations as signatory to the Geneva conventions, including Common Article 3.

TCHR has records of catalogues of rape and murder cases of Tamil women by Sri Lankan security forces in Sri Lankan army occupied Jaffna, in the North, and in the East of the island, including Amparai. The actual number of rape cases is far higher than recorded. Many Tamil women who survive the trauma want to remain unidentified due to cultural sensitivities within the community.

TCHR urges all human rights organisations and bodies of the international community to express outrage at this latest odious case of gang-rape and murder, in order to help prevent further atrocities and violence against Tamil women.

Thank you.

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Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR
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M16 8FH. UK.
Thank you.

Courtesy: TCHR ( Ref: AC/01/00 )

Protesters accuse Sri Lankan security forces of murdering a young Tamil woman

By S. Rajendran
13 January 2000

More than 500 villagers staged a demonstration outside the navy camp at Pungudutivu in northern Sri Lanka on December 31 to protest the rape and murder of 20-year-old Saravanabhavananda Kurrukkal Sarathamball, a mother of a four-year-old child. The protestors carried placards accusing member of the armed forces of carrying out the brutal crime.

The demonstration continued for four hours despite harassment and threats by naval personnel and attempts by the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) to placate the protestors by promising to question authorities and demand an inquiry. The EPDP is a partner in the ruling Peoples Alliance coalition and works closely with the armed forces through a system of so-called Citizen Committees.

Four uniformed men abducted Sarathamball, the daughter of a local Hindu priest, from her home on the evening of December 28. Her 18-year-old brother S. Rajasekara Sarma explained in a statement: “She was staying with me at home. Around 8.30pm, four persons in black uniforms entered into our house with arms. They threatened my sister and me. They spoke in colloquial broken Tamil.

“Two of them assaulted me and accused me of false charges. They tied my hands and [covered my] eyes. After this assault they carried me away and put me behind my house... Another two persons carried my sister away to a nearby deserted house and subjected her to sexual violence and then murdered [her].”

Pungudutivu is one of the islands around the Jaffna Peninsula in the north of Sri Lanka that has been under virtual martial law since the Sri Lankan armed forces won back control of the region in bitter fighting against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1995-96.

Despite a military curfew in the area, many local people, on hearing the heart-rending cry of Sarathamball's brother, gathered on the night of the incident. With the help of a kerosene oil lamp, they searched for her but all they could find were some of her clothes.

Her neighbours then went to the nearby navy camp and made a complaint. A navy spokesman turned them away saying: “We don't know anything”. When the search was restarted the following morning, Sarathamball's body was found 20 yards from her house. Her naked body was covered with dry palmyrah leaves.

Local people told a WSWS reporter:

“We organised this demonstration not just to register our protest against this raping and murder, but this has become a matter for self-respect, not only for women, but also for men. That's why we staged this demonstration carrying dry palmyrah leaves. We wanted to show the world the undignified manner in which the human beings in these areas are treated—human beings are considered not worth more than a kaavolai (dry palmyrah leaf).”

They explained that there had previously been many unreported cases of harassment and even sexual violence by security forces. According to the village people, whenever women and girls passed through a military barrier or checkpoint they were subjected to various kinds of dirty antics by the armed forces. They said that some time back military personnel on the island had raped a mute woman. They were concerned that the situation would get worse.

In response to the protests, the EPDP district organiser, V. K. Jegan, was forced to issue a statement condemning the armed forces. “The navy camp is situated 500 yards from where this incident occurred. Further, during the period of curfew nobody else can infiltrate into this area. Therefore this is the work of the naval forces,” he said.

The navy was also compelled to change its previous attitude of complete indifference. The naval commanding officer, Kayts, promised: “We will hold an immediate inquiry... and the people responsible for this will be identified and brought to justice.”

In Colombo, the Information Department of the Peoples Alliance government released a statement saying that President Chandrika Kumaratunga had ordered a full inquiry to “report back to her immediately for deterrent action against the culprits irrespective of the ranks or status.” In the past, such inquiries have been little more than thinly disguised cover-ups.

A magistrate's inquiry was held on January 5. Sarathamball's brother described the nature of his sister's injuries: “When I visited the place where the dead body was lying, it was covered by a blue saree. I removed that and saw... I saw bleeding through her ears. There were number of biting marks all over her body. There were biting marks in her legs too.” He told the magistrate that he was scared of remaining in his own home and was taken by police to stay with his father on the island of Analaitivu.

In the absence of qualified medical personnel in the hospital in Jaffna town, Sarathamball's body was sent to Colombo for a full judicial medical examination. A report issued by the Colombo judicial medical officer on January 9 stated that Sarathamball had been raped and the death had occurred due to suffocation.

In August 1996, army personnel stationed in the Kaithady military camp within the Jaffna municipality arrested a schoolgirl, Krishathi Kumaraswamy, raped her and brutally murdered her along with her mother, brother and a relative. Such acts are part of the climate of fear and intimidation engendered by the Sri Lankan armed forces against Tamils in the north and east of the country.

Sarathambal's funeral held

The burial of a young Brahmin woman, Sarathambal took place at the Khanate cemetery, Borella in Colombo today. Sarathamabal,29, was gang-raped and murdered in Punguduthivu in Jaffna, allegedly by Sri Lanka Navy personnel on 28 December 1999.

Her father Chandrasekara Sarma and her three-year old daughter performed the last rites.

The funeral arrangements were made by the EPDP and the Forum for Human Dignity.

Mr.Vasudeva Nanayakara, Member of Parliament and who unsuccessfully contested the last presidential election, Mr.S.Sivadasan, EPDP Parliamentarian,Ms Maheswary Velautham, Attorney-at-Law and the Secretary Of the Forum for Human Dignity and Mr.Nimalka Fernando Of the Movement for Inter Racial, Justice and Equality delivered funeral orations.