President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday said there was credible evidence that there were instances of financial information furnished to foreign embassies by visa applicants being leaked out to criminal elements responsible for some of the abductions reported from various parts of the country.
Addressing a meeting of newspaper editors and heads of electronic media institutions, President Rajapske said the government had information that certain kidnappers had, in interrogating their victims, used virtually carbon copies of financial documents submitted together with their visa applications.
The presidential revelation comes four months after The Island exclusively reported on January 16 in its main news item under the caption, `Visa info leaked to kidnappers through embassy channel`, that visa information was being leaked out to underworld elements through some embassies. We said: `Speculation in the defence circles is that a gang involved in a series of recent abductions may have access to documents handed over to embassies through a third party to obtain travel documents. The operation had come to light after the abduction and the release of a person whose family had paid about fifteen million rupees to secure his release.` The gang had, we reported, asked him questions, which he believed, were based on documents he had submitted to an embassy, Visa information
containing details of his financial assets. Several others had had similar experience but none had reported that matter to the police for fear of reprisals.
Speaking further on abductions, over which the government has drawn heavy flak from the international community, President Rajapakse said the government had taken a number of steps to curb the reportedly high incidence of abductions. Some arrests had been made and investigations were being conducted into a number of cases. `I am in a position to tell you with confidence,` he said, `the situation is being blown out of proportion. Some of the persons reported as abducted have, in fact, gone abroad. We can prove that.` He said in the case of some complaints, the police had no way of conducting investigations to a conclusion, as they had no access to those parts of the country where the LTTE was operating. `When a person from Mullaitivu is reported as missing, how can the police visit that area to verify the information they receive?` he asked.
Asked what action had been taken against the suspects taken over the killing of four Tamil youth in Trincomalee, the President said, the police had made arrests acting on a telephone call and the suspects had been kept in police custody for nearly two months for witnesses to give evidence. `While they were being kept,` the President said, `I was inundated with letters and calls from their parents and friends demanding to know why we were holding them without any evidence against them. You should understand my position. On one hand I am under pressure to safeguard human rights and when I order the arrest of suspects and keep them in custody, I am asked why I am doing so without any evidence against them.`
He said the government was ready to ensure witness protection and urged the public to give evidence. Not even the TNA parliamentarians had come forward, he said.
Asked about the Eastern University Vice Chancellor S. Ravindranath who has gone missing since December 15 last year, the President said the police had not abandoned the search for him. `The situation is very complicated,` he said, `there are various groups operating. Even with the LTTE there are factions, as you know. If you think all Tigers are Tamil you are mistaken. There are Sinhalese and Muslims working for them. The incident reported from Polonnaruwa involving a lawyer is a case in point. The calls demanding money had originated from London. Mind you, I am telling you this not by way of an excuse. It is our responsibility to put and end to abductions and we are working towards that. We are also arresting suspects and I don`t deny that fact. We have to resort to such measures as we are legally bound to do so to protect the country.
The President said a high level probe had been ordered into the recent disappearances reported from the North.