On November 12 tragedy struck at Moratuwa when a much loved and respected man who had rescued and given first aid to hundreds of accident victims was killed in an accident on the Galle road.
Lalith (Lal) de Silva (61)—the Assistant District Commissioner of Colombo West of the St John Ambulance Brigade with his wife Swarnamali when there was an accident with an oncoming motorist who had been speeding in a BMW sports car. Unfortunately there was no one to give first aid to Lalith and he died en route to the Panadura Hospital. His wife Swarnamali was seriously injured and remains in a critical condition at the Accident Ward of the National Hospital. Family members said on Tuesday she was conscious, but they had not told her that her husband Lalith was dead because they feared she might not be able to take it up.
Lalith was also the former District Scout Commissioner of Moratuwa and Piliyandala and the Vice President of the Ceylon National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis (CNAPT). Prior to his active involvement in social justice work, Lalith was involved with small enterprises including sales and Management at Uswatte Confectioneries. He also had a career in marketing. After being educated at St. Sebastian’s College Moratuwa until his Ordinary Level he had joined the St. Aloysius Seminary to be a priest but he left later on. He is the father of four children.
We spoke to Lalith’s brother Srilath de Silva and he recounted with fond but now sad memories, his brother’s passion for social service. “He did not miss an activity related to first aid or nursing. He underwent a course in nursing in Australia and very rarely do we find a trained male nurse. He also conducted many classes for Government institutions such as the Police and rendered first aid services to school events. He is a very dedicated first aider who volunteered his services. Whenever there was a sports meet he would bring his team. We knew that he would be there for sure even without us saying anything. Till 10.30 our mother was inquiring whether he had arrived, but it was only after they had searched at the police station that they got to know about the accident. His eldest son was organising his wedding in Australia for January but he is down now with his entire family. Another son of his graduated just last week. He loved his children and grandchildren. Since yesterday a massive crowd of around thirty or forty thousand people have been coming. That shows his dedication to service. We hope the police will do their part and we expect justice.” Tragically even on that fatal night, Lalith and his wife had gone to Panadura to dress the wounds of his mother-in-law who had undergone an operation recently.
Mr. Tuan Farook Jayah form the St. John’s Ambualance Brigade attested to Mr. de Silva’s record of social service from entering the Brigade in 1975. “He was a well trained trainer and a hard working officer who was a monumental help especially in the aftermath of the tsunami that hit in 2004.” As per the commemorative letter issued by Chief Commander Dr. Sarath Samarage, Mr. De SIlva was awarded with several service medals for his services during the tsunami relief efforts. The letter goes on to state, “ As much as he was a first aid officer he was a skilled trainer in first aid who conducted lectures in Sinhala and English and brought great glory to St. John’s Ambulance Service.”
We also spoke to Chief Inspector Abeysekara of the Headquarters office in Moratuwa. He said the suspect driver had been charged under Article 298 of the Penal Code for causing death by negligence. He had been speeding. The Acting Magistrate had released him on bail. The Daily Mirror also spoke to well-known criminal lawyer Saliya Pieris who said that a suspect who was produced in court by police under article 298 could obtain bail.