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Humanitarian Appeal Update

Humanitarian Appeal Update

Abduction of Sri Lankan media persons and some businessmen and the disappearance of a clergyman, all belonging to the minority Tamil community is causing concern not only locally, but internationally.

In the last few days, two Tamil media persons were abducted, but they were released after strong protests from civil society.

A Catholic priest from the Jaffna peninsula is still to be traced, though Amnesty International and the Vatican had made an appeal for his release.

For some time now, unidentified gunmen, allegedly with political connections, have been kidnapping Tamil businessmen in Colombo for ransoms running into millions of rupees.

On August 29, the News Manager of the Tamil radio station Sooriyan FM Nadarajah Guruparan (39) was abducted.

He was released the next day after top politicians appealed to the President to set the law and order machinery in motion to secure his release.

His life was in danger, Guruparan told Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), an international journalists' watchdog, after this release.

He told Associated Press that following the harrowing experience, he was contemplating a change in his profession.

The abductors had apparently attained their objective.

On September 1, T Thavamani, a 26-year-old Tamil woman employed as an engineer by the popular Tamil-owned Maharaja Television (MTV) was abducted by unknown men and released the next day after her uncle, the opposition MP T Maheswaran, raised a hue and cry.

"Coming just a few days after the abduction of leading Tamil radio journalist Nadarajah Guruparan, this new case casts even more doubt on the ability of the authorities to guarantee the safety of the Tamil population, especially journalists, in government-controlled areas," said

Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) in a statement on Friday.

Thavamani's uncle and parliamentarian Maheswaran told RSF: "We have evidences that military intelligence officers are linked to her kidnapping. This is outrageous."

"Military intelligence officers had raided her house a month ago and she was subsequently questioned by the police criminal investigation department (CID) for no apparent reason," RSF said.

"More and more civilians are being kidnapped in Colombo. Tamil businessmen are subject to extortion and journalists are being threatened," RSF added.

According to Maheswaran, who himself is a leading businessman, 10 to 20 Tamil businessmen have been abducted for ransom by elements who seem to enjoy political support.

"Of the five kidnapped recently, two have been released. But one of those still in captivity has been asked to cough up Rs 4 crores (SLRs 40 million)," Maheswaran said.

The disappearance of the Catholic priest Fr Nihal Jim Brown of Allaipiddy, Jaffna, and one his lay companions named Vimalathas, on August 20, is still to be solved.

The Vatican and Amnesty International have called for their release.

Said apostolic nuncio Archibishop Mario Zenari: "We appeal to the sentiments of humanity of those responsible for his disappearance, asking them to recognise their fault and to act consequently".

"As Kayts island is strictly controlled by the Sri Lankan Navy there are suspicions that the two men have been taken into custody," Amnesty said.

The Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Duleep de Chickera, urged the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to investigate the killing of the 17 aid workers in Mutur and the disappearance of Fr Brown.

According to Daily Mirror Bishop Chickera warned that the prevailing culture of violence and intimidation was not conducive to an independent local investigation. "As a country we are now in an alarming situation of worsening violence, intimidation and immense human suffering and anxiety."

"Our best chance of a return to a pro-life culture is that we should learn to honour truth, reject violence and respect each other," he said. Quoting Indian author Arundati Roy, the Bishop said: "What goes around must come around and we will all soon be engulfed in chaos and destruction."

Meanwhile in London on Friday, Amnesty's Secretary General, Irene Khan, met the visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to discuss the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka.

Ends


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