'So grateful': Southland MP Joseph Mooney with Sapumal Wijenayake in Christchurch at the weekend


Ten months ago, Sapumal Wijenayake told Mountain Scene he’d ‘‘lost everything’’.

When you ask him how he is to day, you can hear the smile on his face as he replies, ‘‘I’m not just happy, I’m great’’.

Scene featured Wijenayake’s story in January, almost two years after a man he didn’t know delivered a king hit-style punch to his head in Queenstown’s Cow Lane.

After first stumbling head-first into a wall, he weaved into the centre of the lane before he collapsed with a fractured skull in March, 2019.

He spent about six months in hospital, including four weeks in a coma in intensive care, underwent a craniotomy to relieve pressure on his brain, and then a second surgery to have plates inserted in his skull and a bone flap replaced.

The 36-year-old missed the birth of his first child, Yathula, in Sri Lanka, and has since spent just one precious month with his wife and little boy, who’ll turn two on Monday.

And the whole time, he’s been fighting to stay in New Zealand.

While he had passed an international English language testing system assessment before
his injury, the window to use it to apply for residency had passed by the time he recovered.

Unable to work full-time as a result of his injury, his sponsorship was cancelled.

Wijenayake, who moved to Christchurch earlier this year, says he’s grateful beyond words for the support and assistance he’s received since Scene’s article.\

As a result, he’s been helped by an immigration adviser, a lawyer, and Southland MP Joseph
Mooney, who’s lobbied for him to be granted residency — something finally becoming a reality.

The trained chef says he had his bags packed and car for sale, intending to give up and head home, when he got a letter from Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi on September 30, meaning he can soon start the process to bring his family to NZ.

‘‘I’m very happy, I’m very excited,’’ he says.

‘‘This was my dream — I came to NZ on September 2, 2011; for 10 years I have been struggling.

‘‘I don’t even have the words.’’

Mooney, a former lawyer, caught up with Wijenayake in Christchurch over the weekend and
says it was a ‘‘pretty special moment to be able to share’’.

‘‘Sapumal has been through an extremely rough time, but his positivity through the horrific injuries he sustained, and his battle to stay in NZ, is inspirational.

‘‘This is one of the great things about being an MP.

‘‘To be able to help someone like Sapumal, who has faced very trying circumstances through no fault of his own, is one of the reasons I do this job.’’