By S.S. Selvanayagam
The Court of Appeal yesterday (23) vacated its Stay Order on the Homagama Magistrates’ Court proceedings in respect of the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
The bench comprising justices Vijith K. Malalgoda (President/CA) and S. Thurairajah directed the Magistrates’ Court to go ahead with the inquiry and report.
The Habeas Corpus petition was filed on 19 February 2010 by his wife Sandhya Eknaligoda and his two children S.S Bandara Eknaligoda and H.D. Sooriyia Eknaligoda.
The petitioners cited DIG Nandana Manasinghe of the CID, the OIC of the Homagama Police, IGP Mahinda Balasuriya, the Attorney General and Prageeth Eknaligoda as respondents.
Chrishmal Warnasuriya with Janaka Collure appeared for the petitioners. Senior State Counsel Wasantha Perera appeared for the State.
The petition sought a writ order from the court directing the police to produce Eknaligoda before the Court of Appeal.
The petition stated that Eknaligoda acted against the political situation in the country while staying within the legal framework.
The petition pointed out that after Sarath Fonseka came forward to contest the recently concluded presidential election Eknaligoda had supported his presidential bid through the media. The petition complained that Eknaligoda was being detained either by or with the knowledge of the first respondent, DIG Nandana Manasinghe, Homagama OIC and the IGP or anyone and/or more of them for the reasons set out in the petition.
It stated that since October 2009, Eknaligoda had been receiving threatening telephone calls from unidentified sources at times threatening him with bodily harm or death.
On 27 August, 2009 at around 12.30 p.m. on his way home from Dambulla and while walking back to his residence having alighted from the bus, he had been kidnapped by several persons believed to be a covert or underground force operating illegally for and on behalf of the several highly-placed officials, it stated.
It said the kidnappers had their faces covered with black masks and abducted him in a white van during the period in question, which was a publicly accepted and common method of abducting persons.
It stated that Eknaligoda was blindfolded and stuffed under a seat with the kidnappers firmly placing their feet on him, thus not allowing him to see or move.
It alleged that the kidnappers at length resorted to foul language and abandoned him in an unknown area, leaving him to wander around on his own. He had complained of the incident at the Homagama Police on 28 August 2009. It further stated that at the presidential election, Sarath Fonseka contested as the Common Opposition candidate and Eknaligoda had actively engaged himself with the propaganda and publicity of his election campaign.
Eknaligoda proceeded to the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara for the ceremony to invoke blessings for Fonseka but he had made a telephone call to his friend Gamini Perera on 24 January 2010 and informed him that he was not in a position to attend the ceremony since he was travelling to Koswatte with an unnamed friend, the petition stated. It was the last telephone call Eknaligoda made.