Free of war, but are Sri Lankans truly free?
This article was written before information was out that a person by the name of Noel Mudalige (apparently an alias for Gunaratnam) was said to have emplaned for Australia, and before Dimuthu Attygalle appeared at a FSP press conference to say she was abducted and released.
The abduction of political activists and leaders of the Frontline Socialist Party, Premakumar Gunaratnam and Dimuthu Attygalle has been taken seriously by all who are concerned about freedom and democracy. Prior to their disappearance both activists had been preparing for the first convention of the Frontline Socialist Party, a party formed by a dissident group from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP – People’s Liberation Front). FSP party members had received credible information that both activists were under intense government surveillance, shortly before their disappearance. They have given best possible cover to these leaders, but failed to defeat the abductors. Latter must have received the support of the regime.
Frontline Socialist Party
Gunaratnam was a key leader of the People’s Struggle Movement (PSM) and Dimuthu was the Secretary for Women’s and International affairs of the organization, which was a forerunner to the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP). Furthermore Gunaratnam had been instrumental in forming the FSP and he was considered as its head. The PSM has campaigned actively since its formation against the systemic violation of human rights by this Government including, disappearances, extra-judicial killings, illegal detentions and militarization in the North. This is a sharp break from the chauvinist and war mongering policy of the JVP.
Gunaratnam is believed to have been abducted from his temporary residence at No.29/1, Gemunu Mawatha, Kiribathgoda (Gampaha district), on 6th April. He was last seen by a party member who dropped Mr. Gunaratnam at his residence in Kiribathgoda at around 5 pm on 6thApril following a party meeting. Dimuthu was last seen by a party leader who dropped her at the Kottawa bus stand (Colombo District) at around 6pm on 6th April. Though Dimuthu confirmed that she was going to her residence at 32/14/7, High level road, Henawatte, Meegoda (Colombo district but she had not arrived home on 6thApril. The Australian High Commission in Colombo has been informed of the disappearance as Mr. Gunaratnam is an Australian citizen. Prior to their abduction, Gunaratnam and Dimuthu were engaged in intense negotiations in preparation for the first party convention on 9th April 2012. FSP party members believe that Gunaratnam and Dimuthu had been abducted by forces linked to the Government since the party has campaigned actively against human rights abuses by the Government, particularly against the Tamil minority in the North. PSM activists Lalith Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan were abducted on 9th December 2011 in Jaffna and have not been seen or heard from since. Lalith Weeraraj was repeatedly threatened by police and military prior to his abduction and ordered to stop his work in the North. There has been no information or credible investigation into their disappearance despite widespread protests. Local and international campaigns and a habeas corpus petition before the Court of Appeal in Lanka are continuing. The families of both men have also suffered threats, harassment and surveillance following their abduction.
Autonomy of the Tamil people
It is true that FSP sharply broke from the chauvinist JVP policy but it does not stand for the autonomy of the Tamil people nor does it defend the right of self determination of the Tamil nationality. Though there were open and public attacks against the NSSP and leading media and trade union figures such as Kotti and Dharmasiri there were no such attacks directed against the FSP on this issue. Hence it is wise to look for other reasons behind this attack on the FSP. The government is tied down with its bondage to international money lenders. It was forced by the imperial powers to pass the burden of repayments to the masses. In particular cuts in education have aroused the wrath of the youth. Privatization of education has pushed the plebeian youth into severe agitation against the government. Students and youth have rebelled against the JVP leaders who have supported the dictatorial presidency of Mahinda. Now, they have become the base of the new party. Clearly the government wants to frighten the leaders into submission; these abductions were for that purpose.