Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 22 April 2012





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

White van myth exploded

Abducted by unidentified men in a white van! This has been the buzzword of those who have been conspiring against Sri Lanka and its Government during the past few years.

Be it the LTTE rump, Tiger sympathisers, Tamil diaspora, countries supporting them indirectly or even opportunistic Opposition politicians here - all used this popular slogan in different forms to achieve their hidden agendas. Surprisingly, none of them has come forward to furnish any concrete evidence to the police or defence authorities to probe such baseless and concocted allegations which are aimed at tarnishing Sri Lanka’s image and its defence establishment. This has proved to be a money-spinner for some NGOs and bankrupt Opposition politicians.

The LTTE rump, Tiger sympathisers or Tamil diaspora making such wild allegations to bring the Government into disrepute and woo the sympathy of the international community is quite understandable. Certain politicians in Canada, UK and Australia, who depend heavily on the votes of adopted Tamils from Sri Lanka for their political survival, also dance the fandango around LTTE shadow organisations.

What confounds all patriotic and peace-loving people of Sri Lanka is the shameful conduct of some Opposition politicians who utter diabolical lies to realise their petty political ambitions. Would politicians in other countries descend to such an abysmal level of turning traitors to their motherland, putting self before country?

A certain television channel, which caters to ‘headless’ people, and some newspapers, dish out various stories on these so-called ‘white van abductions’. One particular television channel allocates a segment of its news bulletin to abductions almost on a daily basis, showing clippings of weeping relatives to rouse passions and instill fear and apprehension in the public. The same story is aired ad nauseum in different presentations.

However, such programs fail to highlight the real motives behind such incidents. It has been revealed that most of these incidents stem from personal problems such as extra-marital affairs, business and gang rivalry. Those who report such abductions in a heart-rending manner don’t make further inquiries and provide tangible evidence in support of such investigations. Even if the Security Forces were to uncover such mysteries, they are reluctant to do so as all such incidents are conveniently credited to the ‘Government’s account’.

The Government’s responsibility to protect its people and conduct investigations on such incidents is by no means disputed. While the Government and its security establishment make every endeavour to uncover such incidents, it is the responsibility of those who level various accusations and the public to furnish whatever evidence they have on such abductions. In making such allegations without any concrete evidence, Opposition politicians only play into the hands of LTTE ghouls and help certain countries which are attempting to sully Sri Lanka’s image and bring its leaders and Security Forces before the war crimes tribunal on alleged war crime charges.

The recent high-drama enacted by Premakumar Gunaratnam, alias Noel Mudalige and the Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Robyn Mudie exposed the true nature of the so-called white van abductions. How the Australian High Commissioner Mudie apparently turned magician to produce overnight the original passport of Noel Mudalige still remains a mystery. Had it not been for the swift action of the Security Forces to uncover the dual role of the JVP rebel leader, his disappearance would still remain a ‘white van abduction’.

Similarly, there was a big hue and cry recently over two men who went missing in Wellampitiya and villagers surrounded the police station and complained that some people had been abducted in a white van. However, when the defence authorities investigated the matter, it was found that they had been apprehended by Excise Department officials for a certain offence and that too after apprising people in the vicinity. Lo and behold, it turned out to be a black van.

Another story doing the rounds on ‘self abductions’ has also come to light. A married man who had spent a few days with his mistress, had told his wife when he returned home that he had been abducted in a white van and was later released. These are some of the true-life ‘white van stories’ that have received the least publicity.

Another aspect of the white van drama was brought into sharp focus by Lakshman Kiriella to resurrect his moribund political image. In an interview with a daily newspaper, Kiriella had said that a certain woman had told him that when she had gone to the police station to complain about her son’s abduction, she found the same person who had come to abduct her son at the police station.

Nevertheless, when Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa sought evidence to elicit further details on the matter for investigations, Kiriella made a futile effort to seek cover under Parliamentary privileges.

It goes without saying that Members of Parliament (MPs) enjoy Parliamentary privileges only for statements they make in Parliament. Hence, Kiriella should realise that he could not make sweeping statements in public and get away with it.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in his capacity as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, is the senior most administrator of that ministry. He is consulted even when MPs seek answers from the Defence Minister. The Defence Secretary has a bounden duty to seek evidence and initiate an investigation on any serious allegation.

Instead of providing information and assisting the Defence Ministry on the original allegation he made in public, Kiriella had said that he would raise a privilege issue in Parliament against the Defence Secretary. The UNP MP now gloats about his privileges and the protocol ladder in the Government Establishment Code. In the event Kiriella’s allegation had been sincere, he should have come forward and furnished the information he was privy to, and thereby assist the defence authorities.

The Defence Secretary is the ideal person to address such allegations and order investigations to mete out justice. Is there any other better person for the job? It appears that Kiriella is now attempting to take cover under Parliamentary privileges without elaborating on what he had said earlier.

As a responsible citizen, veteran lawyer and a people’s representative, Kiriella should have obtained the name of the officer at the police station he alleges and lodged a complaint accordingly with the IGP. However, it seems that Kiriella had conveniently forgotten the fact that the highest number of abductions and extra-judicial killings took place when his party - the UNP, was in power in 1987-88.


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