Sunday, February 14, 2010

Arrested journalist's daughter kisses his posters on every wall

By Jayashika Padmasiri - In the run-up to the presidential election two journalists are no more in their homes. The editor of the Lanka newspaper -Chandana Sirimalwatte was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department while another journalist working for Lankaenews, Prageeth Ekneligoda was abducted. Though weeks have passed since these incidents took place, nothing about the abducted or the abductors has been revealed, nor the detained editor released. LAKBIMAnEWS spoke to the wives of these two journalists.

Hemali Sirimalwatte is a 37-year-old mother of a four-year-old girl attending kindergarten. She said that it was 14 days since her husband was arrested by the CID.

“My husband was always a person who stood by what was right. He taught our daughter to stand by what is right. That was his only wish for her,” she said.

“His profession is not easy. It’s not the profession to be in today. We are feeling the absence of my husband deeply. It’s been a shock for both my daughter and I -- and we can’t get over him not being with us. We can’t bear it any longer.”

The loss of a husband can affect a family in different ways. Economy-wise how is this affecting your family, i asked? “A lot of people are helping us to get through these hard times. Most of the media organizations are with us and some political parties are also helping us. I do not mind the economic hardships we are faced with. It is only the separation from my husband that is unbearable. ”

Commenting on visiting hours Hemali said, “We only get to see him once a week on the 4th floor. They are keeping him there in a manner similar to detaining a criminal. Don’t we, his family, have a right to go and see him?” When questioned whether she takes their little child with her when she goes to see her husband she said “no” with fair reasoning. “I am scared to take her with me. She might start crying and refuse to leave, because she hates to be separated from her father.”

When asked how this situation was affecting their child, she said, “She is very worried. First I told her that her father is abroad, but when posters were put up and after television channels started covering Chandana’s arrest, though she is still small she understood what had happened and started to question me. She keeps asking me why those ‘uncles’ are keeping him away and what would happen to her if they do not send him home. I haven’t got any answers.It is very difficult for her. She kisses one of his shirts and worships it before going to school. And on the road when she comes across posters of her father and Prageeth Ekneligoda pasted on the walls, she goes close to them and kisses those walls while touching the posters saying, apachi gihin ennum . If we are going by his office, she would put her hand out and wave repeating these same words.”

She said that this was the first time that she was separated from her husband for a long period. Commenting on the recent statement made by the media minister that there are no major issues in the media industry except for the disappearance of a journalist and the interrogating of another, Hemali said, “Those may be very small issues for them, but for us it is our lives, and we have to live with this daily. If my husband has done anything wrong, then they should punish him without keeping him without proper evidence. However, now all I can do is to hide back my tears and wait while trying to be strong for my family and doing everything possible for the welfare of my husband. One must not forget that this is the same fate of many women today.’’

The wife of Prageeth Ekneligoda, Sandya Ekneligoda, harbours the same sentiments. Her family is also going through a tough time. “My brother and sister and a few friends are supporting our family because we don’t have any other income. I used to work as an insurance agent, but now I have stopped because I have to be there for my family. What will happen is that we will eventually become indebted.”

Questioned about the steps the government has taken to find her husband she said that the authorities have said that the final investigation report would be out soon. “My aim is to find my husband. I am getting the help of some media organizations backed by the JVP etc. I have met the Mahanayaka Theras to urge them to find some way to look for my husband. I will continue searching for him till I get to see him again.”

She said that they have two sons who are both schooling. “The little one is in grade eight while the other is doing his O/L’s. The small boy resists going to school because of everything that has been happening.”

Something very unusual about Prageeth Ekneligoda’s abduction happens to be the fact that he has been kidnapped earlier as well (last year) and released the same day after a few hours. When asked whether he informed family members of death threats she answered, “Yes, he told me that he felt as if he was being followed by someone whenever he left the house ... and that our home telephone was also tapped.”

Sandya also claimed that her husband is diabetic and needs to be given insulin treatment twice a day. “I am worried that he is not provided with his medication. It’s now more than 20 days since his abduction,” she concluded.

© Lakbima News

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