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Sri Lanka

Wife of missing Sri Lankan journalist gets death threats

Sandya Eknaligoda fears for her life as supporters of controversial monk accuse her of aiding Tamil separatists

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

Updated: June 27, 2018 05:10 AM GMT
Wife of missing Sri Lankan journalist gets death threats

A file image of Sandya Eknaligoda (center), wife of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, during a 2016 protest in Colombo calling for justice for Tamil journalist Dharmeratnam Sivaram, who was kidnapped and killed in 2005. (Photo by Quintus Colombage/ucanews.com)

Human rights crusader Sandya Eknaligoda claims she has been receiving death threats after a controversial Sri Lankan Buddhist monk was recently sentenced to six months' rigorous imprisonment for threatening her safety.

Eknaligoda said she is now facing harassment and intimidation on a daily basis through Facebook and other social media platforms.

"The death threats are never-ending," said Eknaligoda.

"I've submitted a complaint to the criminal investigation department [CID] seeking legal action in response to all this harassment and intimidation me and my children are having to deal with," she told ucanews.com.

Eknaligoda said she regularly gets hateful messages from strangers on Facebook.

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"They use filthy words. I know at least some of them are Buddhist monks," she said, adding she plans to lodge another complaint with the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) for computer-related crimes.

"Without knowing the real facts of the court case, some people are mentally tormenting me and my children," she added.

Eknaligoda has been fighting for years to learn the truth about what happened to her husband, the missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda.

Speculation is rife that he was abducted in January 2010 after receiving a mysterious phone call and then going to meet an as-yet unidentified person.

The long-burning battle to find justice for her husband brought Eknaligoda into conflict with the monk, Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera, who confronted her at a court in 2016 and accused her of supporting Tamil separatists and maligning war heroes.

The Homagama Magistrate Court sentenced the outspoken monk to six months behind bars on June 14.

This sparked a series of protests, marches and religious observances by other monks across the nation demanding he be released.

Eight days later on June 22 the court granted the monk bail pending his appeal, imposed a travel ban and ordered him to pay a 1-million-rupee (US$6,330) bond.

Ven. Gnanasara Thera, who serves as general secretary of the radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or "Buddhist Power Force," has been blamed for a rise in attacks against minority Muslims and Christians.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the death threats and intimidation tactics being directed at Eknaligoda.

"It's sad that her continuous struggle to know the whereabouts of her husband is not bringing in concrete results and lacks robust support from the authorities. The IFJ urges the Sri Lanka authorities to investigate the threats to her and ensure her safety," it said in a press release on June 26.

The Free Media Movement (FMM), a local watchdog, suggested she had become a symbol for something bigger.

"The FMM views the threats directed against Sandya Eknaligoda in the aftermath of the court verdict as a grave threat to media freedom. She has been on a quest to discover the whereabouts of her missing husband, continuously fighting for his rights. The FMM condemns such threats as a grave hindrance to media freedom in the country," said C. Dodawatta, a convener of the FMM.

"This can also disturb the process of seeking justice for the missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda," said Dodawatta.

"The FMM urges officials to take immediate action to stop the threats to [Sandya Eknaligoda's] safety and assist her in [her quest]," he added.

Eknaligoda, who was awarded the U.S. Secretary of State's International Women Courage Award in 2017, said many who have threatened her also accused her husband of being a spy for the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

The scars from a quarter-century civil war between the LTTE and the military still run deep through Sri Lanka despite the war having ended over a decade ago.

However Sandya said that even the military has in court cleared her husband of any involvement with the LTTE.

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