A political analyst and cartoonist working for the Lanka-e-news website and the newspaper Siyarata, Prageeth Eknaligoda disappeared on the evening of 24 January 2010 after leaving his office to go home. He had told a close friend he thought he had been followed for the past several days. A colleague told Reporters Without Borders that Eknaligoda had been threatened in connection with his political analyses. A week before his death, he wrote a long article comparing the two leading presidential candidates and voicing a preference for the opposition one.
The police began an investigation a few days after his disappearance and a presidential adviser assured his wife that he would “resurface.” But the police showed no interest in finding him alive and provided the family with no significant information. Worse still, government ministers made contradictory statements and created confusion about the circumstances of his disappearance. The president’s brother, defence minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa, went so far as to suggest in an interview for the Daily Mirror in March 2010 that Eknaligoda staged his own disappearance: “Eknaligoda had himself disappeared (…) We don’t even know who this Eknaligoda is, what had he done? Anyone can claim that he is missing.”
His wife, Sandya Eknaligoda, has campaigned tirelessly for the truth ever since his disappearance, making several visits to the United States and Europe to talk about him. She was subjected to intimidation as a result of the testimony she gave to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2012. On the 200th day after his disappearance, Reporters Without Borders and six other media freedom organization jointly urged the government to do everything necessary to shed light on the case. Reporters Without Borders has reiterated this appeal every January since then, during the so-called “Black January” campaign.
The Criminal Investigations Department announced on 24 August 2015 that it had arrested two army lieutenant-colonels, a sergeant and a corporal in connection with Eknaligoda’s disappearance. A retired sergeant and two senior Tamil Tigers had also reportedly been arrested by the CID a few days earlier. According to some media outlets, the army officers worked for military intelligence. They were detained for an initial period of 14 days that was extended by a month at the end of September.
Despite these arrests, Eknaligoda’s family has not been given any convincing information and none of the potential instigators of Eknaligoda’s disappearance, including Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has been questioned.