Justice for Ishalini Around the Corner?
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
The body of the 16-year-old maid, who died of burn injuries and who was found to have been raped (according to the post-mortem report), while working at All Ceylon Makkal Congress Leader Rishad Bathiudeen’s house, was exhumed on Friday (30 July) for a fresh probe into the case that shocked the country.
The body was exhumed following complaints made by the victim’s mother, to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) and to the National Child Protection Authority, that she suspects foul play. The Colombo Magistrate, on 26 July, ordered the child’s body be exhumed.
On 29 July, Nuwara Eliya Magistrate Lushaka Kumari Dharmakeerthi ordered the exhumation of the child’s body and it was sent to the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital for an autopsy. Two Judicial Medical Officers from Colombo and Kandy were present at the exhumation site in Dayagama.
The team went to Dayagama and the exhumation of the body took place at 9:00 a.m. under tight security.
Her body will be subject to an autopsy for the second time as demanded by the grieving family. Three forensic experts will conduct the post-mortem, it is said.
Moreover, the ordering of a fresh probe and deploying three Police teams is commendable.
With Ishalini’s death, the ill treatment of many other maids, at the hands of MP Bathiudeen’s wife, Shiyabdeen Ayesha, has come to light. This brings into light that the young maid’s death cannot be ruled out as being suicide by self-immolation.
Similar to the procedure, where a woman, who intends to set off to the Middle East as a housemaid, is paid at least three months’ salary by the employment agency to settle her household problems, the young maid Ishalini was paid an advance on her salary.
It is apparent that, due to sheer poverty, there are some who will want their salary in advance but it is unlikely to be practiced in Sri Lanka, that to for a maid.
Those women, going to Middle East are under obligation to work in the house where the master has already paid an advance to the recruiting/employment agency.
In this course, the woman pays off her debts or gives the advance money to her family. Through this procedure the employment agency also gets its commission.
This is also a trap. The woman worker cannot return if she dislikes continuing at her work place. She is subjected to torture and ill-treatment in the Middle East and they escape from the house and surrender to welfare centres or land in prison.
The agency cannot be questioned as he would tell her family she is a runaway maid, hence he has no responsibility or the right to look for her. These are one of the untold hardships women, as maids, face even abroad.
It seems to have been the same situation for Ishalini. It is alleged that Rs 200, 000 was paid in advance to the family of the child.
This may be the reason, perhaps why the child could not return home even during pandemic. Many of those working in Colombo returned to their homes before buses stopped plying. The Government even arranged bus services for those who wanted to leave the cities.
There would be no doubt that if the child did not want to continue working, she could have left the place. But, she did not.
Also it is alleged that the mother had been trying to visit the child but she was not allowed to.
Also, there was no phone for Ishalini and she was linked to the young man in the house, supposedly a cleaner, to offer his phone to talk to her family on the Estate. Over this, the young girl and the man had been in constant contact and on one occasion, Ishalini had told her mother that the cleaner had hit her. There was no protection whatsoever for a young maid and that was clear.
Ayesha, her father Mohammed Shiyabdeen, brother Shiyabdeen Ismath and broker Ponnaiah Pandaram, who brought the child to the Parliamentarian’s house, are currently in remand custody over the mysterious death of the maid who hailed from the Dayagama Estate in the NuwaraEliya District.
The suspicion behind her death amplified following several of the previous maids, who worked at the former Trade Minister’s house, testifying how Ayesha, the politician’s wife, who is also a businesswoman and an expert in interior designing, had treated her workers.
Those horrible narratives, which are still under probe, reveal that the politician’s wife had been allegedly rude and if they did not clean the house properly she would make them wash their face and hands in the toilet.
Before Ishalini, there had been 11 maids who had been brought to the MP’s house by the same broker, it is alleged.
One of those maids said that she was also subjected to severe mental torture and ill-treatment.
It ialso came to light that two other maids, who worked in Bathiudeen’s house, had died, one being a suicide case the other of a serious illness.
The Police are collecting more evidence on these claims made by the maids about the two deaths.
The Police team will be screening all evidence and also would question the maids that had worked in the MPs house previously.
It was also revealed that the Ishalini was admitted to the hospital with the name Hishani. The 8-page Police report also said that Ayesha’s father’s behaviour in this case had been suspicious, hence, he was not given bail.
It also came to light that there wasn’t a need to purchase kerosene for the household. But the young maid had allegedly used the fuel to set herself ablaze.
The Police is also probing why the broker, Ponniah, brought all the maids from the Dayagama Estate only and whether it was a child slavery racket.
According to sources, from 2010, MP Bathiudeen had been receiving maids to work in his house in Colombo and that the young maid Ishalini had been hit with a broom by the master of the house. This was revealed by the child while she had spoken to her mother during a phone conversation, according to her mother.
The mother, talking to the media, alleged that the child had been brought to the hospital a couple of hours later and she suspected the Policemen, who registered the case, as well as the doctors in the ward, who kept her in the dark without updating her. She alleged that they were busy talking to Ayesha and considered her to be an outsider in the case.
Undoubtedly, the previous Police statement, that the maid had been repeatedly sexually molested for a long time, that diverted the news that she may have be subjected to rape and sexual molestation while she was on the Estate. How was that determined before the probe ended, has been a question asked by many.
This particular statement diverted the story to the maid’s life, from the age of 12, and not at the politician’s house.
However, this post-mortem has been left to dry and a new probe will shed light on the truth behind her death, as many anticipate.
Pressure was exerted on the Government to probe the death as suspicion mounted, not only by the people of the hill country but from all communities.
Several children's organisations, women organisations in the North and East, human rights organisations, public officers and politicians, came to street demanding a fresh probe.
At many debates people said that if this girl does not get justice, the same fate will befall young children in the country. ([email protected])