- Back up For IGP’s Wife
- Only 30,000 Compensation
By Nirmala Kannangara - in Pelmadulla
Photos by Thusitha Kumara
Priyadarshana, a minor employee at Brandix Kahawatte and the father of a nine month old baby daughter was instantly killed on the afternoon of Sunday, February 27 at Sannasgama by the speeding back up Defender of Asha Balasuriya, who is the wife of Inspector General of Police Mahinda Balasuriya. She was returning from Kataragama after a Police Seva Vanitha ceremony when the accident occurred.
When The Sunday Leader visited the scene of the accident three days later, the ground was still stained with blood. The police, clearly at fault for the death of 27 year old Thippilage Chamitha Priyadarshana of Sannasgama, Lellupitiya in Pelmadulla is only paying a paltry sum of Rs.30,000 as compensation.
Asha Balasuriya’s convoy consisted of three Defenders. “It was the second vehicle that crashed into Samadhi Hotel, which was on the other side of the road, killing a motorcyclist instantly and bringing the eating house to the ground. The moment the Defender crashed we saw Asha Balasuriya’s vehicle stop for a moment and then speed away with the first Defender,” eyewitnesses told The Sunday Leader.
Meanwhile those in the third vehicle, which arrived on the scene soon after the accident, removed the weapons in the wrecked Defender and disappeared, they said. Neighbours freed the police driver and another officer in the front seat by sawing through the iron bars. “Three police officers sustained injuries and they too were taken to the Ratnapura hospital together with the dead body of Chamitha by the neighbours,” they claimed.
The vehicle which crashed was driven way too fast, they added. “It was like a plane, flying above the road. The IGP’s wife’s vehicle too was being driven very fast. Why? Was it due to security reasons? Why couldn’t the traffic police cop them for speeding? Why were so many back up vehicles given to the IGP’s wife? Does that mean her life too is in danger?” residents of the area queried.
Testifying to the speed of the vehicle was Asoka, who runs Samadhi Hotel. “I was at the counter when the jeep crashed. I could not believe my eyes. I was dumb founded for a second when I felt heavy objects pushing me aside. They were the wall and roof debris that fell closer to me. I immediately remembered that my husband was sleeping in the room and ran towards it with the greatest difficulty,” Asoka said. Fortunately, her husband had escaped certain death by jumping out of the window just before impact.
“I saw Chamitha fallen down on the ground. Although he was wearing a helmet his head was smashed. I did not see his eyes but two big holes instead. He was bleeding profoundly from his nose and mouth. Although I called him several times he remained silent. I knew that he was dead by then,” added Asoka.
The couple made a statement at the Kahawatte police, who promised to compensate them. However they had not visited since, Asoka claimed.
A Family Devastated
About one kilometre away from the accident, the road leading to Chamitha’s house was impassable and full of potholes. People approaching the funeral house had to descend a slope and cross a small stream before reaching the house.
Chamitha’s father, T. Piyasena was receiving people, but his mother, Leelawathi was still in denial about what had happened to her son.
“Why won’t they show my son to me? Has he gone to the grinder to bring rice flour to make ‘pittu’ for us? Although he promised me to make pittu for dinner it is afternoon now. Why didn’t he bring the rice flour yet? Will he get our knife sharpened from the iron smith to cut fruit to make the fruit salad he promised? ” asked Leelawathi.
Meanwhile Chamitha’s 23 year old wife Dinithi was sitting next to the sealed coffin of her husband. She was devastated by her loss.
“Where has my ‘deyyo’ (God) gone? He promised me to come back quickly but so far he did not. Even Sudu Nona (referring to her daughter) is waiting for her father,” said Dinithi tearfully.
She said she would resign from her job at Maliban Garments to look after her nine month old daughter, as she did not want to ask Chamith’s parents to look after her during the day.
“My husband was a gem of a person who did not hurt us. He provided the best for us. How could I live without such a wonderful husband? I too would have joined him if not for our daughter,” said Dinithi.
Meanwhile, T. Piyasena castigated the police for reducing his son’s worth to a mere Rs. 30,000.
“This is my only child and the breadwinner in our family. I cannot pass blame for the accident as this was not deliberately done. But my son had to perish because of a reckless police driver. Had this happened with a civilian the police would arrest him immediately. But we do not know what happened to this police driver. Although we were told that this driver is receiving treatments under police custody we are yet to know in which hospital he is taking treatment,” he said.
Piyasena who was a mason told The Sunday Leader that the police arrested a fellow villager for agitating against the police for this accident. Angry villagers had protested against the police, who had in turn used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Further, Piyasena said the police had forbidden villagers to pay their last respects to Chamitha, even using gunfire to intimidate them. He added that his family had taken no part in the protests, being busy with funeral arrangements.
The Police’ Response
The Sunday Leader visited the Kahawatte police to get more information on the accident but sadly they were not prepared to talk to the media. One police officer however categorically denied the involvement of Asha Balasuriya’s back up vehicles in the accident, claiming it was an STF vehicle.
However Police Media Spokesperson SP Preshantha Jayakody confirmed that it was indeed one of Asha Balasuriya’s back up vehicles that met with an accident after an event.
“This particular vehicle was taken from the police garage after some repairs. We are sure there would have been some technical faults that led to this unfortunate incident,” added SP Jayakody.
When asked as to what action the traffic police could take against back up vehicles that speed excessively, SP Jayakody said that when VVIP vehicles are speeding the backup vehicles too have to go at a similar speed.
“Following the Supreme Court order there are no provisions for the traffic police to cop vehicles for high speed unless we cop drivers for reckless driving,” he added. SP Jayakody said that Asha Balasuriya was given only one back up vehicle and Police Seva Vanitha Unit members travelled in the other two Defenders.
However, according to the eyewitnesses at Sannasgama, only male police officers had traveled in the back up vehicles, and no ladies as claimed by SP Jayakody.
IGP Mahinda Balasuriya was not available for comment. As to the issue of compensation, Jayakody said that the police was not duty bound to pay the bereaved family. ASP of Ratnapura D. Amarasinghe told The Sunday Leader at the funeral house that the police would pay compensation to the child of the deceased. Whether this statement will materialise into action remains doubtful.