84-year-old ex-planter arrested for abusing 14 underage girls

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The police are investigating the shocking case where an 84-year-old man, who ran an orphanage in Mawanella, sexually abused 14 underage girls. The police described the suspect as a retired planter.

The police believe that the actual number of victims could be much higher, though investigators have so far been able to identify only 14 victims.

Police headquarters yesterday confirmed the on-going inquiry. The Mawanella police launched the inquiry on the instructions of National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) Chairperson Ms. Anoma Dissanayake.

Sources reveal that the police investigation got underway only after the closure of the facility and the transfer of the victims to three orphanages at Eheliyagoda, Embilipitiya and Kegalle.

The police produced the suspect E. R. W. K.W. M. R. M. W. Meddawatte and the matron of the orphanage Kanthi Dassanayake before the local Magistrate and had them remanded for 14 days.

The suspect had established the orphanage in 2006. However due to some administrative problems, the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council ordered it closed last March. Asked whether there was a delay on the part of local police to investigate what was going on at the orphanage, the Mawanella police said that they had been alerted by the NCPA last Sunday. Within 48 hours, the local police arrested the main suspect and his alleged accomplice and recorded the statements of five of the victims.

NCPA Chief Dissanayake yesterday told The Island that the majority of children’s homes were run by private individuals. She estimated the number of institutions run by private individuals and NGOs at 400. According to her, the government managed 24 homes countrywide.

During a live Rupavahini programme on Monday night, UPFA MP Shantha Bandara said that the government was doing its best to protect women and children. Responding to a query by The Island, the MP revealed that 57 clergymen had been remanded for sex offences.

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