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Recognising Sri Lanka’s selfless heroes

31 October 2019 12:02 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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“One day in May, 1990, I was walking along the pavement when I noticed some old ‘Readers Digest’ magazines for sale. I bought two of them, one Rupee each. In that year’s March edition there was an article titled ‘Don’t let My Father Die’ which was published as a real life story. The story was about a nine-year-old girl who saved her father in a display of daring bravery. I was inspired by reading this article and I wrote to Readers’ Digest requesting more information.”  Founder and President of the Civilian Bravery Foundation Kasun Chandraratne shared this story in a recent interview with the Dailymirror as the inspiration behind the Civilian Bravery Foundation, 
a national organization, 
 
which recognizes Sri Lanka’s selfless heroes.   
 
He recalled that on July 24, 1990, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission in United States had sent him their latest annual report, a descriptive folder, a photo of their Carnegie medal and some sample certificates of their foundation. “I had received all these information through Carnegie Hero Fund Commission and that information led me to draft and implement such an organization in our country,” he said.   
 
Mr. Chandraratne noted that he had studied several enactments of the association and drafted a document with the title ‘President’s Trust for Civilian Bravery.’ “I continued to struggle to obtain government’s sponsorship; but I failed to obtain even an audience. After a three year struggle, I formed this trust with my own resources in 1993.”   
 
felicitating bravery 
 
While sharing the intriguing history of the foundation, Mr. Chandraratne noted that the foundation has come into the Sri Lankan platform on January 13, 1993 as a trust and it is presently incorporated by Act of Parliament No.4 of 2009. “We started with several names such as ‘Mahajana Veerathwaya,’ ‘Podujana Veerathwaya’ but those names did not capture the essence of civilian bravery. We then decided to name the awards as ‘Virujana,’ he said.   
 
Mr. Chandraratne recalled of an incident in 1993, in the Kalutara district which was a starting point for the organisation. “As the maiden activity, the foundation recognized a ferryman of the Ukwatta ferry in Kalutara who died in his attempt to save six passengers, when his ferry collapsed in the middle of the river,” he said.   
 
According to Mr. Chandraratne, today most of the foundation’s members had joined the organization with someone’s reference. The foundation is dedicated to recognizing those unsung heroes. “The Foundation for Civilian Bravery is devoted to recognising and rewarding civilians who save lives of others, risking their own lives and encourage safety. Such acts of saving another can be described as civilian bravery,” he said.   
 
He believes that heroes risk their own lives to save another without any obligation. The appreciation of those sheer acts of bravery should be considered as a vital duty of any civilized society, especially in the context of the present day social environment. 
 
Following are some inspiring and heartwarming stories of the persons who were felicitated for their outstanding acts of bravery at the 25th edition of the Civilian Bravery Awards.  
 
I.D. Hasindu Madushan –‘Budal -Na’ Gold Medal for Civilian Bravery 
 
 In February 2018, Hasindu Madushan, a resident of Karandeniya who one day was returning home from work, heard a strange voice of a woman screaming. He clearly heard the voice of a woman screaming, “that woman has put her child into the well.” Without a moment’s hesitation he walked towards the area where he heard the voices from. 
 
There was a crowd gathered near the well and Hasindu saw an infant in the well who was between the grip of life and death. Hasindu decided to rescue the child. As there was no support, he wedged himself inside the well with his legs and back and climbed down to save the child.   
 
Although the government donated a plot of land to him in appreciation of this heroic act, the infant who was undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit of the hospital for about 16 days, died. After the incident Hasindu Madushan refused to accept the donation granted by the government, saying that his sacrifice was meaningless. He was however rewarded for his bravery in climbing down a deep well and attempting to save the life of a child.   
 
Hasindu decided to rescue the child. As there was no support, he wedged himself inside the well with his legs and back and climbed down to save the child.   
 
Namanadan Ramaraj – Silver Medal of Civilian Bravery 
 
   Namanadan Ramaraj is a resident of Sirimalwatte East, Gunnaapana. On January 8, 2018 at around 7 in the morning a fire broke out in four-storeyed building located at Yatinuwara road in Kandy and the building was owned by Ramaraj. The sudden fire broke out when Ramaraj was preparing his youngest son for his first day of pre-school.   
 
Ramaraj who acted sensibly was able to save his entire family from a horrific tragedy. He had received the assistance of the people who gathered at the site after witnessing the fire. He had tried to use the stairs but it was engulfed in flames. After the failure of an initial attempt, he had opened the window and explained his plan to the crowd gathered on the road. He flung a bedspread down to them so that the crowd could catch his children.   
 
There was dramatic mobile phone footage captured at the moment which shows Ramaraj throwing his children into the arms of the crowd who gathered below.   
 
When Ramaraj’s wife tried to come down by herself, she slipped and when she was just a moment away from a horrific fall, Ramaraj was able to catch her and prevent the fall, before she too jumped and the crowd was able to catch her. He had saved his family from a tragic incident and they had received treatment at the Kandy General Hospital.
 
Ramaraj’s courageous act was recognized at the Civilian Bravery Awards 2019.   
 
When Ramaraj’s wife tried to come down by herself, she slipped and when she was just a moment away from a horrific fall, Ramaraj was able to catch her and prevent the fall, before she too jumped and the crowd was able to catch her. 
He had saved his family from a tragic incident and they had received treatment at the Kandy General Hospital.
 
M.G. Nihal Chandana – Silver Medal of Civilian Bravery 
 
   

M.G. Nihal Chandana is a resident of Dambadeniya, Maha Oya. On April 17, 2018 while he was reporting to work at the Army Base in Kavantissapura, he had witnessed a three-wheeler colliding with the bus he was travelling in. He saved the lives of four people who were travelling in the threewheeler at that moment and took them for treatment.   
 
During the incident Mr. Chandana was on a Colombo-Kataragama bus and was seated right at the front of the bus with a good view of the road. When the bus was heading to Hambantota, towards the Mirijjawala junction, a three-wheeler collided with the bus and was thrown into the air and spun before it landed with smoke spewing, indicating that it would explode at 
any moment.   
 
It was at this moment, Mr. Chandana helped the four victims of the accident and he had taken them to the hospital on time. The Civilian Bravery Foundation has appreciated his work considering his brave attempt to handle an emergency situation on time.   
 
These are the few stories highlighted at the 2019 foundation’s award ceremony. Mr. Chandraratne also highlighted that the foundation has another special category to recognize school students and another special category to appreciate a brave person from Asian countries. 
 
When the bus was heading to Hambantota, towards the Mirijjawala junction, a three-wheeler collided with the bus and was thrown into the air and spun before it landed with smoke spewing, indicating that it would explode at any moment. It was at this moment, Mr. Chandana 
helped the four victims of the accident and he had taken them to the hospital on time
.
 
26th National Civilian Bravery Awards 2020 
 
The Civilian Bravery Foundation is currently accepting applications from citizens of the country who wish to nominate candidates for the Foundation’s 2020 awards ceremony. The 26th edition of the award ceremony would see a panel of judges who would select the awardees on the basis of interviews and documentation which support the requirements of the awards. Mr. Chandraratne further said that the foundation has introduced Civilian Bravery (Community Harmony) Award and Civilian Bravery Biophilic Award as new categories for the 26th edition.   
  • Award categories and criteria 
  • National Civilian Bravery Award – Sri Lankan citizens who courageously volunteered to save another life by any natural or human made hazard, can apply for this award category. The criteria for selection will centre on the risk to the rescuer, the threat to the victim, and the degree, if any, of the rescuer’s obligation act. The awards consist of the Budal-Na Gold award and the Silver Medals for Civilian Bravery.   
  • Civilian Bravery (Community Harmony) Award – This award will recognise a person who supports to maintain peace by promoting social unity and harmony. Those who risk their own lives and act wisely to preserve ethnic harmony will be awarded through this category.   
  • Civilian Bravery Biophilic Award- The award is presented to a person who voluntary exhibits extraordinary dedication and action to preserve and promote the natural environment, including bio-resources and bio-systems.  
  • Student Civilian Bravery Social Activity Award - A Gold Silver Swan Award is reserved for a student or a group of students for courageously and with great dedication, performing duties to achieve the objectives of social service organisations as acknowledged by the school system.  

 


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