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‘I survived because of my political contacts’

Abducted ex-provincial councillor cum businessman relates anxious hours at the hands of six men who demanded Rs. 50 million from him
Sagara Senaratne, a Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Colombo district organiser-cum-businessman who was bundled into a van by a gang of six men earlier this week and dumped on the roadside several hours later, is still recovering from the shock.

“In fact I am contemplating whether I should remain in Sri Lanka or return to Australia where I lived for 10 years,” Mr. Senaratne told the Sunday Times at his residence in Rajagiriya. Mr. Senaratne, a former provincial councillor and brother-in-law of Minister Jeewan Kumaratunga is involved in the motor spare parts trade as well as in the construction industry.

“I left my shop at Nugegoda in the evening last Monday and was heading to Hanwella with my driver on a business matter. As we passed Jubilee Post at Mirihana a van that was behind us started hooting the horn incessantly. I got off my vehicle to inquire what the problem was. At that moment I was bundled into the van and thrust to the floorboard face downwards,” Mr. Senaratne said.

“The men wanted Rs. 50 million. I said I did not have that kind of money and although I was a businessman I had taken bank loans and could not pay such a sum. However I said I would pay a lesser amount,” he said.

Mr. Senaratne said he sensed that they travelled over the flyover on Baseline Road and had turned towards the Negombo Road as he heard several containers passing by.

“I thought they would kill me. I felt that my pressure was also increasing. I have been on medication for the past several years. I thought about the plight of my wife, two daughters, son and workers if anything were to happen to me,” Mr. Senaratne continued.

As they went along he heard the driver of the van getting a call and handing over the phone to another person in the van. There were about two or three more calls. “I sensed that they had panicked. They were telling the callers that no harm would come to me. It was only then I was hopeful that I would survive,” he said.

“I believed that the driver of my vehicle must have alerted my family and my brother in law and somebody was trying to get me released,” he said. Around 9. p.m. the van stopped at Mabole close to a restaurant.
“I was taken out of the van close to a bare land and was told not to budge from the area for 15 minutes. They gave me a bottle of water too. I asked for a bank account number so that I could deposit some money, but they left without a response,” Mr. Senaratne said.

Mr. Senaratne had then boarded a bus heading towards Colombo. But since he couldn’t locate a communications centre, from where he could call someone he got off the bus and boarded one that was heading towards the opposite direction, towards the airport. On the way he spotted a communications centre at Ja- Ela close to the Police station.

“I called my home to say I was safe and gave my location. The Ja-Ela police was alerted and they arrived at the scene and took me to the station. My brother in law too sent a team along with the Mirihana police,” he said.

Mr. Senaratne said that his brother-in-law Mr. Kumaratunga had called the IGP and other influential persons to secure his release.

“I was released because of my political affiliations. However I am not sure whether they will come back for me again. That’s why I may think of leaving the country,” Mr. Senaratne said. Meanwhile five police teams are probing the incident, but so far there has been no breakthrough
By Chris Kamalendran

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