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Gotabaya dismisses white van disappearances as ‘bogus allegations’ 

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa dismissed accusations that he had played a role in the thousands of abductions that took place through infamous ‘white vans’, claiming that they were all “bogus allegations”.

Rajapaksa spoke with The Hindu’s Suhasini Haidar and also said that he was against devolving police powers in accordance with the Sri Lankan constitution’s 13th amendment, instead claiming he was "willing to discuss alternatives”.

When asked to give assurances that disappearances and violence against journalists would not return, he said, “those are bogus allegations, and certainly nothing of the sort was done by me”.

“Post-2009, we had tried to study the allegations, but it is difficult,” he continued. “We were not responsible”. 

He also played down fears of journalists feeling unsafe in Sri Lanka, stating, “the fact is we were strict about journalists during the war, but not in peacetime”. Rajapaksa was also quick to shift the focus on to previous regimes by demanding, “why aren’t previous Presidents being asked about these allegations?” 

His comments come just days after the abduction of a local Swiss Embassy employee who was forcibly detained and threatened to release diplomatic information. Last month, a reported white van driver who worked under Rajapaksa openly admitting the horrific nature of abductions carried out under the regime, which including feeding bodies to crocodiles.

Rajapaksa, however, reiterated that any allegations in regard to human rights violations were “wrong”.

Speaking on the devolution of powers to Tamil regions, Rajapksa went on to state,

“I also believe that you can’t do anything against the wishes and feeling of the majority community. Anyone who is promising something against the majority’s will is untrue. No Sinhala will say, don’t develop the area, or don’t give jobs, but political issues are different.” 

When pushed further on the 13th amendment, he added,

“Look, the 13th amendment is part of the constitution and is functional, except for some areas like control of police powers, which we can’t implement. I am willing to discuss alternatives to that.”

See the full interview here.