Murder of S. Vithiya

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S. Vithiya
S. Vithiya.jpg
Born(1996-11-25)25 November 1996
Mankulam, Sri Lanka
Died13 May 2015(2015-05-13) (aged 18)
Pungudutivu, Sri Lanka
Known forMurder victim

Sivaloganathan Vithiya (25 November 1996 – 13 May 2015) was an 18 year old Sri Lankan Tamil schoolgirl who was gang raped and murdered on the island of Pungudutivu in northern Sri Lanka in May 2015.[1][2][3]

Background[edit]

Vithiya's family were displaced from Pungudutivu in 1990 as a result of the Sri Lankan Civil War and later ended up in Mallavi near Mankulam in the Vanni region.[4][5] Vithiya was born on 25 November 1996 at the government hospital in Mankulam.[4][5] She attended Nallaru Vidyalayam until grade 6.[5]

During the final months of the civil war in 2009 Vithiya was studying in Colombo but her family, who were still in the Vanni, were caught in the brutal fighting and ended up in the Menik Farm internment camps.[4] Vithiya and her family relocated to their native village in Pungudutivu in 2010.[4] Vithiya was a pupil at Pungudutivu Maha Vidyalayam studying Advanced Level.[4][6]

The islands off Jaffna peninsula, including Pungudutivu, had been under the control of the Sri Lanka Navy since 1990.[4] During this time the islands became notorious for numerous cases of rape and murder, most of which were blamed on the navy and the government backed Eelam People's Democratic Party paramilitary group.[7] High-profile cases included the rape/murder of Sarathambal (1999), the rape/murder of Ilayathambi Tharsini (2005) and the Allaipiddy massacre (2006).

Incident[edit]

Vithiya usually went to school, which was about 2 km from her home, by bicycle along with two other girls who lived close by.[5] However, on the morning of 13 May 2015, the two girls were ill and Vithiya's brother Nishanthan, who would otherwise have taken her to school on his motorcycle, had gone out.[5] Vithiya left for school alone on her bicycle at 7.25am.[5][7]

School finishes at 2.00pm and normally Vithiya would be home by 3.00pm.[5] When she failed to return home after school her mother Saraswathy and Nishanthan went to her school where they were told that she had not been school that day.[5] A relative of the family who runs a boutique near the school also told them that he had not seen her that day.[5] At 6.00pm Vithiya's family went to the police checkpoint at Kurikattavan, Pungudutivu to report her missing but according to Nishanthan and local residents the police weren't interested, instead making derogatory remarks about Vithiya insinuating that she had eloped with a lover.[7][8][9] At 6.30 pm the family went to the police in Kayts, Velanaitivu to lodge a complaint about Vithiya's disappearance but it was not until 9.00pm that a female police officer took their complaint.[5]

The family returned home but as the police weren't searching for Vithiya they, along with other villagers, started searching for her.[5] The villagers resumed the search at 5.00am.[5] A group including Nishanthan and the family's two dogs were searching along an isolated road about 1½km from Vithiya's home when the dogs started barking.[5] Vithiya's bicycle was lying on the ground and one of the dogs found her shoes.[5] Nishanthan discovered Vithiya's body in an isolated spot by a dilapidated building.[5][7] She was barely clothed, her hands were bound behind her with her school tie, her mouth was gagged with a piece of cloth and her legs were spread apart and tied to two separate trees.[7][10] Her school bag was nearby.[7] Nishanthan called the police in Kayts at around 7.00am but they failed to arrive prompting Nishanthan to contact the police in Colombo using the 119 emergency telephone number.[7] The police eventually arrived at the scene at 11.00am.[7]

Vithiya's funeral, which took place on 15 May 2015 at Manakkadu Cemetery, was attended by hundreds of people including local politicians.[6][11] Her family have decided to move to Vavuniya where they have relatives and Vithiya's sister Nishanthini is studying at the Faculty of Business Studies, University of Jaffna.[5][12]

Investigation[edit]

Three brothers, in their thirties and forties, were arrested on 15 May 2015.[4][6][11] They had apparently been in a long running feud with Vithiya's family.[11] According to the police Vithiya had been abducted as she went to school on the morning of 13 May 2015.[11]

Five youths from Colombo were arrested in Poorikkattuvan on 17 May 2015.[13][14] They had gone from Colombo to Pungudutivu on 13 May 2015 but later returned to Colombo, only to return to Pungudutivu for Vithiya's funeral.[10] After the funeral they tried to return to Colombo but were arrested by the police.[10]

A ninth suspect, Mahalingam Sivakumaran alias Sashikumar or Swiss Kumar, was caught by villagers in Pungudutivu.[15][7] He was admitted to Jaffna Hospital but managed to escape to Colombo in an attempt to flee to Switzerland.[7] He was however arrested at a guest house in Wellawatte, Colombo on 18 May 2015.[7][16] There are allegations that government minister Vijayakala Maheswaran and dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo V. T. Thamilmaran had helped Sashikumar in his attempts to evade justice.[4][7] Both have denied the allegations.[4][7] It has been alleged that Sashikumar filmed the gang rape.[17]

Several senior police officers involved in the investigation were subsequently transferred.[7][18] The police investigation was taken over by the Criminal Investigation Department.[19][20]

Protests[edit]

The murder prompted widespread anger and demonstrations across the country, particularly in northern Sri Lanka.[21] School pupils in Pungudutivu staged protests on 14 May 2015.[22] Local residents on the island blockaded roads with logs and burning tyres.[6] There were also protests in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and the University of Jaffna.[6]

When eight of the suspects were brought to Jaffna Courts on 20 May 2015 a tense situation arose and stones were pelted at the courts as the protesters demanded that the suspects be handed over to them.[23][24][25] The police were forced to use tear gas to disperse the protesters.[23][24][25] 127 protesters were arrested.[25][26][27] During the protest a Sinhalese police officer was heard blaming the protesters for the rape/murder, saying "You should make sure that your men behave".[28]

A hartal was observed in northern Sri Lanka on 20/21 May 2015 as a protest against the murder.[29][30] Shops, businesses, private transport and even government offices were shut across the Northern Province.[31] On 23 May 2015 Jaffna Magistrate’s Court banned protests within the city limits of Jaffna.[32][33][34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Outrage in Sri Lanka over teenager's rape and murder". BBC News. 20 May 2015.
  2. ^ Balachandran, P. K. (22 May 2015). "Post-War Systemic Breakdown Blamed For Jaffna Rape and Mayhem". The New Indian Express.
  3. ^ "Gang-rape prompts protests in Sri Lanka's north". Al Jazeera. 20 May 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Diaspora urged to document flow of narcotics into Tamil homeland". TamilNet. 27 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Manju, W. K. Prasad (31 May 2015). "Vithya's final 24 hours - Mother reveals". Ceylon Today.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Anger in Jaffna over murder of school girl". Tamil Guardian. 15 May 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Christopher, Chrishanthi (24 May 2015). "After rape and murder, fear and tension in Jaffna over covert menace to public safety". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka).
  8. ^ "Police accused of negligence in Vithiya case". Tamil Guardian. 30 May 2015.
  9. ^ Attygalle, Randima (1 June 2015). "Draw necessary lessons from Vidya,s tragedy says activists". The Island (Sri Lanka).
  10. ^ a b c Mururgavel, Shanmugan; Subramaniyam, Gavitha (22 May 2015). "Recognising factors behind the Jaffna hartal". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).
  11. ^ a b c d "News Three brothers arrested for alleged rape and killing". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 17 May 2015.
  12. ^ Christopher, Chrishanthi (31 May 2015). "Island of fear". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka).
  13. ^ Santiago, Melanie (18 May 2015). "Five more suspects arrested in connection to rape and murder of a student in Jaffna". News First.
  14. ^ "5 more arrested as anger continues over school girl murder". Tamil Guardian. 17 May 2015.
  15. ^ http://newsfirst.lk/english/2017/06/switzerland-confirms-suspect-schoolgirl-vidyas-murder-not-swiss-national/169631.
  16. ^ Palihawadana, Norman; Ranwala, Madura (21 May 2015). "Rampage in Jaffna over rape and killing of schoolgirl". The Island (Sri Lanka).
  17. ^ Mohan, Sulochana Ramiah (24 May 2015). "Pornography takes toll in the North". Ceylon Today.
  18. ^ Palakidnar, Ananth (23 May 2015). "Vithya's rape-murder – CJ, IGP visit Jaffna Jaffna top cops transferred". Ceylon Today.
  19. ^ Santiago, Melanie (21 May 2015). "CID takes over Pungudutivu rape investigations". News First.
  20. ^ "Sri Lanka's CID to lead murder investigation of Pungudutivu school girl". Tamil Guardian. 21 May 2015.
  21. ^ Daluwatte, Shamila (28 May 2015). "Demanding Justice for Vithya and other rape victims". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).
  22. ^ "School children protest in Jaffna demanding justice for rape and murder of classmate". Tamil Guardian. 15 May 2015.
  23. ^ a b Pradeep, Chaturanga (20 May 2015). "Protesters stone Jaffna Court". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).
  24. ^ a b "Protestors stone Jaffna Court; 127 arrested". Daily FT. 21 May 2015.
  25. ^ a b c Marasinghe, Chandrasena; Kulasuriya, Madawa; Thambiah, Mirudhula (21 May 2015). "Jaffna rises against rape- 9 suspects arrested". Ceylon Today.
  26. ^ "Over 120 arrested after tense situation at Jaffna protest". adaderana.lk. 20 May 2015.
  27. ^ "127 arrested over stoning of Jaffna Court". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 20 May 2015.
  28. ^ "Video Of Sinhala Police Officer Using Racially Motivated Language At An Elderly Jaffna Woman Goes Viral". Colombo Telegraph. 22 May 2015.
  29. ^ "Hartal brings Jaffna to a standstill". Tamil Diplomat. 20 May 2015.
  30. ^ "Protests Held In Jaffna Against Alleged Rapists Of Schoolgirl". Asian Mirror. 20 May 2015.
  31. ^ Madusanka, Romesh (21 May 2015). "Business community stages hartal in North". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).
  32. ^ "CID in Jaffna for full probe on protests". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 24 May 2015.
  33. ^ "Protests inside Jaffna municipal council banned by Sri Lankan court". Tamil Guardian. 23 May 2015.
  34. ^ Santiago, Melanie (23 May 2015). "Court issues order preventing demonstrations in Jaffna district". News First.