COLOMBO – A radical activist expelled from Sri Lanka said Wednesday that he was lucky to be alive after a four-day abduction, but vowed to keep up his “struggle for democracy and human rights.”
Premakumar Gunaratnam, 42, a Sri Lankan-born Australian citizen, said security forces grabbed him from his home near Colombo and had planned to kill him, but they were forced to free him after international pressure.
“I believed they were going to kill me after they took me away at gun point,” Gunaratnam told reporters after he was deported to Australia. “They blind-folded me, tied my wrists and legs and sexually tortured me.”
Gunaratnam told reporters at a video conference at his office in the capital Colombo that he believed members of the security forces were involved in the kidnapping and it was similar to scores of abductions in recent months.
“I am lucky to be alive and one of the very few to have survived an abduction by security forces. But, this is not a question about me, but about democracy and human rights in Sri Lanka.”
“We must unite to restore democracy and we must include members of the security forces. There are officers who believe they are being forced by politicians to carry out illegal acts,” he said.
He said he survived because the Australian High Commission and international rights groups pressed for his release.
Government spokesman and acting media minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena denied security forces were involved in Gunaratnam’s abduction.
He went missing as he prepared to launch an anti-government Marxist party, according to fellow activists.
The women’s wing leader of his new Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), Dimuthu Attygalle, was abducted the day before. However, both were freed on the same day at two separate locations and Gunaratnam was eventually deported.
The FSP is a breakaway faction of the People’s Liberation Front which led two uprisings in 1971 and 1987. An estimated 100,000 people were killed in both, but Gunaratnam said they were not planning to take up arms.
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.
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.