By Hafsa Sabry
Reports on investigations carried out into several high profile incidents of murder, disappearance, and other alleged human rights violations during the former regime are expected to be finalised within the next few weeks.
Since President Maithripala Sirisena’s victory at the January 8 presidential election, most alleged human rights violation cases which have not been investigated or suspended under the influence of previous regime have been re-opened to seek justice during the past few months.
It is important to address all situations of massive human rights violations, so that they are not brushed under the carpet, jeopardising the chances of long-lasting peace and stability in the Island.
There has to be justice if there has to be lasting peace in the country. There are plenty of cases where the wheels of justice ultimately turn, although it can take time. There is actually increasing appetite for justice as people start to see more details of what happened.
For instance, the Sri Lanka national rugby player and Havelock’s team’s captain Wasim Thajudeen alleged to have been murdered in 2012, and the case was closed concluding that it was an accident.
Later, Wasim’s wallet which was found 150 meters away from the place where his body was found triggered the investigation as it suggested that the case could be a planned murder.
Meanwhile, according to a CCTV footage received from a supermarket in Havelock Road, the police have suspected that a white defender vehicle which once had belonged to the VVIP’s wife has a link to the crime.
Since then, there have been so many developments in the investigation that a court order was made to exhume the body to produce another post-mortem report which is expected to be produced before courts in coming September. The newly elected government seems to honour the promise that was made by the President to rule the country under the good governance policies.
The criminals behind bribery, abductions, even murders, and disappearances of people who stood against corruption, were not brought before the law as the police and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was looking for fresh evidences.
The case of white van scandal of Sri Lanka is not an exception as it has also been questioned recently as a result of some information revealed by few army suspects who were questioned and arrested in connection with the disappearance of the senior journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
Prageeth Eknaligoda was a cartoonist, political analyst, and journalist. He was reported missing in January 2010 – two days before the presidential poll in Sri Lanka. Members of his family believe he has been abducted by the pro-government supporters, a charge that was denied by the Rajapaksa government.
Former minister’s evidence
On the other hand, former MP Mervyn Silva is being summoned to the courts on November 11 to reveal information that once he claimed to have over white van abductions. Silva had filed a complaint in January with the CID against Gotabhaya and Basil Rajapaksa, over criminal activities, including white van abductions. He had also claimed that former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was behind the notorious white van abductions, especially that of Tamils. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Silva said that neither will he step back from saying the truth to the police and the courts about the white van scandal, nor would he carry beetle leaves and make apologises to anyone.
So many innocent people, irrespective of their race and religion, Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims, were abducted and even murdered for no good reason during the previous regime when the real criminals were at large.
Meanwhile, investigation reports on the assassination of the founding editor of The Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge, Ekanligoda’s disappearance and the white van abductions are likely to be released to the Police by the CID in another three weeks’ time, Police Media Spokesperson ASP Ruwan Gunasekara said. When The Sunday Leader questioned about the number of complaints lodged with the police over missing cases, he said only one complaint lodged about six youth missing from Trincomalee, but the suspects have been already arrested a few weeks back, and the police is waiting for the court trial to take further actions.
He also said that since the case is under investigation, no more information can be divulged as it would impede the investigation.
The Human Rights Watch’s South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly meanwhile said the government needs to properly investigate the allegations about these abductions. “A lot of these missing people are suspected to be victims of enforced disappearances. Their families are still waiting for them”. She also noted that those responsible for human rights violations should be prosecuted.
No more abduction
The Executive Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said these cases should indeed meet justice and by doing that, the government should ensure that there will not be white van scandals again in the country.
He went on to say these were atrocities done to the public; hence, the criminals should be brought to the book with no favour and failings.
Meanwhile, Lawyer and Human Rights activist Nimalka Fernando, speaking to The Sunday Leader, said that the Civil Societies are satisfied of the way the cases are being investigated over the disappearances and abductions, and they expect other organisations and committees in connection with the investigations should also cooperate to ascertain the truth.
The sittings of Paranagama Commission, officially known as the Presidential Commission to investigate into Complaints regarding Missing Persons that was established in 2013, being extended made us unhappy, said she adding that they were not properly informed about the extensions and the reason is unknown.
“The families of the victims also have not been informed about the sittings being extended”, she further claimed. She noted that the Civil Societies expect the government to publicise the investigation reports on white van abductions and disappearances for the public to acknowledge the truth.