For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
–answer to Victor and ChandraPrema
Sandaruwan Senadeera – Cheef editor ‘Lanka enews’
(Lanka-e-News, May 12, 2010, 10.06 AM) Prageeth Ekneliyagoda was a political columnist for Lanka e news .From the outset, he was a cartoonist with us for two years. As at today, it is 106 days since he went missing. During this whole period, his friends were searching for him, Ravaya newspaper Editor Victor Ivan wrote an article based on his imagination about his disappearance while making derogatory references to Pradeep.
Now, the latest story has been written in the Island newspaper by its political columnist P J Chandraprema. On the 7th and 8th, on both days, in the newspaper, an article was published in two instalments captioned ‘the Pargeeth Ekneliyagoda affair.’ He had in that article stated that he knows Ekneliyagoda for the last 20 years, and sheds corocodile teras for him blaming on a Journalist who caused him to disappear.
What he is attempting to show in his article is that Prageeth has not disappeared , but he has on his own gone into hiding. Besides , Prageeth is not a Journalist and a worthless individual. Chandraprema ‘s idea is to give the impression that Prageeth was a poverty stricken person who could not afford to spend to look after the future of his children , and he is therefore hiding with the aim of seeking political asylum in another country.
After Prageeth, our media personnel disappeared, when various individuals have been telling different stories, as Editor of the Lanka e news, I remained silent. But, after I read the article yesterday in The Island newspaper belonging to a brother of a Minister written by its political columnist Chandraprema who was for a time a member of the killer Organization ‘pra’, I wsa provoked to write this article .
Firstly , I wish to ask the question , on what platform these individuals, Victor Ivan and Chandraprema stand who are writing such articles ? and where did Ekneliyagoda stand ? Let them understand this truly.It is this Rajapkse administration which has won a trophy for disappearances of civilians. If the numbers of disappearances are known , that alone is proof. In Colombo alone there had been nearly 600 disappearances. Then , in the whole Island , how many more could have disappeared ? Our Lanka e news website ahs published the names , addresses, the place of abduction etc. in detail from time to time .
Because the 600 who disappeared are Tamils and Muslims , the Sinhala people have been made to make it a habit to say they are ‘Tigers’ or ‘ it is alright ,after all it is they’. If there were 600 Tigers in Colombo , there should have been 24 of their platoons . What couldn’t they have done in the city of Colombo ? These are utter falsehoods. Many of those who disappeared are innocent youngsters.. Where are those groups who abducted them and demanded extortions?
What a naval Officer who was playing a lead role in the abductions and disappearances had told a friend of mine , a former President of the professional media association Sanath Balasooriya was related to me by the latter. Because they were classmates , they speak to each other openly. The Officer had told , after abducting an individual , they follow up abducting all those who are on the first ten numbers of the abductee’s phone . Thereafter ,, the abductions are multiplied tenfold by following on the ten numbers obtained on each of the first ten abductees’ phones. All those who were abducted by the infamous white Van have never erturned home. The latest methods have been used in these abductions. After the abduction and murder of Richard De Soysa, in whose case the body was found on the seashore, the abductors now have advanced their techniques in the abductions.
I like to relate a story in this connection .Dr. Kumar Rupasinghe who has been taking active interest to achieve peace and appointed in an onofficial capacity as a peace advisor, in an argument with me asked ‘do you know what is done to those who are abducted?’ . I told him I do not know. They are killed. Their heads and bodies are then cut into pieces , and taken by boat to the sea and thrown . When that happens , neither the body nor the head comes to the surface of the water, he pointed out. Never can any evidence be traced. I was startled. During the days of the war, I met another friend of mine . He was taking treatment in Hospital. In the next bed , was a Naval officer. I heard his wife whispering referring to her husband , ‘my husband by going to the sea in the night to throw dead bodies , has become mentally deranged.’
I am stating these facts to show how far abductions and disappearances of civilians have gone under the Rajapakse regime. It is the duty of the Govt. to safeguard against such crimes , institute unvestigations and is its responsibility to prevent them.
Prageeth is not the first individual who had disappeared in Colombo.But, he is the first journalist of the Sinhala race to have suffered that fate. The era of killing journalists must have secretly headed in the direction of abduction era. Ivan and Chandraprema are occupying what positions in this era? They are in the position of protecting this murderous Govt. , white washing the regime’s evils and eating the hunted flesh of the colleagues by writing articles which are unbecoming of a Journalist who values ethics . Prageeth was certainly in a superior plane and in another era . Hence, to them Prageeth appearing to be not a journalist even when he is, is an index what maligning cant they do for him?
The actual truth behind Prageeth’s disappearance..
Among the several stories published in Chandrapremage’s articles, it is reported the reason for Parageeth’s first abduction was because he told his friend that he was searching for information on dangerous weapons which were used by both parties, and the Govt. was hostile to this.
Th cat is out of the bag on this revelation. The Island newspaper which belongs to a Minister’s brother and the ‘Lakbima news’ which belongs to a Govt. M P may have started a vicious hate campaign personally directed against Prageeth and myself since last week to suppress this story about the weapons.This is the work of ‘spin Doctors’.
Chandraprema who has made this first reference should be thanked. As far as I am concerned this is the actual reason behind the first abduction and release of Prageeth, and his subsequent secretive abduction.
Prageeth during the period of the war did search for information on the use of chemical weapons by the Govt. and the LTTE . In the world wars ,to what extent are the use of chemical weapons allowed; Has the govt. or the LTTE exceeded its limits in the use of these chemical weapons? When and where did that happen? Pargeeth was collecting this information. In this connection , Prageeth had delivered a lecture to members of the party of Wickremabahu Karunaratne. He had been forwarding to me all the information he had been garnering from time to time.
Meanwhile , the Defense Secretary had ordered the CID to summon me to the fourth floor to conduct an investigation against me regarding an article which was published in our website. There, I was interrogated for over 8 hours. When I was leaving the Police Headquarters, a Lawyer and an Army officer known to me were there to meet me. We call this Army officer as ‘Major Kumara’. The latter had been in Vauniya for war operations, and has been furnishing information on the war front to me. I came to know him through the Lawyer with whom he came to meet me. The Lawyer was appearing for a case of the Major. The Major had come to Colombo in connection with the case.
After the Lawyer’s inquiries , we went to another place where I was startled by what the Major related. He said , he was in charge of the stores where there were weapons.Some bullets which were there for use were removed and were being filled with special chemicals . When ten of these bullets are being fired, 3 or 4 of them are chemical laden bullets, he told. When I inquired from him whether the frontline soldiers are aware of this, he said, those soldiers do not know. Answering my question as to what damage such chemical bullets can cause, he replied, barriers which obstruct advance get destroyed and all those in the area meet with death.
I introduced Prageeth who is searching for information on chemical weapons to the Major some days later , because the Major can be useful for Pradeep in his searches.
The abductors had asked from Prageeth when he was abducted on the first occasion as to what dealings he had with this Major. The telephone calls to and from the Major were on the phone of Prageeth . Later on when he tried to communicate with the Major, he failed. Since that time , what happened to the Major Kumara is unknown. Even after the war was over , there is no news about him. He had not even appeared in Courts for the case too.
Though Prageeth was openly telling the first abduction was a mistake , in truth he was released on the undertaking that Pargeeth will not disclose the information he had gathered from the Major. Later . at the last Presidential elections , Prageeth became a chief of Sarath Fonseka’s media chain . I believe that , when Fonseka at his election campaign made announcements openly that he would take action against those who committed war crimes , that led to the second abduction of Prageeth who was in the process of garnering information on the use of chemical weapons. If the Govt. and the LTTE have used chemical weapons during the war, then with disappearance of Prageeth, it is clear the information and data he had collected on chemical weapons also must have gone underground.
More information can be disclosed in this regard, but that information will lead to many others being abducted and going missing.When so far there had been no public announcement in the media about the causes of Prageeth’s disappearance, why are the lackeys and bootlickers of the Govt., Victor Ivan and Chandraprema making wild guesses to ingratiate themselves into the favor of their bosses and protect them? Couldn’t they find other avenues to achieve those dastardly aims without compromising the life and interests of Prageeth whom they claim is their ‘friend’ at the same time.
At least they could have paid respect to their conscience by ignoring the utterances of the Ministers and officials of the Govt. when they are blatantly contradictory regarding the disappearance of Prageeth. Lakshman Yapa who was the media Minister at that time said, he would give a ‘good news’ about Prageeth in a fortnight. The IGP too made a similar statement at a media briefing. Later, he felt sorry over what had happened to Prageeth. Even as I am writing this , the ‘lakbima news’ which belongs to a Govt. M P in a headline news had stated that the investigations had been suspended because of the elections, and now they have got the opportunity to resume it, the Police declared. From these statements, is it not clear that they know something about Prageeth’s disappearance?
Victor Ivan, the Presidential advisor in the Rajapkse regime is trying to cover up the true picture of Prageeth’s disappearance by explaining that Prageeth ‘s disappearance was the result of his writing about the private life of a Minister . But, the truth of the matter is, there is no connection between the disappearance and the article he wrote.. I take full responsibility as the Editor of the Institution which published it. Writing about a sex maniacal disposition of a politician is not something personal but is something that concerns the public interest At least a woman voter should know whom she is voting for – is it to an infidel politico who is attacking his wife .Did n’t Victor Ivan write about the sex scandals of judges Ratnayake and former Chief justice Sarath N Silva ?
According to Chandraprema who works for the newspaper which belongs to the brother of the Minister Welgama, Prageeth is not a journalist. To what extent Chandraprema is trying to disgrace Prageeth is evident from his remark that Prageeth only designed the ‘Green color society ‘book and did its typesetting. Yet, 70 % of the views in that book are of Prageeth. These were ideas of Prageeth which he conceived during so many years .Though both got together and wrote the book, Chandraprema put his name in the book as the author. Prageeth was given the cover. It is common knowledge among friends and even enemies of Prageeth that he never hankered after name and fame.
When Lanka e news was launched, my first request to Prageeth was, as the book ‘green color society’ did not have an impact on the public in its views , to write a series of articles to Lanka e news . Though he was a talented writer, he undertook the task reluctantly owing to his laziness.. Later, his first article itself drew a huge response. This encouraged him to continue writing again and again to our columns. Chandraprema says, as Prageeth’s writings are not palatable , publishing them will cause loss o readership .In our website in a special column, his articles are still there. The number of Viewers would have opened that site and read them are countless. According to my assessment based on statistics, many lakhs have read them. If his articles are insipid, will so many lakhs read them?
Prageeth who is a skilled artist commenced a daily cartoon column in our website. When Bennet Rupasinghe and I urged him to put his name, he declined. He was humility personified, he said, he is still a learner and his name need not be advertised. .Another remarkable ability of his is, he drew cartoons even with foresight of the future. He who visits us once a week drew the cartoons for a whole week ahead. The cartoons he drew on the political scene ahead, coincided with the actual events which occurred later. This was a special and rare talent and trait in him.
Another fact mixed in the Chandraprema’s maligning of Prageeth is that, the former collects information about Prageeth from Nelson Edirisinghe and Gunadasa Jayalath (who became a monk under the name Karambe Gunanda Thero) who pose as Pageeth’s friends. Both of them are now Secretaries of a Minister and a Deputy Minister. Never will these individuals speak for Prageeth. They can only cover up the Govt.’s wrongdoings.
Chandraprema questions, Tamils had been abducted, but, has the CID abducted Sinhalese by any chance?. In other words, Chandraprema is admitting that Tamils were abducted by the CID.
What is the purpose served for the strongest Govt. ever after independence by the abduction of Prageeth Ekneliyagoda, a penniless, useless and worthless Prageeth Ekneliyagoda who poses no problems to it? He asks. n the same token ,I wish to ask him where was this powerful Govt. looking when 600 ‘worthless’ Tamils were abducted and caused to disappear ? I would like to ask a question from Chandraprema who alleges that Prageeth was always pestering for cash from Jayalath and Nelson. 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 buy a property and land by a Bank loan? (Bank of Ceylon gives loans only to those who are credit worthy after studying their financial background).As far as I know, even Chandraprema has conveniently or deliberately forgotten all those many who cheated Prageeth .At the time of his first abduction, he was offered a post of publication Director of a Division of a NGO with a salary of over Rs. One lakh per month. I therefore wish to advise Chandraprema who claims that he knows Prageeth for 20 years , not to spin yarns about a friend who had been abducted and gone missing. He has to answer in the Court of conscience.
The other vain argument of Chandraprema is Prageeth is want only in hiding .The reason he advances for this is, Prageeth is trying a General’s election gimmick to popularize himself.. His objective is to seek political asylum later abroad, and he is not able to come out right now. If there is someone who can be in hiding for a long time, it is Prageeth who can do that, he alleges. He also says, Prageeth sought such assistance for hiding, once from Dr. Dayan Jayatileke.
It is a worthy question, why Prageeth should be hiding after the victory of the General with the idea of going abroad? Having been the powerful chief of General’s propaganda apparatus, why should he have motive to go abroad? These are Chandraprema’s spurious arguments to promote himself before his bosses to eat the crumbs falling off their sumptuous tables, while also shedding crocodile tears. On the other hand, if he had any such idea to go abroad, he could have easily done that after the first abduction . Even when we friends advised him to do that, he declined. Are all those who went abroad in search of jobs victims of abduction? Are all those 600 Tamils and Muslims who were abducted in Colombo alone, now gone abroad?
Chandraprema who says , Dr. Jayatileke who helped Prageeth to hide , and who could help him to continue hiding for a long time , does a turn about and tells , Ministerial secretary Nelsen Edirisinghe told him , that Prageeth had asked for a place to hide from an individual named Kalyana Karunaratne. Will Prageeth who is seeking to hide under a veil of secrecy ask for help from a person who is not well known to him? These are products of Chandraprema’s imagination –a manifestation of his chameleon trait which he strives hard to hide.
Prageeth is to undergo By pass surgery. He is an acute diabetic patient. He has to face those treatments. According to medical assessment, eh was over 50 years old. Why should such an individual play hide and seek for such a long time? Why doesn’t Chandraprema himself use his common sense?
Chandraprema describes Pargeeth as a ‘Free wheel’ intellectual, jokingly. It is better to be a free wheel intellectual like Prageeth than to be shameless unscrupulous individuals who pour such unconscionable criticisms and insults on Prageeth after causing him to be abducted. Such insults, let them be reminded are directed even against the suffering children of the victim of this episode. We must thank that persons like Victor and Chandraprema, the ruthless, heartless, unscrupulous , self seeking opportunists are among us only to teach us and the world that we should not follow in their footsteps eating the discarded crumbs and remnants of the rulers merely to achieve their selfish self propulsion even sacrificing friends and colleagues while parading as ‘cog wheels’ and intellectuals of their bosses.