Hero policeman was penniless at father’s funeral | Sunday Observer

Hero policeman was penniless at father’s funeral

2 October, 2022
Buddhika Kumara Pic by Thalawa Group Cor.
Buddhika Kumara Pic by Thalawa Group Cor.

Lasantha Gunawardena is a known businessman in the developing town of Thambuttegama. Gunawardena is the heir of his father’s business ‘Gunawardena Stores’ and in recent times he had also expanded his business by setting up a wholesale store in the city’s economic centre. He was in the habit of conducting his business transactions through one particular private bank in the Thambuttegama Town.

The day was September 26. The time around 2.00 p.m. Gunawardene steps out of his business located in the Diyalagama Junction bearing two black bags full of currency notes. He places them in the backseat of his vehicle before setting out to the bank.

Security guard

He arrives at the bank just four minutes later when a security guard from the bank approaches the vehicle to assist Gunawardene to carry the bags laden with money inside. Gunawardene, as he had done many times before, unlocks the doors of his vehicle to allow the security guard to open the door and retrieve the bags of cash. As the security guard picks up the bags, a motorcycle bearing no number plate stops near the vehicle.

The pillion rider, wearing gloves and a helmet covering his face speedily approaches the driving seat of Gunawardene’s vehicle bearing a 12 bore gun.

Aiming the gun at the businessman he demands the bags full of cash be handed over. But Gunawardene who was already alighting out of the vehicle, rushes past the man into the bank while the security guard leaves the bags behind and runs after Gunawardene into the bank as well.

While the man with the firearms provides cover and protection, his assistant grabs the bags and runs towards the motorcycle they arrived in. He sets the bags on the seat. However, unexpectedly several notes from the bag had already spilled out of it and fallen on the ground beside the bike. While he begins picking up the fallen cash, Buddhika Kumara, a Police officer of the Miscellaneous Offences Inquiry Branch of the Thambuttegama Police goes past him on his bike. A woman seeing him runs up to the officer screaming that the bank has just been robbed.

Buddhika slows down and suddenly gets off the motorcycle. What next took place was not far off from scenes seen in Indian action films. Buddhika slows down and he jumps off the bike as it topples to a side. The man gathering the money had already seen Buddhika approaching and had got on to the bike to wait for his assistant. It is then that Buddika comes face to face with the second man bearing the firearm. He pointed it at Buddika’s chest and pulled the trigger. But the gun fails to fire.

Brave policeman

Taking this opportunity, the duo then sets off as Buddhika gives chase before he clings on to the back of the motorcycle carrying the suspects. He grabs onto both men, and all three of them fall off the bike onto the main road. The brave policeman then gets on top of the suspects and holds on to them tight, not allowing them to get away in any shape or fashion.

Already a team of Police officers from the Thambuttegama Police had begun to make way to the scene after receiving a call from the bank. But by this time Buddika had already saved the money and arrested the two suspects. Gunawardene later revealed to the Police that the bags had consisted of Rs. 22.3 million in cash.

On the directive by the North Western Province Senior DIG Kithsiri Kayalath and Anuradhapura Division SSP Jayantha Pushpakumara, Thambuttegama HQI CI N.J Athukorale instructed a team to question the suspects.

It is revealed that one suspect is a security guard of the bank and had only recently started working there.

The man identified as Ajantha, a father of two was a resident of Kalundegama and had previously served in the Sri Lanka Army.

The other suspect, bearing a firearm, was identified as 50 year-old Susil Kumara alias ‘Jowa’ as a resident of Brahmanagama. A known sand and soil businessman, he was also known for robberies and a range of other crimes. The plan for this particular robbery had been hatched at his home.

Attempted robbery

The Police was able to uncover another suspect connected to the robbery when they went in search of the motorcycle used in the attempted robbery and its owner. It was revealed the motorbike had been given to the duo by Suranga Mahesh Suriyarachchi, a Rajanganaya Pradeshiya Sabha member of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. He was arrested by the Police on the same night of the incident.

Police believe that Suriyarachchi was the mastermind behind the robbery plan and it had been hatched during an alcohol-filled function. It was decided the robbery would be carried out in a get rich scheme hatched by the trio.

Their aim was to rob a businessman bringing in money to the bank. The task of identifying a suitable victim was handed over to Ajantha who was working as a security guard at the bank. He in turn chose the owner of Gunawardene stores as he was aware the businessman would often bring in a large sum of money every first working day after a weekend. The Pradeshiya Sabha member provided the duo with a motorcycle.

‘Jowa’ takes the motorcycle and changes its number plates at his home. He then adds some stickers to the tank and rims hoping to mislead the Police who might go in search of the bike. The group had also planned to abandon the bike half way and thereafter switch to a Wagon R car owned by ‘Jowa’. This car had already been parked half way. Even though they successfully robbed money within 30 seconds, the attempt in the end failed because Police Sergeant Buddhika Kumara, who arrived on scene despite the risk of his life, was able to catch the robbers and recover the money in the next 30 seconds.


Police Sergeant Buddhika Kumara

Buddhika Kumara served in the Thambuttegama Police Miscellaneous Offences Inquiry Branch. He chanced upon the robbery on the way back from the fuel station where he had gone to pump fuel for his personal motorcycle. He then sprung into action without thinking twice about the possible threat to his own life.

This is his version of the day’s events.

“I did not think of my safety at the time. I was more concerned about the safety of the others. I was not able to just wait as a Police officer when I saw the robbery taking place” he said.

Though one robber pulled the trigger, the firearm failed to discharge, saving Buddika’s life.

An honest Police officer, he along with his wife and two children continue to live in a run down home as a result of this.

His past is one fraught with struggles and difficulties. Born on May 1, 1978 in Eppawala, his parents were farmers. Buddika was the third in a family of five brothers and one sister.

“My father is D.A Piyasena. My mother is W.J Podi Hamine. My father wanted to see me becoming a Policeman. We faced many hardships. I decided to become a Policeman to make my father’s dream come true,” he said.

According to Buddika his father passed away on September 21, 1998. “When he passed away I was penniless. There was no space to even hold his funeral in our thatched roof house. I was so helpless. I did not know who to ask for even Rs. 1000 so that I can go home for the funeral. It was then that my team in our Police platoon collected Rs. 45 000 and handed it to me. I managed to complete my father’s final rites using that funds. From that day I immensely love and respect this uniform” he said.

From July 31, 2021, Buddika has been serving in Thambuttegama. Now following his heroic effort in preventing the robbery, IGP C.D Wickremeratne has said Buddika will be promoted to the rank of Sub-Inspector. In addition to this, he is to receive Rs. 2.5 million as a cash reward.

Meanwhile, it has also been decided that his half built home in Eppawala will be built through the sponsorship and support of the Sri Lanka Police.