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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

White van abduction foiled; Kolonnawa UC Chairman holds army responsible

Kolonnawa Urban Council Chairman, Ravindra Udayashantha, who survived an alleged white van abduction Saturday evening, held the Sri Lanka army responsible for the act.  The abduction was foiled by supporters of the UC Chairman, who after a scuffle apprehended the driver of the white van and four others. This is the first time a white van abduction has been foiled in the recent past.

While reports indicated some soldiers were behind the attempted abduction, the UC Chairman confirmed those apprehended by his supporters were from the Special Force of the Sri Lanka Army.

The army, when contacted by Ceylon Today, refuted the allegations denying any involvement in the attempted abduction. The police also refused to comment on the incident.

Udayashantha, who has demanded protection from the government, speaking to Ceylon Today, said he will lobby for his life and would even go to the extent of seeking international assistance, if the government fails to provide him adequate protection.

“The government must give me an assurance that my life is safe,” he said, adding, “I am the first citizen in the area and if I cannot protect my own life, how am I going to assure my people that their lives are not at a risk?”

Recalling Saturday incident, Udayashantha said he suspected his life was in danger when he saw the brother of a woman, allegedly linked with a large scale drug dealer in Colombo, reportedly supplying drugs to prison inmates, pointing him out to unidentified group of men.

“I was at Umagiliya Grounds in Kolonnawa attending a sports event. This person had a cricket bat in his hand and was behaving suspiciously. He was talking and signalling to several others who had posted themselves around the grounds. Since their behaviour was suspicious I told my close supporters something was wrong. I even told them I might be abducted in a white van like my brother,” he said.

Udayashantha had asked his aides to go to the middle of the grounds and mingle with the public. “I did not expect to be abducted at that time, but thought I’ll get a bullet at some point. Therefore, we moved to the middle of the grounds so that we could be seen by everyone,” he said, explaining that he had told everyone around that the gang that had arrived was suspicious.

At that moment those around him started rushing toward the gang, who had then started to fire at them. “In self defence I too had to use my official weapon to shoot back at them,” Udayashantha explained.
He said, subsequent to the shooting a scuffle had broken out between his supporters and the gang of about 12, ensuing which his supporters had managed to apprehend four of the gang members.

The rest had got into the van and attempted to flee the area, but the resident  had managed to bring the vehicle to a halt and apprehend the driver. But the others had fled the area.

The people who apprehended the driver and four others along with the vehicle then smashed the van and started assaulting the individuals demanding details from them.

Following this, five men initially confessed that they were army deserters who had come to visit a friend.

“Then they said they came looking for an army deserter who had weapons in his possession,” the Chairman said, adding that  he held them at gunpoint and demanded details as to who gave them the contract to abduct him.
“Then they said they are in the army,” Udayashantha said adding that information obtained from the captured men had convinced him the individuals were attached to the Special Force.

He also noted that they were attached to a camp in Vavuniya.

Meanwhile, soon after the gang entered the playgrounds, the Chairman realising his life was in danger, had called the Wellampitiya Police.
Immediately after the gang members were apprehended and interrogated they had been handed over to the police, who had arrived by that time.

However, the Chairman alleged the members who were taken away by the Police had been forcibly removed by the military. He also alleged the military had also removed the van.

Meanwhile, when contacted Police Media Spokesperson SP Ajith Rohana, refused to comment and requested Ceylon Today speak to the Military Spokesperson. However, Acting Director of Army Media Brigadier J.V. Ravipriya denied any army involvement in the incident.

“Yesterday (Saturday) a group of army men who had gone on duty in civvies had stopped near the Kolonnawa clock tower and a group of residents had come and engaged them in an argument. When it got out of hand the argument had developed into a clash and the nearby police had taken both parties to the Police Station,” he said adding that  following the interrogation the police had released four soldiers as they realized they were on duty.

On 2 February, this year Udeshantha’s brother Janaka Prabath Dodampe Gamage (34) was abducted by an armed gang also in a white van and is believed to have been murdered. To date he remains missing.

Udeshantha said his brother was killed as a result of intra party rivalry. “Both my brother and I were battling against drug lords in this area and he paid the ultimate price. This attempt was to try to shut me up too,” Udeshantha said adding, he had received repeated death threats since his brother’s murder.
Ceylon Today Online


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