Cartoon by Pedro X Molina (2010)
The night they disappeared Prageeth Eknaligoda
Prageeth Eknaligodaa cartoonist, political analyst and journalist, left his work in Colombo (Sri Lanka) on the night of 24 January 2010. He said he was going to meet an old friend before returning home. A friend called Prageeth’s mobile phone, only to hear a strange noise before the call was cut off. That was the latest that he heard from him. He was then 50 years old (1). It was two days before the presidential election in Sri Lanka.
Barely a year later, there was no shortage of conspiracies, including some denying his abduction and accusing him of being an impostor theories denying his abduction and accusing him of being an impostor. Prageeth’s wife still convinced that the government is directly responsible for his disappearance.
After more than a decade of struggle by his family for justice, the trial began on 6 September to try to clarify the causes of the cartoonist’s disappearance and find the culprits. Everything points to the fact that he was kidnapped by the military, then tortured and murdered, and the perpetrators disposed of his body.
Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) investigation in 2019 led the attorney general to charge Lt Col Shammi Karunarathna, Prabodha Siriwardena and five others for the abduction of the cartoonist. It was revealed that Prageeth Eknaligoda was taken blindfolded to an army camp where he was interrogated. Records and recordings of calls and data obtained from the mobile phone repeater in the area confirmed that he was held at Girithale barracks and later transferred to Akkaraipattu.
On the second day of the trial, three persons were summoned, including the cartoonist’s wife, Sandya EkneligodaOn the second day of the trial, the third witness did not appear in court and a new summons was reissued setting a new date for the trial.
This third witness was finally questioned on 29 September, during the session he said that his previous statement to the judge about the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda was false.
The prosecutor told the court that the witness avoided answering questions so he suspected that the witness was under duress. The prosecution requested a new date for further cross-examination. The trial will resume on 26 October at 1 p.m. (2)
The white vans
The island of Sri Lanka, known as Ceylon until 1972, was plagued by a civil war that began in 1983 and ended in May 2009.
It pitted Tamils against Sinhalese. The war left between 70,000 and 100,000 dead, some 250,000 Tamil refugees, as many others fled the island, and an unknown number of people, some estimates say 200,000, lost everything and/or suffered from starvation.
In 2009, some groups reported that the government continued to persecute all Tamils in Colombo on the grounds that they could be a threat to national security. Hence the rumours of the white vans.
To this day there is still talk of death squads and of assassinations, kidnappings, and of white vans in which dissidents and journalists are made to disappear.
10 years after the enforced disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda. The struggle and the legacy.
Catalogue of the exhibition on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the forced disappearance of the cartoonist and journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda. With cartoons by the author and his two children, Sanjaya and Harit. January 2020.