Sandhya Eknelygoda and sons Sanjay and Harith. (CPJ)

Eknelygoda disappearance devastates Sri Lankan family

By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator on December 27, 2010 3:34 PM ET

Prageeth Eknelygoda has been missing since January 24 of this year. He was a political cartoonist and columnist for Lanka eNews, a website whose editor, Sandaruwan Senadheera, was forced into exile. In Sri Lanka's highly partisan media climate, Lanka eNews backed the wrong presidential candidate, Sarath Fonseka, who not only lost but was jailed on politicized fraud charges. 

Eknelygoda's wife, Sandhya, has received no word of her husband's whereabouts from any government official. Local police near her home in Colombo's suburbs have made no effort to find the journalist. Sometimes they tell her they've lost the paperwork; other times they direct her to the central police headquarters. Central police treat the case in a similar manner.

Sandhya Eknelygoda has petitioned President Mahinda Rajapksa, Attorney General Mohan Peiris, members of Parliament, and numerous other officials but has received not one word of information about her husband or the state of any investigation. In mid-year, Eknelygoda sought a writ of habeas corpus to force whoever is holding her husband to produce him in court; she believes the government is actually holding him. The writ was never issued.

Now, she has written a letter to Ariyaratne Athugala, the recently appointed director general of the Government Information Department. Will he break the government's silence?

Sandhya Eknelygoda has been left alone to raise the couple's two teenage sons, Sanjay and Harith. She says Sanjay carries on with suppressed anger, while Harith is deeply troubled. Here is an excerpt from Sandhya's letter to Athugula, translated from the original Sinhala, in which she describes her children's pain:

A child's stepping stone to success in life is the GCE [General Certificate of Education]. To a child doing the exam, a father's presence and guidance are vital. But Sanjay was denied that parental inspiration when sitting for the exam this year. He went from home to the exam, his eyes flooded with tears, the sorrow of his missing father preying on his mind. He was unable to suppress his overwhelming emotion, even though he tried. His only solace was his father's photo.

And if my children had received the blessings of their father, like you think of your children, my grieving second child would not have become so troubled.

My household, engulfed in this emotional fire since 24 January 2010, has not cooked a kiribath meal. [The rice and coconut milk meal is reserved for important occasions.] Can you all tell me when I can cook kiribath in my home to celebrate the only important occasion we are waiting for?

And can you all tell me when my two children and I will be able to sleep happily and in peace?


Sandhya please know that we are with you in your pain. We pray that Prageeth is safe and will be reunited with you. His courage and your bravery and tenacity in the face of this terrible thing is an inspiration to us all. I hope that as we launch into 2011 those in power realise the hurt and mayhem they cause by their polarising rhetoric and their continuous refusal to deal with political opponents, journalists and citizens with civility and decency whatever their individual beliefs and ideologies are. I pray that you will be reunited with your husband and the children with their father.

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