A plea for justice | Sunday Observer

A plea for justice

Crime scene, Upananda Primary school, Manawila, Galle .  Pix: Dushmantha Mayadunne
Crime scene, Upananda Primary school, Manawila, Galle . Pix: Dushmantha Mayadunne

Andanna Epa Amma (Do not cry mother) little Hesandu said while trying to wipe his mother’s tears.

Ne maye puthe, puthage Amma andanne ne (No, my son. Your mother does not cry) Ayesha tried to hide her tears and console the five year old lad. Then she immediately hugged Hesandu who was on her lap and kissed his head without trying to hide her love for the kid. It was indeed an emotional moment.

A week ago, the media reported the death of Udaya Pradeep Kumara (40) an ex-Navy soldier, who tried to enter a school forcibly and was shot dead by an Army soldier in Pinnaduwa, Galle. Nevertheless, Pradeep’s spouse Ayesha, and her family had a story somewhat different to what some media reported.

The bad day

Ayesha Dimuthi (38), her younger son, the parents of her deceased husband, her brother-in-law and her own mother were all gathered in the tiny living room. As there were no chairs for everyone, two of them had to stand and contribute to the conversation.

“On July 4, Pradeep dropped our elder son, Ayesh at school first as usual and then took our daughter, younger son and me on his bike. After dropping the two children, he dropped me at the garment factory where I started working very recently. Then he had come back home” Ayesha said.

However, their daughter’s class teacher had called Pradeep around 9.30 am as she had not been well. Pradeep had gone and picked her up. “As her condition was not good, he had gone again to channel a doctor and at the same time to pick up our younger son from school” Ayesha added. Pradeep had entered the school premises around 12 noon. He had met the soldier who was on duty at the main gate of the school. Reportedly, there had been an argument between them and Pradeep had tried to go inside and meet the Vice Principal to complain about the soldier.

According to the statement of seven year old Minudi, Pradeep’s daughter, the soldier had fired at Pradeep in that instance.

A family man

Ayesha who was attached to the Navy dancing troupe first met Pradeep who was in the Navy band first at an event where both of them had performed. They tied the knot in 2003 with the blessings of their families

“We had a very good time together. He loved me and our three children more than anything in world. He always enjoyed being around our children” Ayesha recalled.

After his early retirement from the Navy in 2011, Pradeep started his own band named ‘KT Band’. He provided music for weddings and other functions. However, he did not have much work as most of the events got cancelled after the Easter Sunday attack. The police found his wallet along with his body and it had only a 20 rupee note..

Traumatised children

“Minudi is in shock after seeing what happened to her father right in front of her”, Ayesha’s mother, Karunawathi said.

According to Karunawathi now Minudi wakes up suddenly at night. One night she had seen Pradeep in a dream and he had said “good night duwa (daughter)”. Minudi had cried when she woke up as she knows her father will never come back and say those words to her in real life.

Meanwhile, little Hesandu is upset and worried as he did not get a chance to say good bye to his father. Appachchi apiwa daala yanna kalin eyata umma ekak denna mata beri una (I could not give father a kiss before he left us) he had told Ayesha a few days ago.

Ayesh (15), the elder son of Pradeep is also in shock and still cannot believe what happened to his father.

“ The following morning after we buried our son, Ayesh refused to drink his bed tea in his own mug. Instead he wanted to drink tea in his father’s mug. Later, we found him near his father’s tomb, sobbing with the mug in his hand” so saying Karunawathi burst into tears.

“I never considered him as my son in law. I have two girls and I considered Pradeep as my own son. He also considered me as a mother and treated me in the best way he could. Even the day before he died he told me that he will channel a new doctor for me after the 16th once he gets some money” she said.

Need for compassion

“Pradeep always respected military personnel. He knew all the hardships soldiers of the tri forces went through during the war. Therefore, he will never ever interfere with a soldier’s duty , I am sure” Ayesha said.

Meanwhile, Pradeep’s father K.T. Padmasiri, complained about the behaviour of the defence forces after the incident.

“Those media personnel distorted the facts. My son had not tried to grab the firearm. Our grand daughter saw everything. Her statement says what really happened. We are ashamed about the behaviour of the Army” Padmasiri said.

He added, nobody from the army came to pay their respects to Pradeep. They should have compassion in their hearts to come and meet us, as the fault lies with one of their soldiers. If things like this happen, we will soon lose our respect for the Army”.

Currently, there are two separate investigations by Police and the Military Police. The suspect soldier was arrested and is now held at an army camp in Boossa, Galle. Ayesha and her family knows that nothing will bring back Pradeep. Justice is their only hope now.