The Criminal Investigation Department currently investigating the abduction of Prageeth Ekneligoda, now firmly believe that journalism was not the key reason for his disappearance. An officer investigating the case told Colombo Telegraph that it is either the active role he played in forging of passports and his involvement in human smuggling, his involvement with military intelligence or perhaps his co-ordinated efforts with certain opposition members then, that were involved in mailing ash from all across the island to the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the pretext of it being that of cremated humans beings.
Four army personnel are being questioned by the CID in connection with the disappearance of Ekneligoda and they did confirm that Prageeth was in their custody at the Giritale army camp.
The CID believe that the ‘human ash’ project was well concocted by certain members who opposed the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and handsomely funded Ekneligoda to drive this campaign to instill fear in the former President. It is wildly known that the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a firm believer in astrology as even his daily rituals, meetings and travel are determined by auspicious times. Charmed human ash has a deadly effect on those that believe it in this Buddhist dominated nation as the practicing art of witchcraft and voodoo is firmly believed by those to have deadly effects as it causes bad luck, mayhem, havoc and more severe mental effects.
The CID reiterated that Prageeth Ekneligoda had supplied a few cartoons which were used by the website Lankaenews way back in 2005 when it originated. Thereafter there is no record of Ekneligoda’s cartoons appearing in any newspaper or other electronic media.
During the time of his first abduction on the 27th August 2009 there was absolutely no evidence or talk of Ekneligoda being a cartoonist or a media person then. He was abducted a second time the day prior to the 2010 January Presidential elections and has been missing since.
The CID is trying to establish the facts pertaining to both his first and second abductions that has now led to his permanent disappearance. It was wildly known that on or about the time of his second abduction he is alleged to have penned a jungle paper ( Kele paththre) to support General Sarath Fonseka in his 2010 Presidential election campaign. The document was type set and Prageeth checked the proofs as well. Moreover his handwriting was also visible in some sections of the document. But this still did not explain why Prageeth was abducted the first time then, as there was no such document and the Fonseka election campaign had yet to kick off. Moreover the Presidential election itself was yet to be announced.
The CID is now considering the ‘human ash’ project to be a reason that cannot be ruled out as investigations revealed that it was a far more well orchestrated campaign than believed.
This was contrary to the story written by the Editor Colombo Telegraph Uvindu Kurukulasuriya who then wrote that Prageeth Ekneligoda had mailed human ash to the former President from all over the country. According to the CID this project was run by Ekneligoda, who it was found was also provided a vehicle by certain members of the then opposition for his transport needs to continue with these ‘hate mantras’ and supported by many island wide.
Meanwhile one of the military personnel in custody has also blurted that Prageeth Ekneligoda was involved in supplying forged documents and passports and was involved in a human smuggling racket. ( this fact was reported in Sinhala weekly Irida Divaina – 23.08.2015 ). In fact Prageeth’s forged documents business was first exposed by Uvindu Kurukulasuriya in July 2011. ( We reproduce the article below)
Sandya Ekneligoda the wife of Prageeth meanwhile accused the country’s new Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera‘s close friend Ruwan Ferdinandez and editor of Colombo Telegraph Uvindu Kurukulasuriya respectively for attempting to derail the investigations.
Sandya Ekneligoda also stated that the duo were paid by the Rapaksas’ to do so.
The article below was published in the Lanka Independent website in July 2011, the website co-edited by slain editor Lasantha Wickerematunge’s wife Sonali Samarasinghe and Uvindu Kurukulasuriya and the website is no longer exist;
In journalism truth is a process: Uvindu responds to Sandya Ekneligoda
I write in response to the serious allegations of misconduct levelled against me by Sandya Ekneliyagoda in her reply to Lanka Independent editor Sonali Wickrematunge ( http://www.lankaindependent.com/2011/07/prageeths-wife-sandya-writes-to-li-editor-sonali-on-article-published-on-this-website/)
The article in question is titled “Was Prageeth abducted for his journalism or for mailing human ash”? http://www.lankaindependent.com/2011/06/was-prageeth-abducted-for-his-journalism-or-for-mailing-human-ash/
Let me deal with each allegation/misconception/misrepresentation separately.
(1) First she says I called her using my mobile phone claiming I wanted to help her.
(2) Second she said I distorted what she said.
This is the first time someone challenged my professional integrity. Journalists should use fair and honest means to obtain material and they must not distort the facts. That is what journalism ethics says. According to Sandya, I breached those ethics. Sandya took one and half months to make these allegations. I will explain why later.
What Sandya says is a half-truth. Yes I did call her on 10th June 2011 as part of my research for the article I was writing which was later published in the Lanka Independent, but I did not use my mobile phone. I don’t use my mobile for overseas calls. She says I called her claiming I wanted to help her family. This is not true, because I stopped helping her one year ago after I came to my conclusion that Prageeth’s abduction had nothing to do with Journalism, and not after uncovering details about his wealth.
I helped her through some International organisations, even after this. I stopped helping her only after I found that Prageeth’s abduction had nothing to do with journalism.
Here is what I in fact told Sandya when I called her on June 10th.
I told her I had just listened to an interview given by her to Reporters Without Borders.( http://en.rsf.org/sri-lanka-interview-with-wife-of-cartoonist-08-06-2011,40424.html)
During that interview she explained her financial difficulties. I reminded her that after she requested financial help from me for the second time, I had met with a representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists and had discussed the issue and even forwarded her email to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). In fact I asked her whether the CPJ gave her money or not. I knew the CPJ was helping her and wanted her to confirm the fact.
Then she inquired from me whether I had written to them as she was not aware of it. I said I had and forwarded the relevant email to her. Then she said her email was hacked and gave me a new email address. I once again forwarded that email to her but again it returned. I now reproduce it here.
After this preliminary conversation I explained to her that I was writing an article about Prageeth’s issue since it was 500 days after his abduction. I told her that C.A. Chandraprema had written three articles ( http://www.island.lk/2010/05/07/features8.html) claiming Prageeth was a pauper and Prageeth’s intention was to claim asylum.
She said she had read the articles. I told her that I don’t believe it and that I’m going to reply the allegations made by Chandraprema.
In fact Lanka E News editor Sandaruwan Senadheera in his reply to CA Chandraprema’s article article ( http://www.lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=9530 ) said; If Prageeth is beggar, how come, he sent his children to International Schools? How did he start paddy cultivation on 6 acres land in Dambulla? How could he secure a bank loan to buy property? (Bank of Ceylon gives loans only to those who are deemed to be creditworthy after studying their financial background).
I asked Sandya whether it was true? She said it is true. Then I asked her about the Trincomalee land she replied she had been there and it was two and half acres with a beach frontage. I hadn’t known the extent nor whether it had a breach frontage until she told me.
I also asked her about property in Batticaloa. She said she had heard about it but that Prageeth hadn’t left any documents. I asked whether she met the people in Prageeth’s Pettah office. The reason I asked this question was because none of Prageeth’s friends seemed to know the location.
It was a secret place according his closest friends and Prageeth never took them or never told them where it was. I had learnt however that a Tamil boy would come with receipts and cheques. She then replied “ ekak nemey dekak thiyenavane” (not only one, there were two). There was one located in Amour Street, Sandya told me and she said she had met both people.
I asked her if she had been receiving the profit share from the Munchee Biscuit agency run by her brother. She corrected me and said the agency was not for Munchee but Maliban. I felt she was shocked. So when in her letter she says she was shocked I believe her.
Immediately after informing me the agency was for Maliban biscuits she suddenly said “Prageeth mallita udauwwak kalaa vitharane. Mage malli thama okkoma apita udauw karanne.” – (Prageeth only helped my brother, my brother is the one who is helping us).
In fact when I first heard that Prageeth owns a Munchee Biscuit agency I contacted a former Human Resources Manager who was a university friend of mine and asked him to find out the names of the agents from Homagama to Rathnapura for the last ten years. He promised but didn’t get back to me. Then I asked another friend of mine and he checked and said there was no such name. But my source was very confident and even said Prageeth bought his new house for use as a storehouse for that business as well.
I therefore felt I now had enough evidence to discredit CA Chandraprema’s claim that Prageeth was a penniless man. I concluded my telephone conversation saying I will forward her that email.
Never told me about loans
She never told me about her loans. Of course I was curious about his wealth for some reasons apart from my intention to refute Chandraprema’s argument. As I said in my first article I also once thought that Prageeth was a poor man. I managed to get funds from a London based media support organization even without a request from Sandya Ekneligoda.
Sandya sent her bank accounts details to me on March 18, 2010 at 2:31 AM and that organization transfered the money the following week. I copied all my emails regarding support for Sandya to Prageeth’s friend and Lanka E news editor Sandaruwan Senadheera. She didn’t even send a thank you email to that organization. I noticed it and rang her and requested her to send a thank you letter to that organization, which she did afterwards.
She sent me an email on Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 12:36 PM . In that email she said she had only received the money I arranged for her and nothing else and asked help for further support. I replied; “ Okay. I will try my best. How much money are you looking for? Give me sometime”. Then she replied she needs at least 30,000 rupees for a month. I then met the CPJ impunity programme consultant in London and explained the situation. She agreed to help. Later, this consultant asked me to forward Sandya’s email. Again I met the same organization which helped Sandya and asked for further support. They agreed and asked me to fill the relevant documents. I spent a lot of money on travel and telephone calls for this purpose.
Sandya knows all this and she should have acknowledged in her reply. I could have written all these details in my first article, but although it strengthens my argument, I believed it wasn’t morally correct to support someone and make claims about it.
When I got to know how Prageeth earned money and about his wealth, I stopped supporting her and even informed my friends in the media support organizations, which I worked with about this matter and apologized to them for my involvement.
Yet another theory
How Prageeth earned money is related to another theory for his abduction that some of Prageeth’s friends put forward. I didn’t write it in my first article because I didn’t believe the theory and I thought it only helped the government to cover up the issue. I was waiting until the Criminal Investigations Department came up with that theory, as I knew they were investigating how Prageeth earned his money.
According to two of Prageeth’s friends, Prageeth had been involved in allegedly producing forged documents. He worked for one of the biggest vehicle importers and produced forged documents for them. They allegedly paid him 100,000 rupees to one million cut per imported vehicle. Another transaction had taken place right before one of Prageeth’s friends. Prageeth handed over 400 forged documents and he was given four million (4,000,000) in cash, he said.
I’m writing this because I have enough evidence to believe this. I trust my sources as they had no intention to harm Prageeth. According to some of Prageeth’s friends somebody abducted him and was detaining him for producing forged documents but I do not believe this because something like that cannot happen without the knowledge of the Rajapaksas. In a context of more than 500 days of national and international campaigning on behalf of Prageeth, if the government was not connected to this abduction they should have found Prageeth. However, this does not explain why Prageeth was abducted the first time.
He allegedly did other businesses too. He had tried to supply food for refugee camps. He submitted a proposal to the Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda through his best friend Nelson Edirisinghe, who is the Media Coordinating Secretary to the minister. He found a food supplier form Tamil Nadu in India. The idea was to get a commission from the deal. Everything was finalized but in the end Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s agent had apparently hijacked the deal. Prageeth didnt get anything in the end. Ironically, it is this same Prageeth who penned a jungle paper (Kela paththare), as I mentioned in my last article, calling Basil Rajapaksa ‘Mr Ten Percent’.
Now the question is why Sandya took one and half month’s to accuse me. She says, ‘The function carried out by Chandraprema to earn a living has been resumed by Uvindu. The only change I see is Uvindu targeting international organizations and the English reading community’.
I don’t target International organizations, as I said before, when I wrote my first article I informed some of them about my theory. May be Sandya or those who belong to the local Human Rights Industry are behind this reply and it is they who are targeting International organizations.
After my article was published International media organizations planned to have a conference call with Sandya but it never happened. As far as I’m aware they decided take extra care for future support not only to Prageeth’s family but for any other case. Sandya may be angry with me and local human rights industry people may be angry with me too.
Misleading the media
Quite apart from my piece on Prageeth, I’m the one who exposed how local media organizations mislead international organizations and donors and ended up cheating them robbing their money. The Free Media Movement alone has to submit 30 million ( Rupees 306,00,000 ) audited accounts to its members and to the NGO Commissioner. They still have not.
Sandya says, she also explained that Prageeth did most of his work from home. The issue is Prageeth worked from another home in Matale too. As far as I’m aware Sandya visited that home too.
Sandya says; “Until the day he disappeared, Prageeth provided cartoons as well as articles to LankaeNews. Comrades at LEN are fully aware of the response from the readership”. But this is not true.
This is what Lanka E news reported when Prageeth was abducted; Ekneliyagoda was for a while attached to the ‘LankaENews’ and had written several articles. He was a cartoonist also. See http://www.lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=8238
Chandraprama reported, ‘according to Bennet Rupasinghe LankaENews’ editor, he had been only an occasional contributor and not even a regular freelance contributor’. (http://www.island.lk/2010/05/07/features8.html)
So far Bennet Rupsinghe the news editor of Lanka Enews has not denied it. He only wrote a few articles for Lanka e news since June 2007. One can read them here: http://www.lankaenews.com/Sinhala/newsold.php?action=display_cat_news&name=m%.S;a tlake,sf.dvf.a u; tl;=j
Im not saying Prageeth was not a journalist. As Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger says; “In an age when anyone can call themselves a journalist I see difficulties of definition.”
My point is Prageeth’s abduction has nothing to do with his journalism. If anyone can produce any cartoon or article related to his abduction, I would be happy to withdraw my theory “Mailing human ash to President Rajapaksa” and I shall not hesitate to apologise for my mistake.
Wanted me to be editor
I would like to say to my readers that I’m also a friend of Prageeth’s and I had some respect until I found his dark side of earning money. He wanted me to become the editor of a news paper which he tried to set up with some other friends such as Janadasa Peiries (former Director – Media of President Chandrika Kumaratunga), Dr Sunil Wijesiriwardhane and Joe Senavirathna ( a Former editor at Lake House).
He regularly visited my office (accompanied at times by Joe Senavirathna) and asked me to accept this offer. I declined it but offered help. I asked him to do a good newspaper with a code of ethics, a self-regulatory mechanism such as appointing an ombudsman etc. I asked both Joe and Prageeth to sign a charter of editorial independence. They said they were unaware of such things. Prageeth asked me to introduce concepts of charters of editorial independence to that group which I did in 2008.
Further to that I would also like to point out that lankaindependent.com has carried articles from several sources and points of view regarding Prageeth’s abduction.
Here are the links
My intention is to find out what happened to Prageeth. In journalism truth is a process. We write with hope that we will get somewhere. This process is certainly revealing a lot of things few knew about and this is a good thing.