Letter form journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who was abducted on 24th January 2010 in Colombo Sri Lanka
This personal letter written by Prageeth Eknaligoda to a non relative daughter living in abroad provides window to his perceptions on political - military terror that has engulfed Sri Lankan Society. Written two months after he was abducted for the first time and later being dropped in a quarry in August 2009,. this is a personal narrative of his life after the abduction. The context of this narrative is the popular pro war sentiments in Sinhala society in the aftermath of war victory against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which made people like Prageeth a traitor. He was abducted for the second time and so far all efforts to trace him has failed .This is an English translation of his original Sinhala letter.
03 November 2009
My daughter Ruwandi,
I read your email you sent me. Please excuse this late reply. Today you are not the small cute baby whom I cajoled in my lap. Now you are a grown-up person who understands things. My heart is full of joy for that. I didn’t have time to write you back in peace because I became isolated among thousands of human beings. I had again to adopt to tedious safe life patterns whether I liked it or not. I had to leave my job which made me loose my income. Even my closest ones didn’t have any other option than leaving me alone. This is not a personal fault of anyone. It is a logical reality. In these times no one can support anyone else. Furthermore, no one dares to help someone like me who has become a target of the sacred military regime. But if there were not two, three persons who were courageous enough to help me, my situation would have become unthinkable. The terror can even change the way a person thinks and acts.
What we have in this country today is a terror aimed at individuals. This is not like the generalized terror on society which we faced in 1988/89. It is a terror that is not visible because everyone tries to take care of oneself but does not pay attention to others. Like in those days no one helps the ones who became targets. The dependents become helpless. Although there is no open discussion among people fear is lurking in everyone’s mind. Instead of facing the fear in an organized way in this country people are living making fear a virtue. In this way, cowardness is masqueraded as tactical intellect or cleverness. They say that one is facing danger because of his foolishness. If not this, they look for some errors which he has made or they look for justifications for the suppression he is facing. Accordingly I am now confirmed as a fool or wrongdoer or sinner even among my closest ones. I am not going to make efforts to change this belief or argue to justify my stand.
I look at them with compassion. I am not going to use the terror as a reason to change or degrade the politics I believed as just and right and in which I was engaged in accordingly. I cannot act against my conscience. The government has a power stretched towards New Delhi, Beijing, Islamabad and Tel Aviv. I know they have a torture-army trained in methods of placing the body on nailed beds, picking up body parts and liquidating them in acid basins to destroy the opponents. And I know that puritan, common society is ready to provide billions of rupees to carry out those crimes. I know that killing me, being a patient and physically week to the lowest level, is easier than killing an ant. But just because of that I cannot support building a cruel autocratic state. I cannot support killing thousands including infants and old, humiliating them, imprisoning them, and grabbing their property and land. I cannot be a wise man who pretends not to see these actions. I cannot support dividing a country which should be united. That is against the morals I adhere to. Disgrace and death brings more happiness than supporting such a policy.
I have become a wrongdoer although I have not done any wrong against anyone. I do not blame anyone for this. I do not have anger against the soldiers who tortured me while abducting and taking me away to assassinate me. Why? Because they just did a job assigned to them. If they are not in that job they, too, would have been innocent persons like me and could have fallen victim to this cruel reality. And I know that the power of this cruel reality does not rest on those armed men or on President Mahinda Rajapakse.
Actually, as it came out from the President’s mouth he is only the trustee of the following: The power rests on the popular society which holds this sinful ideology. Mr. Rajapakse cannot do anything other than to say ‘black’ to things this society calls ‘black’ and ‘white’ to things this society calls ‘white’. I have understood that this is a historical reality like the social illness described by Albert Camus in his novel The Plague. So I am not shocked. Daughter, I don’t have a party and I am not part of any organization, therefore, there is no organization to work on behalf of me. Even the people whom I represent don’t know that I am suffering because I work on behalf of them. I do not expect them to know about me. As I detached myself from kit and kin early in my life, there are no social connections, too. Under these circumstances, the only path open for someone like me, who does not have any value or respect in this society and therefore, who receives no help from anyone, is to walk alone the destined path. I select that option by my own will.
Daughter, isolation and humiliation of a person in danger is the same physical assassination but in a different form. In other words, it is part and parcel of the assassination. The characteristics of this other type of physical assassination is that the one being assassinated can watch how it is being carried out. This brutal pressure is exerted from the unknown gunman alias physical assassin who is in front and the known gunman alias soul assassin who is behind. This is completely different from the 1988/89 terror. I am experiencing this new kind of terror now. I am not the first person who is facing this situation but I would like to be the last one. I believe that this situation will not last long. Sometimes I may not see the future peaceful time following this fearful situation. But I am confident that the future will be better. The most important thing is to sacrifice the present for that future.
What I am writing here now is part of my conclusions I have reached after studying what happened to comrade Sunanda Deshapriya. Daughter, the society we are living in is indebted to him. But my belief is that no one took this into consideration to help him. I don’t know where he is living today and there is no way to find this out. At least, I was not able to render any help to him. But I think that for him, as well as for the whole society and for children like you to whom the future belongs, someone should make a detailed description of the cruel reality that everyone has become a victim of. I do not have the education to do that. I am not the right person. Because of that, even in these difficult and uncertain circumstances, what I am trying to do is to write down the present reality for the future in the hope that someone else will complete this in the time to come. My wish is that I will have enough time to do just that.
Daughter, please do not keep this note after reading it and say hello to Bertie Uncle.