A soldier’s story – When the guns fell silent

By Panduka Senanayake

The guns fell silent in Sr Lanka’s near three decade north-east conflict in May 2009.

Today,  on the shores of the Nandikadal lagoon where it ended a decade ago, the wind still flows through the mangroves.

It ruffles the water and brushes through the shrubs, over a land where the roar of guns, guttural commands and screams of the scared and wounded rent the air to finally fall silent that day, the 18 of May.

The guns may be silent as are the screams, but the stories of pain and suffering of the many affected can still be felt around the island if one is receptive.

Staff Sergeant Sarath Kumara’s is such a story. A story which to him seems like a tunnel with no light at the end.

Wounded as he led his team on an assault on an enemy pocket at Pudumathalan on 11 May, he is paralysed from waist downwards.

Returning home in a wheel chair to Bibila in Mahiyangana more than two years later he gamely tried to carry on with a life left behind when he was 19 years.

He started a small business of making joss sticks with the money he was receiving from the army.

To increase the customer base a tri-shaw  was bought to enable him to travel further. It became his lifeline. A grocery shop was also operated from his partially built home.

When illness struck his wife, his world began to collapse. Unable to see the bills pile up and her husband’s desperate efforts at paying off loans taken to lease the tri-shaw and a lorry (which was subsequently seized by the lessors) and help with her medical needs, she attempted suicide.

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Today, Sarath Kumara is deeply troubled. In debt, with a wife needing care and a 15 year old daughter unable to attend classes to sit for the GCE ‘O’ level examination in December, he may also lose his tri-shaw to the lessor.

The consequences would be unthinkable for the man paralysed below the waist.

The Ranaviru Seva Authority (RVSA) which overlooks the welfare of  wounded veterans is able to assist with the family’s medical needs and his incomplete house.

The Authority has also acted once to prevent the lessor from seizing the tri-shaw.

“We can’t give him a grant to pay off the lease on the vehicle. And we can’t burden him with another big loan,” said the Authority Chairman Maj.Gen (Rtd), Janmika Liyanage.

However, he held out the hope that if outsiders are able to help Sarath Kumara raise a substantial portion of the Rs.800,000 needed to pay off the lease, the RVSA would be able to provide a smaller loan that Sarath kumara could be comfortable with.

This once proud soldier is now seeking assistance from anyone willing to help him with his expenses.

In the meantime he relies on his aged parents who provides the food for his family.

Those wishing to assist Sarath Kumara may contact him on

+ 94 786664201 or send funds to his account at People’s Bank Bibila.

A M Sarath Kumara  A/C # 011200150004285.

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