The Easter Sunday terrorist attacks that took the entire country by surprise, as well as the attacks that took place in several areas in the Kurunegala District, as well in Minuwangoda three weeks later, give rise to some questions that need to be answered. While the Security Forces had received and were in possession of [...]


State must not fail in its duty to protect all its citizens


The Easter Sunday terrorist attacks that took the entire country by surprise, as well as the attacks that took place in several areas in the Kurunegala District, as well in Minuwangoda three weeks later, give rise to some questions that need to be answered.

A shop destroyed by rampaging mobs in Minuwangoda. Pic by Priyantha Wickramaarachchi

While the Security Forces had received and were in possession of intelligence that there could be attacks on Churches on that fateful day in April 2019, they failed to take preventive action. As a result, a tragedy that could have been averted occurred, leaving several hundreds dead and wounded.

Thereafter, however, the Police and the Security Forces moved very quickly to arrest those involved and dismantle the network that carried out the attacks. The initial arrests were made within hours of the incidents and, within 2 weeks, the authorities were able to announce to the country that 99% of the suspects had been arrested, with only mopping up operations left to be carried out.

The masterminds and the key figures involved in the terrorist operation have been identified and those not already dead have been arrested.

After a period of three weeks, during which the whole country remained peaceful, despite emotions running high and the people being in shock, the villages of Wariyapola, Hettipola, Panduwasnuwara and Minuwangoda were ravaged by a mob on motorcycles, travelling from place to place, carrying out attacks on Muslims, Mosques and Muslim business establishments. One of the business establishments torched in Minuwangoda was the largest Pasta factory in the country, where the majority of the employees, counting over 200, were Sinhalese.

While it is not clear whether the Security Forces had prior knowledge of the mob, it was apparent that they had not anticipated the attacks, despite the tinder box atmosphere that prevailed in the area, particularly, after the tensions following the Facebook related incident in Negombo.

Once the attacks were set in motion, the Security Forces did not move into action and, by the time they did, the attackers had left a trail of destruction in their wake. Thereafter, nearly 100 individuals were arrested in connection with these incidents, with some being produced in court.

Some of the characters arrested are well known purveyors of hate speech and had been arrested and charged in connection with the incidents in Digana too. This fact also highlights the painfully slow process of justice in the country where, more than two years after the incidents, the cases against those involved in the Digana incidents have not been concluded (probably not even started), leaving these suspects to roam free and wreak havoc on whomever they wish.

Another welcome feature relating to the incidents in Wayamba and Gampaha districts last week, as well as those in Digana in 2018, was that a large number of arrests of suspects have been made, unlike in the case of the incidents in Dharga Town and Alutgama in 2014. It is important that the cases against these suspects are concluded and punishment meted out to those responsible, so as to act as a deterrent in the future, to would-be hate mongers.

What is more important, however, is to identify the masterminds behind the attacks against Muslims last week, as well as in Digana in 2014. In Digana, the Muslims who lived in the immediate vicinity of the victim who was killed by drunken Muslim youths, were not targeted by any of the Sinhala Buddhist villagers. In fact, there were 52 such Muslim families, whose relationship with their neighbours was not affected. The incidents of violence against the Muslims occurred at a considerable distance from the deceased’s residence, and was clearly the work of outsiders working on a pre-determined agenda.

The incidents that took place last week too, had similar characteristics. All reports indicate that it was an outside mob, with the help of a few local thugs, who wreaked havoc on the Muslims.

While at local level there is goodwill and harmony between the Sinhala Buddhists and Muslims, it is often the case that this harmonious relationship is disturbed by outsiders with agendas of their own, and must therefore, be firmly dealt with.

Attention must also be paid to training the Security Forces to be alert to violence unleashed by mobs that seek to disturb good relations between the communities. In the 1980s, the Security Forces were often accused of human rights violations, during their operations against the LTTE, but after intense training in the 1990s, with the help of the ICRC, the image of the Security Forces improved considerably.

Even in the operations against those responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks, television screens showed the policemen and members of the Security Forces taking away suspects, firmly holding them by their shoulders, rather than dragging them by their hands or inflicting any violence on them.

It is in the inability to be alert to possible mob attacks and pre-empt such attacks that the Security Forces seem to be falling short, although they move fast after the attacks commence.

While the Easter Sunday attacks took the whole nation by surprise, it has posed several challenges to the Muslims. Despite the Muslim community having provided the intelligence necessary to the Defence authorities since 2014, and the Muslim community cooperating with the Security Forces to help bring to book the culprits, like vultures swooping down on their prey, the same forces that targeted the Muslims since 2012, are once again in action, seeking to take advantage of the situation.

To these forces, the pursuit of their destructive agendas blinds them to the fact that, destroying businesses owned by Muslims, in fact, amounts to inflicting harm on the National economy.

Ven. Dambara Amila Thera, in a television ‘Talk Show’ last week, had an interesting take on why Muslim businesses were targeted. He pointed out that Muslims, traditionally, excelled in trade and business, which was why Muslim youth were never seen demanding Government jobs.

He described the way salesmen in Muslim shops were very customer oriented, making it a pleasant experience for those who went into their shops. In the case of a Buddhist priest, after he had made his purchases, the shop owner would also offer him a Gilanpasa, said the Ven. monk.

He attributed the success of Muslim businesses to the inherent skills of those who owned and worked in such businesses, as well as their business acumen. He was of the opinion that the attacks on Muslim business places were prompted by business rivalries and jealousies on the part of those who were unable to enjoy similar success in their businesses.

Since 2012, the Muslim community began to feel insecure, due to the emergence of various forces against it. After the change in January 2015, the Muslims began to breathe freely and get on with their lives. But the fallout from the terrorist attacks on April 21, 2019, followed by the targeted attacks on Muslims last week, have left them in anxiety and uncertainty once again.

It is the duty of the State to ensure the safety and security of the entire country and all its people. The Muslims being an integral part of the Sri Lankan nation, are entitled to such safety and security as well.



Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.