Chapter Nine

Accidental Hero

When I came back from Anuradhapura it was around 10.00 p.m.  It was a weekend holiday.  Therefore, Gunadasa and a friend were warming their body by consuming liquor.  Gamini and Rukman were sitting along with them but not drinking alcohol

“Did you perform your election duties perfectly?” Gunadasa asked me with an intoxicated humor when he saw me.

“Elections were held smoothly.  But I had a bad time.”

“What happened?“ Gamini asked me in haste.

“I had a problem with Minister Mahindasoma.”

“Mahindasoma is a great thug,  Isn’t it so?” Gunadasa asked.

This is what happened.

I had been appointed Senior Presiding Officer in a village ten miles further away from Kekirawa.  This farming village was situated adjacent to a big tank and did not have access to by any tarred road.  I was assigned with two assistants, a policeman, a jeep and a driver for the election duty.  We started early on the day before the election and reached the school before sunset.  The Village Headman of the area had arranged food and lodging facilities at the school itself.  As there was no electricity, two hurricane lamps had been also provided,.  Except the policeman all others were in their middle-ages.  The Policeman, Mr Vanasinghe, was about 25 years of age.  After having dinner, I was reading newspapers by the lantern light.

“Sir”, Mr.Vanasinghe came and sat in front of me.

“You are from what part of the country?”

“I am from Ratnapura.”

“How long have you been in the Police Force?”

“Only two years.  Are you  from Jaffna?”

“I am from Nagadeepa.”

I do not mention to most of the people the name of the village of my mother’s birth, Eluvaitivu.  I need to have a map to show where it is situated in Sri Lanka.  But Sinhalese people will understand easily when I mention the village of my father’s birth, Nainativu alias Nagadeepa ,well known for buddhist temple.   Buddhists deem pilgrimage to Nainativu, which is called Nagadeepa in Sinhala, as one of the religious observances they have to carry out before their death.

“Sir! I have been to the shrine when I was young.”

“Okay. Vanasinghe!  Will tomorrow’s plebiscite be peaceful?

“It is an unnecessary job of Jeyawardena.  Isn’t it?”

I understood that Vanasinghe was a supporter of the opposition party.  He spoke frankly as he was young.

“I want the plebiscite of tomorrow to conclude without any incident.  I am worried about it.  But not about J.R.”, I concluded my conversation with him.

Vanasinghe wished me goodnight.  After extinguishing the lantern I went to bed.

We all had a bath in the tank early in the morning.  It was a new experience to bathe by plunging in the cold water among lotus and lily flowersAll except Vanasinghe and I were from Anuradhapura District.  They were used to this method of bathing.  Some villagers and children amusingly looked at us.

The voting started at 9.00 am.  Vanasinghe was staying at the entrance.  The election process was slow in the morning.  While males voted more in numbers in the morning session, females came in batches in the evening session.  It seemed that the women had finished cooking and their meals before coming to vote.  By about 4.00 p.m, there was a commotion and a large crowd had gathered at the entrance of the polling booth.  I called Vanasinghe and asked him why was that there was a gathering at the entrance.

“The Member of Parliament for this Electorate, Mr .Mahindasoma is here.”

“Tell them not to stand there as a crowd”, I was reading a document.  As Senior Presiding Officer my only duty was supervision of the election process.

“Are you the Senior Presiding Officer?” a person questioned me in an authoritative tone, in Sinhala language.

I looked up at him.  Mahindasoma was standing there.  I have seen him at Anuradhapura Kachcheri.

“It will be easy for the voters to mark their ballot papers if you put an old news paper inside the marking place.”

“Sorry.  According to the election law there should not be any thing kept within the marking place”, I thought that he was trying to find some fault with me.

“You are telling me!” he raised his hand towards me and then put it down.  Though I was nervous, I stayed where I was.  He stayed there for a while and went out saying something.

Vanasinghe came running and said, “It is good that you did that.  When I asked the crowd to disperse he looked hard at me and said, “I will show you who I am” and then he came to you.”

“I think I am somewhat lucky.”

I sealed the ballot boxes and took them to Anuradhapura by Jeep.  I also gave a letter to the Government Agent of Anuradhapura, Mr.Dissanayake.

“What is this?“ asked the Government Agent.

“It is a complaint about Minister Mahindasoma’s attempt to assault me.”

“I won’t take it seriously if I had been in that situation.  Formerly he had assaulted several Government officers”, he told me after inquiring about the incident.

“I have made a complaint to you.  It is left to you to take appropriate action.” saying so I left the GA’s office.  Later, I caught the next bus to Medawachchiya.

“You are the hero of the month”, Gunadasa told me after hearing what happened.  He also served a glass of arrack.  I thought that I was an accidental hero and gulped the liquor in the glass.

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