| by Hana Ibrahim
( December 27, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) 'Heap on the wood! The wind is chill; but let it whistle as it will. We'll keep our Christmas merry still. Wish you merry X-Mas.'
These were the last words from the much loved Ceylon Today journalist, Amila Jayasinghe, to her friends at the newsroom on Tuesday, 25 December. The Christmas wishes were texted just an hour before she left her Kirulapone home to come to the Rosmead Place office, to work the holiday shift. Sadly, she never made it.
A few metres from the office, she was struck down by a lorry driven by a thoughtless and inconsiderate moron, who should have known better than get behind the wheel of a vehicle he did not know how to drive. The licensed driver, who opted to sit in the passenger seat, should have had the brains and the conscience to not let an inexperienced and unlicensed person take over the wheel.
A powerful vehicle in the hands of an untrained person, unfamiliar with the machine, ignorant of road rules and uncaring of whose life he ruins, invariably spells disaster. And so it was at the Rosmead Place-Wijerama intersection, when a young life was needlessly cut short in the most unspeakably horrific manner.
Eye witnesses claim the lorry, attempting to take the bend at speeds over 80 kilo metres per hour, had lost control and ploughed into Amila before crashing into a 7ft high wall. Amila, ever the conscientious, had been waiting at the Zebra crossing to get to the other side of the road, and had on seeing the vehicle barrelling down the road, jumped several feet deep into the pavement to avoid being hit. But to no avail.
What thoughts sped through the young journalist's mind in those brief moments, when she saw the monster speeding towards her, doesn't bare thinking. But the tragic aftermath that reduced a young life into a blood splattered heap of broken bones and ruined dreams, leaves a trail of unanswered questions primarily about the police. What the heck were the police, often found lurking at every street corner these days, quick to pounce on anyone at the slightest sign of an infringement, doing, while a young girl was mowed down by a vehicle driven at break-neck speed, and this too at a residential area, with a school at one end and several embassies at the other end?
Amila was a promising journalist equally good at ferreting out details for her stories as she was at making friends. She loved to write poetry, maintained a blog, was hopeless in maths and was eternally dressed in jeans. Each day was a new adventure for her, an opportunity to meet new people, learn something new, and share a smile of hope. One would rarely see her without a smile, but on that fateful Tuesday, the smile was forever wiped out of Amila's face, leaving the Ceylon Today staff grieving for a dear friend, who endeared herself to everyone in a short time.
Amila was one of the three fatalities recorded on Christmas day in a grand tally of 400 accidents, both domestic and motor related. That she had, within a matter of minutes, gone from a vibrant being to a mere statistic, highlights an appalling reality of how bromidic motor accidents have become, and as a nation, how inured we've become to the tragic and needless loss of lives.
However, for us at Ceylon Today, Amila's death reinforces the determination to fight for good driving standards, better law enforcement, increased punitive measures and safer roads. It makes us determined to demand for justice, not only for Amila, but all the Amilas, male and female, whose lives have been cut short by drivers licensed and rogue, careless and drunk, speeding and reckless.
Amila's killers have been arrested and duly remanded. We hope justice prevails and the culprits are given the punishment they deserve and not let off on a technicality or on political clout or a silly loophole in the law. Putting the culprits behind bars would not bring Amila back to life, but it certainly would ensure another innocent life is spared, giving some meaning to her death.
(The writer is the editor of the Ceylon Today, a daily based in Colombo, where this piece was originally appeared)