family members of Prof. S. Raveendranath anxiously await a miracle
months and seventeen days have slipped by since the abduction of
Professor Sivasubramanium Raveendranath, (former) Vice Chancellor
of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka in one of Colombos
most tightly guarded neighbourhoods.
the family of the VC, December 15 unexpectedly turned out to be
the darkest day of their lives. Enduring every moment that has snailed
past them since that treacherous, sunny day has been unnerving,
with no news - whatsoever - indicating the whereabouts of the disappeared
Raveendranath had been attending a conference at the Sri Lanka Association
for the Advancement of Science down Vidya Mawatha, Colombo 07 and
is said to have been last seen by colleagues during the tea break.
the overarching experience in relation to enforced disappearances,
the sinister absence of eye-witnesses and the Professors own
health conditions (heart disease and hypertension) one would find
limited space for optimism.
hope springs eternal in the human breast and it is this hope which
makes the family of the missing academic yearn for his return. We
still havent given up on him. We are hoping that he returns
to us very soon, affirmed Dushyanthi Malaravan, the daughter
of Prof. Raveendranath.
there any particular reason to believe that he is alive? We
have no reason as such, but we suspect that he is being held back
by his captors for fearing of making their identity known,
quipped Dr. Muthusamy Malavaran, Dushyanthis husband who is
a doctor attached to a government hospital.
is why the family has pledged that they will not initiate any legal
proceedings in the event that Prof. Raveendranath is released. Their
sole aim is to have their much loved family figure safely back at
home; bringing those responsible for his disappearance to justice
is not their goal. Confidentiality has been assured. We are
simply not interested in revealing identity to anyone. We are only
asking for his release and nothing more, Dr. Malaravan firmly
has been alleged that Prof. Raveendranath is a supporter of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but according to his family
he has no political motives. He was a humble academic who was interested
in furthering the standard of education at the Eastern University
in Batticaloa, where he served conscientiously for over 25 long
drama began when Balasingham Sugumar, Dean of the Faculty of Arts
and Culture of the Eastern University was abducted by two unidentified
men in Batticaloa on September 29, 2006. The abductors called for
Vice Chancellor Raveendranaths resignation in return for the
release of Dean Sugumar. Responding to this demand, Prof. Raveendranath
submitted his resignation on October 2 and Dean Sugumar was released
the University Grants Commission (UGC) did not accept his resignation,
on the basis that it was a presidential appointment and requested
him to continue his duties from Colombo. Following this, the VC
received a number of death threats demanding he abandon his post
on that fateful 15th day of December, Prof. Raveendranath disappeared
in a high-security zone in Colombo, in broad day light - with no
eye-witnesses to relate the event. His resignation from the post
of VC was accepted on January 19, well over a month after his disappearance.
an Amnesty International report of December 20, 2006 Since
he was in an area tightly controlled by the military, it seems likely
that his captors are an armed group operating with the tacit support
of the security forces. He is at risk of torture. He suffers from
heart disease, putting his life in greater danger.
abductors are believed by many to be members of the breakaway Tamil
Tiger group headed by Col. Karuna, who want Prof. Raveendranath,
a northerner, out of their territory in the East. Raveendranath
who was born in Kokuvil East on February 22 1951, is the father
of two girls Dushyanthi (27) and Abiramy (24) and a grandfather
to Dushyanthis daughter Kaniska (2).
began his academic career in 1978 in Karadiyanarau at the Institute
of Agriculture. In 1981, he joined the Eastern University as an
Assistant Lecturer. He was appointed as the Acting Vice Chancellor
in 2004 and Vice Chancellor in 2005 by President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Friday, December 15, Prof. Raveendranath was expected at home for
lunch but when there was no sign of him even at 2.30 pm; his daughter
dialled his mobile number only to find that the phone was switched
off. Fifteen minutes later, she called the driver phone.
to a number of media reports, the driver was not a complete
stranger to the Professor, who had driven him many a time in the
morning, Prof. Raveendranath had requested transport from the University
to attend the forum at SLAAS. The car which was parked at the university
guesthouse in Kirulapone picked Prof. Raveendranath at 8.30 am from
his daughters apartment in Dehiwala and dropped him off at
the venue where he was last seen.
driver had informed his passenger that there was a tyre puncture
to be repaired and he would proceed to a garage to get it fixed.
At 12.25 pm, Prof. Raveendranath had phoned the driver, but the
latter was in a garage still attending to the repairs.
informed my father that he will not be able not come as the repair
work was still going on, Dushyanthi said.
VC had asked his driver to come at 2.00 pm when the meeting was
over. The driver contacted the family as he could not get in touch
with Mr. Raveendranath.
father had received a number of anonymous phone calls asking him
to resign from the post of Vice Chancellor, so we were immediately
concerned about his safety, she said. The anxious family took
turns in giving a number of calls to the mobile but each time they
were left disappointed. As the minutes turned into hours, the familys
worst nightmare was cemented. At 9.30 pm that day, Dushyanthis
husband lodged a complaint (225/260/CIB2) at the Dehiwala Police
driver, who hails from Batticaloa, remains in custody but the interesting
twist here is that the family says that they have no reason to suspect
him of any involvement in the kidnapping. Moreover, they had in
fact requested that he be released but the Criminal Investigation
Department (CID) says that they have good reason to bar his release.
are many who believe that there is no substantive evidence against
the driver and that he is being held back simply because the state
has to show the public that something is being done.
is clear that Prof. Raveendranaths family has taken every
possible measure to secure his release. This is evident in the hefty
load of white paper that was produced by Dr. Malaravan. This included
documentation relating to both verbal and written communications
with the President, Prime Minister, Defence Secretary and the Opposition
Leader as well as a number of Cabinet Ministers and other high-ranking
the issue has been discussed with political parties of the North
and East, the Civil Monitoring Mission, The International Committee
of the Red Cross, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, the University
Grants Commission and the Organisation of Professional Associations.
The family has also spoken directly to the Karuna group, who have
flatly denied playing any role and have blamed the LTTE for the
matter has also been raised at the United Nations as well. In the
familys third appeal to Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights they wrote:
have with great pain of mind and body approached very high authorities
with political powers to intervene in this matter and facilitate
the release of his captivity. But, it is of no avail. There is ominous
silence from all quarters and no progression in this issue so far.
He is having high blood pressure and heart disease. We are undergoing
untold anguish and miseries without his presence at home.
rendered his resignation on 2nd of October 2006 but it was accepted
by the University Grants Commission on 19th January 2007. We thought
that his resignation was the prime demand of the abductors. But,
still we have no news about his whereabouts. The abductors must
at least inform us about his safety and health. But, his whereabouts
are still cloaked in a shroud of mystery as we have tried enough
through all sources. Still he remains missing. The official investigations
have yet to present credible evidence as to the identity of the
the former VCs abduction, the SLAAS has noted: This
reads more like something that could happen to a mafia boss, rather
than to a respected professor, the head of an academic institution
peacefully attending a research conference. Yet, what this shows
is that scientists, scholars and educators are not free from harassment
and even violent death (as in the cases of Neelan Tiruchelvam and
Rajani Thiranagama), at the hands of terrorist and criminal elements
that rule the roost in Sri Lanka today.
to comment on the impact of the abduction, Dushyanthi Malaravan
said, It is my mother who has been worst affected by this
tragedy. She depended on my father a great deal, and ever since
he disappeared she has been experiencing severe emotional difficulties,
Professors wife, R. Jegatheswary is currently suffering from
high blood pressure and diabetes. Since her husbands disappearance,
she has been gradually weakened both physically and emotionally
due to her mental frame of mind.
has never said a harsh word to anyone. Even though he was a university
professor, he was not tough as a person. He was so kind to everyone...
he helped everyone, her voice trailed.
a pause the distraught daughter added, When there are so many
criminals who are roaming the streets so freely, I dont understand
this has happened to a simple and good-hearted person like my father.
It just doesnt make sense.