18 June, 2021


A Man Who Went In Search For Food For His Family Beaten & Killed

By Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

An incident reported from Waligama, Matara demonstrates the kind of very saddening situations which has been experienced by people in terms of the spread of Covid-19.

A young girl in a family was detected of having been infected with the virus and was taken to hospital for treatment. The rest of the family was asked to quarantine themselves by staying in their own house.

They stayed for three to four days using all that they had in terms of food and other necessities and finally that came to an end and they needed some supplies. As there was the fear of Covid-19, nobody came to their help. Even nobody came from the health department or any other government service to inquire about them or to help them in anyway.

Finally the father, (49 years old man) decided to come to the town and to get some food and other items. The lockout has been imposed in the area but he had no alternative but to go and try to get some basic items. As he was walking, he came across two policemen who were on their motorbike. Some questions were asked probably about why he was breaking the rules and walking on the street. The man would have tried to explain but it turned out into an exchange of words between the two policemen and the man.

Near the two policeman was a person who is working for the police as a cook and a cleaner and doing odd jobs like that. The two policemen asked their helper to assault this man who was having an argument with them. At first, the helper hit the man not so hard twice. The two policemen insisted for him to hit hard. He did so and the man fell on the street. The two policeman who were watching thereafter went away in their motorcycles. All these has been caught in CCTV cameras.

As he was fallen, a bus was passing and it went over the man and the man died as a result.

Then the question came about the fact that there is a Covid patient in the family and there was the refusal to hand over the body to the family on that account. Family has to even to seek the help of the courts to get a order that the body should not be burnt and that it should be allowed to be buried after a postmortem. The postmortem was held and naturally because of the Covid situation, no family member was allowed in the vicinity.

Now it is said that even the man also had Covid and only very few close relatives are allowed even to attend the funeral.

This story is not told with the view to place blame on anyone. But to illustrate the tragic situations people can face under the present circumstances in Sri Lanka. Probably, the two policemen were also on the street not very willingly. Almost everybody is taking precautions by staying at home and protecting themselves, which is what they should do. However, the police officers are asked to work even without leave and they are supposed to be running around all over the place attending to so many things and trying to deal with all kinds of complications arising out of the Covid situation.

Perhaps, if the policemen were aware of the pathetic situation under which this man has come from home and was trying to get some food, they may not have dealt with him in the way they in fact did. This is not said in any way by way of excuse about the behavior of the police but may be to indicate the kinds of problems that many people who had to do various duties relating to the Covid-19 were faced with. While that is there on one hand, there is also the problems of people who runs out of food and other basic items and who definitely need help.

Managing a situation of epidemic or which is widely spreading is of course no easy task. However, it is the duty of the government and the various layers of people who are attending to and coordinating the work of the government under these circumstances to develop various means by which the extreme situations could be avoided. There are many countries which has managed to do this and whereby extremely tragic incidents like this have been avoided.

This surely is not the only incident of this type that may be happening. However, this should give some food for thought to everybody to ensure that state of concern and care prevail to protect and to help people who are living through extremely abnormal conditions.

Now let us look at the different characters involved…

What could the two policemen say as arguments to defend what they did and what they did not do? Why did they not have a short moment to talk to this man who would have told them a story that would have moved them and that would have made them want even to do some act in order to assist him? Why were they not able to understand something as simple as the situation of a man who was going in search of food for himself and his family?

What would they say in defense of asking a helper in their police station to assault this man? If the man had done something really wrong, and if they reacted in anger, that is one thing. But to get someone else who was there and order him to assault is completely another. It is even worse when the helper did not want to hurt the man too much, the police insisting that to hit this man harder.

Perhaps the police did not want to hit him themselves because there were cctv cameras around and they would have known it. If that is the case, it does not make things better but much worse.

Why didn’t the helper refuse to do or evade doing what he was asked to do? He could not have helped noticing that the man was in a helpless condition and yet that did not make any difference to him.

Once the man was fallen on the road, why did the two policemen leave the place without in any way trying even at least to get him out of the main road where he was likely to face an accident?

Why did the driver of the vehicle run over on the body of this man? He was already fallen on the road and any vehicle coming that way would have seen that. He could have stopped the vehicle or tried in other ways to avoid the accident. Instead, the driver ran over the body.

Even after that, there was no attempt to stop and help the man or take him to a hospital. This driver has not being arrested even as of yet.

There would also have been at least some passers by. What were their reactions?

A man was left to die.

Since after the death, there was no attempt at all to help the family to deal with the dead man in a decent way. When the family somehow got to know and arrived, they found that there were plans to burn the body. They had to seek the help of a lawyer to get the order from a court, disallowing the cremation of the body and also to have a postmortem.

Even through all these orders, even after the death, there was no attempt by any of the authorities to be helpful to the family who has suffered the tragedy.

Are these all some kinds of accidents or is there something much more deeper going on? Does the matter of a family going hungry is no longer a matter of any significance? A matter of getting someone by the police assault another, is that also something that no longer matters? Is the running of a vehicle over the body of a man and causing his death, is that also another occurrence like many others that are taking place on the roads? Same type of questions could be asked about what happened after the death.

The more important issue is not that. What is most significant is as to whether asking these questions any longer any relevance. Are these questions belonging to a different time and bygone period? Asking questions about tragedies seems a futile exercise in itself.

This is not just about one thing. But this seems to be the overriding situation about everything. A government writes a bill as they did in the case of the Colombo Port City Commission bill. It is taken to the Supreme Court and Supreme Court finds that it is substantially against the constitution. Just within two days some amendments are automatically included and the bill is passed. Is there any point in asking whether that is the way the laws should be passed? Is that the way to deal with the problem relating to laws that contravene with the constitution? Is that the way to conduct a debate in the parliament ? The answer would be what is the point in asking any of these questions.

We have reached a stage at which no arguments are needed to justify or to contradict anything. Power is exercised because exercise of power itself is the justification for the use of the power. No other justifications are necessary.

We no longer live in a situation where laws are violated but we are in a situation where the word ‘violations’ themselves does not have any significance. In fact the word ‘law’ itself has no significance.

Although this particular incident and other incidents that are happening everyday demonstrates this fact, no one any longer takes notice of it. Absence of law and a sense of law enforcement is a matter of no significance. Filing of charges on serious crimes is also not a matter of much significance. All this could happen and not happen, by an act of power. Not by an act of logic or an act of law.

The parliament itself seems to be a place where arguments no longer matter. Shouting at each other is the game. And the game is shown in the television. If it was done by way of a drama, people would consider it as a comedy. That a scene in the parliament and a scene in a comedy is not very different seems also to be a matter of no significance.

It is not possible to suggest a solution to the problem faced by this man who went out in order to by some food for his hungry family. Whatever may be done at the moment if there is some pressure would at the end nullified by a total indifference to all these things.

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Latest comments

  • 51

    I am so sorry to hear this story.
    The heartless Rajapaksas have left people to suffer to the fullest.
    I pointed this out even last year.
    Nowhere in the world a government handles the pandemic situation so inhumanely.
    No transport. No money to buy food. No jobs. Not allowed to leave homes for weeks. How could people survive? Especially children and elders?
    Every time a person dies, they say he/she had Covid.
    If families were asked to quarantine at home, they should either be given time to buy groceries and other essential items or deliver them at the expense of the government.
    The Rajapaksas treat their dogs at home better than the way they treat citizens.

    • 29

      The military and the Police are not responsible for the plight faced by common people. Their job is to provide humanitarian assistance and implement the law where necessary. They have no access to funds. If they had, they could have done a better job. I saw the Police providing meals to beggars and animals on the road.
      There is a COVID-19 Fund amounting to over Rs. 1 billion directly under the President. Unless he hasn’t transferred it to his personal account or used it for personal purposes, I don’t see any reason for his unwillingness to utilize this money for the benefit of common man.

      • 21

        Unless he has transferred it to his personal account or used it for personal purposes, I don’t see any reason for his unwillingness to utilize this money for the benefit of common man.

  • 30

    This is really an heart breaking news. It’s sad to see how the security forces of GoSL are operating—> Heartless & brainless. They need to understand the reasons WHY they are flouting the rules and find ways and means to solve his/her’s problems.
    I am always of the opinion that GoSL Defence needs to educate their members on how to be Civil/Humane/understanding and NOT to be brutal/brainless and heartless. They should NOT basically act like a THUG. It is very hard to expect this when our rulers AREN’T.

  • 25

    PLACE BLAME! Absolutely no excuses.

    Hold everyone and everything that is responsible for this act to the fullest extent of the law. The police men, the thug who works for the police, the bus driver who had fully functioning headlights on his bus, and above all the government that has dropped the ball in such criminally negligent way. Hold the community, the culture of violence, and the inhumanity to which we as a society have again again turned a blind eye.

    Totally disgusted and saddened.

  • 27

    “SHOKING” as well disgusting. Is there no value for a human life ??? How low and degrading we have turned into. What is worse is it Covid ??? Hunger ??? or the inhuman act we see here ????

  • 11

    Dear Mr. Basill Fernando,

    Thank you for the story above which is very valid for the time.

    But this is to draw your attention to an unauthorized publication of my photograph (048-Edit.jpg – Girl walking on the beach, Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka – posted on Flickr.com). It is published unauthorized or without licensing by your book titled “Pride and Pain in Difficult Times: Selected Poems by Basil Fernando”, which is available on http://www.amazon.com.

    I informed you several times on your official email basil.fernando@ahrc.asia (and your publisher too) but I have absolutely no response whatsoever.

    Pls, be good enough to contact me at dhammikah@gmail.com or +94788977377 at your earliest.

    As a responsible news medium that fights for social justice, I hope Colombo Telegraph would not block or delete this comment until Mr. Basil Fernando responds to me.

    I regret that I had to contact you through the public domain.

    Dhammika Heenpella

  • 28

    There is a deeply insidious and potentially horrible tone to gruesome incidents such as these. The policemen should be held culpable in the death of this innocent man and given the highest possible prison term. A clear message should be sent to the entire barbaric police force that they will not be allowed to operate above the law. To this date, suspects in custody are beaten inhumanely and tortured as a routine process whereas it contravenes the international covenants against torture. These bastards should be dealt with the full force of the law (ironically they are the “law enforcement officers”) a gross insult to their role as protectors of citizens of a land. What will be the next episode in the grand vistas of prosperity and slendour, I wonder?

  • 20

    This is a sad story. What have we become? A land of heartless people lacking in compassion, and basic humanity. We should be ashamed that we are a Buddhist nation, and that our people are behaving in ways that would hurt Lord Buddha. We have veered from the teachings of kindness and compassion, and become a country with people who are vicious, violent, and hate those who deserve sympathy. This is wrong and those who perpetrated this cruel murder must be held accountable.

    The government has failed the people. They should have laid down the rules, making sure this man’s family had the help they needed, being in such a difficult situation. People must have access to getting food. Whether it is the vans or some delivery service. Looks like Nandasena is only good enough to keep the streets clean.

    • 15

      “We should be ashamed that we are a Buddhist nation, and that our people are behaving in ways that would hurt Lord Buddha. “

      Only coolies associate the story with Buddhism. The police hurt the man, but the man was actually killed by a bus. There is a quarantine/lockdown in place, and people need to follow the rules.

      • 8

        Only coolies seem ignorant of what Buddhism stands for, especially those who live in a Buddhist nation.

        “His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote,

        “According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).”

  • 14

    This incident happened in Waligama, Matara, not in Jaffna or Batticaloa. I am sure the victim was a Poor Sinhala. Unfortunately, 69 million people of this country are not bothered about this poor Sinhala man or his family but bothered about a man who ran away from Sri Lanka. You all may have not forgotten the murder of a youth for protesting to get pure drinking water. You may ignore this incident because the murdered child was a 10 year who was arrested or surrendered after the end of war was murdered in a bunker after giving a biscuit but before eating that biscuit. There are hundreds of such incidents happened and happening now and it will continue for long. This is the culture of police and military serving for military man.

  • 13

    A CCTV camera captured it.
    Otherwise it would be one of many untold tales of callous cruelty.
    Often right and wrong are guided by who will take the blame.
    But that is how law and order has evolved, gradually since the 1971 insurrection.

    • 5

      Dear SJ,
      The time is 21:22 and we’re waiting for comments to be updated. There are 21 comments, and yours is the only one that reports the CCTV camera capturing the event.
      I saw it; a day or two ago. The man being assaulted, then lying supine on the ground. Two policemen came on a motorbike, looked at the man, and did a U-turn. Then the bus ran over the man.
      The incident was reported by DIG, Ajith Rohana, who said that the two policemen were arrested for not helping the fallen man. I wonder whether, when the comments come on, someone would have provided a link to the video.
      As almost all commenters have indicated, this is sad, when recounted with hindsight.
      Reports of two other deaths: Ven Baddegama Samitha, the first monk to enter Parliament, a larger-than-life person whom I heard speaking in the Anglican Church at Baddegama during my only visit to that Church about three years ago. Claimed by COVID.
      Also, Ranji, wife of H.L.D. Mahindapala; they’d been in Colombo for the past two years.
      “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee!”

      • 3

        Oh, just after posting this comment, I noticed that the video has been provided by Mr Basil Fernanado.
        I’m sorry I posted that without checking. But that possibly tells us something about how fallible all of us are.

      • 1

        More details here:

        Note what the Chairman of the Weligama Urban Council says. I’m impressed, although I had tended to dismiss as just a hot-head.
        Rehan Wijeratne Jayawickrema had two grandfathers, like all of us! One was Ranjan Wijeratne (one time Defence Minister), and the other Montague Jayawickrema (who was Minister of Highways).
        No prizes for guessing the name of the school that he attended.
        BTW, lots of very positive things said about this Basil Fernando article and Colombo Telegraph in the 12 minute Youtube video.

  • 12

    There is no logic or moral to this story. Police were obviously in the wrong, but if the government did not enforce a lockdown, there might be an outbreak similar to India. The government is doing the best it can, given limited resources and lack of emergency training of essential employees. This incident is obviously an exception to the rule. Much worse happened in China, where the government simply burned bodies for months without prior permission in order to fabricate false data.

  • 17

    Tragic event. If justice is to be done, the police and the cook should be charged for assault and murder, while you all know the imbecile who is responsible for the plight of the family.

  • 17

    When the families are asked to quarantine some one they must check if a spcial commitee must check if they have food for 14 days if no infected patients have to flee there home increase fresh cases death toll rises due to the virus transmission

  • 21

    To all those who speak of punishing the 3 policemen: Have you not heard?

    Our President whom we elected with the power of the Sinhalese people fully backing him with their franchise, has declared that servicemen who kill members of the public are national heroes. They can never be charged! It is treason to call for their punishment.

  • 12

    Very sad. Where is humanity ? Are we that bad ?
    This man was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
    The two police guys have to share the blame as well. The entire incident happened because the police guys failed to asses the situation and help this man. Instead they acted improperly an caused his death.
    Waiting to see what will the Police department do now ? There is clear culpability by the two cops and have to be punished. the same punishment given to a any civil person if he/she was involved in a similar incident. Actually the responsibility on the cops is higher and so should be the punishment.

  • 10

    The belly is an ungrateful, it never remembers past favors, the full you ate yesterday it always wants more, the police must be trained if there is enough food for the 14 days of quarantine if not stomach is more dangerous than covid 19, If the police is in hunger he does the same thing GO food hunting they should be trained to learn the cause and act. Not like THE spider catch and Wrapps in its net
    this not a terrorist control period, it is guidance to well being if no food find solutions, not to inconvenience the public when implementing quarantine rules and regulations.

  • 12

    Nothing new here. Remember that mentally ill man beaten to death in the sea? Heaven help any man without influence who falls into the hands of the Police. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/11/slkl-n11.html

    • 5

      There was opportunity between 2015 and 2019 to put things right.
      What happened?
      Is there not reluctance to act on the part of the critics of the culprits?

    • 2

      Thanks, Paul.
      I remember the video of the beating to death of this man in the sea.
      However, I hadn’t read this account of it, written by “another Panini”.
      More distinguished than me! He contested the Presidency of Sri Lanka twice.
      Better not talk about the number of votes received. The guys in that Party are idealistic fellows. I won’t vote for them!

  • 13

    So terrible to hear of. May the poor man rest in peace. May his family be looked after. May his covid infested daughter be healed. So this is how GoSL runs Motherland – from Port City to Covid. No integration of fscilities ; no understanding of complexities ; no comprehension of essentials ; no awareness of basic truths to secure the Masses. Alas!

    • 9

      No pity, no compassion, the Police are a law unto themselves. The most an errant Policeman can expect is a transfer. One only has to search the Asian Human Rights Commission website for numerous instances of Police brutality and torture. http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/sri-lanka/

    • 0

      Ms fernando@
      In order to understand complexities they should have brains. Look at what that pimp- like Johnsten has to say about vaccination debacle in Moratuwa a few days ago, , shameless men break all human ethics and morals, today becoming facists under uncultured Rajapakshes. . Hat off to that brave lady doctor for her fearless act by
      putting that in to air. The kind of brave local docs real wiharamahadewi of the day if we at all to make a real change to the highly corrupted systems in the god punished island😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉

    • 2

      Amen, dear RTF.
      I’m not a good enough Christian to say it, but there!
      BTW, RTF, you live in Pennsylvania. The one Christian group that I felt close to after I became an adult were the Quakers. What do you feel about them?
      Now, don’t tell me the obvious things like “William Penn” and that the Obamas sent their daughters to Sidwell Friends’ School in Washington, – things like that. As far as I know, there are no Quakers in Lanka, but I have been to about fifty meetings held in Lanka.
      And have you visited any of the Amish Menonites in Lancaster County – now those are real nuts, although one can respect them, isn’t that so?
      Again, BTW, I keep typing “Sri Lanka”, then keep erasing it to “Lanka”. I notice that Kumar David does that, and he’s a good man to emulate. I think that he’s still in Los Angeles.
      There, I’ve proved that I’m a “godaya”. A “been-to” guy would have written “LA”.
      When do we have another article from you?
      I know that this is a mix of the sombre and the flippant, but what can one do in this hell-hole where the Rajjuruwo may send a white van for me at any moment?
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 48 3111 444V)

  • 5

    There are hundreds of ways to describe this ugly , disgusting and barbaric
    behaviour of Policemen , a member of general public and the possible
    murderer who is the rogue and criminal bus driver , a job that is criminally
    notorious in the country since the invention of the job , especially Private
    Bus Drivers . Now to the point , can this happen in a country like Singapore ?
    If no , why not ? You got the answer ! Is there a country in the entire universe
    that longed , hell bent and crazed to have a man like Hitler to lead them to
    progress in this modern era ? A man who knows nothing about politics ?
    Does this elected Hitler like man ever know that reforms in the way our
    governments , state and the MPs have to come from the Top Down to lead by
    Example ? Why is it needed ? Because People Who Elect the Governments
    Are The Masters and never Vice Versa ! ! ! People are not Masters in our
    Governance and People are not even conscious that They Are The Masters in
    the System ! So , Every Donkey and Monkey are Riding Over Them ! The only
    way out of this Messy Hell is , For the People to take their Dignity into their
    hands by coming out on to the streets and Loudly Broadcast They won’t
    Tolerate this anymore ! If they don’t do it nobody else will do it for them . Take
    my word !

  • 5

    Basil Fernando,
    It is cruelty to the extreme, as a lawyer and if I am, correct as Chairman of Bar Association togo before the courts and file a case under Public Interest Litigation- PIL.
    it is utmost important especially for social service activists to act and bring the culprits before the courts rather than Just moaning and blaming as the helpless normally do.

  • 9

    I really do not understand why such a fuss and is it a news to talk about? This is just normal in the land of Buddha and it has been going on for years and years. SL is a killing field and people are murdrers. They kill any one and no discrimination. A land where a young girl was made naked and made to walk on a public road before she was shot and killed. A land where a cop decapitated her keep and took her torso to colombo in a bag to dispose in Pettah. This is a country where they prevent the people from remembering the dead. This is the country where law is different from person to person. This is the country where parliament is full of thugs, kudu karayas and murderes. This is the country where cold blooded murderes are released by the head of state. This is the country where buddhist priests are thugs and who propagate hatred and violence. This is the country where morons like Blind Eagle and HLD are borne. So why worry. Wait for China Rule. They will beat the natives to do more cruel things. They are more ruthless. They will even their victims.

  • 1

    Black Lankan,
    ‘This is just normal in the land of Buddha’
    You are a racist, no different from Lester. Why do you mention the ‘land of Buddha’ as if it is unique to this land? Is it any different In India the land of the Hindus or the Muslim Middle East or in Catholic South America?

  • 0

    Paul, this is typical of guys who don’t understand the logic. We are only talking of SL and not about India or the ME. When the need arises then we can refer to SL only. Racism is one thing and ignorance is another thing. Don’t you think this is proudly boasted as the Land chosen by Buddha and the Sinhala Buddhist country. Some like you even claim Buddha was born here and a Sinhala. Do you need any more proof of your racist stupidity. SL is a violent, lawless, mismanaged, rudderless country where only the powerful can survive. Have you forgotten the violence this country has faced on a regular systematic fashion. Still the same. Criminals and murders are released after being sentenced. Parliament is full of thugs and hooligans. So better look around Paul

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