Deported back to Australia: Sri Lankan activist Premakumar Gunaratnam’s wife Champa Somaratna and their children Aman and Ama at home in Dural, Sydney. Picture: James Croucher Supplied
( April 10, 2012, Sydney, Sri Lanka Guardian) A radical Australian-Sri Lankan activist reported by his party to have been abducted has been found.
Premakumar Gunaratnam,42, was found safe and was deported to his adopted home in Australia, the Sri Lankan government said yesterday.
Mr Gunaratnam, a Sri Lankan-Australian citizen, went missing on Friday from Kiribathgoda, north of Colombo, where he was preparing to launch an anti-government Marxist party, according to his family and fellow activists.
Sri Lanka’s external affairs ministry said in a statement that Mr Gunaratnam was deported on Tuesday because he had overstayed his visa by five months, adding that he had used three aliases to remain in the country illegally.
“Mr Gunaratnam has now re-appeared and has in fact been deported from Sri Lanka because his stay in this country was in breach of Sri Lanka’s immigration laws,” the statement said.
The ministry said it was “grossly unfair to arrive at the conclusion that there has been an abduction and point a finger at the state.”
Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said that Mr Gunaratnam was “dropped off” near a police station by his unidentified captors after his five-day ordeal.
“He has told us that he wants to return to Australia,” Mr Rohana said. “We have given him a security escort to go to the airport.”
Dimuthu Attygalle, leader of the new party’s women’s wing, who was seized minutes before Mr Gunaratnam disappeared, was also found yesterday.
She said she was “abducted” by members of the security forces.
The two political activists were held days before they formally launched their Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), a breakaway faction of the People’s Liberation Front which led two failed armed uprisings in 1971 and 1987.
“Their questioning was about the formation of our party,” Ms Attygalle told reporters after six gunmen brought her to a suburb of Colombo and set her free with a warning to stay away from politics.
“They asked if we want to revive the revolution through an armed struggle,” Ms Attygalle said. “From the way they questioned me and the way they spoke with each other it is clear to me that they were security forces.”
She said she was questioned about foreign funding for the FSP in the presence of Mr Gunaratnam, who had been seized in Colombo.
“I said we would not come out into the open and form a party if we were returning to an armed struggle,” she said, adding that she had feared for her life.
The Sri Lankan government, which has been accused by international rights groups of suppressing dissent since the end of the island’s separatist civil war in 2009, said the latest incident was aimed at tarnishing its image.
|The family of Premakumar Gunaratnam – Aman Somaratna, 12, Ama Somaratna, 18, and wife Champa Somaratna
“The objective of this (incident) is clearly to target Sri Lanka in international fora on the flimsiest of evidence,” the ministry statement said.
Party official Senadeer Gunatilake said he believed the pair were released because of pressure from Australia and opposition political parties.
Australia had earlier pressed Sri Lanka for urgent clarification on Mr Gunaratnam’s whereabouts.
Rights groups have reported dozens of abductions since the Tamil Tiger rebels were defeated by government troops in 2009, but some of the incidents appear to have been private disputes or underworld activities. –AFP