Posted on July 4th, 2013

Dr.Tilak Fernando

It may sound strange but the opportunity has arisen to write about an alarming incident that had taken place inside a prominent bank in Colombo where a human life could have lost due to a boneheaded, stupid exercise performed by the Bank’s Management which simply boils down to confirm that though some bankers’ brains are tuned to figures the commonsense appears to be much desired!

During a pow wow with some of my old friends in London, Reggie Fernando, Anura Hegoda, Daya Ananda Ranasinghe, Douglas Wickremaratne and Sirira Chandrasekera etc, at Lihiniya Restaurant in Cricklewood, on a rather chilly afternoon which cannot certainly be called “ƒ”¹…”London summer in June’, the latter came out with the repulsive story on a Kirulapone bank (Name withheld – available on request) where a foolhardy act of a fake robbery (security- drill) on March 27, 2013, at 2.50 pm had nearly cost a human life.

High drama

According to Sisira, the SLBC UK Correspondent in London, his former colleague and friend (name withheld), a Senior Technical Officer at the SLBC had been queuing up at the Kirulapone branch to deposit some money when two armed men, appeared to be robbers, had entered the bank building at breakneck speed. One of them had come up to his friend (who was a heart patient) and pointed a revolver at his head while the other “ƒ”¹…”robber’ pretended to hold up another customer in the queue; no one from outside the bank had bothered to enter the building due to the obstruction. This traumatic drama had lasted for fifteen minutes.

I spoke to the victim in Sri Lanka on the phone upon hearing this incident. According to him the manager of the bank had emerged after the operation and pronounced it as “ƒ”¹…”just an off the record security exercise organised by the bank’ and apologized to the customers stating: “You are OK aren’t you”?

Heart patient

The irony of the whole saga is that the victim is a heart patient and at any moment during that imprudent act he could have dropped dead on the bank floor! Although the bank had taken it quite lightly, the victim has had to undergo treatment subsequently under a specialist cardiologist for a week at an unwarranted expense! Sisira Chandraseka says he did write to the Head Office of the Bank concerned from London on behalf of his friend highlighting this “ƒ”¹…”life-threatening’ act which placed two innocent customers’ lives at risk as a direct result of such a fake security drill.

Piece of mind

In his submission to the Bank concerned he had put in writing, I quote, “Your manager has apologized at that moment but did not care about the welfare and lives of those two who were at gun point. Despite the fact that it is totally unacceptable to take the public as pawns on a chessboard and play with their valuable lives in your security experiments, did your branch manager or those who contemplated on such a heedless act ever bother to check whether those two targeted customers were sufferers of heart ailments? The ruinous instant shock of holding my friend at gun point for fifteen minutes could have easily triggered off a massive heart attack and die on the spot, which fortunately did not take place in this instance, may be due to a stroke of fortune! What would have been the outcome if my friend had dropped dead on your bank floor? Would a simple apology be enough or could any financial compensation following his “ƒ”¹…”death’ made any difference to his immediate family?”

Sisira Chandrasekera says that the Bank concerned should have had the decency to offer his friend compensation at least towards the cost of his medication caused by the severe shock of the drama, but simply denied stating that “he did not suffer from this incident”. When I spoke to the victim on the phone on May 25 from London his answer was that “the bank is still vacillating”!

Different kettle of fish

In England of course there are various health and safety maneuvers such as fire drills conducted by individual institutions at regular intervals in conforming to The Factories Act 1961 which consolidated much legislation on workplace health, safety and welfare in Great Britain. Though as of 2008 some of it remains in force, it has largely been superseded by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and regulations made under it.

The Act continues to have a legal importance as cases of chronic workplace exposure to hazards such as industrial noise, often extend back in time beyond the current legislation. Breach of the residual provisions is still a crime punishable on summary conviction in the Magistrates’ Court by a fine of up to Pounds 400 or, on indictment in the Crown Court, imprisonment for up to two years and an unlimited fine.

In the event of damage arising from a breach of the Act, there may be civil liability for breach of statutory duty. Though no such liability is stipulated by the Act itself, none is excluded and the facts could be such as to give rise to a cause of action in that tort. A breach not actionable in itself may be evidential towards a claim for common law negligence. In particular, a criminal conviction may be given in evidence.

The difference between what is practiced in the UK and the incident highlighted above is that in England a prior warning is given to the staff of the institution concerned prior to any such safety drills.

To this end, each institution appoints their own “ƒ”¹…”wardens’ to ensure that no one is trapped inside the building when alarm bells go. All these are mock exercises to keep everyone on alert in case of a real emergency situation for the sake of safety aspect at all times.

What the bank in question has done in this instance is quite out of the ordinary and no one has ever heard of such an operation in any part of the world except seen on American action films!

If the bank had wanted to imitate such drama seen on the silver screen then they should have either informed all parties involved or employed actors to play the part of villain and the hero both, without harassing the innocent customers at health risks.

The victim in this case has volunteered to come before any authority to explain the extent of shock and the suffering he had to undergo with bills of added medical expenses having waited patiently for so long.

Any further details on this “ƒ”¹…”American Action’ style operation could be had from the horse’s mouth or his friend Sisira Chandrasekera, who on his part has willingly given his email address to be quoted as [email protected] for anyone to contact him.

(The above is a true incident that has taken place on March 27 at a Bank at Kirulapone which no other banks should ever try to emulate in similar fashion.)

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