Alleged Rapist Returns To Sri Lanka, Says NGO

The Sunday Leader |  By Maryam Azwer | April, 15 2012 |  Share  | Source Article

A Sri Lankan man alleged to have raped several Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi women at a garment factory in Jordan, has reportedly returned to Sri Lanka and is now involved in running a job recruitment agency, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (IGLHR) has said.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader on Tuesday (April 11), Director, IGLHR, Charles Kernaghan, said that he had been informed by workers at Jordan’s Classic garment factories, that Anil Santha, formerly employed by the Classic Fashion Apparel Industry as a manager, had returned to Sri Lanka after facing accusations of rape and sexual harassment.

These allegations first came to light last year when the IGLHR released a report, ‘Sexual Predators and Serial Rapists Run Wild at Wal-Mart Supplier in Jordan’. The NGO claimed that workers at Classic had managed to pass on information to the IGLHR, by taping their testimonies on cell-phones.

Santha was arrested by Jordanian authorities in June last year, but released on bail shortly after.
In the light of the rape allegations, Sri Lankan authorities sent a delegation to Jordan last June, to investigate into the matter.

However, on concluding investigations, which included interviewing several factory workers, the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare claimed that they had found no evidence of such rape and abuse having taken place.

In response to this, the IGLHR stated in an email to The Sunday Leader on July 13, 2011, that there was a “whitewash at Classic Factory in Jordan.” The IGLHR Director also said that “The Sri Lankan guest workers in Jordan have never received any help whatsoever from either the Ministry of Foreign Employment or the Sri Lankan Embassy in Amman.”

On Tuesday, Charles Kernaghan provided an update on the Classic Factory issue: “What we know from the workers is that Anil Santha is no longer in Jordan, but is back in Sri Lanka, and is running an agency that recruits young women as offshore workers,” he said.

Kernaghan, who was in Bangladesh at the time, also said that the IGLHR had been following up on the issue, and had, a month ago in Dhaka, interviewed thirty-four people who had worked at the Classic factory in Jordan.

“We were able to bring together a meeting of Bangladeshi men and women who had been deported from Classic factory recently. Every single worker we interviewed confirmed that young Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi women were raped at Classic Factory,” said Kernaghan. He also said that for the first time, two Bangladeshi women were willing to identify themselves as rape victims, and step forward to testify.

According to Kernaghan, the IGLHR is also currently in the process of putting together a video featuring “very compelling testimonies” by several former Classic factory employees, including those who had witnessed Anil Santha “grabbing Sri Lankan women, and pulling them into cars, and taking them away.” Kernaghan said that according to the workers such incidents had mostly taken place on Friday, their day off, and on Eid holidays.
Kernaghan went on to claim that Sri Lanka had shown “zero interest” in the issue.

“When the Sri Lankan authorities came to Jordan , they came with absolutely no credibility, and absolutely zero interest in their workers. The delegation to Jordan was completely done as a cover up,” he said. “Their whole attitude was – ‘let’s keep the Sri Lankan women in Jordan, because we need the foreign currency to come back to us.’ We don’t expect them to help the workers whatsoever.”

Saying this, he also noted that “There is a problem with the Sri Lankan women, they are so terrified to speak, so the company knows they can get away with it.”

However, when asked, Kernaghan said that the IGLHR had not contacted the Sri Lankan authorities directly about the issue. The Sunday Leader contacted Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, Dilan Perera, for a comment, but did not receive a response at the time of going to print.