State Terror in the form of the dreaded “white van goon squad” struck again in Colombo on Saturday February 11th 2012 when a Tamil businessman of Indian origin was abducted near his residence on Canal Bank Road, Wellawatte in the presence of his Sinhala wife and daughter.
42 year old Ramasamy Prabakaran the owner of “Panama Traders” an electronics store cum showroom within the Majestic City Complex in Bambalapitiya was seized in broad daylight by armed goons at about 3.30 pm when he arrived home with his wife and daughter from a trip to Athurugiriya,Ratmalana.
“The armed men were hiding in our compound, surrounded by a brick wall. They grabbed my husband by the neck and dragged him towards the vehicle. He was screaming for help as they sped away,” his wife Shiromi told the newspapers.
The abductor squad comprising seven persons were brandishing assault rifles and shot guns while bundling Prabakaran into a white van that was seen speeding off in the direction of Dehiwela.
Many people in the vicinity saw the incident but were unable to intervene as they suspected the armed abductors in the white van were members of an “officially sanctioned unofficial state terrorist outfit”functioning with approval upper echelons of the Defence establishment.
Prabakaran’s wife Shiromi who had noted down the white van registration number and complained to the Wellawatte Police was told that the number plates were false and the vehicle could not be traced.
Ramasamy Prabakaran had been taken into custody in May 2009 as a suspected LTTE member and detained for 28 months.During interrogation he was brutally assaulted and tortured by senior Police officers.
Finally he was released in September 2011 due to lack of evidence and all charges against him were dropped.
Prabakaran however filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court alleging unlawful arrest and detention . The Supreme court granted leave to proceed and the hearing was scheduled for Monday February 13th.
The Businessman abducted two days before the fundamental rights petition was to be heard in courts had also filed a motion separately seeking release of his business premises which were kept sealed under Police guard despite the courts acquitting him of all charges.
When the FR petition was filed ,Counsel for the Petitioner Romesh de Silva P.C. with K.S. Rathnavel, cited Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Vaas Gunawardena, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Anura Senanayake, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), and the Attorney General (AG), together with eight others as Respondents.
The petition further stated-
Petitioner Ramasamy Prabhakaran, a businessman involved in the marketing and sale of electrical and household items at the Majestic City complex, was a frequent traveller abroad. On or about May 16, 2009, while he was away in India, Police personnel from Wellawatta Police Station, together with the CID, visited his residence and conducted a search, following which they had taken documents and material related to his family and friends.
He states that, as they could not find any evidence to substantiate the purpose for which they came, they took his wife to Wellawatta Police Station and questioned her for a long time. Petitioner said that, after his wife informed the Police that her husband would return to the country and make himself available at the Station, they released her.
Mr. Prabhakaran said that on May 21, 2009, he was interrogated by one of the Respondents, SP Mahin Dole together with other Officers, of how well he knew Col. Ranjith Chandrasiri Perera of the Sri Lanka Army and what connections he had with him. Petitioner, while denying all allegations made against him, stated that he was a friend of the Colonel for the past 20 years and that he was a neighbour of one of his relatives in Bandarawela.
Petitioner was then taken by SSP Vaas Gunawardena to the CCD and was assaulted with an iron rod in the most inhuman and degrading manner, where he was injured over most parts of his body, including his private parts. He further stated that on May 24, 2009, personnel from the CCD and SIS entered his shop for another search and destroyed most of the goods to the value of about Rs 35 Million.
He said that cruel torture was carried out on him almost every day while he was in police custody. He also claimed that the CCD had taken most of his documents and also the van he was using, which he had purchased on lease basis, and to date, not returned same. Petitioner further said that, after the initial date, he was not taken to Court, but the Magistrate visited him in custody. On the relevant case dates, Petitioner said that, even after the Magistrate ordered medical attention for him, the CID did not comply.
Finally when the case was taken up at the Mt. Lavinia Courts, the State Counsel informed Court that there was no incriminating evidence to keep him in custody and that in the absence of incriminating evidence, they were not proceeding with the case, and that the necessary papers would be forwarded to the Magistrates’ Court.
When the papers had not been delivered on two successive occasions, Mt.Lavinia Magistrate Nirosha Fernando directed that, the Petitioner should be released on September 16, as there were no grounds for his continued detention.
In a separate development a motion was filed in the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate’s Court by businessman Ramasamy Prabhakaran, stating that, despite a previous Court order acquitting him of all charges brought against him by the CID, his business premises were still sealed and guarded by the Bambalapitiya Police.
Mr. Ramasamy was accused of being an LTTE supporter, because he knew Colonel Ranjith Perera who was accused of being an LTTE supporter.
In his defence, he claimed that he knew the Colonel for over 20 years, as a neighbour of a relative in Bandarawela. He was detained by the CCD for 20 months and brutally assaulted, which is supplemented by a complete statement by the JMO of the injuries he received during his detention.
The JMO report gives a history of prolonged restraining, repeated blindfolding, repeated assault with blunt objects, hung suspended, application of irritant over the head, nail removal, application of electricity, submersion in water, stripping, threats of anal penetration with blunt objects, while in CCD custody.
The pattern of scars is suggestive of trauma inflicted intentionally with blunt objects as described by the examinee. The JMO suggests that he should be seen by the Orthopaedic clinic, ENT, Eye Hospital , Diabetic Clinic and the psychiatrist for his complaints.
He claims that, during his detention, his house was ransacked, documents seized and business premises sealed. The case was heard at the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate’s court, where he was acquitted on September 16, 2011 of all charges as there was no evidence to prove the allegations.
His complaint is that, even after the Court order was delivered, his business premises are still sealed and under police guard.
It is against this backdrop of excessive action by the Police against Ramasamy Prabakaran and the victim resorting to legal action against the Police that the Tamil businessman has been abducted by “agents of the State” two days prior to the hearing of his fundamental rights petition by the Supreme Court
The Businessman suspected of links to the LTTE had also complained to the United Nations of how he was being tortured while being detained at the New Magazine prisons. This letter was posted on my website “transcurrents” in March 2011
In that context I fear greatly that this person would be severely tortured by his abductors and possibly executed by the State Terror squad.
I am reproducing the letter he wrote to the UN in full here to make readers understand the circumstances of why and how he was arrested in 2009 and the cruel experience this man underwent at the hands of state agencies
Here is the letter in full–
6767 Magazine Prison
Secretariat of the Committee Against Torture – Petitions Unit
Human Rights Treaties Division
52, Rue Des Pâquis,
SEEK REDRESS FOR VIOLATION OF MY FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS BY THE SRI LANKA POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THE INTELLIGENCE SERVICES
I, Ramasamy Prabaharan am an inmate at the New Magazine Prison in Colombo for the last five months. At the time of my arrest, I was a well reputed businessman. My fundamental rights have been violated by the Sri Lanka police department and the intelligence services and I humbly seek your Excellency’s humane and just government to help me in deadly predicament I have been forcibly plunged into, by the state. Your Excellency, I beseech you to kindly probe into my grievances and please assist me in securing my release from the grossly unjust situation.
2. The particulars appended pertaining to my business career, unlawful detention, brutal assault, cruel inhuman and degrading torture by abusing me physically as well as mentally whilst held in detention and torturing me into forcibly admitting false allegations detrimental to me, are for your perusal.
3. I am a well reputed businessman, owner of panama traders an electronic outlet in Colombo, established in 1983 is one most popular showroom in Sri Lanka are the main dealers of leading brands such as Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, apple, black & decker.etc.the annual turnover exceeds 180 million. I am a member of Colombo swimming club, otters aquatic club, Colombo golf club, Sinhalese sports club.inorder for my business I used to travel abroad regularly, even for holidays have travelled throughout Europe,America,Canada,Singapore,Malaysia,Thailand,UAE,hong Kong, Australia, new Zealand and have an OCI (overseas citizenship of India).
4. During my career as a businessman, I have sent letters to the defense secretary of Sri Lanka in regard of developing the country, helped many army officers to capture terrorists, about to kill innocent lives.
5. My medical report has been handed over to the Supreme Court by the JMO (Jayapala).fundamental case no.-963/2009 forms and the medical report will be sent to you in the next mail was unlawfully detained for almost fifteen months from may 19th, without any charges framed against me, and it was only 12th may 2010 that I was remanded and sent to the magazine prison in borella, Colombo 08.
6. Due to the most brutal, inhuman and barbaric assault and torture on me while in detention, I was hanged upside down for almost a day and beaten up severely with a wooden pole, about eighteen times, my nails were removed, my head was toned with nails, after all these torture I had to clean the floor of blood with my tongue. This happened for almost four months, and now am suffering with excruciating pain all over my body and had to undergo treatment but I was taken to the hospital the doctor was shocked to see I’m alive after what I’ve been through and forced me to get admitted but I wasn’t allowed to. The ICRC (no13753) thoroughly checked my body, the torture I went through was said to be the cruelest in the past fifteen years.
7. Before my surrender, I was in India about to be admitted for my throat surgery but when I heard about these allegations I returned, and my throat surgery is still pending.
8. Even though I am in the remand prison, I wish to inform your Excellency that my life is in grave danger as, to obviate the blunder they have made in arresting me and brutally assaulting and torturing me .I have been threatened with death, unless I withdraw the fundamental rights violation application filed by me. Hence, I kindly beseech your Excellency to use your good offices to peruse the facts presented by me. Kindly assist me in the matters placed before you, namely:
A.Adequate protection/security for me whilst travelling to and from the courts to the prison.
B. political asylum for me and my dependants, when I am released from the prison.
C. legal assistance for me to file a case against the Sri Lanka police department and the Sri Lankan intelligence services in the international criminal court of justice.
9. I would like to apprise you of the fact that I am registered with the international committee of Red Cross society. I do hope, your Excellency ,you would consider the facts placed before you and humbly beg you to treat my appeal with compassion and help me out of this unjust and grave predicament.
Eagerly anticipating a favorable reply.
My permanent address-153, Canal Bank road, Wellawatte, Colombo 6 Thanking you,