Speaking with Tamil Guardian, Sandya Ekneligoda, wife of forcibly disappeared journalist and human rights activist Prageeth Ekneligoda, gave a damning indictment of Sri Lanka’s judiciary maintaining that it is not “free and independent” and could not deliver justice for victims.
“Even though, it is supposed to be independent, I have witnessed enough that, always the executive (president) and the parliamentarians (MPs) have influenced the judiciary. So, the judiciary has become ineffective and if the judges are unable to exercise their powers freely and independently”, she told our journalists.
Her statement follows her statement at the 23rd Session of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances in Geneva this week. During this session, she maintained that the Sri Lankan government had adopted an unofficial policy of impunity and is unable to deliver justice for the Families of the Disappeared.
“In a country where impunity is the unofficial adopted policy consisting of a slow and lagging legal system, in the midst of poverty, constant pursuit, and intimidation, the only thing the victims can do now is to cry out and lament while engaged in a constant struggle on the country’s streets,” she told the session.
A campaign of harassment
Speaking to the Tamil Guardian, she addressed mounting concerns over continued harassment by Sri Lanka’s security forces.
“It is my understanding that in Sri Lanka, certain political groups, especially the Rajapaksa’s use certain sections of the security forces, or military groups loyal to them, to suppress and abduct people who stage protests against them”.
This she said was the case for her husband, Prageeth Ekneligoda, who she maintains was abducted by military personnel and forcibly disappeared two days prior to the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa to the presidency. Prior to his abduction, he was investigating the use of chemical weapons by Sri Lanka’s army in the North-East during the armed conflict.
Sandya Ekneligoda told our journalists that following his enforced disappearance, they “tried to stop me from agitating on his behalf” she told our journalists. Despite these threats, the mother of two continues to advocate on behalf of her husband’s disappearance and has attended over 100 court hearings but to no avail.
She further added that Sri Lanka’s political elite used military personnel to control the citizenry and to trace the identities of those who protest them to harass them. “That is why it has become necessary for the people to fight for their rights”.
The UN process
Asked on the how she viewed the UN process, Ekneligoda stressed the “journey for our rights” was inseparable from national and international politics.
She maintained that Sri Lanka must be compelled to abide by any recommendations from the UN and that national political groups must act to safeguard protesters.
Speaking at the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, Ekneligoda expressed her scepticism over the Wickremesinghe administration’s ability to deliver answers for the Families of the Disappeared stating:
“Can it be expected that the current President while as Prime Minister in 2017 who irresponsibly claimed ‘all disappeared persons should be assumed dead or are abroad’ will deliver justice?”
She further lambasted the Rajapaksa administration’s commission on political victimisation, noting that “this commission turned the investigators and witnesses of the case into the accused”.
Return of Gotabaya
Responding to questions concerning the return of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, she stressed that war crimes accused President must be punished.
“He came back because he has nowhere in the world to go” she stated.
“I don’t know whether the US will accept him […] But wherever he goes he will be liable for the crimes he committed”.
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