Another life lost to reckless driving : Common man yearns for justice | Sunday Observer

Another life lost to reckless driving : Common man yearns for justice

President Maithripala Sirisena recently instructed the Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara to submit a weekly report to him on VIP vehicles breaking road rules. The Police, therefore, will be required to stop convoys of VIP vehicles from January 1 to identify those using them. Speaking at a function to promote road safety last week, the President noted that the public is disappointed to see VIP vehicles driving without any regard for road rules. President Sirisena also pointed out that as there is no war now, and the country is at peace, no one needs to travel in such a manner, while also emphasizing that the responsibility of building a disciplined society is entrusted with the government.

This new move by the government could not be more timely. Despite the war ending several years ago VIP vehicles as well as those with links to VIPs can be commonly seen travelling in a haphazard manner without any hindrance by the Police, while public perception is that the law is not equally applied to all citizens. Several days after the President’s statement, it is interesting to note that the vehicle of Chief Minister of the North Central Province Peshala Jayarathna was involved in a fatal crash that claimed the life of one man. This incident is only one of many where VIP vehicles have been involved in such fatal crashes. But, what is exasperating is, Police inaction towards individuals with VIP connections, who travel in a similar manner as VIPs.

In a recent incident, the life of a man was lost with many being negatively affected as a result.

On November 12, Chrishantha Aleximus de Silva, 62, a resident of Katubedda, Moratuwa along with his wife embarked on a fateful journey that would end in tragedy at the hands of a reckless driver. As evidenced by CCTV footage, a speeding luxury BMW car driven by a 28-year-old heading from Colombo to Panadura would plough into them as their motorcycle attempted to enter Galle Road from a by-road in the vicinity of Kurusa Handiya, Moratuwa. While the accident left De Silva´s wife Saumyamali seriously injured, De Silva, a father of two, and a grandfather, lost the battle to survive at the Panadura Base Hospital, just under one and a half hours subsequent to the fatal accident.

Alleged reckless driving

According to Police investigations, the accident was a result of excessive speeding and reckless driving on the part of the driver of the BMW, a resident of Thalpitiya, Panadura. Due to the speed the vehicle was uncontrollable, resulting in the sudden collision, hurling the motorcycle 33 metres from the point of impact while throwing De Silva 14 metres and his wife another 7 metres further. According to the Police a driver should steer the vehicle in a manner he could bring it to a stop in a sudden incident. As a result of his alleged reckless driving, not only has Saumayamali lost her husband, up to date she lies in a bed with serious head injuries and in severe shock unable to comprehend the fate that has befallen her and the family. Though several weeks have elapsed since the incident, due to her being in a state of shock the Police are yet unable to elicit a witness account from her for investigation.

It was a long weekend and we had planned a lot for it. Around 8 p.m. that fateful day my father had left to my uncle’s home to attend to my grandmother’s needs. Lakmal, the youngest son of Chrishantha de Silva said.

Lakmal was out with friends that night when he started receiving calls from his uncle and other concerned parties saying that his father and mother had not returned.

“Initially I was not worried as it was a few minutes delay. My father usually doesn’t get late. If there is anything of the sort he would call and keep me informed of his whereabouts,” Lakmal said.

Lakmal called everyone he could think of who would know where his father would be, and failing all recourse, he called the Police.

Police had not given any information out to him. “When I first called it was closer to 9 p.m.The accident had taken place around 8.30 p.m.. If Police had informed me earlier, I could have gone there to clarify. Instead, the police took over two hours to inform me about the accident,” he said.

A son’s quest for justice

Lakmal who was in Ratmalana with his friends had rushed to the Moratuwa Police station to make sure that it was not his parents who had met with the accident. The Police had revealed to his friends initially that his father had succumbed to his injuries and that his mother rushed to the ICU.

The cause of death was pronounced as head injuries and internal bleeding, according to the Judicial Medical Officer’s report.

Lakmal and his friends who arrived at the Moratuwa Police station could see the person who had run over his parents seated in the police station but not taken into custody. It was after Lakmal and his friends protested that he was taken to a cell.

“The next morning I had to go to the mortuary to attend to the needful to release the body of my father. It was at this point that I got to know that the person who had run over my dad has been released on bail,” Lakmal said with bitterness.

He questions the system which allows the murderer of his father to go back scot free. Although there is a court case pending, is this a bailable offence?

“Why is this individual treated differently from others?” questions Lakmal feeling devastated and worried that his father’s untimely death would not get justice…

Reckless driving

The driver is said to be the son of a prominent businessman and hotel operator in the area, connected to certain politicians.

The Police say, while Silva was found to be not intoxicated, under the Motor Traffic Act, he has been charged with reckless driving, and for not taking precautions to prevent an accident. He has also been charged under the Penal Code for committing a careless act causing injuries to another, as well as causing grievous hurt.

Even though officials continue to emphasize on road safety and speak of strict enforcement of traffic laws, this incident goes to show that even today, certain individuals and VIPs are exempted from the law that applies to the common man. During discussions regarding the increase of traffic fines a main request made by certain unions was that if fines are so increased, the Police should apply the law to all road users equally.

One can only hope that strict action will be taken on all offenders of road rules so that future crashes and loss of precious lives could be avoided.