Celebrations of Christmas this year reflected the pain of the Christian community after the tragic events of Easter Sunday. Television footage of the main Christmas mass held at the Katuwapitiya Church under the auspices of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith depicted the anguish and emotions of those who lost their loved ones as well as those who [...]


Christmas reflections on Easter Sunday attacks


Celebrations of Christmas this year reflected the pain of the Christian community after the tragic events of Easter Sunday.

Television footage of the main Christmas mass held at the Katuwapitiya Church under the auspices of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith depicted the anguish and emotions of those who lost their loved ones as well as those who suffered loss of life and limb in the terrorist attack that shook the foundations of Sri Lankan society.

While society as a whole looks at the events and the death toll as a mass of statistics, those who were direct victims of the dastardly attack could only turn to their Creator in their moments alone at home when they would surely have had only the memories of their loved ones to keep them company. Those who sympathise and empathise with them cannot in any way step into the boots of the victims to feel their pain.

As written about by several observers, the mature leadership given by the Christian clergy led by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith helped their flock to face the tragedy with dignity, patience and self restraint. While the Christian clergy did what all religious leaders imbued with the values taught by their own teachings would do, the nation owes them a debt of gratitude for preventing a violent backlash that often comes with the inevitable high emotions that events of this nature trigger.

As Father Kennedy Perera, Principal of St. Thomas College Katunayake, was to remark on the Newsline programme on television last week, the Christian teachings and beliefs of the victims also played a big part in the way they coped with the tragedy that befell them.

It would also not be wrong to say that the reconciliation efforts spearheaded by the Yahapalana Government and supported by civil society helped to hold the country together during the difficult days that followed the horrific events of April 21,2019.

In fact, the dignified national response to a cruel terrorist attack of such magnitude was only disturbed after over three weeks had elapsed when the very forces who had opposed reconciliation efforts undertaken by the Yahapalana Government went on a rampage attacking Muslim shops, business places, houses and mosques.

When one reflects on the events that preceded and followed the Easter Sunday attacks, there are several questions that arise in the minds of discerning observers. One such question is whether the tragedy that befell innocent people, both local and foreign, could have been prevented if the Police and Security forces carried out the tasks that the law had entrusted them with.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has repeatedly expressed unhappiness about the investigations and believes that the entire truth behind these events has yet to be unravelled. Only a thorough and independent investigation into the attacks can reveal the truth.

From all reports in the public domain, it is apparent that the investigations do not seem to have paid sufficient attention to the money trail connected to the individuals who carried out the attacks. An investigation into this aspect of the incidents will certainly help to get to the bottom of the whole episode and also help address the concerns Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has been raising.

One of the repeated assertions that have been made by interested parties has been the suggestion that it was intelligence failure that allowed the Easter Sunday incidents to take place. This is at complete variance with the facts.  In fact there was ample intelligence available prior to the attack of the activities of the now infamous Zahran. Different sections of the Muslim community had repeatedly provided information relating to Zahran while India had provided intelligence regarding the impending attacks on the churches and hotels and all this information was in the hands of the Police but not acted upon.

It would be more accurate to describe what happened as security failure rather than intelligence failure.

The question then is: Why did not the different arms of the Police act on this information? This pertinent question was raised by a Presidents’ Counsel. He asked whether the different police divisions which had received intelligence with regard to the attacks did not have ‘operational autonomy’. Did they have to await orders from the top to take action when danger was literally at the door step?

The answer to this question may be found in the situation that existed in the past where Police only took action on specific orders. The mistake the Yahapalana Government may have made was to place its entire reliance on creating the framework for the Police to act independently and free from political interference without conducting programmes to reorient the Police and empower them to benefit from and exercise the independence they now enjoyed.

Contemporary events taking place further strengthens the view that the scope for political interference still exists notwithstanding the independent commissions unless the personnel concerned are trained to act professionally and exercise their independence without fear or favour.

Failure by the Police to carry out routine duties may have also contributed to the events that unfolded in April 21, 2019. There had been an open warrant issued for the arrest of Zahran for a considerable period of time but no action was taken to execute the warrant.

Another factor that emerged to further complicate matters was the emergence of a character called Namal Kumara the self-styled Operations Director of an unheard of Organisation called the Dushana Virodhi Sanvidanaya (Anti-Corruption Organisation). This individual enjoyed unprecedented media publicity over a considerable period of time making wild and up to now unsubstantiated allegations at press conferences about a plot by DIG Nalaka Silva to assassinate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.  As a consequence, DIG Nalaka Silva who was the Head of Terrorist Investigation Division was arrested and remained nonfunctional during the crucial time leading up to the April 21 incidents.

Meanwhile, Namal Kumara remains in remand custody presumably for his role in the incidents that took place in the Kurunegala District in May 2019. Today there are many Namal Kumaras making similar allegations at media conferences calling for the arrest of various individuals like the original Namal Kumara did.

The Police should guard against being misled by individuals of questionable repute pursuing their own agendas. The professionalism of the Police should be able to withstand undue influence in the conduct of their duties irrespective of where such influence originates.



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