ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 2, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40

Glad I was able to serve the nation: bomb blast saviour

By Damith Wickramasekara

The man who was reportedly responsible for saving several lives by detecting the parcel bomb in a private bus at Mt. Lavinia last Saturday (February 23), urged authorities to pay more attention as to who first provided the information to the driver, before making public statements identifying the person responsible for the heroic deed.

Mervyn Fernando, (47) a carpenter hailing from Moratumulla was on his way to Pettah in the private bus when he first spotted the travelling bag containing the bomb and alerted the driver. However, a female passenger Ms. Indrani Fernando too claimed responsibility for the detection of the bag.

Mervyn Fernando, (47) who alerted the driver of the bomb, at his home. Pic Saman Kariyawasam

“In an any case, I am happy I was able to serve the nation by detecting the bag and save so many lives on that day,” Mr, Fernando told The Sunday Times in an interview at his residence. Fernando initially thought that the bag had been accidentally left behind by a passenger and only later realised that as there were no claimants, it could have been a bomb.

“One of my clients had given me a contract to varnish some chairs and that morning I was on my way to his place to get an advance of Rs. 2,000/- to buy some items needed for my work. I was in a hurry as I had to go to Pettah before shops closed at 12 noon,” he said.

“At the time I got into the bus there may have been around 12 passengers, and I took a seat at the rear, but did not notice this bag which was under the seat around three seats ahead of me. After a few passengers got off I noticed this black travelling bag and first alerted a nearby passenger, before the driver was informed,” Mr. Fernando said.

“However, I initially thought someone had left a bag behind, and it was only when I realized that there was no one claiming it, I thought it could be a bomb,” he said. Immediately the driver was informed of the bag, he (driver) bypassed the bus halt and stopped the bus some yards ahead for passengers to get off.

Fernando said that as he was in a hurry he had boarded another bus when the bomb had gone off. He had got off the bus and come back to the scene of the blast. According to Fernando the other claimant had got into the bus only after the detection had been made and when she realised that a possible bomb had been detected she shouted ‘if there is no owner for it, it may be a bomb’ and got off the bus.

The driver of the bus told The Sunday Times he recalled it was a man who informed him of the bag. However, Mrs. Fernando, whose residence is located close to the place where the bus stopped after the bomb was detected, told our sister paper ‘Irida Lankadeepa’ that she was on her way to pay an electricity bill when she got into the bus and spotted the bag.

Police informed the President that Ms. Fernando (foreground) alerted the dirver of the bomb. Pix by Gemunu Wellege

She said she suspected it could have been a bomb as a result of the advertisements she had seen warning the public of unattended parcels. Ms Fernando said that on seeing the parcel she shouted that there was an unattended parcel and enquired as to who its owner was. As nobody claimed the bag, she shouted that it could be a bomb and got off the bus.

She said she had boarded another bus and was leaving the place when the bomb went off. While proceeding on her journey she recalled her daughter who was on her way to make a call to her husband who worked abroad may have got into the ill-fated bus. This had prompted her to return to the scene of the incident to check whether her daughter was safe.

Over the past week police and transport authorities have been trying to determine who was responsible for the detection of the bomb, as well as to get information on how the bomb was placed in the bus. But they were not successful in their efforts. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the police rushed to inform President Mahinda Rajapaksa that it was Ms. Fernando who detected the bomb. The President had called Ms. Fernando and personally thanked her.

It is still not clear how the police arrived at this conclusion. However, Transport Minister Dullas Alahaperuma told The Sunday Times that the problem was not finding out who made the detection. What was important, he said was that lives were saved.

"We will reward all those who were responsible for the act which led to saving lives. The driver and conductor have also played an important role", Alahaperuma pointed out.

Investigation grinding to a halt-police

Police sources say investigations into the bus bomb explosion at Mt. Lavina are coming to a grinding halt due to the failure of passengers who travelled in the bus failing to give evidence which led to the identification of the persons responsible for planting the bomb.

"Only a few persons turned up to give evidence and the statements they made were contradictory. Others have been reluctant to give evidence", a police officer explained. He said the chances of carrying out detailed investigations have thereby been reduced

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