SRI LANKA: Abductions and disappearances continue in Colombo and elsewhere unabated and the state turns a blind eye

The abduction of yet another Tamil businessman on December 11, in Kotahena by an unidentified group was reported in Lankanet.  The victim is said to be Chabamale Muttu Folton (42) and he was abducted near his house at Paramananda Vihara Mawatha.

The article reported the following:

“The suspects who had come in a white van had asked him to come with them saying they were from the CID. When the businessman asked them to show their identity cards the gang had forcibly taken him away.

According to Kotahena police, the abductee is a businessman of the area and had started his businesses after returning from abroad recently.

A special police team has been deployed to track down the suspects. The police believe this to be yet another abduction by the gang responsible for the recent series of abductions and killings which remain unresolved.”

Despite of the one-man Commission, to be followed by yet another commission consisting of eight persons, abductions and disappearances continue.  Not one single case has been resolved by the law enforcement agencies within Sri Lanka.  Nor has the one –man commission had any influence on the issue.  Whether the new Commission which was appointed by the President with a special warrant, and which is expected to be observed by a selection of foreign experts can make any difference to this situation is yet to be seen.  What is unique to the present situation is that since the period of instability from 1971 Colombo businessmen and the affluent sections of society did not suffer directly from the violence.  However, now the situation has penetrated into all sections of society and the insecurity and instability is a common phenomena experienced by all.

The state does not seem to play a decisive role in controlling the situation.  When the AHRC questioned one senior police officer (who did not wished to be named) on this issue, he answered with a questioned, “who is interested in the rule of law?”  He further said that, “while no one is interested in re-establishing the rule of law there are many forces who want to undermine the little that remains of the rule of law.”  Having observed the situation for a long time the AHRC completely agrees with the assessment of this police officer.  The state has failed in its obligation to investigate all crimes including abductions and disappearances in the manner required by the law.

The comment here is not about the state directly engaging in such crimes, but rather the state being complicit in these crimes by not discharging their basic duty to enforce the rule of law and ensuring the basic security of the people.  If the capital itself is insecure to this extent, where does the writ of the state run?  We also reproduce below another story of an abduction and disappearance complained of by the wife of the victim.

On August 23, 2006 I.A. Nishantha Chandrasiri was arrested while he was visiting the house of a sister by six to seven persons who had come in a white coloured van.  At the moment of arrest he and several family members were beaten with rifle butts, hands and feet.  The family members were blamed as to why they allowed Nishantha Chandrasiri in their house.  His hands were tied with a T shirt he was wearing and he was taken out to a van.

Those who were subjected to the beating went to Nishantha Chandrasiri’s house and informed his wife, W. Dinasha Sangeewani Kumari about what had happened.  At this point his wife and a brother of Nishantha Chandrasiri went to the police station.  They reached the station at 9:00 a.m. and complained to the Officer-in-Charge (OIC).  The OIC shouted at them asking, “Is it now that you have thought of the police and why have you come?”  The two persons explained that had come to look for Nishantha Chandrasiri.

The OIC told them that, “We have not brought him.  If we get hold of him we will kill him.  Even by now there won’t even be pieces of him.”

The OIC did not allow a statement to be recorded from them.  He told them to go to other police stations and have a look.  The two family members went to the Mirihana Police and were told that they were unaware of such a person.  The also went to police stations at Hanwella, Athugiriya and Pelliyagoda but could not find him.  On the same day they visited the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and informed the commission that the Navagamuwa police had refused to take a statement.  An officer from the commission talked to the Navagamuwa police and thereafter they were asked to go back again to the station.  At around 8:00 p.m. they went and informed the officers the reason for their coming and then a statement was recorded.  They left the police station at around 10:00 p.m.

During this time a Buddhist monk, who was a friend of the family informed them that Nishantha Chandrasiri was at Mirihana Police station.  However, when they went to that station they were told that there was no such person there.

After about a week having received news that he was being kept at the Criminal Investigation Unit at Dematagoda the members of the family visited the place and were shown Nishantha Chandrasiri through a small peephole, seated on a bench in a dark room.  They were not told any details and thereafter despite of all attempts they were unable to obtain any further information.

Some weeks before the arrest on August 23 the OIC of Navagamuwa had gone to visit the family house of Nishantha Chandrasiri and told them that he was wanted for some robbery.  However, the family is not aware of any such involvement.

The family believes that the OIC of Navagamuwa is aware of what might have happened to Nishantha Chandrasiri.  They visited the one-man Commission on Abductions and Disappearances appointed to look into disappearances, which is headed by Mr. Mahanama Thilakaratne, and made a complaint.  An Aunt of Nishantha Chandrasiri recorded her evidence.

All that the family has heard about this investigation is that the investigation into the matter is over and a report has been forwarded to the President of Sri Lanka.  Despite of all the attempts by the victim’s family in making complaints to the police, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and  the one-man Commission on Abductions and Disappearances the family has not been given any information on the whereabouts of Nishantha Chandrasiri.

The family is requesting that inquiries be held into the abduction and disappearance of the victim and that the state should find the victim, wherever he is.  The family also requests that the one-man Commission on Abductions and Disappearances, the police authorities and the President of Sri Lanka to let them know what has happened to Nishantha Chandrasiri.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-312-2006
Countries : Sri Lanka,