Today we carry a list of 32 incidents of abductions and missing persons taken place between October last year and February this year. Out of which 5 have returned to their homes. All of these incidents have been individually reported in the media. (The complete chart is published with this article).
The police however maintain that it has received only 18 complaints of abductions during the last five months, out of which two complaints have been determined to be false.
Four persons out of the 16 complaints made to police have returned. Therefore, the police are investigating into 12 complaints of abductions.
Most of the abductions that have been reported have taken place in broad daylight in Colombo, and its suburbs.
Out of the 27 abduction and missing cases, three missing cases and three of the abductions have taken place in the North.
Of the 27 abducted and gone missing, seven bodies have been found in public places. Also, out of the 27 persons, one has been identified as a woman, two were unidentifiable and 29 have been identified as men.
Most of the persons abducted have been identified as social activists. A few are businessmen and half a dozen identified as known criminals and members of the underworld.
Some of the abductions have taken place under the guise of cleaning up the country of underworld members and drug peddlers.
Authorities have most often used the so-called “clean up” operation of undesirable elements in the country to justify the new social order of abduction.
For instance government ministers have been placed on record admitting to the existence of white vans that are most often used in the abduction of persons and claim that the white vans were only after members of the underworld and drug peddlers.
They have been quoted saying there was “no option” but to engage in abductions in order to cub an increase of activities of the underworld.
The alleged involvement of armed forces in these abductions have caused much concern following the attempt to abduct the governing party Chairman of the Kolonnawa Urban Council, Ravindra Udayashantha by personnel attached to the Sri Lanka Army.
The military claimed that it was a case of mistaken identity and that the army personnel were engaged in a reconnaissance mission to apprehend army deserters.
Be that as it may, the alarming increase in the number of abductions and missing persons has created a break down in the law and order situation in the country while building a fear psychosis in society.
Police Spokesperson SP Ajith Rohana admitted that there were abductions and missing persons being investigated by the police.
He said the police is investigating into many cases of abductions and missing persons.
However, he added that there have been instances when false complaints of alleged abductions have been reported to the police.
According to SP Rohana, the police have to first determine the genuine complaints and investigate into them.
When inquired as to why the police have taken time to investigate complaints of abducted and missing persons as opposed to investigations into other incidents, the Spokesperson said the police was investigating into every complaint and that in some instances it takes time.
He said the police have recorded only 18 complaints of abductions during the last five months, adding that he was unable to give details about the missing persons.
Referring to the case of civil society activist Pattani Razik, SP Rohana said the investigation took two years before Razik’s remains were found buried in the East.
“There were so many allegations when Razik went missing and it was even said that the abduction was politically motivated, but the investigation finally uncovered the truth,” he explained, adding that it took some time for the police to conclude the investigation.
Among the abductions and missing persons reports that have been highlighted in the media are the cases of two political activists in the North, Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan. They were abducted in Jaffna on December 9, 2011 while engaged in preparations to celebrate Human Rights Day.
Another case is the abduction of a Tamil businessman Ramasamy Prahaharan in Colombo on February 11, two days before a fundamental rights case filed by him against the Police was due to be heard.
Prahaharan, who was released from prison in September 2011 after two years in detention without any charges being filed against him, was challenging this arbitrary detention and torture while in custody and he had received threats asking him to withdraw the case.
On February 12, Chandrapala alias Mervyn, who had been brought to Colombo’s court complex in Hulftsdorf for a bail application, was abducted in the vicinity of the Courts while being accompanied by Prison Guards.
On January 8, Panadura Donald alias Maligawatte Donald was abducted while traveling to Colombo from Panadura but was later released.
Minister Mervyn Silva’s close associate Amal Rodrigo was abducted on December 13 last year and Thalawatugoda Suddha, who is believed to be an underworld figure and three others with him were abducted on December 8, 2011.
Another person believed to an underworld figure, Dematagoda Aja was abducted on November 12, 2011.
Last November 3, Ruwan Chandimal Depp also known as Navy Ruwan and one of his friends were abducted while G. K. Dhammika alias Karate Dhammika was abducted on October 22, 2011. These persons are believed to be members of the underworld as well.
The fact remains that any issue or person should be dealt with according to the rule of law regardless of whether the person is an underworld figure or any other person.
Now that the government has been forced to take stock of the concerns raised over the violation of human rights following the warning signal at last week’s UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva, addressing the issue of abductions and missing persons would have to be included in the list of priorities.
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema