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Former Air Force Chief says he did not drive car

Accident at Borella

COLOMBO: Former Air Force Commander Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody said he did not drive the car that met with an accident at Borella on June 15, 2002 that caused death of one person.

He made this observation in his dock statement before the Colombo High Court Judge Deepali Wijesundara.

Weerakkody was indicted on two counts including driving a vehicle carelessly, ignoring the traffic lights, on June 15, 2002 and causing the death of Karunamuni Ratnasena Silva on a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. In his dock statement, Weerakkody said that he was the former Air Force Commander.

He actively participated in the operations since it was a time of war. Since the Army Intelligence Unit informed him that he was under threat, the Air Force provided him with special security. There were about 100 airmen and 20 drivers and adequate vehicles for his security that was operated by a special unit.

He said the number of the airmen, vehicles, the escort details were decided by the special unit. He was unaware of these matters. He said sometimes several vehicles accompanied him and there were occasions that his vehicle had no escort. There were occasions where his official vehicle and the escort went without him as a means of security strategy. But he was not involved in these arrangements and merely travelled in the vehicle, he was provided with by the unit.

Weerakkody said on the day in question he was a guest at a simple party at the Hilton Hotel and later left the place. He got in the rear seat of the vehicle and sat on its left side as was his usual practice. A lady Air Force officer sat in the front seat and nobody sat in the rear seat except him.

In a short while, he fell asleep and was suddenly awakened by a huge jolt. He saw the airwoman alighting from the left door and the driver too from the same door. Then he realised that the vehicle had met with an accident.

The Ex-Air Force chief said he saw a lorry in front of them and he understood that his vehicle had collided with it. Then his driver who approached him told that he should contact the Commander's security unit. Although he (Weerakkody) searched for his mobile phone it was not with him. Then his driver left to take a call. "Only then I knew that we had come in a vehicle without escort," he said.

He also said some time later a Police vehicle arrived and it was noticed that someone travelling in the lorry had been wounded. They also noted that I was wounded in the eye.

"I told them that I would stay in the vehicle and they left. Then another Policeman came and inspected the place. He asked who the occupants in the vehicle were. Then I introduced myself as the Air Force Commander and said that I was travelling in the vehicle," Weerakkody said.

Upon inquiries made by the Policeman witness said that they were travelling from the direction of Narahenpita towards Borella since the vehicle faced that direction. "But the lorry driver said that we came from the direction of Cinnamon Gardens heading for Battaramulla. Then I realised that he had no idea of the direction I was travelling and I kept silent," he said. Weerakkody said an Air Force vehicle arrived at the scene subsequently and accompanied him to the Air Force Hospital at Borella. A doctor who treated him had advised him to take a rest.

"I went home and slept," Weerakkody said.

He said he got up around 10 a.m. and inquired from his officers as to what happened and they said that the investigation was over.

State Counsel Shanil Kularatne appeared for prosecution while Attorney Anuja Premaratne appeared for the defence.

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