Sri Lankan family tells of bus stop humiliation

SCARED: Sri Lankan student Kaushalya Ilangkovan was doused in Coca-Cola as her terrified family looked on at a bus stop on Tuesday night. Picture: Neil Richardson
SCARED: Sri Lankan student Kaushalya Ilangkovan was doused in Coca-Cola as her terrified family looked on at a bus stop on Tuesday night. Picture: Neil Richardson

A Sri Lankan architecture student in her first week of university in Launceston was doused in Coca-Cola and humiliated in front of her terrified parents on Tuesday night.

Seventeen-year-old Kaushalya Ilangkovan, her mother Geetha Ilangkovan and father Ilangkovan Arunasalam were targeted by two women at the St John Street bus stop about 6.55pm, in what would become an hour-long ordeal.

The unrelenting attack saw the women hurl abuse at the family, before one threw a cardboard box over Geetha's head and shoulders and then over Kaushalya's.

When one of the women attempted to pour Coke on Geetha, Kaushalya leapt to her mother's defence.

But her bravery resulted in her being drenched with the entire bottle of soft drink, Kaushalya said as she held back tears on Thursday.

The second woman filmed the assault on a mobile phone.

Scared and alone in a foreign country, the family said it felt powerless to repel the attack.

Utas architecture student Kavshalya Ilangkovan with her parents Geetha Ilangkovan (Mum) and Ilangkovan Arunasalam (Dad)

Utas architecture student Kavshalya Ilangkovan with her parents Geetha Ilangkovan (Mum) and Ilangkovan Arunasalam (Dad)

They arrived in Australia on February 18.

“I felt not safe – after that incident, I don’t think (Launceston) is a safe place for people to stay,” Kaushalya said.

"I had to catch the bus again (on Wednesday) and I was really scared to go outside.” 

Kaushalya said the duo's hostility began when her and her parents arrived at the bus stop late at 6.55pm.

They had missed their bus and were looking out for the next one to arrive when one of the women accused Kaushalya of staring at her.

Kaushalya said she protested her innocence, but the harassment soon turned into degradation.

“We just kept quiet. We didn’t want unwanted problems,” Kaushalya said.

One of the women was described as "fat", wearing a short black dress, with fair skin and red-coloured hair.

The other was of average build, with black pants, top, fair complexion with purple-coloured hair.

University of Tasmania student experience executive director Stephanie Taylor said the family was being looked after.

“Launceston is at its heart a warm, welcoming city and incidents of this type are not part of the character of the place,” she said.

“As a community we should take every possible step to ensure such acts are discouraged and, if they do occur, absolutely deplored.”

Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten called the act “disgusting”.

“It's important that we, as a community, take ownership of these issues and call out the perpetrators of these kinds of incidents,” he said.

“We all have a responsibility in holding perpetrators to account to ensure our city remains a fantastic place to live.”

Launceston police are investigating.

Anyone with information should contact police on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers anonymously on 1800 333 000.