The much dreaded ‘white-van’ culture of the former regime under Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, appears to be slowly raising its ugly head once again, this time under incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, amidst increasing complaints from the North and East about ‘white van’ style abductions in recent few weeks.
Civilians from the North and the East have complained about the reemergence of white van style abductions, including several instances where even rehabilitated LTTE cadres were ‘abducted’ instead of being arrested in the proper manner by the Terrorism Investigation Division, in white vans.
Meanwhile, a protest organized by the Families of the Disappeared outside the United Nations Compound in Colombo on Tuesday, demanded UN intervention to end the re-emergence of the white van style abduction of civilians from the North and East, which was rampant during the previous regime.
The protestors said that in the recent weeks there have been several incidents of white van style abductions in Jaffna, Ampara as well as Negombo, where even civilians were arrested in white vans. Seeking the immediate intervention of the UN, the protestors also handed over a petition to the UN protesting against the reemergence of the white van culture.
The protestors warned that if the current trend continues it could lead to another war, and therefore Sirisena and Wickremesinghe should take immediate steps to put an end to this white van culture which appears to have re-emerged.
Early this month, the National Peace Council also expressed concern over the failure by the authorities to follow proper procedure when arresting civilians as well as rehabilitated LTTE cadres. In April alone there were over 23 arrests, a significant number of which had being carried out in an illegal manner using white vans.
During the Rajapaksa regime, white vans were used rampantly to abduct critics, including journalists, and activists among others. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, Gotabaya, who was the ex-Defence Secretary, is alleged to have had a hand in the white van abductions, which were mainly used to silence critics. ( By Munza Mushtaq © Colombo Telegraph)