Horror on Flower Road - 05 Januray 2000 - 13 killed
@ Sunday Leader / 09Jan2000
The war in the north and east has come to the doorstep of Colombo with raw cruelty.
On Wednesday (5), Kusum Amarasinghe, a translator at the prime minister’s office left her home in the suburbs clutching her lunch packet. Amarasinghe clocked in daily just a few minutes after 9.00 a.m.
Usually, she is allowed to proceed without being checked or body-searched by the policemen on duty at the prime minister’s office. But on January 5, just after a policeman allowed her in through the steel gates, another policeman on duty called out "Miss, Miss, I don’t understand what this woman is saying, could you please translate." Amarasinghe obliged by asking the stranger, questions. The woman was dressed in black-coloured pants and navy blue top. A hand-bag was slung across her shoulders.
The only answer she got was when the woman detonated the explosives strapped to her body. The result: 13 were killed and another 28 wounded. The dead included men from the Prime Minister’s Security Division. Others were employees of the PM’s office. (The death rate would have been lower if the victims, out of sheer inquisitiveness, had not converged on the scene of the questioning).
Just a few minutes before the suicide bomber struck, she was found loitering in the vicinity of the Lionel Wendt. Later she was seen at the Flower Road junction, cautiously manoeuvring across the streets. A senior military official who passed the junction later admitted seeing the woman, but had taken no action since the woman looked decent.’
The woman later walked past the Ladies’ College, crossed the street and engaged in a conversation with a woman worker from the Saudi Arabian Embassy. The embassy worker, suspecting the woman, had asked her what she was doing in Colombo, since her accent showed that she was from the north.
While the woman was being grilled, on several occasions she broke down and cried. Sobbing, she had said, "I am not an LTTE cadre, I am just here in Colombo." The embassy worker later went to report for duty.
The woman crossed the street and stood in front of the PM’s office monitoring the movements of the people and glancing at her wrist-watch on and off, pretending to be waiting for somebody.
The security officers of the PM’s office noticing the woman called her aside and requested to produce the national identity card. But the photograph in the NIC did not match her face. And since the officers did not understand the explanation, the translator was called.
Just a few metres away from the woman, Deputy Trade Minister Sumitha Priyangani Abeyweera’s car was parked with her driver in his seat. The driver who was accompanied by Abeyweera’s brother, was deep in conversation.
The driver while being involved in the conversation, glanced at the woman who was walking up and down the pavement with sweat pouring down her cheeks. Just a few minutes later, the woman was surrounded by the employees of the PM’s office and the security officers. Two minutes after, the explosion occurred which was heard even at Bambalapitiya.
Bomb carnage continues in Colombo
By Sunethra Athugalpura and Chandima Niroshini
Three-wheeler driver K.K. Bandula warded at the National Hospital was struggling to say something. He was obviously in much pain, but the words came out: "Life is so uncertain in Sri Lanka today, the situation is so bad right now that we cannot expect our loved ones to come home," he said.
Pain, blood, tears and cries dominated the scene at the National Hospital in Colombo on December 5 as wounded victims of the bomb blast near the prime minister’s office in Flower Road were crying in pain. Fear and uncertainty filled the air as innocent civilians were being wheeled into hospital.
The female suicide bomber who arrived near the Prime Minister's office at around 9.20 a.m. left 14 dead causing much sorrow and heartbreak among the civilians who spoke of the distress and uncertainty that they have to endure.
Vijith Almeida from Veyangoda, who worked at the Prime Minister’s office as a driver said: "I was near the office when I saw a woman walking on the street, quite slowly. When the police called her she came to the checkpoint. I went there too. I heard the police officers questioning her," he said. Almeida also said that the woman could not speak any Sinhalese but spoke fluent Tamil. As the police officers did not understand Tamil they had called the translator from the office, M.K. Gaffoor. It was then that they discovered that she was from Batticaloa.
Upon further questioning the woman had began to cry. What Almeida clearly noticed was that she was not moving one hand. " And when she lifted that hand there was a blast. And that is all I can remember," he said.
Jagath who also works in the Prime Minister’s office was struggling to move. He said that he never expected to spend this day, December 5 in hospital. Jagath who lives in Borella said that he came to work on that day and entered the nearby security checkpoint first."About 100 yards away, on the pavement, I saw a dark-complexioned girl walking to and fro. While she was walking she looked at the vehicles. She was wearing a black trouser and a baggy T-shirt. I got suspicious. It was then that I told the police officers at the checkpoint," he said.
In fact while questioning her, the woman police officer had looked for any signs of a cyanide capsure around her neck. But it had not been there. Jagath said that she may have cried not so much due to fear but to invite sympathy. "What I noticed was that she was using one hand to make frequent gestures, but was not using the other at all. When she was asked to lift her other hand, she put a hand under the T- shirt and there was a blast and smoke filled the whole area, that is all I can remember." he said.
Simon Wickremarachchi who worked as the driver of the Prime Minister from 1954 sustained serious injuries in this blast. His condition is critical. Though retired from service he still served at the Prime Minister’s personal driver. Wickrremarachchi was coming out of the office when he had seen a crowd. He meant to find out what was happening when the blast went off critically injuring him.
Three wheeler driver Susil from Gothatuwa, Angoda was never meant to be there. But two men had approached him for a hire to the Prime Minister’s office while he was parked in Pettah. Minutes after they got off the threewheeler, the blast went off seriously injuring Susil. His wife and children six and two years old, who stood crying beside him said that they always live in fear of the life of Susil because of the uncertainty of these present times. "I wait for him to come home," she said "because there is so much fear and uncertainty around."
Director, National Hospital, Colombo, Hector Weerasinghe said that the incident may have taken place around 9.30 a.m. as the first patient was brought in at 9.45 a.m. Thereafter 24 patients followed. Five of the persons were dead on arrival and that most of those admitted to the hospital were in critical condition.
The staff of the hospital were busy at this unexpected tragedy. But the hospital seemed to be geared for handling such emergencies that may arise in the future too