How fear set in overnight in Sri Lanka

It took years for Sandya Ekneligoda to get a real investigation into the disappearance of her husband, a political cartoonist in Sri Lanka. But when a new president was elected by a large majority last November and a key officer investigating the case transferred, she realised things would change.

The BBC’s Anbarasan Ethirajan reports from the other side of a political watershed.

Short presentational grey line

About an hour into our conversation at her home outside Colombo, Sandya Ekneligoda glanced outside.

“By this time the police would have been informed that you were here talking to me,” she said with a wry smile.

She thinks she is being watched, because she is a thorn in the side of Sri Lanka’s new political order. It’s certainly true that for a lot of people, the change of government meant things were about to change considerably.

A victory uncomfortable for some

Just weeks earlier, on 16 November 2019, Gotabaya Rajapaksa had won a comfortable victory in the presidential election.

The new president is a man well-known to Sri Lankans. He served as defence secretary in his brother Mahinda Rajapaska’s administration, overseeing the bloody end of the country’s civil war between the army and Tamil separatist rebels a decade ago.

It is a war tainted by allegations of human rights abuses on both sides, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Ms Ekneligoda’s husband was one of those who went missing.

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