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28th June 1998

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Should they have done it?

June 15, the Horana Rest House woke up to the suicides of a very young family- driven to apparent desperation by life’s complexities. This incident typifies a very Sri Lankan problem- an unusually high suicide rate among young people- often for reasons within their control

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

NimalHorana was in mourning last Wednesday, June 17, over the mysterious deaths of twenty four year old Ranasinghege Nimal, his sixteen year old wife, W.P. Ranjini Kumari and their two year old son Bimsara Hasan Ranasinghe.

Why this young couple decided to commit suicide taking their toddler’s life as well was beyond understanding to their astonished family members and to the community. Tears poured at the Horana church where the funeral was held.

RanjiniIt was a warm day, June 14 when Nimal, his wife and son left home to bathe in the famous Ellekanda lake in Horana. They did not carry any luggage with them only a change of clothing for little Hasan, Ranjini and Nimal left home never to return.

After the bath in the lake, almost as if in preparation for the misfortune which followed, they headed towards the Horana Rest House, situated on a hilltop overlooking the city.

Baby HasanNimal booked a room and paid up immediately. Lunch was ordered. Nothing special- they were served the normal rice and curry menu of the restaurant, the only exception being that they ordered Fanta. Little Hasan played in the small garden area in front of the rather shabby restaurant.

Nimal fed Ranjini and Hasan a mouthful of rice each. “They said that they will be staying here till their roof was fixed as it could not hold the heavy showers,” said rest house manager, H.M.D.Chandrasiri.

“We had no idea that they wanted to commit suicide and neither were we suspicious. They were known to be quite poor.”

Nimal had asked Chandana the bellboy to wake them at 7 am in the morning. But when Chandana knocked on the bedroom door number 5 on the 15th morning there was no answer.

“We called the police to tell them that the door was locked and that there was no answer,” the manager said.

When the police finally broke in they found the family on the beds close together. They appeared to be asleep, with little Hasan and Ranjini on either side of Nimal. They were clasped to each other, as if not wanting to let go, dead.

“The world we will go to will be much nicer to us than this one, and we would prefer to be together in that world away from all worries,” the suicide note dated 13th June read.

It was found on a teapot next to the bed. “There is no point in valuing us now after death, when we had no value to you when we were alive. We decided to take cyanide because we can’t live well and we will never be allowed to live a good life. We lived long enough. We do not want our son Hasan to suffer in this world so we thought it just to take him with us. It was not easy but we managed to give him cyanide before we took it ourselves.

“Don’t bother to do tests and to do investigations- as all three of us took poison on our own will. The bottles you will find on the floor next to the bed.” These were their directions to the police. A third letter from Nimal apologizing for not being able to help his sister and not being of any use to his relatives was also found along with the other letters. The letters were signed “From your brother and son who worried and troubled you all.”

“They were very happy and this is the last thing we expected from them, not even in a nightmare,” said Malini Ranasinghe, Nimal’s elder sister. According to her, apart from being fined Rs.7,500 for not appearing in court as a witness for a bribery case filed by the Horana Municipality from which he had resigned, he had no pressing problems.

However, there was no mention of the bribery case in Nimal’s letters but only reference to a gold chain of his sister Ranjini which he had pawned to pay off his debt and was unable to redeem. This was the only worry he seemed to have, for which he had begged forgiveness from his sister.

“The rest-house manager phoned us on the 14th morning stating that the door of this particular room was locked and that there was no answer from within. We rushed to the scene and broke the door down to see a man and a woman with a baby on the side. Only after examining did we realise that they were dead,” said SI Vipuladasa of the Horana Police’s Crime Investigation Bureau.

The SI said that it seemed as if they had planned it well ahead and this was supported by the suicide notes which were dated the 13th.

The deaths were obviously suicide, he said. “As for reason we feel it may have been due to poverty, for the husband did not have a job when he died, neither did the wife,” SI Vipuladasa said.

Hymns echoed in the low roofed house of Nimal’s mother-in-law for the three bodies which lay in the small room of the house. An oil lamp burned inside the house in front of the coffins, shedding its light on the young faces. For those present, it was another heartbreaking reminder of the seemingly endless line of needless deaths, that Sri Lankan society is facing.

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