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
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
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
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
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
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.