Feature: The old flame  

Feature: The old flame  

Feature: The old flame  

Written by Ranee Mohamed

23 Jul, 2016 | 1:04 pm

When police responded to a 119 telephone call in the Biyagama area on January 18, 2016, the young victim stated that “he had set himself on fire.” However, two days ago, around July 18, on his Facebook page and in a complaint to the police, the ‘victim’ alleges that he did not know what he uttered after he was burned. He states that complaints changing his stance, a few days later, “ were not accepted”. He now states that he was set on fire by his girl friend and woke up to the stench of fuel and the clicking of a matchstick…

Samindu Thiwanka tried to gesture with his pink hands as the peeling skin swayed in the breeze. The white patches on this twenty year old,  defaced the gestures and expressions, as he tried to explain how he was engulfed in fire, while the flame of love turned to embers in his heart. However, police are now trying to unravel the mystery of how this old flame ignited. The incident occurred in January 2016 and now, in July, the allegations have just begun to flare.

In his crowded little home down Viharawatte Road,  Nawinna, Maharagama in the outskirts of Colombo, Thiwanka spends his time in bed, with a whirring fan dispersing hot air. Unable to go to work anymore, this man who made his money working with fire anyway – in the kitchen in a Town Hall hotel – has been rendered worthless by fire itself.

Samindu Thiwanka says that he filed a complaint with the police (Complaint Number GCIB 294/163  Biyagama police)  alleging that he was set on fire.

He alleges that he was set on fire by his girlfriend and her new found boyfriend.

“She was my girlfriend for four and a half years. I met her at the Galle Face Green in 2013 when we were viewing the Vesak lighting. I was in and out of her house and she visited me whenever possible. Thereafter, I helped her by enrolling her in a nursing course, ” said Thiwanka, the tears pouring his cheeks. But it seems like no amount of tears can douse the burning in his heart as he recalls the day when he visited her home and waited for her. It was a Saturday and I went to her house but she was not there. Her sister and grandmother were there and I spoke to them. Her father came home at 2 p.m. But she did not come. I waited till  6 p.m. To my horror, I saw her arrive with a boy. I went up to them and asked who he was.

According to Thiwanka, the exchange of words and the ‘checking of his girlfriend’s telephone  spurred the incident. Thiwanka now claims that he was hit on the head by the girlfriend and her new boyfriend.

“I fell down and they tied my wrists to the back of my body. I was almost unconscious and woke up to the stench of petrol and felt the burning eat into my skin. I ran and the flames seemed to follow me. I knew I was on fire, so I jumped into the nearby well,” says Thiwanka.

Today, that glow of love has not dimmed: it has turned into  a burning flame that burns his body during the day and rages through his mind as he sleeps. He alleges the agony is greater with the memory that he endured – near death at the hands of a girl, he says, he loved with a flaming passion.

It is a nightmare that this twenty year old will have to live through – the experience of being eaten up by the flames, scorched – and then the trauma of having to jump into a well – to douse the fire around him or die in the water.

But Thiwanka did not die. He lived to tell the tale and re-live the horror of the scars and the questions that will mar him for the rest of his life. As he struggles to rise from the ashes, his mind seems to push him back; for the embers of pain and disappointment seem hard to extinguish.

Meanwhile, the mobile phone number of his girlfriend remains disconnected. However, she has reportedly stated that Thiwanka has ‘done this to himself’. The parents have stated that they had advised them to finish their educational activities before engaging in “love affairs.”

Questions abound whether this allegation is an attempt at vengeance by a “rejected lover”. However, Thiwanka’s burns are evidence of a traumatic ordeal undergone at a very tender age.

Extensive investigations into the incident are now underway by officers of the  Biyagama and Mirihana Police Stations.

By Ranee Mohamed





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