Search for Sahan brings whispers of death

Published : 9:22 am  August 3, 2018 | No comments so far |  | 


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When Sahan Kumara Dharmasiri from Samanalawatte, Balangoda went missing on July 20, many would have thought it was another of those incidents where a child has been up to some mischief. But when he went missing for the eighth day, search operations began and the Sri Lanka Army and Police combed the forests and tea estates surrounding his residence. With no clues found, the Army concluded their search. Although speculation was rife that the child was bitten by a leopard in the area there was no evidence to prove such a happening. Several other incidents were reported, but none of them had direct 
connections with this incident.   


When the Daily Mirror  visited Samanalawatte, situated 11 km away from the Balangoda town, several residents from the area assisted us to locate Sahan’s house. It was an uphill drive through tea estates passing scenic views with a thick mist in the backdrop. With a climate similar to that of Horton Plains, the Samanalawatte area, although is under-developed, is home to estate workers and rubber tappers.

The incident 

Sahan Kumara Dharmasiri, a grade five student at Samanalawatte School, was to sit for the 2018 Grade Five Scholarship Examination when he went missing on July 20. Sahan is the eldest in the family and lives with his mother, father and four-year-old sister. According to media reports, the boy had gone missing after he had returned home from school. It is said that the boy went in search of his father who had gone to fetch firewood. The boy’s whereabouts aren’t known yet. Statements from relatives and his friends leave no clues. When we inquired further about Sahan’s disappearance, there was speculation whether Sahan was sold to a family living outside the city in an attempt to meet the financial needs of the family or worse, whether he was given away as a 
human sacrifice!’

Human sacrifices 

With mining being one of the main industries in the area, possibilities of human sacrifices are high. According to myth and folklore, a human sacrifice is made in the name of ‘Bahirawaya’ – a mythical deity. The human is literally thrown into the mine and the mine is then closed for a certain period of time. There is a belief that when the mine is reopened after this period, miners could expect valuable gems. For this purpose, in a majority of instances, it is the first born child in a family that ‘meets the criteria’ as an ideal human sacrifice. However, whether this was the exact plight of Sahan is yet to be revealed.   



“He goes to play after he returns home from school”

- Deepika

According to his mother, Deepika Seneviratne, Sahan is a naughty child. “He’s very stubborn and doesn’t listen to us. When he returns home he usually goes to play. He was to sit for the Scholarship Exam, but he wasn’t very keen on his studies. On the day Sahan went missing, his friends were also at school. We urge the authorities to help us find him,” she said.   
In search of more clues, the Daily Mirror team inquired about his whereabouts from those in the neighbourhood, but we only met dead ends.   


 “He’s a tad bit mischievous”

- Dharmasiri

“I was not home when the incident took place,” said H. Y Dharmasiri, Sahan’s father, whom we met while he was travelling. “He had returned home before he went missing. He’s a tad bit mischievous, but this is the first time it has happened. There weren’t any regular places he went to, but he used to play with children in the neighbouring houses. It is rather sad that we lost our son. I’m on the way for a ‘pooja’ to seek help from God. I can’t understand what happened to him. He doesn’t study well, but understands what is being taught,” he said.   
We then went further via the winding, rocky road until we reached his home. Sahan’s home is located at one corner of an enclosed neighbourhood with houses in close proximity. According to our observation it’s rather difficult for one to escape without anybody’s notice. Sahan’s home has one bedroom and a space for the kitchen. He belongs to a family that is drowned in poverty and possesses only the basic amenities needed to live.   


“Sahan was a slow-learner”

- School Principal

Samanalawatte School Principal Deshapriya Suduwella, who was also Sahan’s class teacher, said that Sahan was identified as a slow-learner. “He could remember what was taught and initially he had an issue with writing letters. But eventually he improved. He needed some guidance to improve the speed at which he was learning. Sahan mingled well with the rest of the children and was also involved in extra-curricular activities as well. On the day of the incident he came to school as usual and it was only later that we received the news. He usually comes to school with his friends and his parents don’t come to drop or pick him up from school,”said the school principal.   



"On the day of the incident he came to school as usual and it was only later that we received the news."


Suduwella further said the school and everybody else focus on improving the learning capacities of children like Sahan. “Since this is a rural school we want to strengthen the relationships within the school community. We also have an annual plan and complete all events which are lined up. During the past years 78% of our students passed their O/Ls and we possess a high rank within the zone. Parents don’t get very much involved with the children’s school work because they are either less-educated or illiterate and focus more on earning an income. We try to promote togetherness among children, who come from all walks of life. This is the first such incident that has happened and our only hope is to find this child and see that he returns home soon,” he said.   



“We have introduced hotlines”

-Balangoda Police OIC

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Balangoda Police Officer-in-Charge said that so far there are no clues that would help locate the child. “It has been 12 days since he went missing and we’re trying our best. The Army also called off their operations because there were no traces. Of course there were rumours about a person who came to the hospital with bite marks. There is also speculation about a leopard, but all that is deemed to be false.”the OIC said.