November 15, 2022
Good morning, Deputy Inspector General Jayasundera, State Counsel Indika, colleagues, and friends,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this training program regarding Forensic Interviewing for Child Abuse Investigations, and to have subject matter experts from the United States Homeland Security Investigations deliver this training in Sri Lanka. This training reflects the longstanding and steady cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka on promoting justice and the rule of law which is absolutely essential in all countries.
I want to thank everyone for being here today, particularly our investigator colleagues from the Police Criminal Investigation Division, our prosecutor colleagues from the Attorney General’s Department and, representatives from the Child Protection Force who relentlessly advocate for victims. Also, I would like to recognize those who have helped organize this event to include our Department of Justice ICITAP and OPDAT staff members. I also warmly welcome our two primary instructors from the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Ms. Lauren Glazer and Ms. June Liu who have been visiting the Maldives and now Sri Lanka this week to share their expertise, wisdom, and enthusiasm, with you all.
We all know how difficult this past year has been for the people of this country. The U.S. is committed to supporting our Sri Lankan partners through these challenging times, especially through our ongoing efforts to promote economic prosperity, food security, and inclusive governance. Strengthening Sri Lanka’s criminal justice sector is a critical component of these efforts as economic reforms must go hand in hand with political reforms. The rule of law, equal access to justice, accountability and victims’ rights are pillars of all democratic legal systems and are essential to the safety and well-being of all Sri Lanka’s citizens.
It is during the most trying times that those who are the most vulnerable, our children, become victims of abuse. The numbers of child abuse and domestic violence have skyrocketed especially during the COVID lockdown of the past few years. I was in Trincomalee just last week speaking to women’s advocacy groups who told heartbreaking stories about increased child abuse in their communities as mothers go abroad to find work and leave their children behind, who then face abuse. I know many of you have traveled from various provinces to undertake this training so you can take this knowledge back with you. And that’s why this training for interviewing skills with victims of child abuse is so critical today. We are all here, not just as investigators and policymakers, but as mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who want to protect our children and do everything in our power to strengthen the criminal justice system to counter the offenders that prey on them.
Why is this training so important? The ability to communicate effectively binds us together and is essential when conducting criminal investigations, especially when interviewing child abuse victims. Effective communication with victims provides the opportunity for us to understand what happened, who needs to be held responsible, the needs of the victim, and what support services we may need to provide to the victim(s) during and after the investigation, and court process. Unfortunately, when forensic interviews fail, we may revictimize the victim which causes further long-term trauma and a lack of trust with the police and criminal justice system. We must be the problem solvers and not exacerbate the problem when victims come forward to report crime.
Criminals do not respect national borders and in many cases, we have seen suspects involved in child abuse commit crimes in several countries. Our governments must cooperate to hold these suspects accountable. Our children are the future of our countries, and we must protect them. As crime becomes more sophisticated, so too must police and prosecutors. We must constantly strive to increase the skills and knowledge of our police and prosecutors at any opportunity. The United States welcomes the opportunity to share the expertise of American police investigators with you. Our goal is to provide you not only with the most up-to-date information regarding forensic interviewing, but, also, to facilitate the creation of relationships that will serve our countries’ mutual interests for years to come.
And of course, none of the work here would be possible without help from the dedicated Law Enforcement and Attorney General’s Department professionals representing Sri Lanka here today. From one public servant to another, thank you for your service. I want to especially laud the work of Deputy IG Jayasundera, who as a police officer, mother and wife, has been working tirelessly on these issues for decades. I admire the work especially of the women police officers in this room who have overcome great obstacles and daily challenges but persevere to serve your country.
So thank you for being heroes every day, and thank all of you for your hard work, dedication, and continued partnership.