And… The White Vans Are Back!
By Munza Mushtaq
As we heaved a sigh of relief thinking the chilling white van menace was over, BOOM! It’s back… or so we thought, until Friday, when we were told that the Special Task Force (STF) appeared to have its own unique style of snatching people from the city of Colombo.
The alleged ‘abduction’ on Wednesday night sent chills down many in Colombo who assumed that the kidnapping was yet another ransom taking incident or was connected to the one time white van menace, which had fizzled out in recent times.
But an announcement by the police on Friday morning, has raised many an eyebrow even within the high ranking law enforcement unit, over the appalling style in which the STF conducted itself.
Police Spokesman SSP I. M. Karunaratne told The Sunday Leader that the group who went missing, comprising a businessman from Wattala, two of his workers and a police officer, was actually not ‘abducted’ as initially reported but was instead arrested by the STF.
“They were arrested after the STF got a tip off that this group were involved in several acts of ransom taking. They have been handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and now investigations are underway,” Karunaratne said.
When questioned as to how ethical the STF was when they arrested the four persons in such a manner, Karunaratne said as a police spokesman he was not sanctioned to give his ‘opinion’ but was only able to give details of the incident.
However, higher ups in the Police Department have expressed their anger over the STF ‘arrest’, highlighting that due to the STF conducting it self in such a devious manner, it is the Police Department which is in disrepute.
However, this is not the first time that such an ‘arrest’ happened in the country. A few months back a Tamil newspaper editor was arrested in similar style from a funeral house.
Sudar Oli Editor N. Vithyatharan was violently abducted from a funeral house in Mount Lavinia on February 26 in broad daylight by a group of armed men who travelled in a white van in front of several people who had tried valiantly to prevent it.
But when the incident came to be known internationally and reaction intensified, the government rushed to say that Vithyatharan was not abducted but arrested and detained by the police for interrogation in connection with the February 20 air attack on Colombo by the LTTE.
Vithyatharan who was under surveillance for a long time, was later released on April 24 having been discharged by court, after the Colombo Criminal Division (CCD) in charge of the investigation, as well as other departments of the police and the military, admitted they had nothing whatsoever to incriminate the journalist.