PHI Beaten To Death While On Field Duty
By Nirmala Kannangara
Brother of the slain Public Health Inspector (PHI) in Thambalagamuwa raised concern over the fellow health officials’ failure to prevent the murder. The PHI was allegedly attacked by a resident causing fatal multiple injuries to his head.
K.M.M. Subair the elder brother of the murdered PHI, K.M. Faleel is still in a state of shock with the untimely death of his younger brother.
“The other four officials that accompanied my brother could have easily prevented the man from murdering Faleel,” said the grieving brother.
Fifty two year old Faleel was attached to the office of Medical Officer of Health (MOH) in Thambalagamuwa in the Trincomalee district. He was on a field tour of dengue mosquito eradication programme on July 9 when he received fatal death blows to his head and forehead from a angry resident for trying to lookout for mosquito breeding sites at the suspect’s land.
“Five of us were on a field tour engaging in the mosquito eradication programme when this unfortunate incident occurred. When one of the Spraying Machine Operators (SMHO) went to this place in question to inform that a PHI and his team has come to check his garden, the suspect has chased the SMHO using abusive language. The SMHO in return warned us not to come and it was too late when we understood that this man was chasing our group with a pestle (molgaha) to attack us,” Field Health Officer Mohammed Thariq said.
According to Thariq, five of them ran in different directions in fear of their lives when the suspect got hold of Faleel and gave fatal blows to the back of his head.
“When we saw Faleel falling we shouted for help. There were members of the Sarvodaya Movment distributing mosquito nets to the villagers nearby. They came running to help us out. Seeing a crowd approaching him, the suspect killer who by this time was giving sever blows to fallen Faleel’s forehead ran away. Faleel was bleeding profusely. We immediately took him to the Kanthalai Base Hospital where he was pronounced dead at admission,” said Thariq.
Thariq who is still in a state of shock said that he is still unable to made up his mind to go back to work. According to him, the attacker is a mentally unstable person.
“The killer’s mother told us that her son is a mentally imbalanced person. If so it is up to the law enforcing officials to decide on it. However I am yet to come to terms with what happened to Faleel and has no intention of reporting to duty immediately. I am fear in of my life as well,” claimed Thariq.
Meanwhile MOH Thambalagamuwa, Dr. Ajith said he was busy getting Faleel’s body released after the postmortem inquiry to hold Muslim final rights when the Eastern Province Health Secretary visited the scene with a police escort.
“Upon the Health Secretary’s visit the police have taken the suspect into custody. He is said to be a former member of the civil defence force who has been sacked for violating civil defence rules and regulations. However some says that he is a mentally unstable person. If so, we are yet to see his diagnosis cards or reports for conformation,” added Dr. Ajith.
According to Dr. Ajith, Faleel had a good rapport with the Thambalagamuwa villagers and was surprised as to how such a friendly PHI came under severe attack from a villager.
“He was a resident at Kinniya and was a father of five children- three daughters and two sons. The eldest is an A/L student and the youngest is only two years old. He was the sole breadwinner of his family and with his death the family is now facing a daunting task to live without a proper income,” said Dr. Ajith.
Dr. Ajith further said that the other four health officers who accompanied Faleel are yet to report for duty since the day of this incident.
“I can understand their mentality after seeing how a fellow colleague was beaten to death in front of them. They too are in shock,” said Dr. Ajith.
Asked as to what his future plans are – whether his officials will still continue with the mosquito eradication programme, Dr. Ajith said that all PHIs and other health officials are on field duty
“On Tuesday all PHIs stayed away from engaging in the mosquito eradication programme as a protest against the incident but from Wednesday they were back at work,” Dr. Ajith added.
Meanwhile slain PHI’s brother Subair had a different story about how the murder took place.
According to him his brother was murdered after he gave a charge sheet to the mother of the suspect.
He further queried as to how the villagers could say that the man is a mentally unstable person if he could react to the charges leveled against his family for having mosquito breeding sites in the premises.
“My brother has given a charge sheet to the suspect’s mother asking to appear in courts for failing to destroy mosquito breeding places in their garden. Having overheard this, the son has come out with a pestle and has done the damage. If this man had sense to realise the gravity of their fault and to get angry with the PHI who gave the charge sheet to the mother and chase the same officer and kill him, how could anyone claim the suspect is a mentally unstable person,” queried Subair.
He further described as to how his brother was disturbed due to an unknown reason before he left home for the last time on the fateful day.
“On this particular day he has left home three times and had come back without proceeding to work. This has puzzled his wife as well. We now consider this to be a bad omen. It was by noon when we got the shocking news. The five children are still in tears and their future is bleak with the death of their father. Since my brother died while on duty his wife might get his full salary till 57 years and later the pension. But how could a young mother with five children without the support of a husband run a family looking after the children’s education as well,” said Subair.
Following the cold blooded murder, plans are afoot to provide armed security personnel for officials engage in mosquito eradication programmes, according to Health Ministry Media Spokesperson W.M.D. Wanninayake.
He said that Health Minister Maithreepala Sirisena is to request President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Defence Secretary to provide armed security personnel to accompany the health officials on field duty.
“Although security personnel accompany these officials, it was not compulsory for the security forces to provide their service for this field duty work. Those who have accompanied these health officials were unarmed. But due to the prevailing dry weather condition in the north, north east and north central provinces we have not taken much interest in sending PHIs for dengue prevention programme but mainly on anti- malaria campaign and they were not provided even unarmed security personnel. However following this unfortunate incident Health Minister is to bring a proposal seeking Defence Ministry’s approval to provide armed security guards in mosquito eradication programmes,” said Wanninayake.
Police Spokesperson SP Ajith Rohana meanwhile said that all investigations have now been concluded and the suspect have been remanded for 14 days.
“By now we have gathered all the evidences including the scientific evidence. We are also planning to get a psychiatrist report to ascertain whether the suspect is mentally ill,” said SP Rohana.