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THE INSTITUTIONALISATION OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE

Pro vigilante group detains suspects -JVP warns of the danger of vigilantes

The JVP politburo in a media release issued yesterday, called upon the Government not only to bring the offenders of the Udathalawinna massacre to book, but also to take stringent action against the alleged vigilantes who are harbouring two suspects in this heinous crime.

The JVP also called upon all democratic forces to unite to defeat this perilous trend of the emergence of vigilante groups who take the law into their own hands.

The vigilante group has indicated it will release the suspects to the police after full information is obtained to expose the full story behind the massacre in which ten supporters of the SLMC were brutally gunned down when they were escorting a bus transporting ballot boxes to the counting centre.

The vigilante group had indicated that it took this illegal action of abducting and detaining the two suspects because the group feared there was an attempt at covering up the massacre.

One of the soldiers is believed to have been directly involved and was the driver of the Defender jeep which followed the victims and gunned them down. The other is believed to have driven away another Defender vehicle which had been used in the massacre.

The group holding the two suspects includes a top Central Province Muslim politician of the ruling party. The two suspects had been taken in at Uthuwankanda in Mawanella while they were driving two Defender vehicles and heading towards Colombo the day after elections. They were blocked by a group of persons who had been following them from Kandy.

According to reports, the suspects had earlier attempted to obtain curfew passes for the two vehicles owned by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) the day after elections. They had gone to the Kandy police for the passes but they were turned down and the vigilante group is believed to have been tipped off at that point.

The vehicles had proceeded towards Colombo without the pass, but had been followed by the group who later took them into 'custody'.

The suspects were driven back to Kandy and the two vehicles had been abandoned in a tea estate. The Theldeniya police later recovered the jeeps.

The two Defender vehicles had earlier been spotted near the Mahaiyawa residence of former minister Anuruddha Ratwatte who has denied allegations that he or his two sons Lohan and Chanuka were involved in the killings.

The damaged windscreen of one of the jeeps was reportedly found in Mr. Ratwatte's house.

The release said:" There is no doubt that the nation grieves the massacre of ten people at Udatalawinna during the just concluded Parliamentary polls. It is an essential prerequisite that the offenders be brought to book so that there would be no repetition of incidents of this nature in the future. Now the latest in this regard is a report about a vigilante group, that has taken the law into its own hands by keeping offenders in their custody.

These facts have been bared in a weekend newspaper story on December 24. The story said that the two army personnel who drove the two jeeps that were used in the crime are in the custody of a vigilante group. The photographs of the victims have also been published. The news report also revealed that a key Central Province UNP politico is also allegedly linked to this heinous crime.

This is indeed a serious situation. The question is whether the UNP which has historical links to infamous vigilante groups such as Saa, Yellow cats and Praa has again returned to the law of the jungle, just after assuming power.

We reiterate our call that the offenders should be brought to book, whoever they are. However, the punishment to the offenders should be meted out by the legal machinery and not by some vigilantes.

It is also tragic that pseudo civil organisations which posed of as furthering the causes of a peaceful and law abiding society and which had over 30 news releases per month, are now maintaining a stoic silence on this all important issue.

Just as much as the issue of the massacre should be condemned, the issue of vigilante groups taking the law into their own hands and acting that way should also be condemned.


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