He was the one who was in charge of the security of Vijaya Kumaratunga, who had been imprisoned during the J.R.Jayewardene regime due to allegations that he had links with the so-called Naxalite Groups
A jailer is held in high esteem in our society as a responsible Government officer in charge of prisoners. However, he or she has to depend on the pension entitled to him/her after retirement. This is a sad story of a jailer who had been deprived of the pension. At present he spends life amidst numerous hardships, even without a shelter.
We came across a retired jailer who was employed in the Prison Department for about 18 years. But now he has got used to eking out a livelihood by doing manual work given to him by somebody. In the absence of work he survives by eating something given by somebody in order to satisfy his hunger. Without help from anybody, he spends the nights at a bus stand or on a door-step of a business premises.
He was a former jailer and a resident of Marawila in Mahawewa. His name is Shelton Kurera, who is 70, and living the twilight years of his life.
However, he is compelled to live in this manner by doing manual work due to the fact that he was deprived of his pension. He told ‘Lankadeepa’ that he had to spend his life in this manner after the death of his father and his mother who had died in 2009.
When delving into the history of this jailer we found that he was the one who was in charge of the security of the popular actor- turned politician Vijaya Kumaratunga, who had been imprisoned during the J.R.Jayewardene regime due to allegations that he had links with the so-called Naxalite Groups.
Being well-versed in writing, he has started to write a book about ‘The life and times’ of Vijaya Kumaratunga, a piece of writing which will include the time spent by him in prison. With the help of a bulb fixed on an electric post and emitting light-the post is situated near a walking path close to the ‘wewa’ in Mahawewa town- he writes this book while resting on a bench close by. He writes until night fall, till its time to go and sleep.
On the condition that nothing should be asked about his two children, he began to pour out his life story. This is his story.
“ I joined the Department of Prisons as a prison guard in 1972. Later I was promoted to the post of jailer. I worked in several prisons and out-door prison camps. When I was employed at the Welikada Prison, I fell sick all of a sudden. Having reported sick, I obtained treatment. While I was being treated, my wife died due to an accident. I became jobless in 1986, as I forgot to forward my medical report in due time. Due to the reason that I helped Vijaya Kumaratunga, who had been imprisoned on the allegations regarding the Naxalite connections, I was interdicted at that time. However, I was reinstated in in the department following a period of interdiction which lasted for 12 days in the year 1983,” he recalled.
He added that his mother had died in 2009 and after that he had been left in the lurch. According to him, he had got used to living on the road, without any assistance from anybody and depended on handouts given by the people. He indulged in manual work as well for his survival. There were times when he took shelter at a bus stand. He has spent numerous days without food. For a period of about nine years he has spent his life this way.
He said that he had to face a strange experience one day. When he was sleeping on a door-step of a business stall in Marawila town, he had been taken to the police along with some others who were on the street. But, he had not been remanded because one policeman had identified him. He was not produced before the court due to this reason.
What he stressed while relating his life-story was that he was trying his best to obtain his pension. In spite of the fact that the relevant authorities having recommended for him to receive his pension, he has not received it. He would not have suffered this way, if he had received his pension, he says. He wishes to receive a pension. He said that if his pension can be arranged it would be a meritorious act. Kurera had worked as the Editor of the monthly magazine titled ‘Sannivedana’, a publication of the Department of Prisons at that time. He showed some of editions of this magazine to us.
In conclusion, he said that he was well-aware of the time that Vijaya had spent in prison because he was in charge of his security. According to him, he has high hopes of completing the book about the late actor in the future. He completes parts of this book when time permits.