Home

News

Editorial

Politics

Issues

Defence

Parliament

Focus

Economy

Arts

Letters

World Affairs

Serendipity

Thelma


Business

Review

Sports

 

 Spotlight

Is the JVP covertly pushing...? Return of the dreaded white van


 The Rajapakse 'connection' and a multi million dollar deal


Mahinda Rajapakse, Himal Hettiarachchi
and Shoji Takahashi

By Ranjith Jayasundera

Damning documents and details have emerged to prove that the government has yet again moved to place the interests of President Mahinda Rajapakse's family before the state and  the public, in a well thought out move to persuade state telecom operator, SLT to shell out millions of rupees to yet another family company.

The shocking details will show that the family company was set up for the specific purpose of securing a multi-million dollar deal with SLT while withholding vital approvals from SLT to force it to go into business with the Rajapakse family business.

If 'Helping Hambantota' was the Rajapakse family's proverbial baby's first steps into the world of nepotism and family corruption, the facts exposed on this page show that the President's kin are long past crawling: they are now fit to run a marathon. And it shows that the 'Helping Hambantota' scandal has not brought a blush of shame to the collective cheeks of the Rajapakse family.

'Help yourself while the spoon is in your hand,' it appears has become the motto of the Rajapakse administration.

Here are the facts.

The board of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) of which the government has a majority stake, in its attempt to enter the WiMax broadband internet market, is this week slated to finalise the purchase of a 40% stake in privately owned Sky Network (Pvt) Ltd. The man behind Sky Network is none other than the nephew of President Rajapakse, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse, Senior Presidential Advisor, Basil Rajapakse and Ports and Aviation Minister, Chamal Rajapakse. That man is their sister's son, Himal Laleendra Hettiarachchi.

The decision has come following repeated requests from SLT to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to issue WiMax frequencies to the state telecom giant. SLT's application to the TRC for Wi-fi frequencies has been collecting dust at the commission for years now, whilst private operators, Dialog Telekom and Suntel have been granted frequencies and moved full speed ahead with their operations.

Application on hold

SLT applied for WiMax frequencies around two years ago, along with the other major mobile operators. Senior SLT officials have told The Sunday Leader that despite repeated reminders and requests the TRC never acted on the SLT WiMax request, despite serving other operators and even new entrants to the field.

Whilst waiting for the TRC to authorise its access to WiMax frequencies, SLT conducted the necessary field trials to launch the new broadband service. But alas, as of June 2007, SLT had still not heard anything positive from the TRC, and with competitors Dialog and Suntel moving rapidly to bring their service offerings to the market, the state dominated company was once again on the verge of missing the bus.

Then came the messiah, brought to SLT's board of directors by Board Paper PLC/T/65/2007 tabled on June 29, 2007 by Japanese CEO, Shoji Takahashi and government appointed Chief Corporate Officer (CCO), Pat Abayasekara.

The two top officials revealed to the board that "Lyca Group in UK which is a virtual operator in UK has approached SLT for business through its 95% owned subsidiary, Sky Network, which has been given WiMax frequency to operate islandwide." They highlighted that SLT was "considering an acquisition strategy as an option" to get into the WiMax market. (See box for full board paper)

What is so special about Sky Network Private Limited that they should be able to acquire facilities from TRC when they were not even operating in Sri Lanka where SLT as the pioneer and custodian of the state's telecom infrastructure, failed?

Rs. 20 company

When Sky Network was incorporated on May 9, 2006, it was effectively a Rs.20 company, with two initial shareholders, holding a single Rs.10  share, each. They were Hettiarachchige Sirisena of Horana and one K.M.S.  Bandara of 175/2, Old Kottawa Road, Mirihana, Nugegoda. Please note that Mirihana is the Rajapakse neighbourhood which also featured prominently in the 'Helping Hambantota' scandal. Practically the entire family have their houses in Mirihana.

This Nugegoda address also serves as the registered company address of Sky Network Private Limited. The two subscribers were the initial directors of the company, and an electrical engineer, Ajantha Karunadasa of Gangodawila, Nugegoda was appointed to the 'board' on May 24, 2006.

By March 2007, this shelf company had been able to accomplish what giant SLT could not, having secured three separate frequency reservations from TRC in the WiMax range, which would be assigned to them with an Internet Service Provider licence, subject to the submission of an accepted business plan.

Thus on March 15, 2007 some 950,000 shares were issued by the company to Hastings Trading E Services of Portugal, which is a subsidiary of the UK-based Lycatel pre-paid international calling card group. Two weeks later, on March 30, 2007, Karunadasa resigned from the board of Sky Network, and was replaced as a director on the same day by none other than Himal Laleendra Hettiarachchi whose address as per Form 48 is 175/2, Old Kottawa Road, Mirihana, Nugegoda.

Same address

Himal Hettiarachchi is the son of one of President Mahinda Rajapakse's sisters. Despite his entry to the company only well after it was formed, his residential address being the same of Sky Network is also the same as one of the initial subscribers to the company, K.M.S. Bandara. It will be seen that Bandara was only a front man who was put in place till the groundwork was done so that no suspicions were raised at the outset of the game afoot.

The location of Hettiarachchi and Bandara's residence - also the registered office of Sky Network - is symbolic. Going back to the days of 'Helping Hambantota,' many of the 30 something trustees to then Prime Minister Rajapakse's famous Standard Chartered Bank account, Rajagiriya Branch, were residents of the Mirihana area, which even then was a bastion of Rajapakse's relatives.

On June 1, 2007, both K.M.S. Bandara, who according to the official records lives at the same Old Kottawa Road address of the President's nephew, and Hettiarachchige Sirisena of Horana, resigned from the board of Sky Network, to be replaced by Indian national, Rabindra Gaitonde and Lycatel UK CEO, Milind Kangle. The game was now well and truly underway.

By the end of the same month, the now foreign controlled company was in a position to 'lend a helping hand' to state telecom company SLT, by offering a joint venture or collaboration for WiMax services, using the frequencies reserved by Sky Network. Of course, for his labour, Laleendra Hettiarachchi was given a 5% stake of the company.

If the step-child treatment meted out to SLT by TRC, followed by President Rajapakse's nephew obtaining Wi- Max frequencies over the counter and offering to sell their use to SLT together were insufficient to smell a rat, the proof of the pudding was soon to follow.

Diffident

The Sunday Leader contacted top SLT officials in order to ask them about their plans for entering the WiMax market and also to find out  whether plans were afoot to buy a stake in a private company in order to move into WiMax. The officials however requested anonymity.

Our sympathies are with the board of directors of Sri Lanka Telecom. The external pressures on them to please the Rajapakses aside, SLT was truly stuck between a rock and a hard place when it received the Lycatel offer through Hettiarachchi's Sky Network. They could either accept playing second fiddle to a Presidential upstart, or sit out the national Wi- Max revolution.

Thus, at the board meeting on June 29, 2007 where the CEO and COO of SLT presented Hettiarachchi's proposal, approval was granted to carry out a valuation of Sky Network and proceed with negotiations for an equity acquisition of the company.

The largesse

By January 2008, the board of SLT had agreed to very tough conditions put forth by Himal Hettiarachchi's group, which would ensure that the Rajapakse family had a piece of the action. It was agreed that whilst SLT would hold only a 40% stake in the new joint venture (the remaining 60% would be held by Hettiarachchi's Sky Network) SLT was supposed to put up 70% of the multi-billion rupee investment cost of the project.

Therein lie the means of the Rajapakse poshanaya. The President's nephew's minions are granted access to a valuable telecommunication facility by the state regulator, which was denied to state dominated SLT. The state-owned company was thus almost blackmailed with the prospect of being left out of the WiMax revolution, unless it agreed to put up 70% of the cash for a multi-billion rupee venture and take only 40% of the profit from the said venture.

Compare SLT to Hettiarachchi's Sky Network. The former was the founder of the Sri Lankan telecom industry, is a public quoted, state owned company whose management is held by a 40% stakeholder (Japan's NTT) who in turn is well established in the international telecommunications industry. How NTT of Japan as a minority shareholder would look at this deal remains to be seen.

On the other hand, Sky Network is a two year old, Rs.20 company that managed to acquire lucrative facility reservations from the state regulator over the counter. Following the gain of this valuable facility, President Rajapakse's nephew, Himal Hettiarachchi makes his debut into big business along with a UK pre-paid IDD calling card conglomerate.

The only asset of any value that Sky possessed  were its frequency reservations. SLT was unable to get its own WiMax approval from the TRC, which comes directly under the purview of the President, and is effectively chaired by the President's Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga.

No choice

Thus in order to keep up with other telecom companies such as Dialog and Suntel and not be left out, SLT was left with no choice other than to negotiate an extorting joint venture with the poshanaya (family empire.)

 A board memo submitted by CEO Takahashi dated January 21, 2008  was indicative that the deal was virtually sealed with only the number of directors each company is to have on the board to be finalised. (See box for memo)

Given that the deal is to be finalised by SLT's board of directors this week, it is incumbent on us to advise the SLT board of the TRC's current stance on the company's WiMax allocation. When The Sunday Leader contacted current TRC Director General, Priyantha Kariyapperuma, he advised us that SLT's WiMax application was first taken up during the term of his immediate predecessor, Kanchana Ratwatte.

"The SLT WiMax application ran into some delays during the former DG's time. I only assumed duties on January 2, 2008. Since then, they have not raised the WiMax issue with the TRC. I myself asked SLT officials but they dismissed the issue stating that they had 'other priorities' at the time."

Kariyapperuma told this newspaper that he had spoken to the Spectrum Management Division of the TRC regarding the SLT request, and that there were a few issues with frequency distribution that would be resolved shortly in order to accommodate the SLT request. "I have told SLT officials who met me that there is no problem, and the request will now be granted. We should be able to give them WiMax within about 45 days," the director general told us on record.

Explanation

Asked for the reason that the SLT request was delayed for two years whilst other telecom providers were granted WiMax frequencies, the incumbent Director General asked that we speak to his predecessor, since he was not aware of the conditions at the time.

When The Sunday Leader spoke to former TRC Director General, Kanchana Ratwatte, he informed us that a conscious decision was taken by the TRC to not provide SLT with WiMax facilities, before his tenure.

Ratwatte highlighted that SLT was the sole controller of the island's vast wired telephony infrastructure, and was thus charged with its management. Although stressing that the decision to deny SLT's WiMax application was taken before his time, the former DG openly supported the decision.

He cited the example of SLT being awarded frequencies to commence CDMA wireless operations. "After this, they totally stopped expanding their wired line operations." Ratwatte said that he himself had made it clear to SLT that giving them WiMax was not an option for this reason, although he allowed that such a decision was never communicated to him in writing.

SLT officials however scoffed at Ratwatte's explanation. One high ranking SLT official said that if the TRC was planning to restrict the company's operations due to its exclusive control over the country's wired infrastructure, the state telecom giant would not have agreed to such a proposal.

Indignant

"How can they say they have the right to tell us what business to go into and what businesses to stay out of, and control our services? Is this the job of the regulator? Why is this concern only extended to SLT and not to other operators who wish to expand from their core business?" the officer charged.

Now that the current TRC administration has gone on record stating that SLT will be authorised to begin WiMax services within 45 days, it can be shown for certain whether SLT's board of directors went into the President's nephew's Sky Network deal for the good of the national telecom provider or at the whim of the first family. All that SLT now has to do is wait for the 45 days and get their own frequencies as promised by Kariyapperuma without having to go into a deal with Sky Network for want of the WiMax facility.

Should the SLT board hasten to seal the deal with Lycatel and Sky Network even after TRC Director General, Priyantha Kariyapperuma's assurance that he is moving to provide SLT with WiMax, it will be a clear sign that Sri Lanka Telecom's interests are not being placed at the forefront.

The only viable asset that Sky Network has, that would convince SLT to shell out 70% of the investment for such an enormous project, in return for the scrapings - a mere 40% of the profit, is their WiMax frequency reservation.

Wait and see

With SLT now set to secure the same WiMax facility from the TRC due to Kariyapperuma's change in policy, all eyes will be on SLT's upcoming board meeting this week. It remains to be seen whether SLT's board of directors - including the representatives of the venerable Japanese NTT management - will have the necessary chutzpah to stand up to the Rajapakse poshanaya.

SLT eager to jump on board

21st January 2008
Board Memo

Sky Network Joint Venture

At the last board meeting of the SLT Board of Directors, the proposed terms of acquisition were approved subject to the revision of the composition of the Board of Directors of Sky Networks (Pvt) Ltd.

SLT Board requested the composition as four (4) directors from SLT and three (3) directors from the existing shareholders, one of whom would be the CEO of Sky Networks (Pvt) Ltd and would be selected with the approval of the Sky Networks Board.

This requirement was conveyed to the current shareholder Hastings (Lyca Group) and is still under negotiations.

Recommendation: Board approval is sought to give authority to CEO to negotiate and resolve this issue.

Shoji Takahashi
Chief Executive Officer


SLT laments delay, moots joint venture

29th June 2007 
Board Paper PLC/T/65/2007
Equity Acquisition of Sky Network (Pvt) Ltd - WiMaX frequency owned company

1. Introduction

SLT has done field trials on WiMax Services and is awaiting frequency allocation to launch WiMax services in Sri Lanka which is a wireless broadband solution. SLT has already applied for the WiMax frequency from the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) but despite repeated reminders there has still been no progress to obtain these frequencies. Dialog Broadband and Suntel already own frequencies and they have already rolled out their WiMax networks ready for service offering. The time to market and first mover advantage is very critical in this business as well and SLT will lag behind with the delays and SLT will become another follower in the market. Similar experiences have been there in the past too.

Lyca Group in UK which is a virtual operator in UK has approached SLT for business through its 95% owned subsidiary Sky Network, which has been given WiMax frequency to operate islandwide. SLT is considering an acquisition strategy as an option. In response to initial inquiry to go forward with partnership with equity acquisition of this company to launch WiMax services was positively responded. It is also, possible to leverage cost advantage and operational efficiency through such arrangements.

2. About Sky Network

(i) Name: Sky Network (Pvt) Limited

(ii) Company registration number: N(PVS) 46122

(iii) Share Holding:

95% Hastings Trading E Services - Portugal (subsidiary of Lyca Group)

5%, Himal Laleendra Hettiarachchi

(iv) Board Members

1. Milind Kangle (Chairman) - CEO of Lyca Mobile UK Ltd

2. Christopher Tooley

3. Himal Laleendra Hettiarachchi

WiMax Frequency

1. 2400-2430 MHz (Islandwide)

2. 5470-5850 MHz (Selected urban towns around Colombo)

3. 3500 MHz band to be reserved on exclusive basis upon submission of business plan

3. Recommendations

Board approval is sought to carry out a Valuation and Due Diligence on Sky Network (Pvt) Limited with a view of equity acquisition and by retaining Certified Public Accountants Ernst & Young for this purpose. 

Shoji Takahashi                       P. N. E. Abayasekara
Chief Executive Officer             Chief Corporate Officer

   


The Gospel according to Wijeweera

Is the JVP covertly pushing for Eelam?


Velupillai Pirapaharan, Rohana Wijeweera
and Somawansa Amarasinghe

By Sonali Samarasinghe

Retired Major General Wasantha Perera giving evidence in court against JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa in a defamation case last week was to allege the JVP had worked closely with the LTTE during the 1988-1989 period. Not only that, the retired General also accused the JVP of obtaining arms from the Tigers via the Hambantota District.

In fact, Major General Perera revealed, he had compiled at the time an extensive report detailing the close terrorist connection between the JVP and the LTTE during the 1988-1989 period and how the JVP had obtained arms from the LTTE. Recall that JVP violence killed thousands of civilians and security forces and police personnel in the space of two years. 

JVP-LTTE links

Meanwhile Major General Perera also charged that the JVP was involved in many unlawful activities including killings and that he as the Coordinator and the Commander of the Galle District had been able to foil the JVP arms deals with the LTTE via Hambantota during that period. 

That the JVP has close ties with the LTTE and the two organisations during their most violent periods shared a common socialist thinking, one knows well.

Perhaps however what has been forgotten is how deeply this thinking penetrated the JVP psyche.

Wijeweera expounds

In his monumental 1985 work largely regarded as the Bible of Communism in Sri Lanka, Rohana Wijeweera was to strenuously argue a case in favour of self determination for the Tamils. The report titled in Sinhala, Demala Eelam Aragalayata Visaduma Kumakda? (What is the solution to Tamil Eelam struggle?), was presented to the JVP central committee by Wijeweera on April 15, 1986.

It was to become the bedrock of the JVP's political future. Wijeweera was a consummate political prestidigitator and interwoven into JVP policies was to be an element of legerdemain absolutely necessary to their survival as a political force.

The JVP leadership has been thus able to adroitly adopt a secret two pronged approach. One for public consumption and another for private practice and future reference and implementation. 

A JVP publication following the 1977 general election titled The National Question And The Constitution Of Sri Lanka is described as a comparative study by the JVP of the Constitutions of 1972 and 1978 as they affect the Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka and said thus: 

"If one nation oppresses another, that oppressor is oppressed. The proletariat, in the struggle against oppression, must always acknowledge this observation. Marxist - Leninists within the oppressed nation must fight for the right of the oppressed nation, even to the extent of a separate political existence. Not to do so will be tantamount to being a racialist."

"The existing state in Sri Lanka today is a multi-nation state, made up of people who speak Sinhala and Tamil, who are transforming themselves from nationalities to a Lankan nation. The decision as to whether they are to live together with the Sinhala speaking or separately from them namely, whether they are to form one state or two separate states is entirely in the hands of the Tamil speaking people of this country. This is what the JVP means when it says that it accepts the right of the Tamil speaking people to self determination."

Official stance

The JVP leaflet Niyamuwa published articles supporting the right of self determination for Tamil people in its editions of May 1983 and June 1983. A year later just days after Black July the JVP was proscribed by the UNP government in power on July 30, 1983. President J.R. Jayewardene dumped the blame on the JVP for inciting the anti-Tamil riots.

Meanwhile the JVP could not be more relieved. While secretly and internally propagating Leninist principles of self determination for the Tamil community it decided to publicly take a hard line against the Tamil struggle. It went overboard in accusing governments of complicity with the Tamil separatists and its propaganda became increasingly more violent and anti Eelam as time wore on.

By adopting a Sinhala Buddhist majoritarian rhetoric the JVP found resonance not only with the thinking of the working classes but also with the upper class racist elements - the politically and financially powerful Colombo elite.

For the JVP the capture of political power is its ultimate goal. However their options are limited given the political scenario and the grip on power by the two main political parties. A division of the country and an area of self determination for the Tamil community as envisaged by Rohana Wijeweera will enable them to capture the seat of power in the south.

The history of the JVP shows that it has opposed any attempt by any government to compromise with the Tamil terrorists or to reach a political solution. In 1986 it whipped up a frenzy over an alleged conspiracy by the Rajiv-JR-Pirapaharan troika to 'divide the country.'

But when the IPKF came to Sri Lanka following the Indo-Lanka Accord, and the LTTE was faced with extinction, it was the JVP that came to their rescue by unleashing mayhem in the country, calling for the IPKF's eviction.

President Ranasinghe Premadasa was eventually forced to ask the IPKF to leave giving the LTTE a fresh lease of life.

'UNP-LTTE conspiracy'

In 2002 with the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement it became obvious that a settlement to the conflict would perhaps forever shut the door on a Tamil separatist state. The Ranil Wickremesinghe government had cornered the LTTE and set in place an international safety net. The then government had also succeeded in fracturing the LTTE by precipitating the Karuna defection.

Pirapaharan knew full well that a Wickremesinghe government would achieve through strategy what a Rajapakse government could never achieve through war. Pirapaharan was to later call Wickremesinghe a 'cunning fox not to be trusted.'

It was again the JVP that came to the rescue of the LTTE by carrying out a propaganda  campaign against the UNP government, the peace process and the CFA.

Firm grip

The JVP now has a firm grip of the Rajapakse government. Using its 38 member power in parliament it is forcing the hand of the government to pursue a military course of action. During the Budget crisis of December the JVP was able to twist President Mahinda Rajapakse's arm into agreeing to several disastrous conditions. One was the abrogation of the CFA that alarmed the world community and this was soon followed by the eviction of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. 

The JVP is now calling stridently for the banning of the LTTE as a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka. Already US Ambassador Robert Blake has warned that any move to ban the LTTE in Sri Lanka might be interpreted by the international community as taking a further step away from any kind of a political solution.

 Therefore by forcing the government's hand on the ethnic issue, is the JVP merely hastening the country towards separation is the question, thereby enabling them to control the south leaving the LTTE the north and east.

Is the JVP facilitating Eelam through dubious means while playing to the Sinhala gallery in order to win the hearts and minds of the majority? Showcasing itself as a saviour to the nation from corrupt mainstream governments by pandering to the Sinhalese, is it by insidious means attempting a break up of the country as propounded by Wijeweera?

The JVP knows it cannot capture power in the country especially under the presidential system as long as the north and east remain part of Sri Lanka and therefore it suits their designs to precipitate a division which will pave the way for them to form a government in the south. 

By forcing the Rajapakse regime into a military hardline bind and isolating the government from the international community is the JVP pushing Sri Lanka towards a Kosovo like situation in keeping with the ideology of Rohana Wijeweera?

As the JVP isolates Sri Lanka from the world it is significant to note that the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo was endorsed by the United States of America and powerful EU countries including Britain, Germany and France.

It is also significant to note that international endorsement came despite the fact that the current leader of Kosovo is a former leader of the separatist army - the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and was earlier branded a terrorist. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had even carried out investigations concerning the leadership of the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army and its involvement in war crimes during the Kosovo conflict of 1998-1999.

The JVP has proven a treacherous political force in the past. While supporting the separatist struggle of the LTTE in order to gain power in the south and achieve their narrow, self seeking political ends, the extremists also must nurse its constituency and pander to the complexes that plague the Sinhala majority.

This JVP strategy begs the question whether it is trying to achieve what Wijeweera failed  by direct talk through a Machiavellian ploy? Given the evidence of Major General Wasantha Perera  it appears there is room for much more than mere suspicion.

   


Return of the dreaded white van


Sooryakumar, Philip Asirwatham, A. Amalavutpavam and Anton Kumar

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

As Colombo, Sri Lanka's economic capital once more begins to make headlines with its plummeting human rights record with abductions and extortions on the rise, the temporary lull that prevailed is proved false. That it was nothing but a pregnant silence, ominous and waiting to bare its ugly face has now come true.

The horrid stories that unfold in Colombo, recorded here are also supplemented by gory stories from the northeast with multiple players having a field day committing abductions and killings.

Year 2007, according to abduction records in Colombo maintained by the Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC) tables 115 incidents. The majority of them were Tamils and have not returned home. Many of them have duly paid ransom money to secure their release only to lose both the person and the money so paid.

Colombo's tragic stories are taking the same turn, with the mystery, suspension and fear all woven into each incident.

Standstill

The life of 34-year-old Anton Kumar is now at a standstill. He awaits the return of his   younger sibling. It is Surya, Anton Kumar's much loved thambi (younger brother) who washed him and helped him wear his clothes.

Arthritis confined young Anton Kumar to a wheelchair in 1993. He needs his younger brother, Sooryakumar (22) or Surya, to help him with his most basic functions.

Surya who left his house in Grandpass around 11.30 a.m. on February 16 has not returned home since then. Nobody has heard from him either, since that fateful day.

The youngest of eight, Sooryakumar was a video cameraman. "He is a good person. He minds his own business. He is the one who looked after us and attended to his brother," notes A. Amalavutpavam, his grieving mother.

Sole breadwinner

Young Surya had to look after his ailing parents and his brother. The whole family depended on his income and with his disappearance, the home fires no longer burn.

"He washed me and put me to bed that morning and said he was going on some work. I fell asleep. I woke up when my mother began to anxiously say that Surya has not returned home," said Anton Kumar.

When the family called his mobile telephone, it rang for a while before getting disconnected. Subsequent attempts to contact him proved futile.

"I felt it in my gut that something was wrong. I felt uneasy considering the state of the country. However, we waited till around 11 p.m. and then lodged a complaint with the Grandpass police," Anton Kumar added.

Surya had not only maintained good relationships with his neighbours, but also with the police. The police had frequently visited his house and had taken him with them to film many of their activities.

"We were never worried that he would be taken by the police. Even when we went to lodge a complaint, they were very cooperative," Anton Kumar said.

However, the family does not know whom to suspect. Though the family hails from Vattakkachchi, Kilinochchi, all the children grew up in Colombo.

Accused

Surya's father, Philip Asirwatham had lived in Colombo for nearly 60 years. "I did face problems 10-15 years ago and was accused of being a LTTE informant, just because I hailed from Kilinochchi. That's how they accused most of us from the north. My son is  innocent, he knows no other home but Colombo. I can vouch for the fact that my son was innocent, he had no reason to be treated like a suspect. He never touched alcohol or a cigarette," he said.

Surya's motorbike was discovered by one of the neighbours on the roadside who informed the family.

"We went to the police and identified his bicycle. It was in a bad condition as the army had checked it, suspecting there was a bomb fixed to it," Anton Kumar added.

"They also said that some person who had come in a white van had forcibly taken him." The family said no ransom demands were received.

"Why are they keeping my son for such a long time? He didn't even have a proper breakfast when he left," said his mother, weakened by her weeping and unable to grapple with the unfolding tragedy.

They had complained to every possible local human rights organisation, with no success. "We have not received any new information," they chorused.

Adding to their loss is the economic implications of losing the sole breadwinner who has been abducted. The associated grief and anxiety cause them more misery as authorities fail to bring their loved one home.

"I don't know how I'm going to survive if he does not come back. I'd rather be dead than alive without the support of my brother. I owe my existence to him," moans a grief stricken Anton Kumar. His eyes misted though he sat still.

Saga begun?

"Has the abduction saga begun? Why haven't the kidnappers contacted the family? Why was Surya kidnapped in the first place?" ask Surya's family in unison. To these questions, the Grandpass police have no answers.

When this newspaper contacted the police, the authorities remained tight lipped stating that they were not in a position to divulge the details of the investigation.

Surya's story is only one such tale of woe. There are others who suffer similar heartache.

The family of Chinnaiah Chelliah is happy to have him back. The owner of the popular Mysore Caf‚ in Wellawatte was abducted on February 12, by armed uniformed men travelling in a white van bearing registration number 254-7854. He was released on February 16.

But the family fears to express their joy of having him return, a rare plight for an abducted in a lawless land. Chelliah had been assaulted and interrogated, and released in Wattala, blind folded. The last thing the family wants is to comment on the incident lest they unleash further violence upon themselves.

Likewise, Vellaisamy Jegan who hails from Puwakpitiya in Avissawella was picked up in Dehiwela and released on February 15. Uniformed personnel interrogated him.

Ragul Chandrasekaran, a youth from Jampettah Street and Muttiah Arasaratnam of Grandpass too went mysteriously missing on February 10, but were mercifully released on the 16th.

Identical pattern

The pattern of abductions and even the releases are almost identical.

On September 11, 2007 Kandasamy Kamaladas boarded a bus to travel from Trincomalee to Colombo with his mother. Just prior to departure, they were arrested at the Trincomalee bus stand and released three hours later at the Trincomalee police station.

They later travelled to Colombo by the night train. When the train approached the Ragama railway station at 5 a.m. men who travelled in the train abducted Kamaladas.˙ He was taken out of the station and put into a waiting van and taken while his ailing mother cried herself sick and was abandoned on the street.

When pressure was exerted both locally and internationally about the indiscriminate harassment of the minority community people and treating them as suspects simply based on ethnicity, Kamaladas was released, blind-folded closer to Polonnaruwa. Kamaldas never spoke about his detention or the ordeal suffered. All he said was that there were so many captives like him where he was taken.

There is another twist to the abduction tale. When pressure piled up compelling government action, a former SLAF Officer Nishantha Gajanayake was taken into CID custody on June 21, 2007 for allegedly masterminding an abduction for extortion racket. The government did not do this willingly.

Having denied any abductions or extortions with state patronage, Gajanayake proved an embarrassment when some of his alleged connections were revealed in parliament by UNP legislator Lakshman Seneviratne.

Following the arrest, government ministers boasted that the spate of abductions had ceased and that the government did not hesitate to mete out justice. In more ways than one, Gajanayake was a convenient escape route for a government that could not or did not wish to crackdown on the increasing human rights violations, particularly in Colombo.

Last month, Gajanayake was released due to lack of 'material evidence' and his detention order had been mysteriously withdrawn. Ever since, rather coincidentally, the abductions have also resumed.

As Colombo grapples once more with threats to human liberty, there are multiple dramas in the northeast with many warlords, breakaway factions of militant outfits, security forces, police, political groups and armed individuals observing the law in the breach, with scant respect for human dignity or liberty.

Tamils being caught like stray dogs - Ganesan

Convener, Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC) and Colombo District Parliamentarian, Mano Ganesan alleged Tamils were not being arrested in Colombo but 'caught' at street corners, work places and homes in the most degrading manner like 'catching stray dogs' to be sent to dog pounds.

Calling for immediate intervention by the IGP to halt the lawlessness that prevails, he demanded those in authority to explain to the public as to why uniformed men were often cited as abductors.

Referring to the recent most incident, Ganesan claimed that the CMC has verified information that Subramaniyam Gajendradas (36) and Vinayagasakthi Vijendran (35) of Dehiwela were 'caught and taken away' forcefully by armed men in a white van on February 12, night, in the 'usual style.'

"I personally enquired from the Dehiwela police on the 17th about the two disappearances. The Dehiwala police later informed me that both the missing were detained at the CID branch of the Fort Police Station. The CID had reportedly informed Dehiwala police by fax that two Tamils were being questioned with regard to an alleged fraud," he said.

"It took five days for the Dehiwala police to find out that the CID had arrested those reported missing. The CID men that had arrested the two were in civilian clothes but carried firearms. They had arrived in a white van and not an official police vehicle. They have neither identified themselves to the householders nor provided information where they intended taking those under arrest," alleged Ganesan.

Referring to the abduction of Chinnaiah Chelliah, the  owner of the popular Mysore Caf‚,  Wellawatte, on February 12 by armed men, again travelling in a white van, the CMC Convener said the complaint was clear about the abductors being in uniform. An assaulted Chelliah was released four days later.

Similarly, Ellaisamy Jegan of Avissawella was picked up in Dehiwela and released on the 15th. Ragul Chandrakaran of Jampettah Street and Muttiah Arasaratnam of Grandpass went missing on February 10 and 'reappeared' on the 16th.

"Who can explain whether these were legal arrests or abductions by police or 'others,' given the lawlessness that prevails?" questioned Ganesan. He added that Chinnathamby Subesan of Maligawatte, abducted on February 14 was still missing. In like manner, Asirwatham Sooryakumar (22) of 134/295, Stace Road, Colombo 14 was abducted by armed men travelling in a white van in broad daylight, and near the Grandpass Police. "I want some answers from the authorities," he insisted.  


Abductions and killings in the northeast - June '07 to February '08

Batticaloa District

January 12, 2007: Shop owner Kanapathipillai Yogarajah (48) from Kathankudy was shot dead at close range while returning home. Soon after the incident, Shanthan of the Pillayan Group reportedly opened fire on Muslim worshippers emerging from a mosque injuring Moulawi Mohamed Fareed (38), Faizer (36), and M. Alavudeen (44).

June 22, 2007: Anandaraj (49) a labourer from Ootruchchenai, Vadamunai and a refugee in Thamaraikkulam, Peththalai, Valaichchenai since 1996. Anandaraj was taken away around 9.30 on June 22, 2007 by a group of about 25-30 armed men in military uniform with masks. The reason provided was to conduct an inquiry.

His body was found with injuries to the forehead and chest near the Tsunami Housing Scheme at Karunkalichcholai. His wife Rukmanidevi suspects the Karuna Group.

August 11, 2007: Rayath Mohamed Latif (50), alias Colonel was a popular supporter of the SLMC. A group of eight armed Muslims arrived on motorcycles and shot him dead inside the mosque premises.

September 24, 2007: Pathmarajah Ranjan, a one-time LTTE combatant. Ranjan who hails from Pethuchenai, Mandur lost a hand in battle and later surrendered to the Karuna Group who discharged him with a letter of clemency. Locals allege he was abducted by the STF when he went to the Batticaloa Hospital.

October 30, 2007: A Muslim trader, Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Riyal of Valaichchenai was abducted in the Eravur Division. Muslims suspect the Karuna Group.

November 11, 2007: In a grenade attack in Valaichchenai, a SLMC activist's cousin Rismiya's husband Mustapha Lebbe was injured. Also injured seriously was their infant son Siam Sharaf.

November 14, 2007: Armed men arrived at a house in Oddamavady and abducted five young Muslim men. The Karuna Group was initially suspected but locals allege an army hand. The abducted were identified as Issadeen Sabras (21), earlier military intelligence and later a Muslim militant under Kaleel and a home guard, Aboobucker Illyas (30), earlier military intelligence and subsequently a home guard, Aboobucker Naufer, brother of Illyas, Mohamed Aliyar Mohamed Riyas (22) and Illiyas Abdul Cader (18).

November 28, 2007: Sinnathamby Sathananthan (28). The World Vision employee was abducted on the main road in Navatkuda in board daylight.

November 30, 2007: Pakiarajah (48) of Santhiveli, a railway employee, was abducted by Ranjan and Illankeeran of the Karuna Group. The reason was that his son, a conscript in the Karuna Group and run away and the father could not produce him.  

December 1, 2007: Thambimuttu Nadarajah (39) of Vinayagapuram, Valaichchenai was manager of the local co-operative shop. He left for work November 26, 2007.

On December 1, an officer from the Kumburumoolai army camp informed local police of a corpse lying on the road close to the army camp. The body had torture marks and signs of being strangled and stabbed. 

December 1, 2007: Sivarajah Kaliyagan (20) of Seelan Store St., Ward 4, Pudur, was conscripted by the Pillayan Group. His wife went looking for him to the TMVP (Pillayan) office in Covington Rd, Batticaloa. Kaliyagan had been sent for armed training.

December 4, 2007: Subramaniam Sothivadivel - a teacher from Vavunathivu. It is believed he was abducted by the STF personnel travelling in a white van in Urani.

December 9, 2007: Two persons were shot dead inside a refugee camp in Kokkuvil. Victims were Ahilesapillai Sivapragasam (40) from Vallikerny and Vijikanthan (19) from Kadatkaraichenai, who was suspected of being a Sea Tiger.

December 11, 2007: Santhirasegaran Yogarajah (24) of the recently liberated Munaikkadu north was reportedly abducted by the Pillayan Group, trained and sent to the Araiampathy office.

January 7, 2008: President, Volunteer Teachers Union, Parasuraman Nanthakumar (31) was shot dead near his house in Morakkottanchenai reportedly by the Karuna Group.

January 10, 2008: Marimuththu Arumugam (58) from Commathurai, Eravur was a retired laboratory technician. Refused to contest the election as a TMVP candidate.          

January 12, 2008: Poopalapillai Uthayakumar (49) of Ganeshapuram, Mandur was shot dead in Vilavedduvan while returning home from Batticaloa town. The body showed injuries to the head, face and chest.

January 20, 2008: Ehambaram Nadesamoorthy (35), was in his shop which forms part of his residence when two men arrived on a motorcycle and shot him. 

January 31, 2008: Chitravel Kalaichelvan, was the Sitthandy area leader of the Karuna Group. His wife who was away returned home to find her husband shot dead and his body lying on the road.

February 10, 2008: Illayathamby Thevathas and his two children were abducted by armed men travelling in a white van. Thevathas' dead body was recovered with gunshot wounds.

Ampara District

January 28, 2008: Thuraiappah Thayaparan (29) of Komary had quit the LTTE years ago. He was shot dead on the 28th.

February 1, 2008: Murugesan Parameswary (40) of Komary, a mother of three children was threatened in the night by Karuna's men carrying automatic weapons demanding her husband's whereabouts. When she said he was overseas, she was taken out for an 'inquiry' and shot was dead.

February 11, 2007: Singarajah Suhithakumar (14) from Akkaraipattu, a young student was assaulted and shot dead reportedly by the STF. In a round up, the STF took away 50 persons including five children.     

Jaffna District

December 26, 2007: Preman (21) of Irupalai was shot dead near his house. His father, Kailanathan, an employee of the Mannar courts and a pastor, said that Preman was not involved in any political activity and alleged mistaken identity. 

January 11, 2008: Kavitha Shanmuganathan (20) of Alvai North, Karaveddy was riding her bicycle when two gunmen, on a motorcycle, allegedly EPDP members followed her and shot her dead.

January 24, 2008: S. Nadesapillai (61) of Navatkadu, Varani and former chairman of the Kodikamam Multi Purpose Co-operative Society was called out of his house by gunmen and shot dead. He is the fourth Co-operative chairman to be killed since mid-September 2006. 

January 31, 2008: Balasundaram Baskaran (30) and Dushyanthan Baleswary (21) and Balasundaram Parthipan (19) were three siblings living near Cholaiamman Temple in Manthuvil. The Army Field Bike Squad reportedly surrounded the house and sprayed bullets killing two. Parthipan succumbed to injuries later. 

February 1, 2008:  Sivarasa Suki, a 24 year old was shot and killed at her house in Jaffna and 26-year-old Uthayan, was gunned down just half a mile away on the Allarai-Kachchaay road in Kodikaamam.   

Trincomalee District

October 1, 2007: Poopalapillai (26) from Muttur East went missing.

December 2, 2007: Kaalirasa Suveekaran (27) of Bharathipuram, Muttur South went missing.

January 1, 2008: Nagappan Sureshkumar (15) from Kantale was reported missing.

January 2, 2008: Jeganathan Jeyakanthan (29) from Pallathoddam, Trincomalee was abducted from his home.

January 4, 2008: Yogesweran Latchumanan (27) from Peraru, Kantale missing at Sooriyapura, Kantale.

January 5, 2008: Thiagarajah Vadivelkarasan (24) of Murugan Kovilady Paalaiootru was abducted down Ganesh Lane.

January 11, 2008: Sivananthan Sivachandran (24) of 126/3, Varodhyanagar, Trincomalee was abducted from home.

January 12, 2008: Paranjothy Janakan (21) of Pattimedu, Thampalakamam, was abducted in Trincomalee town.

January 23, 2008: Walter Bans (34) from Palmyra Grove, Trincomalee was reported missing. Last seen in Trincomalee town.

January 23, 2008: Edward Bans (34), twin brother of Walter Bans went missing in the same incident.

January 28, 2008: Ehambaram Kohilavaradharajan (29) of Thirumalpuram, Trincomalee was abducted from his home.

January 28, 2008: Martin Gerard Justin (26) of Periyakulam, Trincomalee, was abducted from his home.

January 30, 2008:  Sivaraja Sivaranjani (19) from Chinabay has gone missing.

February 4, 2008: Thiyoda Christopher (20), of Veluvelipuram was abducted from his home.

February 4, 2008: Ramakrishnan Prathaban (25), from Anbuvelipuram was abducted from his home.

February 4, 2008: Ramakrishnan Jegaruban (21), brother of Ramakrishnan Prathaban was also abducted from his home.

February 4, 2008: Chandrasekaram Thevananthan (17) from Paalaiyootru was abducted from his home.

February 5, 2008: Sivananthan Prabhakaran (24) of Kanniya went missing.

February 7, 2008: Iruthayanathan George Sekar (30) from Ananthapuri reported missing.

February 8, 2008: Christian Gnanasekaram (35) of Uppuveli went missing.

February 10, 2008: Gunasekaram Sritharan (26) of Kinniya was reported missing.

February 13, 2008: Kaaliyappu Nagalingam (26) of Ganeshapuri missing at Sambalthivu.            (Source - UTHR, Jaffna)  

  


©Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd.
24, Katukurunduwatte Road, Ratmalana Sri Lanka
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email :
editor@thesundayleader.lk