22 September, 2020

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Easter Sunday Attack, No Heads Rolled  

By M.M. Janapriya

Dr. M.M. Janapriya

Last Sunday devotees assembled as usual at the churches but in a grander scale to observe the Easter Sunday. Some sat down with friends and family for breakfast at three of the city’s top most hotels to celebrate Easter. Alas! in a matter of milliseconds 259 innocent lives were blasted and over 600 were injured by some mentally deranged or misguided youth carrying powerful bombs in their back packs. This tragedy took place despite the authorities getting to know well in advance that an attack on sites of worship of Christian faith and some 5 star hotels was imminent. Even so why wasn’t it thwarted?

Response of the Cardinal

In the face of there being  clear and  unforgivable security lapses which converted a preventable attack in to an inevitable one, the Arch bishop was magnanimous enough to make every effort to dispel any fears the country might have developed on the ordinary Muslim community and remained consciously above the level of playing the usual blame game. This prevented a possible backlash and more bloodshed for certain so the Arch Bishop’s approach was exemplary and indeed deserves to be lauded. 

Chronology 

On their own admission the government knew for quite some time that there have been extremists of Islamic faith in our midst. On the 4th April 2019 or thereabouts foreign intelligence agencies have officially alerted the local counterparts of the imminent danger giving a good amount of detail in the process. Apparently Indian intelligence have been briefing their Sri Lankan  counterparts of this attack for about 4 months at unofficial level and in the last month this briefing has happened weekly till the official intimation took place on the 4th April. According to foreign journalists, countries rarely get this kind of detailed information. In the above mentioned background one would have expected the Sri Lankan authorities to have moved very quickly and to have mobilized all their intelligence, police and military muscle in order to draw up a fool proof plan to thwart this attack. Instead, what followed was a comedy of errors.  The IGP apparently wrote letters (I am not sure of the date of the letter) to 5 DIGG about the matter but the action 4 of them seems to have taken is unclear. The one in charge of VIP security had intimated in writing to his colleagues in charge of different VIPs asking them to tighten the security of the latter by letter dated 9th April 2019. This reminds me of how the health department functioned the time I started working as a junior doctor 48 years ago. Write letters and wait for things to happen. The way the Defense Secretary responded to foreign journalists trying to absolve himself from blame was shameful to say the least. One of the young Ministers owes his life to his dad who was in a hospital ICU. The senior advised him not to go to the church on the fateful day as there had been a threat of an attack on churches. Unfortunately even this minister failed to pass this information to the public. If the strength of the information was such that it prevented him attending the Easter Sunday mass, it was indeed authentic enough for him to have left no stone unturned to inform the public of the impending disaster.   

The president and the Prime Minister were quick to place before the suspecting nation, the reason why they should not be responsible for letting the attack go through by audacious inaction. The time now is 11.30 pm on the 26th April 2019 and just about 10 minutes ago I watched the President Mr. Sirisena being quizzed by journalists at a press conference. A little earlier he addressed the nation in which speech he exclaimed many times “I am not trying to shirk responsibility for not being able to prevent this attack. The entire government should stand responsible”. There is a saying, the one who excuses accuses himself, so let the nation decide whether the head of the state who was holidaying in Singapore (his own revelation on state TV of 26th April 2019) when the country was getting blasted like falling dominos was indeed a Nero playing the viola when Rome was on fire. It looks to me that the 359 people who paid the ultimate price had committed as a group, an unforgivable sin (like facilitating mass killers by suboptimal action, inexplicable inaction or indeed as a result of professional lethargy) in one of their previous births, for they went on their exit journey despite there being enough that could have been done to foil the attacks that killed them. 

Responsibility 

As I said before, the president and the PM were quick to point out (authenticity has to be established) that they had been kept in the dark as per intelligence shared by the foreign agencies which the intelligence chief Sri Lanka had passed on to the Secretary, Ministry of Defense as per protocol. The latter’s premise was that they never thought the attack was going to be one of this magnitude. So quite rightly he was made to resign as he seemed to shamelessly hang on to his job after the wanton destruction of many lives and property in which his suboptimal action may have played a significant role. 

The Defense Secretary was probably appointed by the president as the latter is the Minister in Charge of Defense. As such for presiding over a blunder caused by quasi-perfect action of an appointee of his, costing hundreds of innocent people’s lives, the President himself should seriously consider resigning his job. Position of the PM is less clear but it is proven that his security staff was alerted by DIG Dassanayake. If so there is a good chance the PM too was in the know of this threat. Had that been the case PM should gracefully relinquish his duties too.

I am not that particular whether President and/or the PM resigned or not because in this part of the world where accountability is conspicuous by its absence, politicians have continued to sit pretty in their respective jobs no matter what but the worrying thing is how and why police department from the IGP through the DIGG to the heads of VIP security and the Defense Secretary were almost ‘laughing in the face of disaster’. Their casual action or indeed audacious inaction is a matter of serious concern. The questions I would like the president to answer is 1) Did these people act in the way they did, due to individual professional cretinism? or 2) Were they dancing someone else’s tune in unison? 

I would like to call the bizarre response of the police and Defense Secretary masterly inactivity. Masterly inactivity can be good. Let me explain. The treatment of Appendicitis is Appendicectomy (surgical removal of the Appendix) done within 48 hours. Thereafter an Appendix mass forms with the surrounding structures localizing the infection. This is the nature’s way of trying to cure the disease and at this point we as surgeons facilitate this process by resting the patient, resting the gut, infusing antibiotics etc. At this juncture the surgeon seems inactive because he is not operating but this is not just inactivity due to indifference or lack of motivation due to some other reason. This apparent inactivity is masterly inactivity as all modes of help are being accorded to the patient, short of surgery which will be instituted if complications were to occur. Taking the Appendicits example, should the inaction of the officials and the police be categorized Masterly Inactivity? It shouldn’t be, because the calamity could not be prevented but if the intended outcome was a sort of ‘shepherding’ the bombers to their respective destinations this is indeed masterly inactivity at its highest.

If the answer to question number one is yes we can all breathe a sigh of relief. One can easily get rid of the entire slumbering constabulary and replace them with better ones. If on the other hand the answer is yes to the second question we are doomed. If this is indeed the case it is imperative that we make the full use of available world expertise like the FBI or the Scotland Yard to uncover the unseen hand that is puppeteering these figures whose relative inaction is unfathomable. As a citizen of this country I want these questions answered and answered quick. I can be certain that the country at large will be asking these questions themselves and they deserve a quick response too.

*Dr. M.M. Janapriya FRCS FRCSEd, Retired Senior Consultant Surgeon, NHSL, Colombo  

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Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    Glad to see you back, Dr Janapriya.
    .
    I have a computer problem which will prevent me from commenting for a few days.
    .
    I’m afraid that I’m no great admirer of Cardinal Ranjith.

    • 2
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      Dr. Merena Muta Janapriya, the simple answer to your question why no action was taken to prevent this carnage is that both government and opposition wanted it to happen. Mahinda and Gota wanted to use this to come back to power. It is said that Mahinda knew about this and told his wife’s relatives who are Catholics, not to go to church on Easter day as there is likelihood of bombing. Sirisena’s trip abroad is well timed to avoid these days and his delayed return to the country shows his position. Ranil and others wanted it because they wanted to divert attention regarding war crimes inquiry, release of lands and accountability issues of missing persons, saying that they have no time to look into those due to this urgent problem. Unfortunately the attackers had other ideas causing deaths of Sinhalese which has aggravated it. If only Tamil Christians had died it would have been swept under the carpet.

  • 2
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    heads only turned….

  • 1
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    the president said he had asked the IGP to resign
    up to now he has not done so
    he has challenged the president
    what is the presidents next course of action
    forget he said it?

    • 3
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      I don’t think that the President can “sack” the IGP. Parliament of some commission has to vote on it.
      .
      Somebody told me that 100 MPs had asked for extra security. Disgusting! They want security for themselves but are not concerned about the plight of citizens.
      .
      I’m only trying to give the factual position. That is quite distinct from my disgust.

  • 1
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    M M Janapriya is surprised that ‘No Heads Rolled’ following the ‘Easter Sunday Attack”.
    They are all covering their bottom and wiping foot-prints.

  • 0
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    Doctor as we were trained we are told to ask questions. If there is no satisfactory we are told to ask more questions. We are also told not to be complacent when come to sickness.We see the patient and after hearing to the complaints we go on ask detailed history. Then we do necessary investigations and then try to come up with most rational diagnosis / answer which will help with the right treatment and helping the patient in recovering. For every diagnosis we are told have differential diagnosis so that we are prepared with alternatives.And only after taking these steps we are able to predict the recovery/prognosis. Sir, I believe you are one of the few who raised the question of our crooked politicians role in this self created tragedy. As I colleague I am certain the answer for your question is the second “they were dancing to some politicians tune in unison” (by now you may be aware too, hence your follow up article). My fears are as usual politicians will continue and some bureaucrats will take the blame, who later will be rewarded.

  • 0
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    Looks like another doctor Sankaralingam too has figured the correct answer.It is obvious a person dosen,t need to be a doctor to know who is responsible for this massacre. As physician we apply the same rational thinking for every problem we face. I am sure there are others too who know the truth behind this self created tragedy. But how many are in denial??? If not how many are willing to come out and confront these crooked politicians ??? Knowing the facts, still how many are enabling the politicians????. How many are in pathological codependence with politicians????? Unfortunately majority of Lankans are on the wrong side.

  • 0
    0

    Doctor the complaint here appears straight forward and the obvious. The” ISIS did it in retaliation to Christchurch”. But further detailed history reveals involvement of involvement of crooked politicians. Then when we take past history, personal and family history (like in medicine ) it becomes more and more clear of their involvement. In past hey have been involved in such nefarious activities, MS tried raping the constitution, Rajapaksa have made people to disappear —-etc. Personal and Family history in case of Rajapaksas reveals GR,s involvement in murders, MR trying to manipulate elections, BR known to Lankans as Mr 10%, Namal becoming a lawyer by proxy, Shiranthi???? enough said I guess.Now comes investigations, if left to these politicians we will never arrive at the truth/diagnosis. Without the diagnosis there is no such treatment for the problem in hand , and recovery (of the nation). Unfortunately the family members (Lankan public) seems to be in DENIAL. Majority seems to be living in codependence with the sick (politicians). Others seems to be enabling the patient/politician and there by has become part of the problem.What is currently taking place is to putting band aid (over a oozing ulcer)and giving a prescription for paracetamol and vitamins , telling there is nothing to worry. Sir can you please give a second opinion on this matter ????

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