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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Who wanted to KILL me?

There is no clear evidence yet, as to who had done this. In such a scenario, inevitably, the finger would be pointed at the incumbent government and the President. That doubt will remain until the real perpetrators are brought to justice. Therefore, what they need to do is to catch those behind this attack. To do this, the full commitment and responsibility of the Police, and the proper execution of the law, is mandatory

By Upali Tennakoon, Editor, Rivira
It was just another Friday for me. Like any other Friday, on Friday January 23 too I started my routine by getting up at 4:30 in the morning. As usual I started my morning exercises in the front garden. I do my walking also inside the garden. On that day, I felt a strange uneasiness in my mind. I did not know why, and I never told anyone about it.

I usually walk from one end to the other in the garden. Even though it was early dawn, there was sufficient light in the garden. However, I could not see anything beyond the garden wall. But, inside, there was enough light. When I walked towards the extreme end of the garden, I felt some fear gripping my mind. I thought someone would be able to launch an attack on me from beyond the wall. Each time I reached that spot, the same thought started nagging me. I started getting stressed, but somehow managed to suppress my fears.

“No… such a thing cannot happen… There is no one who would want to harm me… I have never wronged anyone… who would want to threaten me?” Such were the thoughts in my mind, as I tried to suppress my fears. But I did not succeed in doing so. So, I began to concentrate on different thoughts. Finally I focussed my mind on Buddhist gatha and managed to calm my restive mind.

After finishing my exercises, I started my routine morning work. I was able to get through it all by 6:30 a.m. I then got into my car, with my wife on the passenger seat, and started the engine, at exactly 6:40 a.m. When we started our journey that morning, we never in our wildest dreams, thought there would be a group of people waiting to block our passage and prevent us from going to our destination.

Every morning, it is I who put my books and lunch into the car. Then our domestic aid opens the gate. We always leave the house after cracking a joke or two with her. A few yards away from our gate, is my sister’s house. Next to hers is my ancestral home, where my parents reside. My mother usually sits in the veranda near the kitchen. I could always see her when I leave for work in the morning. Sometimes, I stop the car there and speak a few words to her, before proceeding further. On that day, there was no particular need to halt there. I looked towards the house, but I could not see my mother there. I slowed down the car and looked closely. But I still could not see her.

At that moment I turned and looked in front of me, and saw a well-built man, standing right across the main road. Our vehicle was slowly moving towards him and I realised his eyes were fixed on me. Yet I did not see any reason to worry.
I got ready to turn the car to the main road, and while doing so, smiled at the stranger. I never imagined him to be my attacker, but rather thought he was an acquaintance who wanted to exchange a few words with me.

It took only a fraction of a second. The windscreen was shattered. Then my wife shouted, “What’s happened? Why is this?” I still cannot understand why. I thought it was a mistake. Then, the glass shutter of my side door was also smashed. It was then they started attacking me. I tried to muster a protest. I could only come out with, “don’t… don’t… don’t.”

There were four of them. One was carrying an iron shaft with a sharpened end. Another had a dagger in his hands. The other two had wooden rods. All four of them started attacking us. It was some battle.
There were blows on my face, chest and abdomen. I tried to ward off the blows by trying to grab their weapons. But, I could feel the blows on my hands and body.

At that moment, my wife, who was in the passenger seat, flung herself across the seat to cover me. And she shouted out loudly while doing so. But they kept jabbing at me trying to avoid hitting her. In the end, I received several blows to my face.
Finally the four of them got onto their two motorbikes and sped towards Yagoda Railway Station. Unfortunately we are unable to clearly remember either the number plates of their motorbikes or their faces.

We also cannot recollect exactly how long the attack lasted. We think we must have struggled with them for several long minutes. But, according to many, it could not have lasted more than a mere minute. Everything was over in a moment. By that time, it would have been 6:42 or 6:43 in the morning. I then opened the door and stepped out of the car.
The first thing I did was to call the Gampaha Police from my mobile telephone. I remembered that number well. It was 0332 222 222. A female answered the call.

I clearly mentioned my name and related the incident to her. I requested her to make arrangements to stop the two motorbikes which were speeding towards Yagoda. I also requested her to inform Veliweriya Police. I don’t know how well she understood what I was telling her. “Ok Ok… we will take care of everything. You come to the Police,” she told me.

Then I dialled 119 and repeated the same information given to the Gampaha Police. They too made note of the information. But after about 20 minutes they called back to once again ask for the information regarding the place. I disconnected the call and remained silent.

Neither of the places I called had taken any effective measures to arrest my attackers. They had not even informed the Veliweriya Police about the incident. Nor had they taken any steps to catch the two fleeing motorcyclists.

My next step was to call my Associate Editor Mr. Sisira Paranathanthri and inform him about the incident. It was on his information that the Inspector General of Police had started reacting to the incident. It was the IGP who had ultimately informed the Veliweriya Police.

After learning about the incident, within minutes, the President called me. He informed me that he was absolutely shocked to learn of the horrible experience I had just undergone. He requested me to seek medical help immediately, and said that he had ordered the IGP to find those responsible as soon as possible, and bring them to justice.

Meanwhile, a vehicle from my office reached the place where the incident had occurred. It had arrived in just minutes. When I was about to leave for hospital in that vehicle, a team from the Veliweriya Police, including the OIC arrived there. I spoke with them for a few minutes and the OIC ordered one of the Policemen to escort us in the van. With the help of my driver and the Policeman, we were able to reach the Accident Ward in no time. Many were waiting for us there to see us before we were admitted.

Invisible force
There were several injuries on my hands. I had received them while trying to ward off the attack. There was a bone fracture in one finger of my left hand. The left side of my face, just below the eye, had received a severe blow from a wooden rod. It had fractured my facial bone. It could have been a fatal blow and caused my death, in a matter of seconds.
I can now see knife marks on my body, where the knife had slid off without fatally injuring me. I had just missed a knife jab to the neck. There is only a small wound there now.

When I consider all this, I believe that my life was saved by some powerful invisible force. Otherwise, all those knife jabs to the face and neck would not have slid off my body so easily. Similarly, there is no other explanation why the jabs aimed at my chest and abdomen with knife and shafts had slid off of my body that day.

If someone were to insinuate that this was done to threaten me or scare me, I would consider it to be a mere jest. If that were so, the attackers would not have brought with them knives and sharpened iron shafts. Also, it is certain that if either one of the blows to the face or neck had shifted just a mili centimetre, then the attack would have been fatal. Therefore, no one could argue that the attack was not intended to be lethal. No one can say that it was not a lethal attack.

I’m now in a great quandary, trying to understand the reason for this attack. Who felt the need to harm me? I don’t have any enemies or anyone who wants to take revenge on me. No one has threatened me.

Many people came to visit me from the moment I was admitted to hospital. There were members of the Maha Sangha, the reverend priests of other religious denominations, my neighbours, those who brought me to hospital, government and opposition politicians, many friends and all those who wished me a speedy recovery over the telephone, among them. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the priests who have conducted Bodhi Pooja, and priests of other religions who have conducted special masses and poojas at churches and kovils wishing me a speedy recovery.

I have been involved in the media field for nearly 35 years. But I never realised I would ever receive so much kind and considerate attention from so many people. It was only after this tragic incident, that I was able to experience such a lot of kind attention for the first time in over three decades of journalism.

There had been many periods of threats and anxiety while I was with the Divaina paper. During those days, we had reasons to be worried. We were quite anxious. I would not have been surprised if something similar had happened during that time. I would have even accepted it, even if I had died in the incident. But, today, the situation is different. That’s what makes me wonder about this incident.

But what was done, has been done. At least my life was saved, although I’m carrying deadly wounds on my body. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the incident. That is the only difference. Anyone can present any argument. But, what was done, has been done.

If anyone wants to murder me, I am prepared to face that threat. But, that is not by killing them while dying at their hands. Or, even by trying to save myself. That is, by becoming a victim to their threats. I say this because there is no other way. We have always lived freely. I do not want to live an imprisoned life amidst bodyguards. I must reclaim my free and liberal life. This effort might push me towards death. There is no point in telling this to the hangman. For him, I would be just another victim.

The motive behind the attack is not clear. But it would not change any circumstance in my life. My routine lifestyle or work would not change. Therefore, what is expected of these types of attacks is unclear. I cannot even begin to think which of my activities angered those who perpetrated this attack on me. But, one thing is crystal clear. That is, on whose shoulders lies the burden of responsibility of this attack?

There is no clear evidence yet, as to who had done this. In such a scenario, inevitably, the finger would be pointed at the incumbent government and the President. That doubt will remain until the real perpetrators are brought to justice. Therefore, what they need to do is to catch those behind this attack.
To do this, the full commitment and responsibility of the Police, and the proper execution of the law, is mandatory.