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Use of state violence to suppress peaceful conversation on political matters

Abduction of Mr. Premakumar Gunaratnam and Ms. Attygalle

( April 11, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) An abduction drama ended yesterday exposing so vividly the government's involvement, not only in this particular incident but also in many of the abductions that have been taking place in Sri Lanka during the last six months. The number of these abductions has been around 60. The government has failed to investigate any of these incidents adequately and to make any arrests.

Ms. Attygalle, within hours of her release, gave a detailed account of her abduction, interrogation and subsequent release. Her interview was conducted in Sinhala and may be seen here. This courageous statement giving details of how the abductions took place on April 6 until yesterday (April 10) when she was released deserves careful study. The ease with which the abductors behaved throughout and the manner in which their actions were coordinated with those who were directing the operation leaves no room to doubt the direct involvement of a government agency in this abduction.

Mr. Premakumar Gunaratnam gave an interview on his return to Sydney (today, April 11) in which he categorically stated that, "I have no doubt that if I didn't have the Australian government's support I would have been killed just like my brother and hundreds of other political activists and journalists have been killed," He went on to say, "I can confirm I was abducted by the Sri Lankan government forces, blindfolded and tortured. This includes, I am embarrassed to say, sexual torture." This article may be found here.

Characteristically, the spokesman for the police, SP Ajith Rohana, tried to deny the government's involvement. This is the common manner in which the Sri Lankan police deal with the complaints relating to the abductions taking place in the country. The police are not only prevented from conducting any credible investigations into complaints of abductions but are also compelled to engage in propaganda to whitewash such allegations. What SP Rohana's statements reveal is that pathetically comical situation to which the Sri Lankan police has been reduced.

When government agencies engage in abductions and the police is used only for the purpose of denying the credibility of these allegations the citizens are left with no possibility at all of getting any kind of redress.

The purpose of abductions is to intimidate, not only the victims but also society as a whole. Preventing a conversation amongst the citizens on matters that are of importance to them is the aim of the government agencies who are employed in the carrying out of abductions, some of which end in the death of the victims.

Sri Lanka has a history of carrying out arrests by way of abductions and torturing the victims and imposing other forms of punishment including extrajudicial killings. The commissions appointed by the government itself have revealed great details of how this has happened to large numbers of persons in the past. In recent time no such commissions have been appointed to investigate the allegations.

The details revealed by Mr. Premakumar Gunaratnam and Ms. Attygalle, whose lives have been saved by the urgent intervention of the Australian government, have for the first time revealed what many other victims did not live to make public. Ordinary citizens who have had no links to the outside governments have suffered their fate in silence. It is an irony that in a country that is quick to accuse external conspirators for anything and everything, the citizens are left with no other recourse except to a foreign government when they face the possibility of imminent death after abduction.

In the past the journalists have attempted to expose the attacks on freedom of expression. The danger that exists in Sri Lanka is much greater than such attacks on journalists. What prevails in Sri Lanka is a comprehensive programme of suppressing political participation all together. Keeping the monopoly of political power in the hands of a small group of persons at the expense of everyone else including some sections of government supporters themselves is the scheme that is being so meticulously implemented within the country.

A chance saving of two lives due to decisive intervention on the part of the Australian government should be an eye opener to everyone both in and outside the country about what Sri Lanka has become; a place where democratic conversation is outlawed.

Please also see: SRI LANKA: The government's abduction industry exposed

( A Statement Issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission)

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