The ill-fated mishap which drove young Sasanka Jagath Alwis, a vibrant student of Royal College to a permanent vegetative state with lasting brain injuries is perhaps a mere memory dating back to two years in many a mind. Sasanka who was a grade nine student drowned in the school swimming pool two years ago while engaging in school activities and the repercussions that followed ever since have not taken a favourable turn of events, given that his health is deteriorating to a much worse situation with every passing hour. While Sasanka’s family claim that the school should be held responsible for the child’s unfortunate condition, the Principal of Royal College Upali Gunasekara said that the school had done everything within their capacity to assist the child since the moment he drowned in the school swimming pool.
Sasanka (16) is receiving treatment at the Rheumatology and Rehabilitation Hospital in Ragama with his mother constantly tending to him. However the hospital has considered discharging him thrice and sources say that Sasanka will be discharged this month since the slightest improvement in health was not evident in him. As the house Sasanka’s family currently lives in is likely to be demolished and is not in a suitable condition to take care of a brain dead child, Sasanka and his family are placed in jeopardy with no one to offer them a word of comfort or provide them with a steady means of assistance. Their house will be soon demolished to expand the Marine Drive, leaving both Sasanka and his family destitute and helpless with no proper accommodation and financial assistance to take care of the child.
A case was filed by Attorney-at- Law Vishwa de Livera Tennekoon on the 27th of February 2015 to seek justice for the loss encountered by Sasanka Jagath Alwis and his family. As a last resort, the victim’s family was compelled to institute action in Court as the prescription period of 2 years since the incident took place was coming to an end on the 2nd of March 2015; the same date Sasanka met his unfortunate mishap two years ago. The lawyer pointed out that according to law, any action for damages must be filed within 2 years of such incident taking place. Sasanka’s mother hoped that by instituting such a case in Court, the school authorities would realize the plight of Sasanka and his family and consider arranging some kind of relief by means of compensation for the negligence on the part of the school authorities
“My child’s health is gradually weakening but I still have hope”
– Geetha Chandhani (Mother of Sasanka)
With a paralyzed child to take care of and a young daughter who just sat for her A/L Examinations, Sasanka’s mother Geetha Chandhani is a widow and a mother of two who is battling a living nightmare. She said that nursing Sasanka has taken the toll out of her and that she does not have much time left in hand to focus on any kind of employment but occasionally does odd jobs for a living.
“Ever since he drowned in the school swimming pool, my child’s health condition has been deteriorating to the worse and now he is in a vegetative state. None of the school staff came to see in what condition my child was when he was hospitalized and to date it has remained the same. However the school gave us a donation of Rs. 100,000 in two instalments at the time the incident took place.
The child does not have a place to reside in and our family will soon be forced to vacate the house in which we currently live. Our house will be broken down to make way for an expansion along the Marine Drive. Until recently, my son was receiving treatment at the Rheumatology and Rehabilitation Hospital in Ragama and was wholly dependent on the food and supplement provided by the hospital free of charge, but the hospital has informed me that they will discharge my son at the end of this month. I do not have anyone to financially support me since I am unemployed although I sometimes do odd jobs for a living.
"None of the school staff came to see in what condition my child was when he was hospitalized and to date it has remained the same"
A few parents of students from Royal College were kind enough to help us but it will not provide a permanent solution to the long term expenses I will have to incur to cure my son. Though his health is gradually weakening, I still have hope that he would recover to some length. However the real challenge comes with the expenses to cure him which I cannot afford as a single and unemployed mother. A case was filed in Court demanding for a compensation amounting to 260 million rupees from the school for their negligence that robbed my child of his strength, youth and health. However to date none has showed up from the school except their lawyers when the case was taken up for inquiry.” Mrs. Chandhani said.
In the event any generous donor wishes to make contributions or to extend assistance to Sasanka and his family by any kind means, Mrs. Chandhani can be directly contacted through 07 13 81 11 72 or met at No. 240/21, Galle Road, Colombo 03.
“The school should be held responsible for the student’s safety within its premises and Sasanka was a victim of their negligence”
- Attorney-at- Law Vishwa de Livera Tennekoon
“Two years have elapsed since the unfortunate incident took place and nothing has been said or done in favour of the victim and his family. How can the school wash off its hand of what took place when they are responsible for the child’s safety within the school premises? We have institutionalized action against them in Court and we were forced to do so as the school failed to respond to any of our letters. The child has been pushed from a worse to worst situation and the school has maintained a mindless stance on this. Up to date we have not been summoned by the school for any discourse on the subject.
The Royal College Principal and State authorities filed the answer to the plaint dated 27.02.2015 on 09.10.2015 and have denied any responsibility for this child and are looking to battle it out in Court. They are tipped to showcase a collection of the finest lawyers this country has to offer in their defence whilst the lawyers appearing on behalf of the victim and his family are appearing pro-bono and with limited resources. It is sure to become a case of David and Goliath. It would be interesting to see how the school authorities would defend themselves in saying that they are not responsible for this child, in a court of law. We will fight till justice is served to this innocent child who was an active member of the student body of Royal College until the ill-fated incident that occurred in the Royal College Pool on the 2nd of March 2013,” Mr. Tennekoon added.
“The Royal College Doctors’ Association had done everything within their capacity to rescue the child”
- Principal of Royal College, Upali Gunasekara
Speaking to Daily Mirror, the Principal of Royal College Upali Gunasekara maintained that the Royal College Doctors’ Association had immediately given all possible medical attention to the child from the time he was drowned in the school swimming pool. However he did say that a compensation amounting to Rs. 260 million has not been given to the aggrieved party and that a Court case is currently on-going with regard to this subject. Currently, Royal College is attempting to negotiate with the Ministry of Housing and Samurdhi to obtain a house for Sasanka and his family considering their helpless situation.
“Royal College has done everything within its capacity to assist the child and the mother ever since the student encountered the unfortunate incident. The Royal College Doctors’ Association did everything to the best of their ability and had strived hard to rescue the child when Sasanka drowned in the pool.
"The school is trying to negotiate with the Ministry of Housing and Samurdhi to get a house for the victim and his family since they are faced with an accommodation problem"
However we have not paid any kind of compensation amounting to 260 million rupees as the student’s family demand from the school. Currently a Court case is ongoing with regard to this matter. In the meantime the school is trying to negotiate with the Ministry of Housing and Samurdhi to get a house for the victim and his family since they are faced with an accommodation problem” Mr. Gunasekara said.