Colombo Telegraph

Gota & The Gunaratnam Affair

By Lionel Bopage

Dr. Lionel Bopage

The necessity for changing the political culture of distorting history and resorting to personal slander – Part 2

During the 1988-1990 period, the state security apparatus under the political direction of President JR Jayewardene and President R Premadasa is said to have killed about 60,000 young people in the south and the JVP also went on a killing spree on the pretext of opposing the 13th amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka. During the same period, Lieutenant Colonel Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa was said to have been in charge of the Sri Lanka Army base in the Matale district and responsible for the lives of thousands of youth that had disappeared.

In April 2012, when the FSP was preparing for its first congress, it became known that Kumar and comrade Dimuthu Attygalle[1] had been abducted and their whereabouts were unknown[2]. Members of the FSP in general, and the two kidnapped members in particular, had been under surveillance of the state security forces[3]. According to Dimuthu, her abductors had bundled her into a van and blindfolded her. While being held, her legs and hands had been chained. However, the abductors had repeatedly denied any connection with the state, but had questioned her if the FSP had any plans for military activity, any foreign or LTTE contacts and any sources of funding. After Kumar’s release, Dimuthu had been dropped at a place close to the FSP head office.

In the late 1980s, Kumar had been a member of the JVP’s Socialist Students’ Union, and taken part in the JVP’s campaign against devolution of power and the Indo-Lanka Accord. The JVP had been involved in killing many workers and its political opponents, who did not support its stand on Indo-Lanka Accord. He had led the JVP in a military campaign against the Indian Army in the Trincomalee District in 1989 until he was arrested. Kumar later fled Sri Lanka to obtain Australian citizenship. Dimuthu had also been a member of the JVP’s Socialist Students’ Union since the late 1980s and has been the organiser of the FSP’s Socialist Women’s Union. Despite these circumstances, many in the JVP and some other commentators expressed the view that this ‘disappearance’ was an inside job. According to them, the abduction had been stage managed by them to gain publicity for the FSP’s first congress and or to embarrass the government. In addition, stories to the effect that Indians would have played a role in this abduction as Kumar was an explosives expert involved in planting road side bombs to kill Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF).

The Defence Secretary and the state propagated the idea that there could be many more cases like Kumar, who have assumed new identities for political and economic reasons. When Kumar emerged from his abduction, the Island’s ‘defence’ journalist wrote that no less person than Australian High Commissioner in Colombo, Robyn Mudie, produced Gunaratnam’s passport issued courtesy the government of Australia bearing the name Noel Mudalige. Sri Lanka requested HC Mudie to prove Gunaratnam’s arrival in Sri Lanka after she sought Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s intervention to locate the missing man whom she identified as an Australian citizen. Sri Lanka requested the top Australian diplomat to prove Gunaratnam’s arrival in Sri Lanka as records at Bandaranaike International Airport didn’t show any Australian passport holder by that name entering the country. The abduction of Kumar and Dimuthu was condemned by many including the current Prime Minister (then the leader of Opposition) Ranil Wickremesinghe who stated that continuing disappearances, in spite of the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009 proved the deterioration of law and order and the government’s failure to tackle the situation.

To clarify matters, I will refer to certain statements Kumar and the then High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe had made during the ABC Lateline Interview held on 11 April 2012. According to Kumar, who took part in the interview while at his home in Sydney, he had been a long time JVP activist, and he had not committed any human rights abuses. Nevertheless, he said, he had to respond to certain challenges posed by the anti-democratic activities of the Sri Lankan state. Kumar had been in Sri Lanka on an Australian passport under the name Noel Mudalige, since September 2011 prior to the launch of the FSP on April 9, 2012. He was to speak at the inauguration of the party. However, he was abducted on the 7th.

*To be continued

[1] The National Organizer of the Socialist Women’s Union and the Secretary for Women’s and International Affairs of the FSP.

[2] According to the information, there had been 29 disappearances in Sri Lanka between February and March 2012, and a total of fifty-six disappearances over the six months prior.

[3] FSP activists Lalith Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan had been abducted on 9th December 2011 in Jaffna and not been seen or heard since then. There has been no information or credible investigation into their disappearance despite widespread protests, local and international campaigns and a habeas corpus petition filed at the Appeal Court in Sri Lanka.

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