Leader of the JVP rebel faction Kumar Gunaratnam, who mysteriously disappeared on Saturday, reappeared as an Australian citizen named Noel Mudalige yesterday!
Gunaratnam's statement to the police, recorded in the presence of Australian High Commissioner in Colombo Robyn Mudie and another diplomat is as intriguing as his disappearance and reappearance. He has said that he was treated well in captivity. This is the first time a white van victim has returned alive to say something good about his abductors!
The JVP rebels say their central committee member Dimuthu Attygalle was also taken away in a white van around 8.00 p.m. on Friday, eight hours before the abduction of Gunaratnam. They should have taken precautions after the first abduction and removed their leader to safety. They also took an inordinately long time to report their disappearances to the police. Why?
What really happened? Did Gunaratnam and Dimuthu go into hiding to give their party a boost only to return after their plan went awry, as their detractors claim? Or, is it that the government really had them abducted, but decided to release them following Australia's intervention? A thorough probe into their abductions is called for! The government must conduct an investigation and clear its name, if possible.
JVP rebels' credibility has suffered a heavy blow as it has now turned out that their leader is not a Sri Lankan but an Australian living under a false name. They ought to explain what made him visit this country on the sly. There was absolutely no need for him to return in disguise because even the present JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe, who fled the country to escape death and many other JVP heavyweights who remained underground after their abortive revolt in the late 1980s, made a comeback nearly two decades ago. Former LTTE combatants have also walked to freedom after rehabilitation.
The JVP leaders have also been left with egg on their face. When their party's split came into light and questions were raised about Kumar Gunaratnam, one of them cynically denied the existence of any such person likening him to the Grease Yaka, whom everyone talked about and feared but no one had actually seen. What have they got to say now? Kumar Gunaratnam is real and he was in the country!
The government owes an explanation to the public. Why didn't it take Gunaratnam into custody as he had allegedly overstayed his visa and engaged in underground political activity in violation of Sri Lanka's immigration laws? Australia won't be able to justify its tough action against those who violate its immigration laws unless it acts against Mudalige/Gunaratnam.
We neither buy into Gunaratnam's claim nor dismiss it. We simply do not know what really happened, as we said on Monday. But, if his story is true, then he is the third person to have survived a White Van ride, others being senior journalist Keith Noyahr domiciled in Australia and Dimuthu. Noyahr, however, suffered serious injury at the hands of his abductors unlike Gunaratnam and Dimuthu.
Today, a 'marvellous opportunity' has presented itself. Both Keith and Gunaratnam are in Australia. The onus is on the Australian government to urge them to let the world know who is responsible for their abductions. The US, the EU, Canada, Norway and the UN ought to call for a probe into their abductions as well as that of Dimuthu.
Gunaratnam's sister told a media conference on Monday that her elder brother, Ranjitham, had been tortured in her and her mother's presence. He was later killed. She must reveal who the perpetrators were and name the politicians who, she thinks, were responsible for that crime. She must also tender an apology to the families of the innocent civilians butchered by her brothers' party, the JVP, during its reign of terror in the late 1980s. The much-dreaded JVP death squads were notorious for their savage methods like disemboweling their victims and burning them alive.
All abductions must be probed and perpetrators brought to justice!