Six British Members of Parliament have called for an enquiry into the disappearance of the Sri Lankan journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda; the state poised to become the future head of the Commonwealth.
Sandya and Sathyajith Eknaligoda, the wife and son of Prageeth, who went missing on January 24, 2010, believe the government abducted their husband and father.
Prageeth disappeared two days before the countries’ Presidential election, and his family say they are battling to keep the case alive. “We are not letting the disappearance to disappear.”
We sit in Prageeth’s home in Colombo, and they show me his old caricatures. “What we are asking for I think is the same thing we were asking for then; our Father.” Why was he taken? “Because of his criticism, that’s it. He was saying many things and making many accusations against the Government and the Ministers.”
Sathyajith says “there was a specific article about chemical warfare in Sri Lanka. He said the army and also the LTTE had used chemical weapons during the war. He saw the strange ways the trees had been burnt, he took photographs of the evidence and he wrote about it.”
The morning after her husband didn’t come home, Sandrya had to battle with the local police to get them to file her husband’s case. Three and a half years later he is still missing. The President has never said a word about the case, and Sandya and Sathyajith believe the government wants to prologue the case, “it’s like chewing gum; they try to spoil the case to string it out further.”
Prageeth’s wife has been to Geneva four times, appealing for a campaign to investigate his disappearance, and Sandray’s bedroom walls are covered in hundreds of postcards from international supporters. “I am a headache for the Government of Sri Lanka. The United Nations and Human Rights Groups have helped me to become this headache.”
On the day his father went missing, Prageeth was wearing one of his son’s white shirts. “Prageeth was very happy because his son was growing up into his father, and they could finally fit into one another’s clothes”, Sandya tells me.
Since 2005, 34 journalists have been murdered, yet not a single murderer has been sent to prison, and up to 25 journalists a year are fleeing the country.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a former activist – and his old colleagues tell me how in his youth he was particularly concerned with disappeared cases. As labour Minister he declared he would resign if there were disappearances under his watch. Sathyajith tells me, “But now he is the President he has forgotten those things.”