Polon­naruwa pre-dawn hit-and-run crash: How the driver was tracked down

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Karu Ga­m­age

Bat­tling hard for 20 years with the kid­ney dis­ease L. M. J. M. Bud­dad­hasa, 59, left home with his younger brother L.M.J.M. Ja­yarathne, 44, on Septem­ber 8 for dial­y­sis treat­ment, a must for Bud­dad­hasa that has to be done once every three days at the Polon­nau­rwa hos­pi­tal due to the con­di­tion of his ill­ness.

Un­mar­ried, Bud­dadasa ear­lier lived at his an­ces­tral home but since he started go­ing to the hos­pi­tal for dial­y­sis a year ago, he has been liv­ing at Ja­yarathne’s house close to Kawudulla.

Ev­ery­thing went fine un­til the dawn of that fa­tal Septem­ber 9. Ja­yarathne left home on his mo­tor­cy­cle to bring his brother, Bud­dadasa back, since his dial­y­sis had ended around 1 am.

While they were re­turn­ing along the Hin­gu­rak­go­daPolon­naruwa road around 1.30 a.m., a speed­ing lux­ury jeep al­legedly driven by Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena's brother, Lal Sirisena, slammed into the mo­tor­cy­cle from the rear.

The vic­tims were taken by jeep and rushed to the Polon­naruwa hos­pi­tal, five kilo­me­tres away from the scene of the in­ci­dent, by friends and res­i­dents. Mr. Ja­yarathne, a fa­ther of two chil­dren aged 3 and 7, died while be­ing treated at the ICU around 3.15 am. Bud­dad­hasa, a bach­e­lor, died be­fore him. They were from a fam­ily of seven sib­lings.

These de­tails sur­faced dur­ing the in­quest held by coro­ner Chaminda Lak­mal. Among those who gave ev­i­dence was J. M. Karunaratne, brother of the two vic­tims. But there ap­pears to be no eye­wit­ness to the crash.

The vic­tims were mem­bers of the Janatha Vimuk­thi Per­a­muna. They ac­tively took part in party ac­tiv­i­ties and so­cial ser­vice. Mr. Ja­yarathne was to con­test the next pro­vin­cial coun­cil elec­tion on the JVP ticket, said T.B Sarath, the party's Polon­naruwa or­gan­iser, who was one of those peo­ple who co­or­di­nated a search to lo­cate the hit-and-run driver.

He said , neig­bours who had heard the sound of the ac­ci­dent, had rushed out. They had seen a jeep near an Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Depart­ment of­fice, about a half a kilo­me­tre away from the scene of the ac­ci­dent.

Af­ter stay­ing in­side the ve­hi­cle for a few min­utes, the driver had taken off, Mr. Sarath said, cit­ing CCTV ev­i­dence. In ad­di­tion, a few res­i­dents near the of­fice have seen the flee­ing ve­hi­cle with the help of the light beams of an­other ve­hi­cle. It was a white jeep, but they were not close enough to read the num­ber plate.

JVP mem­bers soon or­gan­ised them­selves into search par­ties to trace the white jeep. Af­ter 45 min­utes of search, they found a dam­aged ve­hi­cle fit­ting the de­scrip­tion parked near a rice mill owned by Dud­ley Sirisena. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Sarath the sus­pect was han­dling op­er­a­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in the rice mill.

They con­tacted the po­lice and in­sisted that they check the CCTV cam­eras f i xed at the Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Depart­ment of­fice.

In the mean­time, Ne­nasiri Prag­ng­narathna Sirisena, also known as Lal Sirisena, sur­ren­dered to the Po­lice, a whole six hours af­ter the ac­ci­dent. Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors found bro­ken pieces of some parts of the mo­tor­cy­cle on the jeep.

The JVP or­gan­iser said the two broth­ers prob­a­bly would have been still alive, if Mr. Sirisena had stopped his ve­hi­cle and taken them to the hos­pi­tal im­me­di­ately. He said there was no rea­son for Mr. Sirisena to fear an an­gry back­lash from the res­i­dents as most of them were his rel­a­tives.

No one had seen the crash in the pre-dawn hours, though many said they heard the sound of a speed­ing ve­hi­cle.

Pres­i­dent Sirisena who came for the fu­neral of the two broth­ers had promised he would not in­ter­vene in the in­ves­ti­ga­tions. The pres­i­dent has said he will take steps to pro­vide com­pen­sa­tion to the griev­ing fam­ily while his mill owner brother Dud­ley will also sup­port them.

Mr. Sarath said there was an of­fer from the Sirise­nas to spend for the fu­neral cost, but the vil­lagers in­sisted that the “Maranad­hara Samithiya” should do that. Polon­naruwa Ju­di­cial Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer A.D.V. Ban­dara who car­ried out the au­topsy said the deaths were due to mul­ti­ple in­juries while Coro­ner L. M. Chaminda Lak­mal gave the ver­dict that deaths were due to se­ri­ous mul­ti­ple in­juries.

Mr Sirisena was ini­tially re­manded un­til Monday and there­after un­til Thurs­day. He has been charged for reck­less driv­ing, caus­ing the death of two in an ac­ci­dent and fail­ure to re­port an ac­ci­dent.

Seven lawyers -- Ariyasena Gal­lage, Gamini Gu­naratne, Vi­jitha Ku­mara, Nilmini Priyad­har­shani, Shan­thi Per­era, Manel Ga­janayaka and Punya Pe­laketiya ap­peared for Mr Sirisena.

He was re­leased on bail with three per­sonal sureties of Rs 300,000 each and a cash bail of Rs 25,000. The case will be taken up on Oc­to­ber 11. Po­lice did not ob­ject to bail.

The court has also or­dered him to pay Rs 100,000 each as com­pen­sa­tion to the vic­tims' fam­i­lies.

All that re­mained of the mo­tor­bike

Lal Sirisena's ve­hi­cle

T.B Sarath

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