SRI LANKA: A political analyst has been missing since the election run-up


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-009-2010
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Enforced disappearances and abductions, Freedom of expression, Police negligence, Police violence,

Dear friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda shortly after he wrote articles supporting the presidential opposition candidate. His office was ransacked shortly after, the website he writes for was blocked during the election, and there have been delays and flaws in the police investigation. The journalist was also a victim of an unresolved organised abduction last year. It should be noted that his disappearance fits the strong pattern of harassment of journalists in the country by government agencies. 

CASE DETAILS: (Based on information received from the victim’s wife) 

According to the information received, Mr. Prageeth Ranjan Bandara Eknaligoda (also printed as Ekanaligoda), disappeared shortly after he left his office at the LankaeNews Website headquarters on 24 January 2010 – two days before the presidential election. His last contact was in a call to a Mr Gamini Perera, who usually drives him home, during which the journalist told Mr Perera that he had arranged alternative transport. He mentioned being ‘at Koswatte’ (and though there are two potential Koswatte’s in Colombo, the victim’s wife believes he was referring to a place near Talangama). 

There has been no communication from the victim since and there are no known facts about the perpetrators at this time. However due to the nature of his work, the day of his disappearance, the frequency of state sanctioned acts of repression against journalists under the current administration, and his own past experience of abduction, detailed below, Eknaligoda’s family suspect the involvement of state authorities, rather than – as suggested by police – individuals with a grudge. 

Shortly after the victim’s disappearance the website LankaeNews was blocked by the government authorities. The block was lifted after the election. The AHRC is also informed that the LankaeNews premises were searched for two hours on the night of 28 January 2010 by a large number of unidentified persons (vehicle registration number: 32-8432), after which the website was again blocked for a short time. 

When Mrs. Kamalgoda Mudalige Sandya Priyangani Eknaligoda, attempted to register the incident at Homagama police station, accompanied by Mr Perera, she was told by the OIC (Officer-in-Charge) that the station was unable to record the incident without prior instruction from higher officers, and he advised her to register the complaint with the Koswatte police; this is despite his legal obligation to register the case without delay. After persistence from Mrs. Eknaligoda the officer allegedly agreed to accept the complaint, and statements were recorded from her and Mr. Perera between 10:30 and 11:00am on 25 January 2010. 

On 28 January 2010 an officer from Homagama police station and two officers purporting to be from the CID (Criminal Investigation Division) visited Mrs Eknaligoda and her neighbours to record further statements regarding the possibility of private dispute related to the victim. No further action has been seen to be taken. 
Ekanaligoda’s family do not believe that his disappearance is the result of a private grudge. On 27 August 2009 he was victim of an organised abduction – he was blindfolded, transported a considerable distance and chained in a kind of cell overnight – by men who responded to organised instruction from someone referred to as a higher officer. He was released after the officer told them that he was not the correct intended target. 
The case has been well publicised in the media however Mrs. Ekanaligoda also registered complaints at the office of the opposition leader, to Mr Gamini Jayawickrama Perera who is chairman of the United National Party, to the office of the National Board of Intellectuals (Jathika Vidwath Mandalaya), to Mr Wasudewa Nanayakkara who is an adviser to the president, and to several civil society organisations. A government spokesman has since publicly denied government involvement.

Sri Lanka remains one of the most dangerous environments in the region for journalists, and other public opinion makers, largely due to the lack of accountablilty faced by those who harass or attack them. Please refer to last years’ urgent appeals and statement archive for other recent and unresolved cases, including the protection and investigation that was denied journalist and police torture victim Senake Ekanayake (UAU-029-2009) and abudction and torture victim, Poddala Jayantha, who is currently president of the Working Journalists Association (in STM-125-2009:SRI LANKA: Journalist attacked – a civil society organisation threatened and a provocative campaign against freedom of expression continues).


Please write letters to the relevant authorities to urge for stronger and clearer efforts to thoroughly investigate this disappearance, ensure his safe return, and provide security for the victim’s family. 

Please be informed that the AHRC has written a separate letter to the UN Working Group for Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, calling for intervention in this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear __________, 

SRI LANKA: A political analyst has been missing since the election run-up 

Name of victim: Prageeth Ranjan Bandara Eknaligoda (also written as Ekanaligoda) 
Name of alleged perpetrators: Unknown 
Date of incident: 24 January 2010 
Place of incident: Believed to be Koswatte, Colombo, Western Province 

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the disappearance of Mr Prageeth Eknaligoda from Koswatte, Colombo, on 24 January 2010. The victim, who has been a victim of an unresolved abduction in the past, is a journalist and visual designer who works for a website that supports the presidential opposition. His disappearance coincides with the election date and state interference in the publication, which leads the victim’s family to believe that a state agency is responsible. 

Mr Eknaligoda has not been seen or heard from since shortly after he left his office on 24 January when he made a phone call noting that he was in Koswatte. When his wife went straight to the Homagama police on the morning of 25 January 2010 to report the incident, with the person he last spoke to by phone (a Gamini Perera), she was allegedly initially refused assistance. After some persuasion, the OIC recorded two statements from Mrs Eknaligoda and Mr Perera. 

However the only apparent investigative activities to have occurred so far, were statements that were taken by a police officer from Homagama police station and two officers purporting to be from the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) from the victim’s neighbours, on 28 January, regarding the possibility of private disputes or grudges related to the victim. 

It is significant that the LankaeNews website that Mr. Ekanligoda works for was blocked by the government controlled Sri Lanka Telecom shortly after his disappearance. The block was lifted after the election. The LankaeNews premises were also searched for two hours on the night of 28 January 2010 by a large number of unidentified persons, after which the website was again blocked for a short time. Their vehicle number has been identified and reported to the police (32-8432). Despite this, no further official action has been seen to have been taken. 

I am extremely concerned for the health, safety and whereabouts of Mr Eknaligoda who has now been missing for more than ten days. I call for an inquiry to be swiftly and credibly initiated into both his disappearance, and why the case has not been dealt with thus far. The fact that simple procedures are being easily ignored during the election period suggests a breach in the chain of command, and this must be immediately addressed with disciplinary action to prevent further such breaches. 

If state involvement in the disappearance comes to light, those responsible must be brought before the law. Please also ensure that measures are being taken to protect the victim’s family from intimidation and harm. 

Yours sincerely, 



Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse 
Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka 
C/- Office of the President 
Temple Trees 
150, Galle Road 
Colombo 3 
Fax: +94 11 2472100 / +94 11 2446657 

Mr. Mahinda Balasuriya 
Inspector General of Police (IGP), 
New Secretariat, 
Colombo 1, 
Fax: +94 11 2 440440 

Mr. Mohan Peiris 
Attorney General 
Attorney General’s Department, 
Colombo 12, 
Fax: +94 11 2 436421 

Secretary, National Police Commission, 
3rd Floor Rotunda Towers, 
109 Galle Road, 
Colombo 03, 
Tel/Fax: +94 11 2 395960 

Secretary, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, 
No 108 Barnes Place, 
Colombo 07 
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806 
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470 

Please be aware that although we regularly update our contact databases, emails to local authorities do sometimes bounce back due to domestic technical issues. If this happens consistently please do inform us at the email address below. 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (