When Premkumar Gunaratnam alias Noel Mudalige, a Tamilian responsible for killing many Indian soldiers over two decades ago, was forcibly put on a plane at the Colombo airport at 7.40 a.m. on Tuesday, it raised quite a few questions.

A reconstruction of the events is roughly as follows: Premkumar arrived here on September 4, 2011 on an Australian passport with the mission of splitting the JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna); Premkumar, who had collaborated with the Premadasa regime to kill members of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, apparently outlived his utility after he split the JVP — he went missing on April 6, three days before he was to formally inaugurate the breakaway faction, the Frontline Socialist Party; he was dumped at Kolonnawa in Colombo district possibly early on Tuesday morning; police say he surrendered, was taken to the airport and put on an flight out of the country.

Australia's response

The primary question is how much did the Australian authorities know? The Hindu e-mailed a questionnaire to the Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade office in Canberra, to find out if this was a simple case of name change; when was he was given citizenship and under what provisions; whether Australia was aware that the person was involved in subversive activities in Sri Lanka including the killing of 14 IPKF soldiers; and if Australia believed that Sri Lankan security forces abducted him.

In response, a spokesperson of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: “We can confirm a 42-year-old man from New South Wales who was reported missing in the region of Kiribathigoda, Sri Lanka, is safe and well.

“The Australian High Commissioner in Colombo escorted the man to the airport and confirmed his departure from Sri Lanka…The department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is unable to provide any further information on this matter due to our privacy obligations to our consular client.”

Government version

Blaming Premkumar and ‘malicious campaigners', Colombo contended that the abduction was possibly not a fact, given that the police were approached long after the abduction. In a statement to diplomatic missions and international organisations, the Foreign Ministry said Premkumar was deported because he was violation of immigration laws.

To drive home the point that there is more to him than what meets the eye, Sri Lanka said Premkumar appeared to have changed his name thrice. In the passport obtained from Sri Lanka his name is Rathnayake Mudiyanselage Dayalal. His marriage certificate claims he is Wanninayake Mudiyanselage Daskon.

The Foreign Ministry press note said he was subjected to a “detailed interrogation”, implying he was in custody for some length of time. This is where the version put out by the police — and reported in the media — and the version of the Foreign Ministry do not tally.

“Whenever a person chooses to withdraw from the community for personal reasons, or with the deliberate intention of causing embarrassment to the Government, it is grossly unfair to arrive at the conclusion that there has been an abduction and to point a finger at the State,” the release said. “This has happened on many occasions and now seems to reflect a recurring pattern. The objective is clearly to target Sri Lanka in international fora…The Government asks nothing more than that objectivity and basic fairness should be the criteria governing reactions to these irresponsible and malicious campaigns,” it added.

White-vanned

According to Groundviews, a website on Sri Lankan current affairs run by the non-governmental organisation Centre for Policy Alternatives, 29 disappearances have been reported in Sri Lankan media between February and March 2012. Leader of the opposition in Parliament Ranil Wickramasinghe has said that the total number of disappearances reported in the last six months is 56. Not one case has been solved so far. A new term has been coined to qualify the disappearances: “white-vanned”. Most of those who disappear are last seen being dragged into a white van of a particular Japanese make.

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