CID and AG in two minds over Ekneligoda case– Sagala Ratnayake

By Gagani Weerakoon

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Attorney General’s Department are debating whether the journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda disappearance case should proceed as a murder or abduction, Minister of Law and Order Sagala Ratnayake said yesterday (4).

Intervening during a discussion on violence against journalists in Sri Lanka, at a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-sponsored conference in Colombo, Ratnayake said, the Attorney General wants to bring in a case of abduction, but the CID prefers to proceed as a case of murder.

“There is a debate going on at the moment in this regard,” the Minister said.

“There were instances when the evidence was destroyed. Some investigations had to be started many years after the incidents.

But, the Police were able to make significant progress in some of the critical cases,” the Minister said.

Ratnayake went on to say that cases such as the Ekneligoda’s “have underscored the need for new laws and regulations.Measures were underway to change the legal framework allowing the law enforcement authorities to indict a criminal with murder, in the absence of the dead body of the victim. Such provisions will pave way for important developments as far as the investigations are concerned,” he added.

He also said, the Government has asked the authorities to give priority to cases where journalists were targeted.

Ekneligoda was a cartoonist and political analyst who backed former Army Commander, then General Sarath Fonseka, in the 2010 presidential election against former President and incumbent MP Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was allegedly abducted on 24 January of that year, two days before the poll and has not been seen since.

Ratnayake was giving an update on a number of cases in which journalists were either, killed, abducted or assaulted during the Presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He also said, the Government is considering bringing in a new law to allow witnesses to testify in-camera, on-line.

Ratnayake added that this was being considered as part of the efforts to take the case against the men accused with abducting and assaulting former Deputy Editor of The Nation newspaper, Keith Noyahr in 2008, forward.

The Minister said that Noyahr was “not willing to come (to Sri Lanka) to give evidence, so we want to see whether we can have him testify from overseas.” Since the assault Noyahr has been living in Australia.

With regard to the killing of former Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickremetunge, the Minister said that progress had been made in the investigation. “We are now trying to identify six telephone numbers,” he said.

Wickremetunge, who was about to testify against the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in an alleged corruption case, was assaulted with a sharp weapon as he drove to work in January 2009. He sustained serious head injuries and subsequently died in hospital.

Ratnayake said that one person had since been arrested in this case.

Addressing the same event, the Executive Editor of the Uthayan newspaper Devanayagam Premananda said he needs to know about follow-up action on attacks against his newspaper.

He said the Jaffna-based newspaper and its staff members had been attacked 37 times under the previous administration.

At this point, Minister Ratnayake obtained a dossier of the details of the alleged attacks and sent it to the Police through Law and Order Ministry Secretary Jagath Wijeweera and informed authorities to brief him on the progress of the investigations.


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