Crime

Wife of missing Sri Lankan journalist in defence of Yameen Rasheed

Sandhya Ekneligoda (C) at the protest against the murder of Yameen Rasheed held in front of the Maldivian Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. PHOTO/SOCIAL MEDIA

Once a month, Sandhya Ekneligoda sets out to visit the courts of Sri Lanka. It is a routine she has followed for the past seven years. Her determination has driven her from the courts of her home country to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Ever since the disappearance of her husband Prageeth Ekneligoda, who had worked as a journalist and cartoonist at a local paper, Sandhya has not let up her search for Prageeth even for a single day.

The same Sandhya Ekneligoda was seen standing in front of the Embassy of the Maldives in Sri Lankan capital Colombo on Monday. Holding a placard and red balloon, she was part of the crowd protesting the brutal murder of Maldivian blogger and social media activist Yameen Rasheed as they called on Maldivian authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Sandhya believes that she and the late Yameen Rasheed had been two people in the same boat. As someone who has been searching for her missing husband for several years, Sandhya is one of the few who could fully understand the despair of Yameen, who had been searching for Ahmed Rilwan, a fellow blogger and his closest friend that was allegedly abducted. Yameen had been leading the vanguard of the search for over two years before he was found killed with multiple stab wounds in his house on April 23.

Sandhya Ekneligoda (L) and her son at a protest against the abduction of her husband Prageeth. PHOTO/ASIAN MIRROR

Sandhya Ekneligoda (L) and her son at a protest against the abduction of her husband Prageeth. PHOTO/ASIAN MIRROR

Sandhya’s husband went missing in January 2010. He disappeared after a mysterious phone call followed by a meeting with some unknown people. Prageeth’s family and lawyers believe that he was taken for his work in the campaign of General Sarath Fonseka, the then opposition presidential candidate.

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At the time of his disappearance, Prageeth had been developing a booklet on nepotism involved in the Rajapaksa administration. The booklet along with some cartoon strips Prageeth had created were saved on a USB drive which also went missing.

While abductions are not uncommon in Sri Lanka, Prageeth Ekneligoda’s case stands out due to the incessant efforts of his wife who, in her search for him and the truth behind his disappearance, has become a prominent rights activists. Though her persistence has borne little fruit over the past seven years, Sandhya Ekneligoda has become a beacon of courage for other activists fighting for the same rights.

Sandhya Ekneligoda speaks to reporters at the protest against the murder of Yameen Rasheed held in front of the Maldivian Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. PHOTO/SOCIAL MEDIA

Sandhya Ekneligoda speaks to reporters at the protest against the murder of Yameen Rasheed held in front of the Maldivian Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. PHOTO/SOCIAL MEDIA

“I am here as a wife of a disappeared journalist, who was abducted for his writing, and as a woman who knows and understands the pain and suffering of losing a husband,” she declared during the protest for Yameen Rasheed, which was spearheaded by Yameen’s friends, and some journalists and civil rights activists of Sri Lanka.

“In this instance where a journalist has been killed, I demand the Maldivian government to find out the truth about his killing and ensure that justice is served,” she said. “The government needs to tell us who killed Yameen, they must be punished, and Yameen’s family, the Maldivian citizens and the rest of the world must be told what happened to Yameen, who killed him and why he was killed.”

In an interview to another newspaper, Sandhya said that while she initially became an activist to find her husband, her work now encompasses fighting for the rights of every individual and victim facing such situations.

Sandhya Ekneligoda at a protest against the abduction of her husband Prageeth. PHOTO/LEN

Sandhya Ekneligoda at a protest against the abduction of her husband Prageeth. PHOTO/LEN

She went on to say that she had been aware of the dangers lurking around Prageeth’s work. However, she had refused to interfere in his fight for the rights of people as her country was in dire need of peace and justice. Hence, she maintains that she does not regret her decision now.

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Sandhya proclaimed that she will keep up her fight to discover what happened to her husband despite how long it may take. Sandhya was also notably awarded the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award by the United States’ First Lady Melania Trump earlier this year in appreciation of her courage and leadership in advocating for rights, empowerment and justice.

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Source URL: Mihaaru-News

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