While the tears and grief of those near and dear caused by the brutal and sadistic massacre of more than 250 worshippers and the grievous wounding of over 500 at prayer on their most sacred day — as well as those innocents killed in hotels — can only abate in the distant future, the identification [...]

Sunday Times 2

Can Easter Sunday bombing change our politicos?


While the tears and grief of those near and dear caused by the brutal and sadistic massacre of more than 250 worshippers and the grievous wounding of over 500 at prayer on their most sacred day — as well as those innocents killed in hotels — can only abate in the distant future, the identification and apprehension of the gang of criminals of this organised slaughter before 24 hours were out should placate, to some extent, the outrage of the nation.

Emotional and passionate reflex actions to such massacre of innocents are global phenomenon and Sri Lankans somewhat tempered in its three decade terrorist conflict were better conditioned to receive the shock.

The immediate challenge before Sri Lanka is to exterminate this virus and prevent its recurrence.

If what happened on Easter Sunday was the result of a foreign extremist religious ideology that inspired some Sri Lankans to revert to savagery, there are exemplary ways that some other affected countries have resorted to that can be adapted to conditions here.

But it is of vital importance to find out if there were internal factors that generated this response. This country has awoken thrice from deep slumber to three insurrections since 1971.

When a crisis of the nature of Easter Sunday occurs threatening to tear the country apart, the first response of national leaders of most countries is to call for national unity.

National unity appeals are heard even in situations that have not been as grave. Cynics ask: Are these leaders serious about these call for national unity or are they doing so because they have run out of saying something original? The efforts made by them to bring different religious and racial communities together and little success achieved in recent times do not match their rhetoric. It is almost ten years since the LTTE conflict ended, but how much closer are the Sinhala and Tamil communities today as compared to 1983 when the conflict broke out?

On Tuesday, when Parliament got down to debate the Easter Sunday disaster, it soon became evident that the debate was once again back on the beaten track. After condolences, expressions of regret, ‘pledges of never again’ and promises of compensation for victims, the blame game began with gusto.

What happened to the information passed by ‘police intelligence’ to government sources about an impending terrorist attack was the hot point at issue. The picture that emerged was that the Defence Ministry was compartmentalised in a manner preventing the flow of information between key officials and key political leaders. President Maithripala Sirisena handles the portfolio of defence and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been in the dark since the turbulent days last October. He and State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene had not attended meetings of the Security Council for six months because they had not been invited! Instead some of those in attendance were not defence experts but those with expertise in placing ‘bets’, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka noted in hard-hitting witty speech delivered in laconic military style. It was the comedy of errors that resulted in vital information not being acted upon and precipitating the horrendous tragedy.

In the debate, those who had not cared two hoots about minorities, including Catholics, shed copious tears for them working themselves up to a rhetorical frenzy demanding justice and resignation of the government forgetting allegations made earlier of conspiracies of Christian organisations with NGOs against Sri Lanka. All these tears and sympathy were obviously an attempt to wean away Catholics from the UNP to the Opposition with the impending presidential election in mind.

The death of more than 250 innocents and over 500 injured in just one day had not affected the lust for power of politicians. Prevention of similar attacks does not seem to be of much concern. The main objective of winning power by hook or by crook remains unchanged. We shouldn’t be surprised in view of the fact that if a 30-year bloody conflict can’t change the Sri Lankan political mind, will any other event be effective?

In a multi-party democracy, it is certainly the duty of an Opposition to oppose a government, but when the nation as a whole is threatened, the Westminster tradition has been to unite in national interests. Perhaps Westminster traditions too have undergone change if we consider the turmoil between British government and its Opposition over Brexit.

Sri Lankan governments, in recent decades, have been thumbing their nose at world powers on different issues and have got away with it: Western powers, regional powers — China and India — and even the United Nations. They now face a new challenge, the ISIS—the international terror group— which though driven out of the territory they captured in the Middle East, is still operative in many countries through nationals of these countries. Sri Lanka is the most recent country they have announced their presence with one of the largest massacres of civilians in recent times. The concern shown by leaders of world powers about Sri Lanka in recent days, the focus on Sri Lankan violence in by the international media indicate the magnitude of the threat that this little country has to face.

But have Sri Lankan leaders realised the grave peril the people are faced with and change their political mentality in the interest of the nation: from grabbing power to protecting the nation? The performance in parliament last week gave no such assurance. The only redeeming feature was the unanimous decision to impose emergency regulations

Meanwhile, the government has to put its house in order with the President and Prime Minister no longer being in a state of incommunicado even on vital security issues.

Can the Sri Lankan polity continue with its ‘kapalla, beepalla, jolly karapalla’ (Eat drink and be merry) till the next elections come when they hope their man will win?

The lives of 20 million people are at stake.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

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