COLOMBO: The Executive Director of the Colombo-based Center for Human Rights and Research (CHR), Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, has alleged that the vociferous demand for the deportation of 31 Rohingya refugees stems from a rape case involving a Sri Lankan police constable.

“The demonstration in front of the UNHCR on September 26 was an elaborate scheme to mask the rape of a Rohingya girl,” Tennakoon charged in a press release on Monday.

He said that several family members and friends of the remanded cop were present at the protest in front of the UNHCR safe house for Rohingyas in Mount Lavinia.

In fact, persons aligned with the policeman were the ringleaders in the demonstration, he pointed out.

The crowd, led by Buddhist monks from an ultra-nationalist organization, accused the Rohingya inmates of being terrorists and demanded their deportation.

They forced the police to arrest the refugees, though 17 of the 31 were children.

The police obliged, took the Rohingyas under “protective custody” and lodged them in the high security prison in Boosa in South Sri Lanka meant for terror suspects.

“The protest was but a veiled attempt to get the chief witnesses in the rape trial deported,” CHR said.

“The authorities should not allow the radical activists who demonstrated before the safe house to get the key witnesses in the rape case deported. The main persons behind the protests should not be allowed to shift the focus from the rape,” Tennakoon said.

Though the police have apprehended a few people, the main suspects involved in the cover up are still at large” he pointed out.

The Rape Case

On Jun 19, the policeman concerned had allegedly abducted the 21 year old Rohingya girl from the Kalubowila hospital, where she had been admitted for fever.

On the day she was going to be discharged, the constable posed as an escort who would take her safely back to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-run Safe House in Mirihana where she and her family were put up at the time.

But instead of taking her to the Safe House, he took her to a house arranged by a female hospital staffer; tied her up; and raped her repeatedly through the night. Next morning he dumped her in front of the hospital and disappeared.

The victim’s brother-in-law cum guardian complained to the police. But neither UNHCR officials nor legal officers were given an opportunity to talk to the abused woman.

But after a case was filed in the Nugegoda court, the policeman was remanded. Following a public outcry against the jailing of innocent men, women and children and the indulgence shown by the police towards the demonstrators on September 26, the government got the police top brass to arrest the ring leaders.

Seven persons, including the leader, Ven. Akmeemana Dayaratne Thero, have been remanded so far.