Police investigating the abduction of a Tamil businessman in Wellawatte last Saturday are yet to make any significant breakthrough, while his family keeps silent vigil for his safe return home. Ramasamay Prabhakaran, 42, was bundled into a white van by a group of seven persons armed with assault rifles and handguns, from his residence at Canal Bank Road in Wellawatte and sped away towards Bambalapitiya.
The incident took place around 3.30 p.m in the presence of his horrified wife, child and neighbours and other road users, moments after the family had returned home from the Athurugiriya Police, after presenting themselves at an inquiry over a dispute with a tenant.
Shortly after the victim was abducted, Wellawatte Police put out an islandwide alert to trace the van and the occupants, which proved futile, as was to be expected. Mr. Prabhakaran, a businessman in electronics, operating from Majestic City in Bambalapitiya, had earlier been detained for about two years, on allegations that he was linked to the LTTE, but was released on September 16 last year, for lack of evidence, while all the charges were dropped.
Will the truth be ever known about this abduction? Prabhakaran with his wife
Subsequently, he filed a Fundamental Rights case in the Supreme Court, claiming illegal detention and torture, citing senior police officers as respondents.
His latest abduction took place two days before the case was scheduled to come up for hearing. When it was taken up on Monday the Bench was informed by Counsel for the Petitioner that their client had been abducted and the case was postponed for July 20.
Meanwhile on the day of the abduction an unidentified caller, speaking in faltering Tamil, had informed the victim’s wife, Shiromi, that she should make arrangements to pay a ransom of Rs.100 million, for the safe release of her husband.
The ransom demand was repeated over the next two days, after which there were no calls and the businessman remaining missing without a trace to date. Ironically, the businessman, in his FR application had demanded Rs. 90 million as damages.
Also, interestingly, on the evening of the abduction, two persons from the Defence Ministry had showed up at the Prabhakaran residence. “They sounded genuine and showed concern for my plight, assuring me that everything possible would be done to trace my husband. They firmly denied any involvement of the defence authorities in the abduction and left,” Mrs. Prabhakaran told the Sunday Times.
On Thursday, the local police had showed up at the businessman’s residence and informed the family that an unidentified body had been found in a location at Wellawatte, and the corpse was at the Police Mortuary in Borella.
They had asked the businessman’s wife to accompany them to the morgue to help identify the body. An anxious and trembling Mrs. Prabahakaran, had gone along with the police team and her fears were laid to rest when she saw that the body at the Police Morgue was not that of her husband.
In desperation, the victim’s family is now seeking divine help from the local church. Although married to a Hindu, Mrs. Prabhakarn is a devout born-again Christian. The police had also informed her that the investigations were handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
Earlier, the Wellawatte police had deployed a round-the-clock guard at the Prabhakaran residence, and the wife was advised against leaving the place for her own safety. The police guard was however withdrawn on Thursday.
Meanwhile more abductions were reported throughout the week, including one in broad daylight at the highly secured High Courts complex in Colombo. A man being escorted to courts by prison guards, to face charges on a narcotic offence, was abducted by a group of armed men, after they threatened the jailors at gunpoint in front of a stunned crowd that included lawyers, policemen and the prisoner’s family.
The men later sped away in a white van that was closely followed by a defender jeep.
The following day, a charred, unidentified naked corpse was found at a plush residential area in Boteju Avenue, Narahenpitiya but no one is saying if it was the man abducted from the court complex 24 hours earlier. At least three others widely suspected to be linked to the underworld narcotic trade, were reportedly abducted from Dehiwala.
The men remain missing to date. “Questionable or otherwise, every individual has the legal right to have his/her case heard and decided in a court of law. The incident at the court complex was damning and shameful to a country that preaches democracy,” Human Rights lawyer J. C. Weliamuna told the Sunday Times.
He said that, when such matters are not properly investigated by the relevant authorities, and the culprits allowed to go free, then it only goes to prove that the State is directly or indirectly involved.
“This should never be the case, especially when the international community is looking at the country’s human rights record and other related issues. Not only that, we are also party to several international conventions, and therefore, there is an obligation to stay within the framework of the law,” Mr. Weliamuna added.
Human Rights Commission Chairman Priyankara Perera said that they had already begun investigating the abductions. “We do not need a complaint to go into it, as there is provision for the Commission to follow up the matter in an independent manner, and bring about relief to the affected next of kin. The incident at the court complex was outrageous in more than one way, and it will be treated with utmost seriousness by the Commission,” Mr. Perera a former High Court Judge said.
According to Police spokesman Senior Superintendent (SSP) Ajith Rohana investigations were continuing and they were optimistic of an early arrest