Concerns have been raised after a Buddhist monk in Vavuniya was granted bail in a sexual abuse case after the Attorney General’s department said it had no objections.
The Women’s Action Network, a network consisting of 8 women’s organizations based in the north and east of Sri Lanka, said that there are indications of attempts to protect the monk and not the victims.
In October 2013 Kalyana Tissa Thero of the Seth Sevana Lama Nivasa of Attambagaskanda, Vavuniya was arrested for sexually abusing a 9 year old child. The Buddhist monk was kept in remand custody and medical evidence confirmed the sexual abuse of the child.
Subsequently the custody of the remaining 22 children of the children’s home was taken by the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA). Fearing that the remaining children may have also been sexually abused the Vavuniya magistrate requested the medical examination of the 22 children. Through the court order the suspect remained in custody.
However on 31.12.2013 the suspected monk was granted a non-conditional bail on the basis that the Attorney General Department (AG), on the instructions of the NCPA, had informed court that it has no objections for the suspect to be granted bail. The next hearing is to be on the 11th of February.
The Women’s Action Network said the bail was granted due to the report given by the NCPA to the Attorney General and so it raises serious concerns as to the evenhandedness of the NCPA in regards to children from minority communities.
“Because even though complaints in regards to the said Buddhist monk have been made to the NCPA since 2010 actions have only been taken to protect the offender rather than the children. It must be noted that only after the protests of the child protection officers in Vavuniya in regards to the inaction of the NCPA that the arrest was made. The NCPA’s vision and mission claims to create a child friendly and protective environment for children and to ensure children are free from all forms of abuse. There is a hotline no: 1929 that provides 24 hour service in all three languages. The reluctance of such an institution to push for the arrest of this monk and the subsequent report recommending his release places the actions of the NCPA in doubt,” The Women’s Action Network said.
Lawyer, Mr. K.S. Ratnavel who is representing the victim said that ‘the AG should have taken further stringent action against the suspect. Requesting bail for such a suspect places the independence of the AG’s department in question. Instead of protecting victims they are protecting the suspect thus there is a conflict of interest both in the role played by the AG and the NCPA. The NCPA was created for the protection of children. However the NCPA has come out in support of the suspect in this case, it has failed to submit the relevant reports of the 22 children to the court and instead submitted the same to the AG. It has claimed to have completed investigations while investigations are still pending and has thereby misled the court. Consequently it has caused the possibility of the intimidation of witnesses through the release of the suspect. This reflects on the failure of public institutions in working for the people. Instilling the rule of law and justice is difficult when judicial institutions themselves undermine these goals.”
Women’s Action Network says as a country that has had a strong policy in regards to protecting children and has passed several laws and set up institutions for the same, the punishment of offenders, proper investigations and protection of children should not be a challenge for Sri Lanka.