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Monday, May 20, 2024

Well-orchestrated drama to sling mud at Sri Lanka – State media

Last week’s horror drama featuring Premakumar Gunaratnam, alias Noel Mudalige, with the Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Robyn Mudie as a ‘support actress’, exposed the concocted stories of the so-called white van abductions – a money-spinner for local NGO goons and bankrupt Opposition politicians.

Thanks to the vigilance of the Security Forces, the well-orchestrated drama to sling mud at Sri Lanka was uncovered in time, thereby exposing the hidden hand behind the drama which hit headlines, not only in the local newspapers, but in Australia too.

The million-dollar question is how the Australian High Commissioner Mudie apparently turned magician to produce the original passport of Noel Mudalige. When Gunaratnam, claimed to be the leader of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), appeared from nowhere after his well-publicised drama, at the Crime Detection Branch (CDB) Headquarters in Dematagoda last Tuesday, he did not have his passport with him.

The authorities then requested the Australian High Commission in Colombo to issue an emergency travel document to deport Gunaratnam, an adopted Australian appearing as Mudalige. It was then that the cat came out of the bag as Australian High Commissioner Mudie appeared at the CDB with the lost passport – the original Australian passport issued for Mudalige. Only the Australian High Commission knows how they produced the missing passport in next to no time.

False name
Having migrated to Australia a few years back, Premakumar Gunaratnam has been appearing as Noel Mudalige, having disposed of his original passport under the name Gunaratnam. Knowingly or unknowingly, the Australian immigration authorities had issued a passport to Gunaratnam under another name. By arriving in Sri Lanka last September using an Australian passport under a false name, Gunaratnam has violated immigration laws of this country. Furthermore, he has overstayed his Sri Lankan visa, after the expiry and as a result, his name has automatically been blacklisted by Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration.

The person, on whose behalf the Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka has been making a big hue and cry and levelling allegations of abduction, is a man who has breached immigration laws of both Sri Lanka and Australia. Under the Sri Lanka Constitution, it is a non-bailable offence.

What puzzles Sri Lankans is the big hurry and the level of diplomatic pressure exerted by the Australian High Commission to rescue a man who has violated the immigration laws of not only Sri Lanka, but Australia too. Gunaratnam has been staying in Sri Lanka illegally for more than five months. His visa had expired five months ago.

Gunaratnam has changed his name three times. The first name, Wanninayake Mudiyanselage Daskon, appears in his marriage certificate. A different name, Rathnayake Mudiyanselage Dayalal, is used in his Sri Lankan passport.

Yet another name, Noel Mudalige, was used when he obtained the Australian passport which he produced on his arrival in Sri Lanka on September 4, 2011.

The FSP, which Gunaratnam claims to head, is a breakaway group of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Unlike when Wimal Weerawansa, now a minister, and many seniors left the JVP, Gunaratnam and his rebels have been unable to make a big impact. Hence, they have been looking for something sensational ahead of their planned inaugural party convention.

Under the circumstances, the abduction of Gunaratnam and his party’s women’s activist Dimuthu Attygalle could well be their own initiative. If that is so, it has been a fruitful venture as Gunaratnam and Attygalle’s names, virtually unheard before, became popular overnight.

As Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa has stated at a news conference, the publicity the FSP got ahead of its maiden convention could not be obtained even for millions of rupees and is easily the best public attention any political party has got ahead of an inaugural convention.

Foreign hand
At the same time, a hidden foreign hand behind the so-called abductions could not be ruled out, considering the manner in which the Australian High Commissioner has acted in this episode.

When there was a split in the JVP, there were many stories doing the rounds. One such news was that the JVP rebels were planning to join hands with the rehabilitated LTTE cadre, so that they could jointly prepare for an armed struggle. The Security Forces were on alert. This led the Ministry of Defence to make a formal request to the Australian High Commission a few months ago to obtain any information on Gunaratnam.

The Defence Ministry was compelled to make such a request as Gunaratnam is a citizen of Australia. The Defence Ministry has requested the date of arrival of the FSP leader, his passport number and the names he uses. However the Mission had not responded.

However, the Australian High Commission, upon the request after the alleged abduction, had given the name of Noel Mudalige. The High Commission has inquired of a man by the name of Noel Mudalige, claiming that he has disappeared. It was only at that point that the High Commission has submitted the passport number of Mudalige and his date of arrival to the Defence Secretary.

The most controversial was the reports on two persons being missing – abducted by ‘white-vans’. According to local newspaper reports and JVP rebels, it was their leader Kumar Gunaratnam who was missing. However the Australian High Commission maintained the fact that it was Australian citizen Noel Mudalige who was missing. It was not made public that Noel Mudalige and Kumar Gunaratnam is the same person.

Missing person
If it was not disclosed even at the late stage, the abduction of Kumar Gunaratnam would have been credited to the Government’s account, to bring disrepute to Sri Lanka whereas the real Gunaratnam would have gone to Australia under the guise of Mudalige. Gunaratnam’s name would have remained as a missing person, having being ‘abducted in a white van’!

The international community and foreign missions should make a careful study of the Gunaratnam-Attygalle drama. In the past, LTTE cadre have often used different names and obtained citizenship in other countries, mainly in Canada, Australia and France. Perhaps, the governments of those countries were unaware of this ploy. No country or government could be accountable for gimmicks of this nature where a person goes missing and emerges in some other country with a different name to obtain fresh citizenship or permanent residency.

International organisations, which portray themselves as the godfathers of human rights, should first and foremost look into matters of this nature. Over the years, there have been many allegations against the Government about people who have gone missing after the humanitarian operation. However, none of these INGOs have ever considered their true circumstances. How could a government or a country be accountable when there are people who duplicate their names and obtain fresh citizenship in another country?

In this context, one wonders how many people who claim to be missing must be in living in countries such as Canada and Australia under different names. Their original names would remain in the lists of persons who have gone missing. No government would ever be able to find their whereabouts as they appear under different names in different countries. Is this the good governance that the West has been preaching?

Could anyone say that the Australian government did not know Gunaratnam has been using a different identity and has taken citizenship in Australia? Could anyone say that the Australian authorities were unaware that Gunaratnam came to Sri Lanka under a false name? How could an Australian lead a political party in Sri Lanka? Is this what the West call good governance? These are the questions that have to be answered by these authorities and INGOs.

Constructive criticism
While the Government is responsive to constructive criticism, it is important that allegations of a volatile nature be based on facts properly ascertained and objectively assessed. Whenever a person chooses to withdraw from the community for personal reasons, or with the deliberate intention of causing embarrassment to the government or his/her native country, it is grossly unfair to arrive at the conclusion that there had been an abduction and point a finger at a legitimate State.

This has been the order over the years and now seems to reflect a recurring pattern. It is crystal clear that interested parties, both here and abroad, target Sri Lanka in international fora on the flimsiest of evidence. What is lacking by way of evidence seems to be amply compensated by emotion, surmise and invective.

Those who made vigorous statements – leaders of political parties, academics and civil society activists on abductions of Gunaratnam and Attygalle never considered these stark facts. All these persons were united in making a variety of grave allegations, the gist of which is to impute responsibility on the Government for an alleged abduction. Gunaratnam was deported from Sri Lanka because his stay in this country was in breach of the island’s immigration laws and therefore illegal.

On the other hand, Attygalle, at a news conference on Tuesday, after she was released by an unknown party, has alleged that the JVP was behind their abduction. This statement could not be taken lightly as the JVP was all out to eliminate their breakaway group. Moreover, the JVP has such a notorious history.

There are many features relating to the alleged abduction which throw considerable doubt on the reliability and trustworthiness of the version of events which have been released to the media. The abduction of Gunaratnam is alleged to have occurred at 4.00 am on April 7, but a complaint to the Police was made only at 4.10 pm in the afternoon – 12 hours later.

A complaint on Attygalle’s abduction was made 31 hours after her disappearance. It is quite obvious that a genuine abduction would have been reported to the Police far more swiftly.

The Gunaratnam drama is an eye-opener to all, especially to some of the countries in the West which point accusing fingers at the Government the moment a person goes missing. There is no doubt that a legitimate government is responsible for the safety and well-being of its citizens. However that does not mean that a government should be held responsible for persons who deliberately go missing after changing names and obtaining different citizenship under false names.
by K.M.H.C.B. Kulatunga


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