Armed abductors threaten trade union leader to give up strike action

A trade union leader in Sri Lanka who was found three days after his abduction had been severely threatened by the perpetrators to abandon a six week long strike action.

All Ceylon Telecommunication Employees' Union (ACTU) Vice President M Sujeewa Mangala had been dumped blindfolded at the roadside in the early hours on 1 February.

Police had found the  union leader in Ingiriya, 60 kilometres from Colombo.

An unknown group of men who abducted the union leader had blindfolded and driven him in a black van to an unknown place after nearly a three hour drive, Mangala had told police.

"There were at least four of them, all armed", he said.

He had been released near the Nambapana bridge after been held for three days.

Police lethargy

The lethargic conduct of Sri Lanka police in finding the whereabouts of a missing trade union leader had given rise to suspicions of a cover up. 

Sujeewa Mangala had left the Capital Colombo late Saturday night on his motor bicycle to go home in Pannipitiya 20 kilometres away.

"Three people were waiting on the road beside a parked black van. They stopped me and bundled into the vehicle. I was locked in a room where all the windows were boarded. They didn't beat me up", Mangala had told the police.

"They appeared to be well trained for the job" he added.

Sujeewa Mangala was in the forefront of a strike action launched by temporary workers of Sri Lanka Telecom running over five weeks ago urging the country's largest partly state owned telecommunications provider to employ them on a permanent basis.

He has worked for 17 years at the SLT Human Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a fully own subsidiary of Sri Lanka Telecom PLC.

While Minister of Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Harin Fernando has informed ACTU that he has written to the police chief to carry out investigations promptly, union leaders were not satisfied with the investigations.

General secretary of the union Suresh Duminda Perera says that police didn't appear to have carried out investigations in a professional manner that would help uncover the truth.

Politically motivated

"The whole issue surrounding Mangala's disappearance shows signs of a politically motivated attempt to thrash our struggle," says Perera.

First, police have not informed that the motorcycle Mangala rode on was found by them  around half a kilometre away from their home.

Sujeewa Mangala's family members have been shocked to find out later that the motorcycle had been at the Piliyandala police station at the time they went to lodge a complaint. However, family members had not been made aware by the police of this vital finding at the time.

When the elder son of the disappeared trade union activist had visited the police station on Monday afternoon he had seen the motorcycle at the premises. Upon inquiry police had told him that the vehicle had been found following a tip off from residents in the morning on Sunday.

They couldn't find any damage to the motor bicycle that was parked.

Police humiliation

In addition, police officers have humiliated the elder son when he lodged a second complaint at the Colombo Fort police station, which is the nearest to the place his father was last seen.

Instead of offering help the police had discredited the missing trade union leader by asking the young boy whether his father was "in hiding to get publicity for the struggle".

ACTU General Secretary Perera condemned the callous approach of the police as aimed at breaking up the strike action.

"We are suspicious why the police have not looked into any electronic or surveillance information that could help any investigation," he said.

Police have neither collected any CCTV footage from nearby residences where they found the motor cycle nor requested data from the network of which Sujeewa Mangala had two mobile phones on himself.

The service provider for both his mobile phones were Mobitel, said SD Perera.

Mobitel is a fully-owned subsidiary of Sri Lanka Telecom, whose Chairman is the country's President's brother, Kumarasiri Sirisena.



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