By Nirmala Kannangara.
Speculation is rife whether disappeared Lanka e-news journalist, Prageeth Eknaligoda was murdered at the Plantain’s Point army camp in Trincomalee and was buried there before the body was dumped at seas off Trincomalee. It is alleged that it was the Civil Defence Force personnel, who had buried Eknaligoda’s body, which is said to have come out of the pit due to flash floods and was later dumped at deep seas.
More details into Eknaligoda’s murder are now coming to light alleging that the journalist was murdered on the instructions of the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
Meanwhile, following the Homagama Acting Magistrate’s order on November 10 to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the two Army Lieutenant Colonels and the army sergeant – the alleged main suspects in the disappearance of Eknaligoda, were further remanded. With the latest developments into the investigations, more vital information is expected to come to the fore in the days to come.
Further details about how Eknaligoda was taken from one army camp to another after he was abducted on January 24, 2010 – two days before the 2010 presidential election, has come to light to confirm that Eknaligoda was murdered and thrown to the deep seas off Trincomalee on the directives of a senior official of the country’s defence establishment during the former regime.
Following the arrest of the former LTTE cadre, Sudha, who was taken into custody for the killing of former UNP parliamentarian Nadaraja Raviraj, the CID arrested 11 suspects for Ekneligoda abduction on evidence revealed during Sudha’s interrogation.
It was on Sudha’s information that two former LTTE cadres were arrested, who later revealed who was behind Eknaligoda’s disappearance. It is also said that these two, Sumathipala Suresh Kumar and Sathya Master, were attached to the LTTE intelligence unit and it was on their information, Sergeant Major Ranbanda, who was attached to the army intelligence unit, was arrested in Kurunegala. This was followed with the arrest of two Colonels attached to the army intelligence unit and seven others were taken into custody.
The two LTTE intelligence carders were attached to the Karuna faction and it was they who had allegedly abducted Eknaligoda from Rajagiriya on January 24, 2010 and had dropped him off at the Giritale camp and it is later alleged that Eknaligoda was forcibly drowned in the seas off Trincomalee.
Amongst the arrested are Lieutenant Colonel Kumararatne, who was in charge of the Giritale army camp, Lieutenant Colonel Siriwardena, Staff Sergeant Rajapakse and Corporal Jayalath.
According to Sergeant Major Ranbanda, who was attached to the Giritale Camp at the time, Eknaligoda was brought for interrogation and after a rigorous interrogation by Major Jagath Wijesuriya, Eknaligoda had been taken away and he (Ranbanda) had not seen the journalist thereafter. He has further confessed as to how a Colonel attached to the same army camp was aware of Eknaligoda’s fate.
Major Jagath Wijesuriya, who was in charge of the Girithale camp, where Eknaligoda was brought and questioned, was later promoted to the rank of Major General by the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, although there were allegations leveled against him (Wijesuriya) for theft of cattle. This promotion is said to have been given because on the friendship the then Defence Secretary had with Wijesuriya.
However, according to latest information received, Lieutenant Colonel Shammi Kumararatna is also accused of the operation to abduct Ekneligoda where the latter was taken to his personal agricultural farm in Sigiriya and later to the army intelligence headquarters at Giritale in the Polonnaruwa district. It is alleged that Eknaligoda was rigorously interrogated by Lt. Col. Ratnayake and his staff for several days before his fate was decided.
After the arrest of the suspects – the army personnel on the advice of the Attorney General – the Homagama Magistrate on September 28th had granted permission to the CID to take the suspects to the Giritale camp between October 3 and 13 for further investigations.
According to reliable information, Eknaligoda was detained at Giritale for one week and had later been taken to the Sorivila army camp at Manampitiya in the Dimbulagala police division. Sorivila is a Tamil village and is yet to be cleared for landmines. Further reports state that Eknaligoda is alleged to have been transferred to the Plaintain’s Point army camp in Trincomalee where Eknaligoda is believed to have breathed his last.
Meanwhile, it is reported that the CID who went to the Giritale army camp together with the suspects had recorded statements from army personnel at the camp and had gone through all documents to obtain more details into when Eknaligoda was brought to the camp and by whom.
“The CID officials who conduct the investigation is said to have obtained the relevant details that show who had visited the Giritale camp at the time Eknaligoda was brought in. Details into the camp attendance registry and those who were on leave and the vehicle registration numbers that had entered the camp during the days the abduction had taken place too have been obtained.
Any army vehicle that leaves the camp to go a distance of more than 20km has to receive permission and these details too is said to have obtained by the CID to see as to where Eknaligoda had been taken from Giritale. These officials also had obtained mobile phone details of certain intelligence officers in the army to find out as to whom they have contacted and from whom they received calls. Those who have worked in the camp at that time had also been questioned to obtain more details,” CID sources claimed.
It has also been revealed how Eknaligoda was taken to the Soriwila transit camp in Manampitiya which was under the control of Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman and Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pilleyan.
It is believed that Eknaligoda, who was a critic of the Rajapaksa regime, was abducted and murdered for compiling ‘The Family Tree’ – a book on Rajapaksa and his family members involved in politics and holding high posts in the government. He had also produced a 40-minute documentary portraying the then presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka on ‘secrets of winning the war’.
After Eknaligoda’s abduction, Sandya Eknaligoda – wife of Prageeth Eknaligoda had gone to the Homagama police to lodge a complaint which the police had refused to record. Later she had lodged complaints at Welikada and Thalangama police stations.
Earlier, Eknaligoda was kidnapped and had been questioned by an unknown gang.
Meanwhile, CID sources further said that it is now conducting an investigation to obtain an audio tape – a conversation the LTTE intelligence cadres who worked hand-in-glove with the army intelligence unit had with Eknaligoda at his farm in Dambulla to obtain more information into the abduction.
“This audio tape had been handed over to the then Director, Army Intelligence Unit, and the CID is now in the process of obtaining it for further investigations,” sources claimed.
According to sources, Ranbanda was in-charge of administrative work at the Giritale camp when Eknaligoda was brought there. Giving evidence, Ranbanda has stated that Eknaligoda had been seen at the Girithale camp after his disappearance. According to Ranbanda, the journalist Eknaligoda had been seen last with a Colonel attached to the Army Intelligence Unit who is aware of Eknaligoda’s fate.
Meanwhile, the connection of the military in the murder of former MP N. Raviraja has now surfaced as the weapon used for the parliamentarian’s killing had been given to the killer by one of the Colonels arrested for Eknaligoda’s disappearance as well.
According to information received, it was this particular Colonel, now in CID custody, who had given the weapon to Pillayan – the former Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, who in turn had given it to Raviraj’s assassin.