“It’s One of the Worst Crimes in the World”: Wife of ‘Disappeared’ Journalist

Sandya Eknaligoda

Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda with their two sons Sathyajith Sanjaya and Harith Danajaya.

On Jan. 24, 2010, Prageeth Eknaligoda, a Sri Lankan journalist and cartoonist, disappeared shortly after leaving work. A few days earlier, he had published an article critical of President Rajapaksa. Local residents told the Sri Lankan press that they had seen a white van without numbered plates close to his house around the time of his disappearance.

Prageeth had earlier been abducted in August, 2009 by a group who arrived in a white van; that time, he was released the following day, with his abductors saying that they had made a mistake. But since Jan. 24, 2010, no one has heard from him.

Over recent decades, Sri Lanka has experienced tens of thousands of enforced disappearances during civil conflict, with government forces or their agents detaining people and then denying all knowledge of their whereabouts. In virtually all cases, no one has been held accountable for these crimes.

I think it’s one of the worst crimes in the world, making people disappear.

Sandya Eknaligoda, Prageeth's wife

Sandya Eknaligoda, Prageeth’s wife, has campaigned tirelessly for answers, in the face of significant obstacles. When she went to lodge a complaint with the police the day after his disappearance, instead of registering her complaint, they detained her for several hours! In the video below, she describes her efforts to find her husband and obtain justice. Sandya says, “I think it’s one of the worst crimes in the world, making people disappear. It is not just the one person who disappears…the whole family is psychologically killed.”

Today, on the International Day for the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, we ask the Sri Lankan government: “Where is Prageeth Eknaligoda?” Please stand with Sandya Eknaligoda and her search for justice. Send an online letter to the Sri Lankan government today.

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9 thoughts on ““It’s One of the Worst Crimes in the World”: Wife of ‘Disappeared’ Journalist

  1. Very good article, Jim. Disappearances like this can affect families for generations. And often, even when the round of kidnappings finally concludes, governments withhold information from families just to save themselves some embarrassment. How widespread is this in Sri Lanka?

    • Thanks for your comment, Vince. There were tens of thousands of enforced disappearances reported during an insurrection by the Peoples Liberation Front against the government in the late 1980s. Thousands of enforced disappearances also occurred during the 26-year conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Even though the war with the Tigers ended in 2009, Amnesty International is still receiving reports of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka since then.

  2. Is there hope of findin at least some of these disappeared alive? Have there been an aerial searches for mass or unmarked graves? I am thinking of political imprisonments like the ones in Iran. What are the statistics, if any, on return of disappeared people's after years of unknown incarceration?

    • In a couple recent high profile cases, the disappeared did return. Last year, the body of a disappeared human rights defender was found. But for the vast majority of the disappeared in Sri Lanka, we continue to have no information of their fate. The Sri Lankan government must invite the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country as soon as possible.

      • Is there a list of names of the ten thousand people that disappeared? Surely these people would have had friends and relatives who could provide the names, addresses, where they lived, when they disappeared, what they were doing (for a living), whether they were members of a organisation,etc. Has AI or any other organisation made such a list?

  3. another vicious racist attack on sri lankans by mcdonald and western tool amnesty

    why no mention of the fact that this western paid faker staged the earlier disappearance with no evidence for his cliams ? that that staged event was exploited by the western tools just like now ?

    why not mention the fact that there are many cartoonists in sri lanka who attack rajapaksa daily and have not disappeared .

    why not mention the fact that "white van" was a tamil tiger propaganda device- 1 st appearing in the ltte claims about 17 ppl from tro alleged disappeared by militray. all of the 17 are still living .

    why not mention the fact that most of the ppl in a list of disappeared published by western tools turned up alive and well . some in europe

    why not mention the fact that ppl disappear/run away a lot in all countries due to economic and personal issues and that % of such ppl in sri lanka are much less than is most countries(just check the numbers for usa )

    why no mention that when amnesty was offered the chance appear before a formal commission and present evidence for their claims they failed to do so- why? bc they don't have any legally acceptable evidence.

    in such post as this it is clear that amnesty with its colonial mindset finds nothing wrong in denying basic human right to sri lankans and condemning sri lankans without evidence. they seem to think westerners can do that non westerners naturally as a superior 'civilization' .

    so when they don't get their way and we don't condemn ppl just bc west condemn them w/o evidence they go on attack
    ppl like mac the racist don't want justice. he wants to attack sri lanka for disobeying west . in any way he can . facts be dammed !
    -

    remember how he attacked sri lanka just for disobeying west and trying to put a stop to almost daily killings(esp of our chidren) by tiger terrorists by defeating them.
    now blood thirty mcdonald can't forgive us, bc we succeeded and our surviving children are now free of terror

    ask him why he opposed our putting an end to tiger child killing .
    we will ask him that as long as we remember the innocent blood of our children.
    -
    mcdonald, why did you oppose the defeat of child killers ?
    answer !

    ===
    amnesty international is racist tool of the western oppression and looting of non west .

    for instance it is yet to ask that mass murderers like obama/bush/clinton be brought before international courts, this in spite of overwhelming evidence(such as the over 200 documented children killed by obama's personally ordered drones in pakistan )
    in contrast amnesty is quick to ask the same against non western leades who do not comply with western interests , even though there is much less (sometime no ) evidence..

    do not support this murderous racist tool of west
    expose and protest against it and its despicable supporters

    =
    amnesty has repeatedly censored comments here that criticize western leaders and itself . it seems this so called human rights organization cannot tolerate freedom of expression. lol
    no doubt this comment too will be removed .
    but we will continue to non violently expose and protest in Gandhian manner the blood stained tool of the western oppression – amnesty international

    every protest comment they censor here will be damming personal conviction of their own racist support for western crimes

  4. Thank you for excellent article and great video. I’ll try to figure out how to get the video onto my FB page. I am part of #471. Still writing out letters, smile. Still working on our postcard campaign.

  5. There certainly are cases of disappearance – Prageeth Ekanayake is a case in point. There could be others too in Sri Lanka. But the extent of such disappearances cannot be in "tens of thousands" as AI seems to imply. I used to support AI in the past with donations – but not anymore. I believe AI lost its balance and became politicized. Moreover, vested interests seem to be driving their own agendas through AI. This is unfortunate because AI does have a role to play on behalf of voiceless people. AI should conduct an audit of its own affairs and check to see whether some interested parties have hijacked its name and reputation to push their political agendas through AI. This is not difficult to do if they cross check the number of activists engaged in a particular issue against the severity of that issue compared with other conflict issues around the world. AI will definitely see it is skewed in relation to some conflicts where activists use AI as a propaganda tool in their political affairs.