By Dean Nelson –
Human rights campaigners have called on the Sri Lankan government to hold an inquiry after its own soldiers were implicated in political kidnappings by men in unmarked white vans that have been linked to dozens of disappearances.
They spoke out after a leading Sri Lankan politician revealed how he and his guards had thwarted an apparent kidnap attempt by a gang of men in a white van in a Colombo park earlier this year. Police later confirmed the men in the vehicle were government soldiers.
Disappearances in “white van kidnappings” were a regular occurrence when the government’s war with the Tamil Tigers was at its height four years ago. But in the last year there has been a resurgence and a rise in fear among those who have dared to oppose the government or powerful figures within it.
According to campaign groups there have been 58 disappearances in the last nine months and in 22 of them witnesses have seen the victims being bundled into white vans.
While the sinister vans are widely believed to be controlled by forces loyal to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government, no-one has provided any evidence to support the claim until Ravindra Udayashanta spoke out this week about how his guards managed to turn the tables on a group of armed men he believes were planning to abduct him.
Mr Udayashanta was with his guards when he noticed the white van and feared he was about to be kidnapped as his brother had been in February. The abduction has been linked to a business dispute between their family and another prominent member of President Rajapaksa’s government alliance. Mr Udayashanta is also member of the alliance and the mayor of Colonnawa Urban Council.
“I heard the crack of a gun and I too pulled out my pistol and fired back,” he said, explaining the start of a gunfight which saw his men surround the “kidnappers” and hold them until police arrived. The police confirmed they were army soldiers but released them saying they had been searching for deserters.
Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch said this latest case appeared to be the first piece of credible evidence indicating state complicity in the disappearances. “There has never been evidence about the perpetrators but in this case the police confirmed they were soldiers. Now it is a test of the government to show the world they will take action on white van disappearances and bring the perpetrators to justice,” she said.
The Telegraph –