Sandhya Eknelygoda and sons Sanjay and Harith. (CPJ)
Sandhya Eknelygoda and sons Sanjay and Harith. (CPJ)

In Sri Lanka, Eknelygoda asks that humanity trump cruelty

A couple of weeks ago, I described the terrible incidence of anti-press abuse that has come each recent January in Sri Lanka. Media activists have come to call the month “Black January” for good reason, as this email message details: 

The Alliance of Media Organizations, spearheaded by the Free Media Movement, has earmarked January 25, as Black January Day on account of the numerous attacks against the media unleashed by the government in the past three years, especially in the month of January. These include the murder of Sunday Leader editor [Lasantha Wickramatunga], the fire bomb attack on Sirasa/MTV studios and the attack on Rivira editor Upali Tennakoon in 2009, [see CPJ’s Special Report: Failure to Investigate], the disappearance of Prageeth Eknelygoda, the sealing of Lanka newspapers and the detention of its editor in 2010, and the arson attack on Lanka eNews office in 2011.

January 24 marks the second anniversary of the disappearance of Prageeth Eknelygoda, a cartoonist and columnist for the pro-opposition Lanka eNews website. The case is among several anti-press attacks that are tied up in court hearings without substantive law enforcement action. Eknelygoda’s wife, Sandhya, and two sons have gotten no word from any official body of the Sri Lankan government, from the lowest police desk to the highest levels of the ministry of justice, about what happened to the journalist.

On Tuesday, as she did last year, Sandhya Eknelygoda will take another step in pressing the government to conduct an investigation into her husband’s disappearance. Here is the plan, according to an email message sent over the weekend:

Women have taken the initiative to commemorate the second year of the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda and of all the other disappeared persons on the 24th January 2012, in front of the Fort Railway Station at 4.30 p.m.

They will sit down in deep silence to make their protest to the murderers and the destroyers of these valuable lives, with the firm determination to eradicate this inhuman and barbarous culture of revenge and criminality against humanity.

The most interesting feature would be the procession of women moving to the church in New Chetty Street, Kochcikade to invoke the blessings of Virgin Mary, Prajapathi Gothami, Goddess Paththini, and Goddess Kali.

All sympathy and support is welcome to share in this symbolic gesture of this heroic effort of these women who are suffering daily with the awful and unbearable loss of their loved ones.

On January 25, 2011, Sandhya Eknelygoda submitted a petition calling on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other U.N. officials to encourage the Sri Lankan government to investigate the disappearance of her husband. The request to the U.N. has been unmet.

In March 2011, CPJ and four other groups sent a letter to Ban asking him to direct the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO, which oversees press freedom, to look into the case of Eknelygoda. There has been no meaningful response from the United Nations. Sandhya Eknelygoda’s personal appeal to the president’s wife, Shiranthi Rajapaksa, has also gone unanswered.

Consider this vast indifference. What can this soft-spoken mother of two teenage boys possibly do? Yet her words this year invoke a faith in humanity that transcends the cruelty she has experienced, as she calls on like-minded women to “sit down in deep silence … with the firm determination to eradicate this inhuman and barbarous culture of revenge and criminality.”