Sri Lanka
Abducted Sri Lankan academic alive
Mar 10, 2007 - 9:11:27 AM

New Delhi, March 10 - A top Sri Lankan academic who dramatically went missing from the heart of Colombo when he was a university head remains untraced but is believed to be alive, Tamil sources say.

The sources, in contact with the family of S. Raveendranath, asserted that the 55-year-old man was in captivity and that his abductors were afraid of releasing him lest their identity become known.

'This case seems more complicated,' one source told IANS from Sri Lanka. 'His family has learnt unofficially that he is very much alive but those who abducted him are simply scared to let him go.'

The source went on: 'But this is ridiculous. The family has stated repeatedly that they will not file any case against anyone once Raveendranath gets free. So why should anyone fear anything? It is so unfair.'

No one has claimed responsibility for the Dec 15 kidnapping of the then vice-chancellor of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka, from a high security zone in the nation's capital when he was attending a conference.

Media reports have linked his disappearance to the breakaway group of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - led by its former commander Karuna, who has now turned viciously against the Tigers. The Karuna group has sought to blame the LTTE for Raveendranath's abduction.

Although kidnappings, mainly of Tamils, have become widespread in Sri Lanka, Raveendranath is probably the most high profile victim thus far. The blame for the abductions have been put on the LTTE, the Karuna group as well as official agencies.

The Tamil sources said they could not understand the reason for the continuing trauma of Raveendranath, a diabetic who suffers from hypertension and needs regular medication, as well as his wife and two married daughters.

It was in 2004 that Raveendranath became acting vice-chancellor of the university near the eastern town of Batticaloa, before assuming full charge the next year. It is a region the Karuna group now dominates.

Problems began for Raveendranath, who belongs to Sri Lanka's north but worked in the east, when an armed group wanted him to resign as vice-chancellor. To press the demand, one of his senior university colleagues was kidnapped.

Raveendranath promptly sent his resignation to the University Grants Commission -, which did not accept it and instead asked him to shift to Colombo.

Raveendranath received further threats on telephone for holding on to his post but still the UGC refused to let him go. His resignation was finally accepted in January, well over a month after his abduction.

Nevertheless, UGC's delayed decision raised hopes in Raveendranath's family that he would get freedom soon. That never happened.

Tamil sources say Raveendranath's family has now begun to fear for its own safety.

Family members tell visitors that they have repeatedly sought the intervention of top politicians and administrators in Colombo to help secure his release, but the police were yet to provide even a clue about the kidnappers.

This month the family made an impassioned appeal to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

The disappearance of Raveendranath, who joined the Eastern University in 1981, has sparked concern for his safety in universities abroad such as the US, Japan, Britain, France, Denmark, France, Sweden and Canada. He had also forged close ties with an Indian university.

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