By Lakna Paranamanna
Highly excited at the thought of getting his Sunday school outfit sewn, eight year old Sudhil had continuously nagged his parents since Monday, asking them to take him to town as soon as possible so that he could give his measurements to the tailor. He had been overjoyed when the parents agreed to take him on Wednesday.
On Wednesday at about 10 a.m. Sudhil and his parents had got ready to go to Beruwala town. Sudhil had hastily got in the trishaw and perched himself on the back seat with his mother and on the way while watching his father drive the trishaw, he had occasionally popped a question or two about his new outfit. Upon collecting some groceries and other necessities, Sudhil and his parents had been heading back to the tailor so that he could have his long anticipated wish granted.
Those were the last moments of Sudhil’s life. Today he is no longer among us – this little boy’s life was crushed within a matter of seconds and the price he paid with his life was for a crime which he knew nothing of. Who’s to be blamed? Although the question itself is rhetorical, what’s left to say is that as destiny would have it, little Sudhil was brought to the wrong place at the wrong time.
Tears of a father
“I was driving from Beruwala town towards Ambalangoda when I was suddenly startled by the loud noise of repeated shooting. We were right in front of the Beruwala supermarket then,” Sudhil’s father Nihal Gunaratne said. He took a lot of strain to hold back his tears as he let out heavy sighs each time he opened his mouth to speak. “I quickly looked back and saw several policemen standing on the side of the road with guns. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to do.” Unable to think of an escape, Nihal had slowly driven to the nearby fuel station located right in front of the Beruwala Urban Council and stopped the trishaw there.
Sudhil and his family were caught between a cross fire between the police and a group of alleged cattle thieves. Even as Nihal turned back to tell his wife and son to lie low, little Sudhil had started screaming and hugging his mother. “Amma, I am scared!!” little Sudhil had wailed. “I felt helpless when I heard my son screaming like that. Our attempts to console him were in vain because the noise of shooting agitated him,” said Nihal as he heaved another heavy sigh. Just then, a car had fled in lightning speed and that was when the shooting had increased.
“Everything was like a blur but I faintly heard my wife screaming saying that Sudhil was unconscious. I jumped out and tried to get my son out of the trishaw, but he wouldn’t move – his body felt lifeless in my hands. Then I placed my hands between his back and the chest and lifted him up but I felt something was wrong because his legs weren’t moving either. When I placed him back on the seat and took my hand away, my hand was full of blood,” Nihal said as he broke into tears. It was a truly heartbreaking sight to see this father as he covered his face with both hands, sobbing like a child and called out his lost son’s name.
Immediately several other people had rushed to the scene and admitted both Sudhil and Nihal to the hospital. Nihal sustained an injury to his head but little Sudhil did not make it. He left the world without a word crushing the hearts of his family and friends.
Would investigations bring my son back to life?
Sudhil is the only son and the youngest in the family. His mother, Shirmila Sudeshani and sisters – Dhanushi and Ravishi were crying hysterically. Shirmila was only half conscious. “It’s not my son! Someone please bring my son to me, I know someone is hiding him somewhere…” the mother’s wailing echoed out into the road.
There were pictures of Sudhil strewn on a cabinet with a pile of pictures Sudhil had painted several days ago. “My son loved to paint and draw. It is the first thing he would do as soon as he came home after school,” said Nihal as he clutched one of the paintings. Sudhil had told his father that he would one day become a pilot and take his father around the world.
Nihal silently listened to the cries of his family for sometime, holding back his sobs and would then burst into tears once more. “We took him with us because we felt it would be safer than leaving him home. We would have never taken you if we knew this would happen!” he screamed. “The Police told us that they would take measures to hold an impartial investigation into the matter. But would that give life to my child?” questioned Nihal.
“My only request to the Police and other responsible authorities is to ensure the safety of the public before anything else. My innocent son had to suffer as a result of the negligence of the Police. Nothing they do now would be able to bring me back what I have lost. I beg every responsible authority; please don’t let this type of incidents repeat…” Nihal said as his face clouded over with a look of dismay and helplessness.
Principal and class teacher speak
Sudhil attended the Beruwala Massala primary school and had been a favourite of all the teachers as well as his fellow students. “Sudhil was such an innocent and adorable child. He was quite outgoing and would very willingly participate in every activity which the school organized. Everybody was extremely fond of him,” Beruwala Massala primary school Principal Mrs. A.S.K. Wijethilake said.
Sudhil’s class (2B) was empty that day because all his friends had gone to his house to bid him the last goodbye. His little blue desk on which he would mostly be seen seated upon was empty today. “He would always sit in the middle of his two best friends. Even though sometimes I would make them sit separately, few minutes later they would be seated together again. They were extremely close,” said Sudhil’s class teachers H. Sandakanthi.
Ms. Sandakanthi says that Sudhil had a vivid imagination. “He was very keen on painting and drawing. He also had a born talent for improvisations. He was quite famous among his friends for his improvisation acts,” she said. “He was a child who constantly felt the need to be loved and he was also very sensitive about his other friends as well. Sometimes when I am a bit stern to a student, he would slowly approach me a few minutes later and tell me that I should explain it to him/her lovingly…Losing a child is an excruciating pain and that scar always remains. Sudhil’s death is a terrible loss…”
The Police speak
The main suspect of the incident, who was wanted by the Maharagama police in connection with a cattle robbery, had resided in Aluthgama. The Police, posing as civilians had arranged with the suspect for a time and place to meet him. However, the suspect realizing they were police personnel he had fled in a car although they were followed by the police in a van.
Police Spokesman SP Prishantha Jayakody said that nine suspects have been arrested in connection to the incident to which includes five policemen and four civilians. The five policemen – to which includes an IP, two Sergeants and two constables were produced before the Kalutara Additional Magistrate on Thursday and were remanded till September 30. The car which the suspects used was recovered at the Kalutara hospital premises on Thursday evening.
Additionally, the Nugegoda Division SSP Deshabandu Tennakoon and ASP D.S Senapathi in charge of the Mirihana police area were transferred to the Police Field Force Headquarters with immediate effect until the investigations into the death of a Sudhil is completed. The suspected robbers are yet to be taken into custody.