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 Post subject: The infamous white van: A symbol of shame
 Post Posted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 10:47 am 
The infamous white van: A symbol of shame

At every nook and corner we find security men and women armed to the teeth. How come this infamous white van has not been spotted, checked, the driver and the occupants questioned? The kidnappers go scot free! Very often these kidnappings take place in broad daylight when people are milling around markets and town centres.

by Dr. Baptist Croos F. S. C
@ DM/ Saturday, July 19, 2008


The colour white generally stands for purity, truth, innocence and cleanliness, virtues we proudly cherish; virtues that are pivotal for our well being. People world over, including Sri Lanka, wear white at various functions to demonstrate its significance. At mosques, churches, temples and shrines, white is the preferred colour. Parliamentarians, priests, nuns, religious dignitaries and nurses in hospitals are dressed in white. Students attending colleges, schools and convents usually wear white. Children receiving baptism, first holy communion, confirmation or attending dhaham pasala or madrasas or religious ceremonies are robed in white. Even cricketers at Test Matches sport white. Thus, white is commonly associated with dignity, decorum and dignity.

Unfortunately, with the subtle deployment of the infamous white van, this time-honoured traditional notion, so sagaciously handed down to us by our venerable forefathers, has been shattered in our resplendent island where white stands for duplicity, treachery, trauma, suspicion, fear and death! Inexplicably we have tarnished the beauty and desecrated the sacredness of the very essence of white. Unscrupulous authorities who master-mind and perpetrate this crime are still at large, to the utter bewilderment of the law-abiding and peace-loving citizens of this country. This is an embarrassing and indelible blotch in our security system. To have permitted such a despicable and heinous spectacle to go unhampered during the last couple of years by the guardians of law, is a big shame!

For the last twenty-five years check-posts have mushroomed throughout the length and breadth of the island. At every nook and corner we find security men and women armed to the teeth. With such forbidding omnipresence, how come this infamous white van has not been spotted, checked, the driver and the occupants questioned? The kidnappers go scot free! Very often these kidnappings take place in broad daylight when people are milling around markets and town centres. For such an exploit to occur, do the perpetrators possess an official carte blanche that enables them to evade arrests? Such daring escapades cannot be done without the connivance of the higher authorities. This is a blatant abuse of power and a gross human rights violation. To remonstrate that there are no human rights violations, is to take an ostrich like attitude.

What prevents the security men and women who are dotted along the way to thwart such an obnoxious menace? Are they hand in glove with the perpetrators? Are they so callous and insensitive to the hues and cries of the hapless relatives of the kidnapped victims, who pathetically plead for mercy and compassion? Are they so hard-hearted? We were taught in schools that a policeman was a friend of the people.

Those who are entrusted with the security of our sacred nation, must be persons of high calibre, class and character; must be forthright and fearless in exercising their duties. Colossal sums of money are spent on getting them trained, maintained and ensured of all facilities. At the end of it all, if they prove very inefficient and untrustworthy providing a lack-lustre and shabby performance, what’s the earthly use of wasting the tax-payers’ hard-earned money on them?

It is an undeniable fact that the security personnel have endured manifold hardships and made tremendous sacrifices in wresting the major part of the country from the stranglehold of terrorism. While the majority are staunchly loyal to their duties, others are very slovenly and their lousy attitude negates the mighty efforts of the former and makes an awkward dent in their integrity.

Periodical and serious review of the quality of our security system would be wholly beneficial. Steadfastly faithful and duty-conscious officers should be handsomely rewarded and the recalcitrant brought to book. Comparatively the Western and Southern parts of Sri Lanka have taken giant strides as far as progress is concerned. This forward march must not be halted abruptly by human rights violations, such as the abduction of innocent civilians in that infamous white van or any other vehicle for that matter. Why resort to unlawful arrests, when normal procedures are easily available through a court order

Sri Lanka is a free democratic country. There are courts of law to deal with indiscipline and misbehaviour. If a person is apparently guilty, by all means he should be arrested with due warrants, according to law and tried in an official court. The security men and women are on government’s payroll.

It so happens that suspicious characters abduct innocent civilians or kidnap rich merchants in order to extort huge sums of money or valuables. That’s the last piece of information we have of these unfortunate victims and the security personnel feign ignorance or they are not at all worried. It is sickening to note that at times, those who have been kidnapped, are retrieved as corpses. These extra-judicial killings and summary executions are done with much impunity. What are the courts of law for? They have been lawfully constituted to deal with culprits and miscreants. Have the legal authorities relinquished their onerous duties? Or do they turn a blind eye on such preposterous mental and physical tortures?

These days a lot of ideas are forthrightly expressed about this infamous white van. I do hope that stringent measures will be taken by the law enforcers to avoid repetitions of such ugly incidents; these third-grade tactics that bring immense discredit to our beloved country and not to try to white-wash the whole horrible episode or colour-wash the white van.

Law-abiding citizens possessing a valid NIC desist going out even for a stroll in the evening for fear of being kidnapped. They are afraid to tell the truth. Fear psychosis has gripped the country. Journalists woefully hesitate to report such incidents correctly. They are mercilessly assaulted or done to death. The entire nation will prosper and flourish, if truth is allowed to triumph. Holy Scripture says, "Truth will make you free!"

My thoughts go back to the immortal and soul-stirring statement of an eminent patriot Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali Poet, who in 1913 received the Nobel Prize for Literature and who dreamt of a free democratic country.


"Where the mind is without fear,
Where the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free,
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls,
Where the word springs from the depth of TRUTH
Where the tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection,
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit,
Where the mind is led forward by Thee
Into the ever widening thoughts and actions,
Into that Heaven of FREEDOM,
My father, let my country awake.


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