Christians, activists and politicians call on the government to find missing journalist
by Melani Manel Perera
A well know journalist and cartoonist has been missing for the past 200 days. Nothing has emerged about his fate since 24 January, and police is not saying what it knows. Prior to his disappearance, he had backed the opposition against outgoing President Rajapaksa.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Christian leaders, opposition politicians and human rights activists together with the Alliance of Media Organisations held a Satyagraha or peaceful protest yesterday afternoon in Colombo’s Viharamahadevi Park to mark 200 days since the disappearance of cartoonist and columnist Mr. Prageeth Eknaligoda. The event was followed by a seminar at the Colombo Public Library where journalists and human rights activists spoke about the missing journalist.  The protest and the seminar was organized by the Alliance of Media Organisations. 

During the protest rally, demonstrators waved signs written in Sinhala in red and black ink that said, “200 days still missing". One big banner also read, “Find journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda and give him back to us!” All of them were addressed to the authorities, urging them to do something to find the journalist, known for criticising the current government.

It is impossible for the authorities not to have something on Eknaligoda’s disappearance, said Rev Marimutthu Sathivel. Speaking to AsiaNews, the Anglican clergyman insisted that the government should say what is has done and is doing to find him.

Two Catholic priests, Fathers Terrence Fernando and Nandana Saparamadu, agree. For this reason, they came to the seminar to show their solidarity.

Similarly, the IFJ called on its members to express their solidarity to local media, and criticised the police for failing to come up with any evidence about the missing journalist’s fate.

“Statements from official agencies, including the police and the Ministry for Information, have been far from reassuring, since they have invariably failed to deliver on promises that information about Eknaligoda’s whereabouts would be made available,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said. “Further, there have been suggestions from official agencies dismissing Eknaligoda’s disappearance as possibly self-staged.”

Eknaligoda was reported missing on 24 January 2010, two days before presidential polls. During the campaign, he had openly voiced his support for defeated opposition presidential candidate, retired General Sarath Fonseka.

For many years, he worked as a cartoonist for the Lake House group of newspapers. In 1996, he resigned however after refusing to draw a cartoon ridiculing the leader of the opposition.

At the time of disappearance, he was a contributor to Lanka-e-News, a Sinhala-language online portal.

According to his wife, Sandaya, Eknaligoda has been involved in leftwing politics since the 1970s. In November of last year, he took up an active role in the presidential campaign on behalf of opposition candidate Fonseka against outgoing President Rajapaksa, who was nevertheless re-elected.