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Is Prageeth Alive?

06/12/2013

Photograph from the Daily Mirror 

On 7 June the Daily Mirror, published in Colombo, Sri Lanka, reported that a member of Parliament, Arundhika Fernando, claimed to have met with missing journalist and cartoonist Pageeth Eknaligoda on a recent trip to France.  Prageeth disappeared on the night of January 24th, 2010.  He was an employee of the Lanka-e-News website.
 
Prageeth disappeared in Colombo on his way home from work two days before the 2010 presidential elections. He had been a vocal and public critic of the human rights abuses of the government of Pres. Mahinda Rajapaksa.  Since his disappearance, his wife Sandya Eknaligoda has been a constant irritant to the government, demanding, from venues ranging from street protests to the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an account of her husband's whereabouts. Until very recently, government spokespeople have denied any knowledge of his whereabouts or any involvement in his disappearance. She, more than any other single citizen, has kept both the Sri Lankan public's and the international media's attention squarely on the Rajapaksa government's poor human rights record.
 
Read more about her story on the Cartoonists Rights Network International website.
 
More recently government representatives have occasionally made claims that Prageeth Eknaligoda, is living safely abroad.  Further, they claim that he and other  runaway journalists are being supported by enemies of the current government. 
 
Cartoonists Rights Network International's Executive Director Robert Russell was quoted as saying, "The new claim that Prageeth Eknaligoda is alive and living in France, comes at an interesting time.  This most recent statement about his whereabouts was made during a debate on a proposal to amend the Sri Lanka Press Council Law. Statements that certain journalists and human rights workers have not disappeared but have run away and are in the pay of the government's enemies, will play well in Parliament as they consider new restrictions on the media."
 
The Daily Mirror article reports that, "Fernando said Ms. Eknaligoda had made it clear that she was aware of her husband’s whereabouts from the way she behaved. Mr. Fernando therefore said she had acted in an unpatriotic manner." 
 
In another article in the Sri Lankan Mirror Sandya, in response to the rumors that her husband was living in France, was quoted as saying she would "help the government in any way possible to actually locate her husband."
 
In an interview with Cartoonists Rights Network International on June 9, 2013 Sandya said unequivocally that she had absolutely no knowledge of her husband's whereabouts, and would continue to press the government for information surrounding his disappearance three years ago.
 
Cartoonists Rights Network International once again calls on the Sri Lankan government to disclose everything that it is aware of concerning the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda.  Claims that he is alive and living in France, are so convoluted, contradictory, and obviously suspect, that one can only wonder why the government would embarrass itself with such transparently false information. Playing cheap politics with the emotions of Eknaligoda's wife and children is despicable.
 
To learn more about the politics of the media law in Sri Lanka read this article by Dr. Jehan Perera, the executive director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka.

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