The Sunday Leader

$ 2 Billion For Defence But No Freedom From Abduction In White Vans

The pall of abductions that threatened this sunny isle on the eve of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year receded somewhat with the missing political activist Kumar Gunaratnam being fortunately ‘found’ and being immediately put on a plane bound for Australia where he is resident but the ugly crime of abduction appears to have taken root in this country.
We will not comment on this alleged abduction of Gunaratnam immediately because the story has the trappings of an international spy thriller with the Defence Ministry claiming that Gunaratnam ‘had not entered’ the country and other stories of Gunaratnam going by another name. He had gone missing on the same day as another activist of his political party, the Frontline Socialist Party Dimithu Attygalle. Read her account of what happened elsewhere on these pages.
According to the Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremasinghe 56 disappearances have been reported in Sri Lanka during the last six months and 19 of them having occurred during the period the anti-Sri Lanka Resolution on alleged violation of human rights by Sri Lanka was being debated at the UNHRC in Geneva.
By whatever standards that are considered, the responsibility for abductions or disappearances of citizens falls squarely on the shoulders of the government in power. The knee-jerk reaction of government party politicians to Wickremesinghe’s allegations would be the inane cry: What did you do when you were in power? This asinine and constant response to accusations against the government by its defenders has brought Sri Lanka into the zone of being a failed or pariah state and the more kindly epithet of Banana Republic. Indeed abductions took place in UNP times and even during the rule of the Bandaranaikes but to have the sole reply to opposition allegations as: ‘Such things happened in your times as well’, is indeed infantile politics. The Rajapaksas were elected not to repeat the mistakes of the Bandaranaikes, Jayewardene or Premadasa but to correct all their mistakes and blunders.
It was only the other week that UNPers recalled in Parliament how human rights activist Mahinda Rajapaksa led an aggressive opposition to violation of human rights of the Southern people during the quelling of the JVP insurrection. Rajapaksa and fellow SLFP members sought the assistance of Western ambassadors to protect the human rights of southern Sri Lankans. Seeking assistance of Western ambassadors was by no means considered a ‘treasonable’ act as of now.
To seek whatever possible assistance to protect your own kind against political goon and murder squads is justifiable. Sri Lankans have developed a horrendous political culture, when in power, of organising political goon squads to obliterate any kind of political opposition. Journalists and political activists have been the favourite targets of these squads that maim, abduct and kill. Sivaram who openly advocated Tamil rights was bundled into a white van opposite the Bambalapitiya police stations and disappeared. His body was found next morning by the highway to parliament. They did not abduct Lasantha Wickrematunge. They simply killed him on the highway. Pradeep Ekneligoda a virulent critic of the ruling class disappeared two days before the presidential elections of Mahinda Rajapaksa as president for the second time (January 2010). Ekneligoda has not been seen since then, despite all the pleas and appeals of his wife and children trace his whereabouts. This disappearance sent a chill through the entire free press which is still being felt. The harassment of journalists in Jaffna is innumerable. Nineteen journalists have been killed in since 1992.
Since the Sri Lankan police have not been able make the killers ofthese journalists face justice, the government stands in the dock even in the court of international opinion.
The other victims of political thugs are those of international NGOs and political activists who challenge the ex-cathedra pronouncements of government leaders. The JVP despite their failure at the polls is today the most effective critic of the Rajapaksa regime. While leaders of the old JVP have mellowed down, not so the Young Turks of the breakaway faction- the Frontline Socialist Party of which Kumar Gunaratnam has been identified as a leader. Gunaratnam is said to be a citizen of Australia but obviously his political intrusion into Sri Lanka again should be a cause of concern to many.
It is not only political violence unleashed by thugs that is a matter of concern to decent law abiding citizens. There is a marked breakdown in law and order of the country and that is why hired armed thugs – some of them ex-servicemen – are able to roam the country freely unchallenged by the police. Even government politicians who do not fall in line even with the self declared local ‘field marshals’ of electorates are liable for punishment.
There is grim irony in this because the government spends as much as 4 percent of its Gross Development Product (GDP) for defence which is equivalent to US$ 2 billion. India spends $ 36 billion on defence – 18 times higher but with a population 56 times more than Lanka and a land areas which is 50 times greater. A more revealing statistic is that the defence expenditure per capita in India is $ 30 while it is $ 95 for Sri Lanka!
That is the amount each Sri Lankan pays for its defence and maintenance of law and order. And what do we get? No freedom from white vans and the goons that ride them?

21 Comments for “$ 2 Billion For Defence But No Freedom From Abduction In White Vans”

  1. Meena M.

    A well written editorial, and gives us some perspective to the horrifying situation in Sri Lanka. The world is not gullible, naive nor drinkers of the kool aid. When the poor victims are dissidents who question the present leadership, and bring world focus on their alleged criminal activities, conveniently and ruthlessly “done away”, one has to question why such human beings are silenced. Who benefits from their silence? If the Sri Lankan people cannot have trust in their own government, especially when people are being systematically kidnapped and disappear without a trace, and no one is held accountable, or justice achieved for the family members, one has to wonder, but not for too long, just who benefits from these kidnappings, and why it keeps going on and why, the government that stopped terrorism is unable to stop these disgusting kidnappings in their back yard.

  2. Bruz

    Once it was Banana Republic, then it was a ‘Pariah State’ & now it’s “white Van’ republic.

    • For truth and against thuggery

      Isn’t it TOTALLY APPROPRIATE for ALL 4 descriptions to be applied?

  3. balu bandu

    Onna Baba White Vaan Enawaa !

  4. dagobert

    As long as there are external interference, dispora antics, scheming media and a divided polity & society “white van” culture will remain.

    GOSL does not need external enemies. They are within and its the media, so called local hero NGOs, relious organisations, political leaders with vested interest and you name it and they are all there slaving & straining for the $$$ & for advantages.

    If this goes on, no white vans but SL will need a white lorry culture to unite the masses who are looking for short term gains.

    When will we speak with one voice and when will the media stop spreading venom ??

  5. Katmai

    අපේ අයට නම් ඉතින් රාජපක්ෂ මහත්තය ගමේ බෝක්කුව හදල දෙනව නම් සුදු වෑන් එකකින් ඇවිත් උස්සගන ගියත් කමක් නැහැ.

    ගිය පාර නම් ඔන්න බස් එකකින් ආවෙ. ගෙනිහින් බිරියානිත් දීලනෙ එව්වෙ.

  6. Rumitha

    Get rid of Gotabaya and all will be well. No white vans etc.

  7. Punchinilame

    The category that has not been white-vanned are Buddhist Bhikkus – they are
    cunningly keeping their mouths closed despite the sufferngs of its followers.

  8. Dinuk

    The uneducated so called Minister of Higher education, SB Dissanaiyake who is an insult to academics was vociferous is defending his paymaster the Rajapakse Bros Inc. against accusations of kidnapping Kumar Gunaratnam and Dimuthu Artygalle
    He shoots his mouth off and tell fibs and is a bad role model and should be asked to resign just as that fool the so called minister of education who says that a person can live on rs 2500 a month.
    What is that horrible creep Ranil Wickramasinghe doing instead of having the UNP MPs educate the public on the situation in the country”

  9. Dinuk

    The Rajpakse jumbo cabinet is full of goons, fools and the moronic leftist geriatrics Vasu. Tissa Vitharana and DEW Gunesekere
    The economy run by minister of economic development who has not got a degree and knows nothing about development or economics!
    Half that Cabinet should be asked to resign for incompetance and telling lies but then the lying is endemic at the top and trickles down it seems!

  10. most of the commentators write stuff in this paper are with ‘kakka’ in their pot on top of the shoulder

  11. Fuego

    Bravo, atleast we’ve still got journalists who brave the conditions to report on the travesty of justice that is taking place, exposing the rot beneath the facade.

  12. Anil

    Absolutely right. If Rs 200 billion. over 200,000 forces can not find a single culprit of hundreds of dissapearences, what is the point?? Dismiss them and appoint grannies who will do a better job.
    This scenario, makes the alternative explanation so true…. the foced realease of criminals caught red handed many times confirms which whole iof lanka is aware of… the ‘guardians of the law’ are the criminals!!!!

  13. Sri

    Don’t insult the Banana republics. This is an Apey Anduwa Republic where anything goes. How much is 30% of 2 billion? Harey shok!

  14. Lal


  15. Ananth

    It is better to spend the money for economic developement rather than spending for defence.Now there is peace,the terrorists does not exist, so why the goverment spend such a lot of money?

  16. John

    Who wants to invade India unless you are a stupid Brit. No body wants any part of India whether sacred parts or not.

    India spends on deference for offensive activities like in occupied Kashmir and on Indian Tamil terrorist outfit the Sinhala fools have wiped out.

    Sri Lanka need to spend more to counteract subversive activities carried out against Sri lanka by Indian imperialists and Indian colonial parasites.

  17. jaliya

    We are happy at least 1 billion will go to “Carlton group”

  18. In 1999, the then Secretary General of the UN. Kofi Annan, stated to the UN General Assembly that both Rwanda and Bosnia failed in their duty to protect their own people, and that the sovereignty of states, as in the UN Charter, was an obstacle to human rights protection there.

    Consequently, in 2005, the UN accepted the principle of “Responsibility to Protect”(RtoP). RtoP stipulates that sovereignty is not a licence to kill its own people, and empathy with suffering people justifies outside inteference. It obligates protection, employing various methods.

    If these UN principles are applied to Sri Lanka(SL),
    the aspects that become very clear are;

    1) SL is a failed state.
    2) There is gross violation of Human Rights and
    Humanitarian Law, to the extent of war crimes and
    Tamil Genocide against the people of Tamil Eelam
    3. Sovereignty of SL is an obstacle.
    4. RtoP is applicable to SL and the UN can intervene
    on Tamil matters.

    These aspects became evident in the UN Panel Report on SL, but the GOSL defiantly and arrogantly rejected it as if it was from its backyard and not from the International Community(IC).

    Therefore, IC responded to the defiance of SL. A resolution on SL was placed before the UNHRC.

    Eight countries stepped aside, and the resolution was passed with a majority of 9 votes.

    For SL, that was like a red flag waved in front of an enraged bull in Spanish sport.

    One enraged cabinet minister said in public that he will break the legs of journalists.

    There were many angry outbursts of defiance, with steam and hot air, coming from other cabinet ministers.

    Finally, president Rajapakse said “…No one has to tell SL what to do…”.

    He meant the IC.

    The GOSL insults the IC now, like how it insulted the UN Panel Report. The signs are that SL will not comply.

    Now the UN must think of its third step.

  19. Trutham Gnanam

    Will it be wrong to call this regim as WV Rajapaksa Regim ? = “White Van Rajapaksa Regim” ?

  20. kudu

    many sri-lankans want a new government at the next general elections
    hoping that all the murdering culprits will face justice
    for sri-lanka tp prosper
    we have to eradicate this thug culture
    starting first with thug politicians

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