Although it is now over five years since he went missing, wife of Prageeth Ekneligoda says: ‘I believe he is still alive; to me, he is still alive’ . She says it is this hope that helpes her remain relentless in her pursuit to find her husband and ensure justice is delivered.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Sandhya spoke about the hardships she faced during the past five years since the disappearance of her husband, on the accusations made against him after he went missing and her hope for justice to be delivered someday. . .
Q: How would you describe your life during the past five years since Prageeth’s disappearance?
It’s impossible to put into words how my life has been during the past five years – time passed and I have gone through every possible suffering and disappointment to say the least. When I look back, I find it hard to believe that I faced life and its challenges all by myself. It was tough; the accusations, the comments made by certain people regarding Prageeth’s disappearance . . . they were unbearable. But I made a resolution and stuck to it, that is how I survived.
"When I look back, I find it hard to believe that I faced life and its challenges all by myself. It was tough; the accusations, the comments made by certain people regarding Prageeth’s disappearance . . . they were unbearable. But I made a resolution and stuck to it, that is how I survived"
Q: Since the election of the new government, have you been notified about any initiation of a fresh investigation into Prageeth’s disappearance or of any developments in the investigation?
I have not been notified of any such development so far, legally. But I saw and read through media reports that JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, as a member of the National Executive Committee had proposed that thorough investigations are carried out into the disappearances and murders of journalists that occurred during the previous regime.
Q: Have you approached the media minister or the justice minister to discuss the progress of the investigation relating to Prageeth’s disappearance?
No, but I have tried to get an appointment to meet President [Maithripala Sirisena] but I have not succeeded so the far.
Q: Did you receive any response to the letters you wrote to former President Rajapaksa and his wife on your husband’s disappearance and the appeal you made for justice?
No. Neither that President nor his wife responded to any of my letters. I must have written over ten letters but all I received was the generic reply from the President’s Secretary stating my letters have been brought to the attention of the President. It is unclear as to whether or not it actually happened because there was no response.
Q: What do you think of the comment made by former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris at the local courts about your disappeared husband:‘only God knows of his whereabouts’?
He went before the UN as an official representing the Sri Lankan government and made irresponsible statements. The fact that he got away with that claim only reflects on the plight of this country’s judicial system.
He even said that he cannot recall [ the names] of those who shared the information with him that Prageeth was alive and well.
However, given my present circumstances and the plight of the local judicial system, I don’t think I could ever hold him accountable.
Q: UPFA MP Arundika Fernando claimed he saw Prageeth in France. Is there even the slimmest chance that he might have fled the country due to threats to his life?
No, his statement was a complete lie. He made this claim in Parliament in 2013 but according to his own account, he claims to have seen Prageeth sometime between December 2011 and January 2012. As a member of a responsible government, his duty was to divulge what he saw to the relevant authorities immediately after his return to Sri Lanka.
By the time this incident occurred, the newspapers and even the President and MPs had been commenting on Prageeth’s disappearance following Peiris’ statement at the UN. I suffered for eight months without being able to summon Peiris to Courts. If Arundika’s claims were genuine, he should have shared this information long before he did.
"Either the police are lying to me or the police have remained inactive on investigating the case. When Prageeth wrote about the government’s use of chemical weapons in 2008, his argument was that the use of such weapons amounts to genocide. I believed it was the main factor that led to his abduction because after his disappearance I found a document in which he had chronicled his research on the subject"
When I commented on the claims he had made, MP Fernando went on to accuse me of violating his parliamentary privileges. It is funny how these MPs exploit their position and power and commit abusive acts against the very people they are supposed to protect, including women and children, and thereafter seek refuge behind parliamentary privileges! Even Manjula Wediwardena, who according to Fernando, pinpointed Prageeth, says he never met this man in France. So even a child can listen to these statements and discern the truth.
Q: You told the BBC that it was Prageeth’s investigations into the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons during the war that led to his disappearance. During the past five years, are you aware of any other reasons besides that has come to light?
Absolutely nothing concerning his disappearance has been revealed at the ongoing court case nor through police investigations. Either the police is lying to me or the police has remained inactive on investigating the case. When Prageeth wrote about the government’s use of chemical weapons in 2008, his argument was that the use of such weapons amounts to genocide.
I believed it was the main factor that led to his abduction because after his disappearance I found a document in which he had chronicled his research on the subject.
"I believe he will come through this door one day. It might not be certain but I know that one day, justice will be done. I believe he is still alive - for me, Prageeth is still alive. Some would ask whether its possible considering all the ailments he was suffering from. . . Prageeth might not be here when my eyes are open but when I close my eyes he is with me"
Also, he criticised the war because as a peace-loving man, he was really distressed by the bloodshed and the atrocious impacts of the war. He was first abducted in 2009 and then let go. But even afterwards, Prageeth continued his research. In 2010, he supported Mahinda’s contender Sarath Fonseka and during that period he criticised the Rajapaksa regime and their family bandyism. So I believe all those reasons contributed to his disappearance.
Q: Provincial Councilor Udaya Gammanpila recently said he would actively probe into the disappearance of your husband. What are your comments?
Since January 2010 up to this point, Gammanpila has not even by mistake phoned me, written to me or spoken to me even by chance and inquired about what happened to my husband.
He also said he actively probed into the disappearance; I was very amused by his claims because MP Fernando made ridiculous statements about Prageeth while Gammanpila was part of the previous government.
These people have started to empathize with my family, me and of what became to Prageeth only after they had a brush with a similar experience. Prageeth’s issue was discussed in Parliament over 10 times during the past five years but never have I seen him make a single statement on it -not even when government reports indicated that Prageeth had been abducted by an armed group.
I have been disappointed by the accusations made against my husband by certain people who preach about ethics to others. Despite their allegations, my children and I are still here and my elder son’s education has been interrupted due to financial difficulties. I try to make ends meet by selling rice [lunch] packets and popcorn. There are a few good people around and their goodness has helped us come this far.
Q: You have relentlessly campaigned to uncover the truth behind your husband’s disappearance and bring the perpetrators to justice. Without doubt it must have been done with at least a hint of hope about his return. At this point do you still believe he is alive and will come back home?
Yes, it is my belief [he is alive]and I have faith in it. I believe he will come through this door one day. It might not be certain but I know that one day, justice will be done. I believe he is still alive - for me, Prageeth is still alive. Some would ask whether its possible considering all the ailments he was suffering from. . . Prageeth might not be here when my eyes are open but when I close my eyes he is with me. I do everything with him by my side; to me, he is alive everyday. I await the day he would once again walk into his house.
I am content when I think of all the opportunities I used to campaign for him. At both local and international institutions, I made use of the chances given to me to the maximum and did everything possible to make sure that the crime committed against him was not swept under the rug.
That is why he is still living in everyone’s minds -his disappearance was brought up even during the recent ICCPR held last October.
When I came home after lodging a complaint with the police when he went missing, I made a promise to myself to find Prageeth no matter what it took. I will not give up till I find him and until that day, I need to keep him alive. I have dedicated myself for that purpose.
Q: Do you think the justice you expect will be delivered by the incumbent government?
Yes. But I have to be honest, I was downhearted when the case was taken up on February 5.
It was for the first time that the case was taken up since the election of the new government and the appointment of the new Chief Justice. But even that day the outcome was the same as on previous occasions; the magistrate was on leave and the case was postponed. I expected something would happen but I was disappointed.
But I have a firm belief that under this government, justice will be delivered at least to a certain extent. I don’t know when the specific date would be. My request was to make it happen before the end of the 100-days, I am waiting to see what will happen.
Q: Do you have any request to make from the President or any other responsible official of the government?
I have waited for five years for justice to be delivered. Initially, many people asked me why I was doing it and now they ask why Prageeth is still not home as the regime has changed. So I ask the government, please ensure justice is done; please find Prageeth.
Comments - 2
Malin Wednesday, 11 February 2015 06:09 AM
The alleged claim that Prageeth has made that the Forces were using chemical weapons is the greatest lie of the century. If he is found, he should be sent to life time jail.
BuffaloaCitizen Thursday, 12 February 2015 02:31 PM
If Prageeth lied, then if their is a civilized system, then the police and judiciary will investigate and act appropriately. When we are still living like monkeys, only then do we tend to use white vans and make extrajudicial killings and even utter statements such as "he should be sent to life time in jail".
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