Jaffna JMO confirms bullet hit the rider

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan

Pandemonium reigned supreme at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital mortuary on Friday, where bodies of the two youths, whose deaths were deemed ‘accidental’ by the authorities, were lying there for further investigations. The Judicial Medical Officer confirmed to Ceylon Today that one of the students, the rider of the motorbike, had received a gunshot injury to his chest.
However, till late evening on Friday, the Police Department did not mention anything about a gunshot but claimed it was an ‘accident’. They kept on saying the two students met their deaths when the motorbike they were riding crashed on to a nearby wall in Kandarodai, a few kilometres off Jaffna town on the KKS Road.

Nearly 300 to 400 Jaffna University students were gathered near the hospital mortuary on the early morning of Friday, to ascertain what had really happened to their friends. By then the news had spread that gunshots had been heard at the time in Kandarodai when the two students were found fatally injured.

Police Rushed boys to hospital
Sources alleged that it was the same police officers who shot them who rushed the two injured boys to hospital.

The two students, namely Nadarasa Gajan (23) of Kilinochchi and Soundaraja Sulakshan (24) of Chunnagam, had left their private hostel in Jaffna around 10:45 p.m. and were on their way to Chunnagam. They had visited a friend in Kandarodai and proceeded towards Jaffna back to their hostel. Minutes later, passing Kulappiddi in Kokkuvil, they were found in a pool of blood, reportedly after slamming into a nearby wall. They had both been pronounced dead upon admission to the Jaffna Hospital.

A commotion erupted when a number of people in Kandarodai started saying that they heard gunshots and reportedly a man living close to that place had come out and found police officers standing near a fallen motorbike.

The news that gunshots were heard had reached Tamil National Alliance Leader R. Sampanthan at about 3 a.m. The message was that gunshots were heard and he had been asked to verify whether it caused the deaths of the two students.

Sampanthan had immediately reached President Maithripala Sirisena, who was in Trincomalee at that time, to patronize a Buddhist religious event and a National Tree Planting Programme at the Trincomalee Stadium.

When the President was informed about the incident he had immediately contacted IGP Pujith Jayasundara, who had in return checked with the Jaffna Police. The Jaffna Police had informed the IGP it was an ‘accident’ and that the two of them succumbed to their injuries. The message was conveyed to Sampanthan.

However, the students gathered at the hospital did not heed the news that it was an ‘accident’ and waited till the Judicial Medial Officer (JMO) arrived.

The inquiry into the sudden death by the Magistrate began at 9 a.m. and later on, the President had been informed there was a gunshot injury to the rider’s chest. The IGP also confirmed the news to the TNA Leader.

The President, who was agitated over the new information, had urged the IGP to hold an impartial investigation, upon which a team was deployed to the Jaffna Hospital.

A tense situation ensued at the Jaffna Hospital when those gathered there saw a team of police officers arriving there.

Impartial inquiry
However, the hospital authorities had managed to calm the situation by promising the students and the people around that they would hold an impartial inquiry and implored to have faith in them. The JMO too had assured that he was committed to do his duty impartially and thereafter the students had dispersed. Jaffna Magistrate, S. Sashidaran, also assured the students who were overwhelmed by the deaths that an impartial investigation will be conducted and asked them to remain calm.

The incident that happened in Kandarodai is yet to be investigated as there were no eyewitnesses. However, footage captured on a CCTV camera points out a motorbike passing the area around 11:30 p.m. and two minutes later, police officers in their raincoats are seen walking pass the same area. It had been drizzling at that time.

After the confirmation of the gunshot injury to the chest of one of the deceased, the President had ordered an impartial investigation and ordered to arrest those responsible, if a crime had been committed.

Around 1 p.m., the media was informed by the Police Media Unit that a fatal accident was the cause of the death and around 6 p.m., the Government Information Department in its media release stated that five police officers, who were on duty at that time, were taken into custody on suspicion of having played some role in the crash. The police officers were interdicted, the Information Department said.

Back in Jaffna, despite the news was confirmed that the rider had received a gunshot injury that led to the crash, the Jaffna Magistrate, who rushed to the hospital premises had urged the fellow students of the University to remain calm till the investigations were over.

The post-mortem examination was completed only around 6 p.m. after which the parents of the deceased were privately informed about the cause of death and they were assured that an impartial investigation will be carried out and requested them to remain calm. The fathers of the diseased had then agreed to remove the body from the mortuary.

The funeral of Soundaraja Sulakshan will be held today (23) in Kilinochchi and the burial of Nadarasa Gajan will be held on tomorrow (24), sources said.

The five policemen who were arrested were remanded until 6 November by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court.