In the line of duty... | Sunday Observer

In the line of duty...

The house at Mahawila Gardens, Dematagoda
The house at Mahawila Gardens, Dematagoda

By noon on April 21, the entire country was in a state of shock due to the unexpected attack of suicide bombers. While victims and their relatives were suffering from the pain at hospitals, a stunned country watched televisions waiting for the next ‘breaking news’. A team from the Colombo Crime Division was heading to Mahawila Gardens, Dematagoda. They had a shred of evidence collected from the Shangri La Hotel, Colombo that one of the attackers (Ilham Ibrahim) was resident in Dematagoda.

Finging the three-storeyed mansion in Mahawila Gardens, the policemen entered the house. A woman (who was later identified as Ilham’s wife) was ruffled on seeing them, rushed upstairs. The policemen had no option but to chase behind.

It all happened within minutes. Reporters who were outside the house heard two blasts inside. Ilham’s wife had blown herself up along with her three children and the three policemen who were inside.

Humble family man

A father of two, W.M. Rohana Bandara (IP) was one of the victims of the incident. The CCD had sent three cops to the house of the suspect, thinking that it would be an ordinary raid. They were not expecting bomb blasts. Rohana who was attached to the narcotics department of the CCD had been deployed to the mission as at the time information about the Dematagoda house was received, all other CCD officers had been sent to other crime scenes.

“I didn’t even know that bombs were exploding in Colombo till my mother who lives abroad called me to check if we were safe. I immediately dialled Sandun Aiya (Rohana’s pet name). However, he was getting ready to come back home after duty. When I rang him around 2 p.m. he didn’t answer the phone.

He normally picks up my calls, no matter how busy he is. Sometimes he would explain that he is busy. So I was worried,” said Rohana’s wife, Nelum Kumari.

She then tried contacting the CCD who said Rohana was injured and admitted to the Colombo National Hospital (NHSL). Nelum didn’t think twice, and boarded a taxi to meet Rohana. His brother also joined her. They went to the CCD as they were instructed by the Police and thereafter to the NHSL. By that time Nelum’s bother-in-law had been informed that Rohana was dead. However nobody had told her so, as it would give her a shock.

“The hospital spokesman said we cannot see patients. I later found that the Police had accompanied me to the hospital to show Sandun Aiya’s dead body. I received the news the following day,” Nelum said brokenly.

“Don’t cry, mother. Father is with the gods now. You have malli and me,” said her seven-year-old daughter. She has another 10 months old little boy to look after all alone now.

“Rohana was very kind-hearted. When he was at home and with friends, he never acted the police officer. He was down to earth.

When I had our second baby, I couldn’t do housework for months. He did everything with no complaint. He even cooked for me,” Nelum burst into tears.

“I don’t have anger towards anyone. I don’t want to add to the woes of Sandun Aiya by thinking such nonsense. I am sure he must have gone to some good place,” she said.

The golden archer

Bathiya Ratnayake Bandara had started life as a taxi driver soon after his A/Ls. He then decided to join the Sri Lanka Police as he wanted to be a more useful citizen. His parents at first opposed his wish.

“Driving a taxi will not give me a good life. I will join the Police,” he convinced his parents. He joined the Police in 2015 and was trained at the Training Institutes at Boralenda and Kalutara. His first appointment was at the CCD.

“He was very happy about the new job. All his peers and senior officers loved him.

He reciprocated. He had a humble pride in being a police officer,” Bathiya’s mother, Inoka Rathnayake said. Bathiya was the second of her three sons.

Other than official duties, he was keen on sports. He was an archer who had excelled in many competitions and won gold medals for his prowessin the game.

“Whenever he won a medal he would come home and put it on my neck,” said his father, Jayantha Mangala.

Batiya was very close to his parents. He called his parents who are residents of Daulugala, Kandy while he was on duty at CCD, often. On April 21, he called his mother and asked her to switch on the TV. “There are some explosions in Colombo. Watch TV,” he had told her.

When the situation worsened, he called her again. “Amma, please turn off the TV. You shouldn’t be seeing what’s happening,” he had said, as his mother had undergone heart surgery recently. And that was the last time he spoke to his parents.

“We are in tears. But amid all our sorrow we are proud of our son. He saved thousands of lives by sacrificing his life. That is what the villagers also say,” said Jayantha.

“We know that it was some extremists who did this. In our area, we live in peace with our Muslim friends. Bathiya also had many friends who are Muslims and they attended his funeral,” he said.

The STF hero

Lahiru Umesha Dulanja, a resident of Galkiriyagama was an STF soldier prior to joining the CCD in 2018.

He was injured in an operation during the final phase of the war in 2009. He then withdrew from the STF and joined a garment factory.

He rejoined the Police in 2017 as a police constable attached to the Kahatuduwa police station, from where he was later transferred to the CCD due to his capabilities.

“He was involved in criminal investigations and administration work,” said Ishara Dilrukshi, his wife.

Lahiru was also among the policemen who entered into Ibrahim brothers’ house in Dematagoda.

“He called me several times on that day, April 21. I begged him not to attend any mission, as his leg injury was not fully recovered.

But he asked me not to worry, as he thought that all explosions were over by 1pm. Later I saw the news about another blast in Dehiwela,” said Ishara.

She then tried several times to contact Lahiru but failed. However, she received information from CCD, that Lahiru had got injured during an operation and was admitted to hospital. A few minutes later she got the message that he was dead.

“Lahiru joined the STF when the war was at its peak. He had an immense love for the country. Today I see him as a hero.

The two other police officers who died in the incident are also heroes,” said Ishara who is now alone with an year-old daughter.

She added, “I beg this Government, to not allow things like this to happen in the future. Please save the lives of citizens. That’s my one and only request to the President and the Government.”

PiX – Internet and Chaminda Niroshan