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