The killing of two Tamil Sri Lanka Red Cross (SLRC) workers in Colombo, four days before a meeting of the European Parliament's Development Committee in Brussels on Tuesday, has been a major embarrassment for the Sri Lankan government, already receiving international flak for human rights violations.
The Colombo media has reported that at the Brussels meet, several international human rights groups are going to make critical remarks against the Sri Lankan government for the forcible displacement of thousands of Tamils in the war-affected North-East, and abduction of Tamils in Colombo city in the past year.
It was in this context, that President Rajapaksa swung into action in regard to the abduction and killing of the two Red Cross workers on Friday. The President was aware that the earlier killing of 17 staffers of the French NGO, Action Against Hunger, in Mutur in East Sri Lanka, had kicked up an international furore.
Though the state media had concluded that government agencies were not involved in the diabolical act on Friday, the President ordered a "full scale inquiry" into it, and the police set up two teams.
Red Cross staff, Shanmugalingam 37 and Chandramohan 26, both from the Tamil-speaking Eastern district of Batticaloa, were abducted from the crowded Fort Railway station at 6 m on Friday, by plainclothesmen who claimed to be from the Crime Investigation Department (CID) of the police.
A Muslim colleague who tried to prevent the "abduction" was unsuccessful, but he had noted down the number of the van, in which the duo were whisked away. On Saturday, the mutilated bodies of the two were found in Kiriella in Ratnapura district. The Muslim staffer identified the bodies.
OUSTER OF TAMIL VISITORS
Earlier last week, Colombo police ordered the ouster of Tamils belonging to the North-East from about 60 lodges in the city on the grounds that there could be LTTE cadres among them. The measure followed two terrorist bombings in and around Colombo in the immediate past.
Later, the government clarified that it had only wanted to investigate those visitors from the North East who were staying in Colombo "without any valid reason." Police chief Perera told the media that such people should get back to the North East immediately, and iftransport was a problem, the police would arrange it.
The Tamils interpreted this to mean that they were aliens who had to take visas to come and stay in Colombo. Critics said that such a measure would only make Tamils flock to the LTTE.
While this was on, President Rajapaksa said on Friday that many of the complaints of abduction and enforced disappearance were "false"
At a meeting here with the relatives of those abducted, Rajapaksa said that as per the Mahanama Tillekeratne Commission on Abductions,the persons who had disappeared were either domestic servants who had wanted to escape; lovers who had eloped; or men and women who had left their spouses after a domestic dispute.
The Commission said that in 90% of the cases brought before it, the person allegedly "abducted" had returned.
"Due to a large number of complaints of abductions being made for narrow political reasons, police investigations into the genuine complaints about abductions had been hindered," the President said.