The investigation into the disappearance of cartoonist/columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda continues to build steam in Sri Lanka, with 11 people — soldiers, former soldiers and military informers — now detained and being questioned, according to reports out of Colombo. Prageeth Eknaligoda disappeared more than five years ago. At the time, he was working on a story about government-sanctioned deployment of cluster bombs against the secessionist Tamil Tigers, colleagues of the journalist told the Reuters news agency. Prageeth’s wife Sandya Eknaligoda accused government agents of abducting her husband when he left his office on January 10, 2010, and has waged a long campaign for a full inquiry. The present government of President Maithripala Sirisena has promised to pursue the matter and to investigate other abuses of power allowed under previous president, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Meanwhile, Prageeth Eknaligoda’s former news outlet, LankaeNews, has reported that there is a behind-the-scenes campaign funded by former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to undermine the inquiry into Prageeth’s fate. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has been implicated in the white-van abductions of government critics during his brother Mahinda’s presidency. [More]
UPDATE: More Arrests as Sri Lankan Military Linked to 2010 Disappearance of Cartoonist/Columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda
An Indian news agency has reported that four more members of the Sri Lankan military — two of them senior officers — have been arrested in the investigation into the disappearance of cartoonist/columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
A week earlier another Sri Lankan army officer had reportedly confessed to interrogating Eknaligoda for three days following Eknaligoda’s disappearance on January 24, 2010. According to Lanka e-News, Sgt. Major Ron Banda has admitted to questioning the prominent journalist at the Girathale Army Camp regarding a book Eknaligoda had written about the country’s then-president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his family. This is the first time the cartoonist’s abduction has been successfully linked to government agents. After the three-day interrogation, Eknaligoda was reportedly taken away by another officer and has not been seen since.
Sgt. Major Banda and another suspect are now under arrest, and the investigation is continuing according to a police spokesperson. The police have been accused of failing to mount a proper search when Prageeth Eknaligoda was first reported missing in 2010. Eknaligoda’s wife Sandhya recalled: “On the night my husband failed to return home I went to Homagama police station to report it but they refused to open a case. The police finally accepted my complaint two weeks later.” She has since faced harassment for petitioning the government for a comprehensive investigation.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has confirmed nineteen Sri Lankan journalists murdered in Sri Lanka since 1992. Sri Lanka ranked fourth most dangerous country for journalists in the CPJ’s 2014 world index. [Story]