The following letter is a plea by Sandhya Ekneligoda, for information regarding her husband Prageeth’s whereabouts.
I welcome you on behalf of the wives and children, of journalists in Sri Lanka, who have been abducted, killed or forced to flee the country as a result of their work. These journalists have consistently defended the right to think imaginatively and creatively and the right to appear for truth and justice in Sri Lanka. I welcome you, to a country, where thousands of women and children weep silent tears for a nation of innocent civilians who have been killed or disappeared on account of their ethnicity. Welcome to Sri Lanka. I am the wife of Prageeth Ekneligoda, a journalist, cartoonist and human rights defender who was disappeared on 24th January 2010. He was last seen by colleagues at the Lanka E-News office in Rajagiriya, Colombo at around 8.30 pm. Prageeth never reached home. He has not been seen or heard from since.
Prageeth is an outspoken critic of the present Government. He worked ceaselessly to expose the gross human rights abuses committed against Tamil civilians during the war with the LTTE, including the use of chemical weapons against civilian communities by Government forces. On 27th August 2009, Prageeth was abducted for the first time, by a group of men in a white van. He was held overnight in a military torture chamber, and released the following day based on orders from a ‘higher official’. Despite an obvious threat to his life, Prageeth continued to publish scathing attacks against the current regime, including the President and several key Members of Parliament. In the run up to the January 2010 Presidential Election, Prageeth was openly critical of the brutal suppression of dissent and media freedom by the present Government. On 24th January 2010, two days prior to the election, Prageeth was disappeared while on his way home from work. Prageeth has a serious diabetic condition and requires two insulin injections a day. He is also a heart patient and requires daily medication following an open heart, bypass surgery. All attempts to trace him have failed so far.
I have lodged several complaints with the local police and the Inspector General of Police regarding Prageeth’s disappearance. I also complained to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding his disappearance. To date there is no progress by the police or the NHRC which indicates a credible inquiry into Prageeth’s disappearance. A Habeas Corpus Application demanding details of Prageeth’s whereabouts was filed in the Court of Appeal but proceedings have been repeatedly postponed due to non-cooperation by the State.
I have also submitted letters pleading for information on Prageeth to the Attorney General of Sri Lanka, the Presidential Secretariat and key Government and Opposition figures. Details of the case have been sent to the U.N. Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and the UN Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. This Government’s consistent refusal to investigate Prageeth’s disappearance or provide information regarding his whereabouts, has led me to believe that the Government or its agents are complicit in my husband’s disappearance. Since I have been unable to obtain any redress or information from the Government, I have been compelled to submit the matter to the U.N. Secretary General through his representative in Sri Lanka, seeking his intervention in this case.
Prageeth is the father of two sons, Sanjaya and Harith, aged 13 and 16 respectively. Both children have been severely traumatized by their father’s disappearance and still live in anticipation of his return, even though one year has passed, with no information of his whereabouts.
My appeal to you is that upon returning to your home country, you take steps through your organizations and networks to persuade your Government, to relentlessly raise questions regarding my husband’s disappearance with the Sri Lankan Government. I appeal also, that you intervene in any manner possible, to help me and my children to obtain information regarding Prageeth’s whereabouts or to secure his release.
My only hope is to hear the voices of my sons calling ‘thatha’ (father) in the presence of a living Prageeth.
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