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The “Abducted” Sri Lanka Activist Who Helped Oust Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The “Abducted” Sri Lanka Activist Who Helped Oust Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The 'Abducted' Sri Lanka Activist Who Helped Oust Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Premakumar Gunaratnam holds Gotabaya Rajapaksa accountable for battle crimes.


Activist Premakumar Gunaratnam says he was marked for dying by Sri Lanka’s safety boss a decade in the past. The architect of his abduction went on to change into president, however now the dissident has performed a key position within the chief’s downfall.

Now 56, Gunaratnam was snatched by armed gunmen from his residence close to Colombo, bundled right into a white van, and pushed away to a secret location the place he was restrained, stripped and tortured.

Plainclothes males working in unmarked automobiles seized dozens of different dissidents, journalists and opposition politicians in 2012. Many have been by no means seen once more.

Gunaratnam, a radical leftist who was about to launch a brand new political occasion, was one of many fortunate ones: worldwide stress secured his surprising launch 4 days later.

Sri Lanka’s safety forces have been managed on the time by Gotabaya Rajapaksa — who later grew to become president, oversaw the nation’s worst financial disaster and final week fled the island earlier than resigning after his residence was barged into by protesters whom Gunaratnam helped to marshal.

“He kidnapped me and needed to assassinate me,” he informed AFP. “However this isn’t private,” he added with a wry smile.

Native media describe the activist as a “key mover” in constructing an ostensibly leaderless months-long protest motion that channelled frustrations over the financial disaster right into a political revolution.

It introduced concerning the downfall of a political clan that had as soon as been adored by a lot of the nation for ending its decades-old civil battle, regardless of a world outcry over atrocities by authorities troops within the battle’s remaining weeks.

Rajapaksa’s ouster and hurried flight to Singapore have been a “win for democracy”, Gunaratnam informed AFP, however added that the protesters’ mission can be unfinished till he returned to face justice in a Sri Lankan courtroom.

“He is among the key accountable individuals for the abductions and disappearances, and he is among the accountable individuals for battle crimes,” he stated.

White vans

Safety forces allegedly kidnapped troublesome opponents so typically throughout and after Sri Lanka’s ethnic battle that being “white-vanned” grew to become a euphemism for kidnapping.

Rajapaksa acknowledged the follow of white-van abductions to an area reporter in 2019, however added that it pre-dated his time as Sri Lanka’s defence secretary and stated it was unfair to “pinpoint” him for blame.

Gunaratnam seems again on his 2012 ordeal with exceptional good humour, although it got here only some months after two of his shut comrades disappeared, by no means to be seen once more.

He had been granted Australian citizenship after fleeing the nation, fearing retribution for his political exercise, and he credit lobbying by Canberra’s ambassador for saving his life.

Gunaratnam has spent a lifetime in revolutionary politics and, in a rustic with a protracted historical past of armed battle and human rights abuses, it was not his first shut brush with dying.

Whereas a young person, he joined a leftist political rebellion within the 1980s and, in line with Sri Lankan journalist Victor Ivan, commanded a bunch of college college students disguised as troopers after they raided a military camp in Kandy for weapons.

He was finally arrested in a entice reportedly set by military commander Sarath Fonseka, whom Gunaratnam accuses of presiding over tons of of extrajudicial killings within the northeastern metropolis of Trincomalee through the battle.

“I used to be counting down the times till the tip of my life,” he informed AFP.

He was solely launched, he says, as a result of the federal government had come below stress for murdering different cadres and wanted to show that a few of these lacking have been nonetheless alive.

Fonseka is now a attainable candidate within the parliamentary vote to exchange Sri Lanka’s president.

Among the many candidates is Sajith Premadasa, the son of the president whose administration Gunaratnam fought to overthrow within the 1980s — a testomony to the cloistered nature of Sri Lankan politics.

One of many ministers in that authorities was Ranil Wickremesinghe, now the appearing president and frontrunner to succeed Rajapaksa.

Many Sri Lankan protest activists are in opposition to all of the presidential candidates and are as a substitute calling for the abolition of sweeping govt powers, which the motion blames for permitting corruption and political violence to flourish.

Gunaratnam, who way back deserted armed wrestle, stated the road marketing campaign wanted to push ahead to drive extra complete political reforms.

“We do not anticipate democracy from the rulers,” he added. “That is why folks got here to the streets and confirmed what democracy is.”

(Aside from the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV workers and is printed from a syndicated feed.)

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Written by Harry Rosen

Harry Rosen is an accomplished explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker, and author.

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