Prageeth Eknelygoda's wife and sons are still seeking information on him. (CPJ)
Sandhya Eknelygoda, here with her sons, is still seeking information her missing husband Prageeth. (CPJ)

A heads-up for Sri Lanka press freedom watchers

Former Attorney General Mohan Peiris has been ordered to testify about a statement he made at the U.N. Committee Against Torture in Geneva on November 9, 2011, in which he said that Prageeth Eknelygoda was alive and living outside the country (see “Sri Lanka’s savage smokescreen“). Peiris will have to appear at the Homogama Magistrate’s Court in Colombo on June 5, next Tuesday, which has been hearing the case brought by Eknelygoda’s wife, Sandhya, to learn more about his disappearance on January 24, 2010.

Government lawyers had argued against making Peiris appear and testify, saying that doing so amounted to harassment of a government official (see “In Sri Lanka: Protecting Peiris, hounding victim’s family“). But if he doesn’t show up, he will be violating the Appeal Court’s decision ordering his appearance. Of course, he could feign illness and not appear–or the government’s lawyers could find another stalling tactic in this case, which has been going on for years. Peiris is now the senior legal adviser to the cabinet, and many Sri Lankans say he is aiming to become the next Supreme Court Chief Justice–so you can be sure he has the government’s backing in whatever he plans to do on Tuesday.

If you’re not well acquainted with the case, here’s some background:

For almost two years, the Eknelygoda family has been asking the Sri Lankan government for any information about Prageeth, who was a columnist and cartoonist. Not one government official has given them any information, and despite claims that the case remains under investigation, there has been no movement in the case other than new court dates being set for the Homogama Magistrate’s Court.

In March 2011, CPJ and four other groups sent a letter asking U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to have the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO look into Eknelygoda’s case, but there has been no apparent movement from within the United Nations. Sandhya’s personal appeal to Shiranthi Rajapaksa, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s wife, has also gone unanswered.

Members of Colombo’s diplomatic corps have made it a point to attend the Homogama hearings, which come about once a month. Although they are dragging on inconclusively, the hearings seem to be one of the few options left for Sandhya Eknelygoda and her two teenage sons to discover the truth about Prageeth.