If this column returns to the subject of the dastardly terrorist bombings on Easter Sunday, it is not without cause. The security forces, now acting with extra powers under their belt, continue to scour the country for members and supporters of the jihadi organisation that unleashed the terror killing innocent people. They are also searching [...]


More baloney right from the top


If this column returns to the subject of the dastardly terrorist bombings on Easter Sunday, it is not without cause. The security forces, now acting with extra powers under their belt, continue to scour the country for members and supporters of the jihadi organisation that unleashed the terror killing innocent people. They are also searching for the extremist organisation’s safe houses, weapons caches and its stored and hidden financial assets.

While there are daily reports of a range of assets being discovered and alleged terrorists and supporters being rounded up what the country has been looking forward to is more authoritative information on what happened before the deadly multiple attacks, how expeditiously the political leaders then in the country or abroad were informed and how quickly the leaders gathered to map out strategy and seek external assistance, if necessary.

It is true that those in responsible positions and others with speculative theories and fancy tales have held media conferences and been interviewed by foreign media, often passing the buck as it were, to other responsible officials,  claiming or feigning ignorance of foreign intelligence alerts informing Sri Lanka of planned attacks.

The more the Sri Lankan people hear of those intelligence reports the more they are angered by the insouciance of officials and the seeming casualness of politicians who have undertaken the responsibility of safeguarding the country and its people.

The initial shock and bewilderment of the public at what appeared to be a well-planned attack of such devastation, has quickly turned to anger as information of the passing of intelligence by a concerned neighbouring country well before the mass bombing, began to circulate.

Moreover, there were several questions for which authoritative and truthful answers were awaited by a disgusted public increasingly losing faith in a bunch of people known as ‘professional politicians’ whose sole task is seen by many to be feathering their own nests and teaching the art of plundering to their progeny.

That is why the public were anxiously looking ahead to last week’s parliamentary debate which they hoped would provide clear answers to vexed questions. They expected the head of state to provide credible responses especially since he is, apart from being our head is also the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Defence Minister and now also Law and Order Minister, a portfolio he grabbed, people believe, to serve his political interests.

I listened quite attentively to President Sirisena’s speech hoping to gather important information relating to what happened before and after Easter’s mass killings and which fingers were pointed at whom. I also read the English translation of the speech put out by his officials which adds to the hilarity.

If I was reminded of then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s explanation for joining battle alongside his friend across the pond, President George Bush, and his refusal to accept that he had done wrong and apologise to the leaders and people of Iraq for the illegal invasion of their country, our president sounded like Blair. When it comes to justifying his actions and throwing a veil over his indiscretions, Sirisena certainly has outdone Blair or “Phoney Tony” as he came to be called.

If the two Bs (Bush and Blair) could not find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which was their excuse for waging war, Sirisena’s speech to parliament was words of mass distraction.

For 45 minutes, one waited expectantly for our great leader to answer the questions that have been asked and until then remained unanswered. But if one expected Sirisena to supply the answers we were truly disappointed.

Into the bogus bundle of explanations that had piled up over the days, he added a new factor which made obfuscation even worse. Sri Lanka’s president faced with an unprecedented terrorist attack and a major national crisis said that he was in Singapore when he got the news “at about 10am.”

Now here is what confuses the listener/reader. Is he referring to Singapore time or Sri Lanka time? If it is Singapore time then it should be 7.30am in Sri Lanka when the suicide bombers were probably still strapping on the explosive vests for the first attacks starting at around 8.15am. So the person who gave the president the news must be clairvoyant unlike Mahinda Rajapaksa’s one time astrologer.

Look at the flip of the coin. If “about 10am” refers to Sri Lanka time when in Singapore it would be 12.30pm what in heaven was his informant doing when the first bombs had already been exploded 2 ½ hours earlier and the dead and dying had possibly been removed.

The question that remains for the president to answer is whether it is Singapore or Sri Lanka time he referred to in parliament. Throughout his speech he talks of criticism directed at him and others without being aware of the facts. He wants his critics and others to know the truth first before making statements sans knowledge.

One cannot quarrel with that conclusion. But then why did he not clarify the issue and state the fact relating to the time without fuelling more speculation especially in what is called the social media. Here was an opportunity for the president to crush the speculation by disclosing the fact, on the floor of the House, too.

Moreover he fails to mention who passed him the information of the bombing. Was it an official from the intelligence services or a bureaucrat or just a friend like the one who showed him the letter circulated by a senior policeman alerting some of his colleagues to an impending attack?

President Sirisena rails against those who speak without facts in hand and spread false or “fake news” — a phrase Donald Trump has popularised to describe any news critical of him. Yet when he has the chance to provide the facts, Sirisena shies away from it. Why?

Sirisena glorifies himself by saying that he opened the doors of the National Security Council to invite outsiders. He mentioned Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith as one of the persons so invited. Days earlier Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told parliament recently that Thilanga Sumathipala attended NSC deliberations which have not been contradicted.

Strangely Sirisena fails to mention that he had invited a person rejected by the voters at the general election and whose interest lies more in the direction of horses than national security. What makes him suitable to be invited to deliberations that are of a confidential nature and should remain so?

That is unless Sumathipala was expected to inject some horse sense into matters dealing with security! He takes credit for opening the NSC to others so the NSC could be so open that it could meet at the race course.

While letting in those the public wanted kept out, Sirisena conveniently refuses to say why he has kept his own prime minister and State Minister of Defence out of the NSC meetings they have attended previously and have a right to attend and have been a part of it until Sirisena in one of his peevish and irascible moods excluded them both. Only from October last year when his coup failed to oust his prime minister.

One of the problems with Sirisena’s governance is that he has this great capacity of finding rounded individuals to fill square holes. In fact, he has done the same to the presidency. No wonder, he seems to admire Trump who trumped so many officials out of the White House.

Having spent 10 days after the Easter disaster reading about international terrorism, Sirisena is now prepared to lecture any one on the subject. Why, he told parliament that even the world’s leading powers have been the victims of terrorism and even they did not see it coming.

He is trying to compare the experience of those countries to our own tragedy, that none of them knew about the attacks that caught them by surprise.

It is true that most of those countries were unaware of the coming catastrophe. But that is just the point. Sri Lanka was not like the others. We were informed two weeks before that Easter would be our Ides of March. We were not warned once about the terrorist attack but several times.

But Sirisena remains silent on this, making nonsense of a comparison and putting Sri Lanka in the same basket as other victims of terrorism. If intelligence was passed on as early as two weeks before Easter, is it Sirisena’s claim that he did not know anything about these alerts until that day in Singapore?

If you have no idea what is baloney, here it is right from the top.


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