By V. Kanthaiya –
This report is an attempt to educate the citizens of Sri Lanka how to respond to a situation where they have been assaulted with a knife, based on the experience of mine.
Factual Account Of The Incident
On 25th May, I set out at 5.00 am and started to jog. My jogging trail is through Kawdana road to the Eagle Lake Side Hotel and then through the lake drive adjacent to the lake towards the Attidiya Road. When I reached Eagle Lake Side, I noted two individuals near a parked Honda super cup type motor cycle. As I passed the hotel, the motorcycle passed me towards Attidiya Junction, and the riders were not wearing any helmets. I turned towards the lake drive and within 100 m from the late top, again the motorcycle passed me and stopped. The pillion rider, a short skinny guy came towards me and asked me something.
I had my earphones on and playing music. The initial idea I had was that this stranger was asking me how to go to the Attidiya Road, which had happened to me several times earlier. I stopped and removed my earphones to listen to him. Then the unexpected happened. The stranger tried to grab my jersey and I automatically responded by pushing him away. He tried to assault me with his fist and I defended with my left forearm. Again he came close to me and tried to assault me and I defended. The third time the stranger came close to me and targeted my face, this time with a knife. I desperately put my left hand to cover my face and felt the pain of a sharp object sliding through the skin of my fingers and palm. Now, for the first time I heard my assailants words, ‘Phone Eka Dheepang’. I immediately threw the phone. The guy took the phone, ran quickly to the waiting motor cycle and went towards Attidiya road.
When I came back to the Kawdana Road and inspected my left hand under the street light, it was full of blood. I tried to hold my wrist to stop bleeding but couldn’t. I tried to stop the two or three cars passed by as I had to go back to Kawdanacentre road to my home, and no one stopped. Then there came a trishaw and stopped and asked where I should go. But the moment the driver saw me with full of blood especially on my jersey, he said he is going to the opposite direction and cannot be hired. The same statement was made by the next two trishaw drivers whom I asked for help. I didn’t have any other choice, but to run back to my home which was about 1.5 Km from there.
When I reached home, I directly went to my landlord as he was the only person who could help me to go to hospital and police station. My initial idea was to go to a nearby dispensary to stop the bleeding. But my landlord said that any private medical Centre will not treat me since this is a ‘police case’ and suggested that we lodge a complaint to the Dehiwela police station at Hill Street and get an acknowledgement note and go to the private hospital on the same road.
I reached Dehiwela police station about 6.15 am and my landlord related about the incident to the officer at the front desk and said that we want to go to the nearby dispensary and need the complaint acknowledgement note. Seeing my condition, the police officer acted swiftly and shouted to another ‘Mae !PothaKo?’ and other one told that the ‘Potha’ must be on the table and the officer started to search for it. Meanwhile another officer came and asked us to be seated and inquired what happened to me. My landlord started the story again from the beginning.
While we were waiting for the front desk police officer find the book, my landlord had to relate the story to eight officers who were reporting to their morning duty just then and the eight officer made the key breakthrough. He pointed out that Lade Drive road is under the jurisdiction of Mt. Lavinia police, thus they cannot take the complaint. Hearing this, the officer who greeted us first shouted to the other one whom was still searching for the book that the book was not needed.
My landlord and myself set to Kalubowila hospital as it would be too late to go to Mt. Lavinia Police station and register the complaint. Things happened very fast in the hospital. The medical personnel in the accident ward immediately treated my wounds and we were able to get an x-ray done. Things were much better than a private hospital, except the part of stitching my wounds, which was extremely painful as it seemed to me that adequate sedatives were not administered.
With the dressing done, we went to the police post in the hospital to lodge the complaint and the officer in the duty listened to us patiently and told us that we need to directly go the Mt.Lavinia police station and lodge the complaint, thus we proceeded there. The OIC was a nice person and listened to my landlord patiently and asked us where the incident happened and requested us to come there on our scooty while he would go and inspect the area. When we went to the place and pointed out the location where exactly the crime has happened, he told us to go back to the Police station again and inform the officer there that he has asked us to lodge the complaint and then, lodge the complaint.
Once I finished the statement, the officer who recorded it took the large medico-legal examination report sheet and filled a few lines and told that we need to submit it to the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) in Kalubowila Teaching Hospital, and if JMO gives any document back, we need to again comeback and submit it to the police station.
I went to the Kaubowila hospital JMO on the following day. The officer there asked me what happened and told that based on his examination, he would prepare the report and send it to the court, for that he wanted to open the dressing and see the wounds and told me that I can get them dressed again in the accident ward. A nurse opened the dressing and as I feared, it started to bleed again. It took the officer a few seconds to finish his examination and the nurse, again covered the wounds in the thump and the ring finger with a roll of bandage, on top of the existing one. Once I finished my business at the JMO, again I proceeded to the Mt.Lavinia police station and submitted my robbed phone’s IMEI number. The officer finally told, that they would be able to find and arrest my assailant when someone starts to use the phone. He said it may take days, it may take weeks or it may even take years.
The key aspect of the incident is not the incident itself. It is how my stakeholders and the stakeholders of this event responded. Most of my colleagues, neighbors and friends were very keen to know about the incident and they were equally keen to give me their advice. The first day I went to office after the incident, I was inquired by nearly everyone in the office, even the other department staff with whom I have talked earlier. I was virtually exhausted by repeating the same answer to each individual one by one. I felt it would have been better if I gathered the entire office at once and made a public speech about the incident. I hadn’t felt that much tired even after losing so much of blood on the day of the assault.
Another key question from my stakeholders, especially from the cop who recorded my statement, was that why on earth a drug addict steals a smart phone. Because if someone uses it again, it can be tracked through the IMEI number. I also wondered why and I realized that the key reason is lack of general and technical knowledge of these criminals which leads to this phenomena. It would be better if all these cops go out and lecture all the drug addicts and criminals that they should never rob a phone because they can be traced through the IMEI number and arrested. I believe media also should play key role educating the potential criminals of the implications of stealing smart phones.
A colleague of mine asked me why I didn’t use one of the several techniques taught in Youtube about how to grab the knife from an assailant. I didn’t try it because unlike the Youtube demo videos, my real-life assailants did not show any signs of corporation with me to use those techniques.
It was also astonishing to see how my stakeholders manipulate this incident for their own agenda. Right after I came home from the police station, my landlady visited me along with the landlord and my neighbors. She listened to my narrative of the incident and loudly announced, ‘You must be brave, otherwise even after getting cut wounds and so much of bleeding, you ran 1.5km and came home back. Suppose this has happened to my husband he would have fainted right there out of fright’. Of course, if she had wanted to insult her husband, she had hundreds of methods. The way she used my unfortunate incident to insult her husband was equally embarrassing to me, as my landlord has started to treat me with animosity right after that, even though it was not my mistake.
Another valuable advice was from a supplier of my organization who preached me the following; “what do you intend to achieve by jogging in the morning? Good health? Alright! That may increase your lifetime by couple of years when you are old and worn out. But think! Is that really worth sacrificing the morning sleep which is nothing other than experiencing the heaven right here on earth, to gain couple of additional years of lifetime at your old age, a time when others consider you as a burden?”.
It is really amazing to see how different people opine about the same incident on different perspectives.
It is a bitter reality that as individual or even as a group Sri Lankans citizens cannot change the norm of the deteriorated public service. So it is up to the individuals to find their own survival tactic. The following are some suggestions I got to avoid any phone robbery and knife assault when going out early in the morning;
- Follow the first rule your mother has taught when you were a kid. Don’t go out when it is dark.
- Know under which police station’s jurisdiction lies your jogging route.
- Do not take mobile phone or any portable music player for walking. If you are desperate to listen to songs while jogging/walking, you better sing it to yourself.
- If you have any doubt on anyone that he is going to use violence and rob you, you kindly communicate that you are happy to donate the items he intends to rob.
- Take your dog when you go out for walking in the mornings. If you don’t have a dog, try to befriend the stray dogs on the street and take them along with you.
- Take a portable first- aid kit with you so that you can stop any bleeding in the event of receiving any cut wounds. It is better if you keep your jogging/walking route closer to a government hospital.
- Educate the drug addicts and the ‘wanna be’ criminals that stealing smartphones is dangerous as they can be traced through the phone’s IMEI number.
The key learning I got from the assault is that Sri Lankan state institutions are just a malfunctioning mechanism, they don’t have any heart and they don’t have any brain. I had to go through so much of difficulty to get the crime registered in a police station. I don’t believe that the police will be able to identify and arrest my assailant unless otherwise he volunteer, and convince the police that he is the culprit. I accept that what happened to me is just one among the hundreds of thousands of unsolved cases in our legal system. But does that mean I don’t have the right to grumble? I am paying more than 15% of my disposable income to the state as tax. The salary being paid the public servants is from the tax payer’s money. But do the people of the country receive proper service from the public schools, government hospitals and from every other state institution?
The key reason is that people do not demand when they are mistreated. They do not raise their voice and tell they pay the fee for the service in advance and they need the service with right quality. But nobody does it. Because now everybody believes that this is the norm. This country has been like this in the past, it continues to be the same in the present and it will continue to be the same in the future as well.