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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Abductions reach dangerous heights – NfR

NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders, condemns in very strong terms the recent abduction of Mr. Premakumar Gunarathnam and Ms. Dimuthu Attygalle, two leading political activist in the country.

According to reliable sources Ms. D Attygalle was abducted on 6th April, late in the evening and Mr. Gunarathnam on the 7th April early in the morning. Both of them are leading figures of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) of Sri Lanka.

The government of Sri Lanka was looking for Premakumar Gunarathnam for some time as he was tipped to be the leader of a new left political formation, FSP. The wife of Mr. Gunarathnam, Dr Somaratne, was detained with her two children for 18 hours at Colombo’s international airport on 02 January and questioned about the whereabouts of Mr. Gunarathnam.

According to an eyewitness around 25 armed persons had come to the place where Mr. Gunarathnam  was staying at Kiribathgoda, suburb of Colombo, to abduct him. The manner in which the abduction had taken place shows without any doubt , the involvement of state agencies in this heinous crime.

Two activists from the same political group, Lalith Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan, were abducted on 9th December 2011 and they remain missing to this day. Lalith Weeraraj was abducted by the military prior to 9th December and had been released after being threatened to stop work related to disappearances of persons in the North. The families of both these men have also suffered threats, harassment and surveillance following their abductions.

Abductions have continued unabated in Sri Lanka over the last six months or so. Nearly 60 such incidents had been reported during this period. Threats, harassments, attacks and intimidation of political and civil activists too, have been reported from all corners of the country.

In recent times it has come to light that white van abductors are in fact military personnel in civil clothes. There had been instances when Government leaders had intervened and got abducted persons released in no time when they were inclined to help the victims. However the law enforcement agencies had not been pursuing any of the complaints of disappearances in all earnest. This has given credence to the widely prevalent suspicion that the state is involved in these abductions.

Abduction of leading political figures like Mr. Gunarathnam and Ms. Attygalle brings the trend of the suppression of the dissenting and opposing voices and physical elimination of persons the state considers to be a threat to its autocratic rule, to a peak. These incidents have revived memories of the period of terror (the bheeshana samaya ) that prevailed in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1992 and have created a tensed situation in the country.

NfR is saddened and shocked by the abduction of these two leading political activists and appeals all human and democratic forces to register their concern with the Government of Sri Lanka and take all available steps to secure the lives of Mr. Gunarathnam and Ms. Attygalle.



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