18 August, 2022


Only The Living Can Demand Justice

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

A year ago on April 21 on Easter Sunday the country’s peaceful life for ten years since the war’s end, free from large scale terror attacks, came to an abrupt end. The people who went to the three churches and three hotels that Easter morning were subjected to simultaneous suicide bomb attacks would not have had the slightest inkling of the terrible fate that was going to befall them. At 9 am the six synchronized attacks took place and took the lives of over 250 hapless men, women and children and injured more than 500. The puzzle then, and which remains to this day, was the motivation for the attacks and who was behind them. Cardinal Malcom Ranjith, whose diocese suffered the heaviest casualties, has been the most dogged of the country’s leadership in pursuing this line of inquiry.

The dead have no voice to demand justice, so it is the duty of the living to seek the truth. This is one of the reasons for the importance given worldwide to truth commissions to investigate controversial events of the past. One of the government’s commitments to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva in 2015 was to appoint a truth commission to ascertain the truth of what had happened during the war. Credible truth commissions are usually led by people whose integrity is very high and have had a track record of professionalism and non-partisan service to the community. In South African the chairperson of the truth commission was Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The official inquiries into the Easter bombings so far have been unconvincing. Several weeks after the attacks the government arrested the Inspector General of Police, Pujith Jayasundera and the Defense Secretary, Hemasiri Fernando on the grounds of dereliction of duty. Both of them gave evidence that they had either been kept out of the loop at the highest levels or their advice had been disregarded. Both these senior public officials who were at the peak of their respective careers were incarcerated for months in prison. The parliamentary committee of inquiry was stymied by the fact that the president and prime minister were on opposing sides which made the inquiries appear to be politicized ones.

Political Embarrassment 

The Easter attacks have been an embarrassment to the political leadership of the country which may be why the search for justice for the victims appears to have been a desultory one. There was reliable information prior to the attacks to suggest that a wide swathe of the country’s political leadership on both sides of the political divide knew about the possibility of danger. A senior government minister said that his father, sick in hospital, had warned him not to go to church as there was a warning about an impending attack on churches. There were media reports that the intelligence services of friendly countries, including both India and the United States, had warned the government about the impending attacks and even the time and place of the attacks. The puzzle is why were these warnings ignored?

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith’s dogged determination to ensure that the truth be found may have its origins in the belief that the Christian worshipers were made scapegoats for a deviant political agenda. The perpetrators were Muslim, the victims were primarily Christian. There has been no history of ill will or conflict between Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka whatever may be the situation in the international arena. The Easter bombings were followed nearly a month later by instigated attacks in some parts of the country, hate speech and discriminatory practices against the Muslim community which was deemed to be collectively responsible for the bombings. This first year anniversary of the Easter atrocity is an opportune time to reflect on the dangers of extremism. There is a need to reflect on the extremism that lies within each community and to be on the alert to counter it before it grows to be a monster out of control.

The attempts being made to target communities and make them into enemies needs to be deplored and the government needs to step in and take action against those who seek to turn community against community for their own narrow purposes. One of the key recommendations of the WHO is that countries should be unified in their response to the Covid virus and there should be collaboration across party lines and between communities. The cooperation of all is vitally necessary as it will be difficult to ensure anyone’s security from the virus until all are secure from the virus. WHO has also pointed out that the regulation on the disposal of bodies of victims of the COVID virus may lead to reluctance of families and communities to report COVID virus cases in fear that they may be unable ensure proper funeral or burial rites for their loved ones.

Cardinal’s Leadership 

With the battle against the COVID virus is becoming more protracted and requiring greater sacrifice than previously anticipated, there is correspondingly greater tensions within society as the curfew gets further extended and reports of new COVID cases are announced. These increasing tensions are reflected in the rise of hate speech that is targeting the Muslim community. This is a continuation of a phenomenon that has been gathering in strength over the past several years and which peaked with the Easter bombing by Islamic extremists.

On the other hand, the experience of civil society at the community level with inter-religious committees at both the district and divisional levels is that much of the charitable work that is being done to support those who are suffering most as a consequence of the curfew are Muslims leaders and businesspersons. Muslims have joined humanitarian relief efforts with almost all mosques around the country distributing provisions and dry rations to needy families in their areas without differences of race or religion. This indicates that the Muslim community is economically empowered to offer such assistance and also that they are making a special effort to reach out to the larger community.

In the coming period Sri Lanka is likely to witness multiple nationwide elections for different tiers of government. The recent arrests of persons said to be involved in the Easter bombings have come in the context of imminent general elections. In the course of his sermon this Easter Sunday, Cardinal Malcolm said he had forgiven the bombers. This statement was not surprising as it is in keeping with Christian teachings. What was more creditable on his part was holding back the Catholics from retaliating in the immediate aftermath of the bombings last year. He spoke against retaliation and did not legitimise it. In these fraught times of Covid, this is the national leadership that the country needs more than ever, that treats all communities as members of one Sri Lankan family.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Hindian Intelligence , the CIA , and the ex UNP Minister Harin Fernanados’s dear Daddy knew about the Suicide Bombers coming .well before Easter Sunday.
    That is according to Jehan Perera.

    But the ex UNP Ministers Mr Rauf Hakeem , Mr Bathdeen, Mr Kabir Hasheen, and Mr Mujibur Rahuman didn’t know nothing , just like Sergent Shulz at Stalag…….

    Can you believe it, when Muslims don’t do anything without the knowledge of the Mullahs .
    Unless all those ex Ministers didn’t have anything to do with Mullahs or their every Friday Gathering places..

    Poor Cardinal had to wait nearly 4 months even after the Dr Rani was forced out the Temple Trees for our Cops to round up two of the Handlers, who drove 3 of the Suicide Bombers to their destinations.
    There are other Handlers who need to be accounted for the other 3 Suicide Bombers and their 30Kg Backpacks.

    A few Big Ones who seemed to have evaded the Law Enforcement Blokes for nearly 12 Months have also been called for Interviews .
    But the whole Cabal of the HR groups are up in arms now to ensure their Human Rights.

    Anyway I thought Dr Gehan was on about how to speed up the round up of the Brains and the Finances behind those despicable Terrorist Attacks.
    I never expected Dr Gejan to tell us how good those Muslim Leaders and their Business Buddies have become .
    And how they are helping our poor vulnerable inhabitants in these tough times..

    My Elders have told me not to trust Greeks Bearing Gifts..

  • 4

    Before the “living” demand justice, there is a more important matter for the public. That is to have fiercely independent, well resourced and trained police apparatus and a credible justice system free from interference by politicians and the “Deep State”. If the public wants Truth and Justice on all matters, then they need to elect decent and responsible political leaders who will ensure the independence of the police, judiciary and the public service. If different communities are goaded to vote on the basis of their artificially created nationalistic ideologies, the resulting political class will continue to pander to that voter base. A century of communal politics in the country has brought us down to the lowest order of tribalism. To emerge out of this would require a Herculean effort on the part of the intelligentsia. Whether Sri Lanka’s intelligentsia can rid itself of the contagion of nationalism is, of course, another matter.

  • 2

    the problem cannot be solved as long as we have a 2 party system of govt and provincial councils
    we need a national govt consisting of all leading parties at the centre
    unfortunately this is just a pipe dream at the moment

  • 3

    When the President and the Prime Minister are worried, not only about the elections but also getting 2/3 majority, how can they worry about COVID 19?

  • 2

    As a born Catholic I was am still saddened that our Muslim brothers aided and abetted by their spouses or family unleashed these acts of violence on the poverty-stricken folk who were attending the Easter Sunday service at that unfortunate time.
    Sadly a few including innocent tourists also unwittingly had to meet their maker and suffer from many an unwarranted injury.
    The worshippers were innocent and had nothing to do with the happenings in the rest of the world especially the sordid fatal shootings of the praying at the Christchurch mosque.
    Around the world, there are billions of Muslims living a few of the super-rich. who lead a fastidious out of this planet lifestyle while 99.6% of them lead lives as poor folks struggling to know where their next meal comes from.
    They also live in disgusting conditions.
    I am sad to state that his eminence of a Cardinal even after forgiving the perpetrators of this dastardly crime now states that all those who are and were involved in any manner should be punished.
    Coming back to the origins of this fine article by a much-esteemed author if the then-president had instead of conveniently taking a family holiday in Singapore had taken appropriate action on the Indian intelligence reports which were forwarded to him for his urgent attention by the police officers concerned.
    The then defence secretary and the IGP were made scapegoats spent many a moon in the remand prison and were finally able to obtain bail under stringent conditions.

    • 2

      At the outset, I would say nobody is born as a Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian. Children are born to parents who may belong to certain religions. In some cases, both parents don’t belong to the same religion and are left to the children to decide as they grow up. Their religion depends on the degree of affection they have towards their father or mother.
      In this case of 21st April 19, I am inclined to believe that it is not only the Muslims who were responsible. Even powerful Buddhist politicians were involved, it appears as per the prevailing environment then perhaps to get2/3 majority.
      Over70 % of those killed were Tamil Christian and a few Hindus who wish to have the best of two or more worlds. Nobody counted the exact number of deaths and their race/religion.

  • 1

    everyone has been arrested except the man who knew about itand extended his family holiday to singapore

  • 1

    One man’s justice is another man’s injustice.

  • 4

    In classic crime detection and solving of crimes, the bottom line is “Who stands to benefit from the crime?” If one reflects on the aftermath of the Easter bombings, one will remember how a reluctant hero seemed to emerge, with good credentials of having won the people’s confidence. The reluctant hero, as later events unfolded, did not seem that reluctant after all, and the catch cry was “to make Sri Lanka safe again”. I do not wish to elaborate further, as contemporary history is self-evident.

  • 3

    The Easter bombing of last year was a tragedy that could have been avoided had the govt. been active & competent, & not politically motivated & opportunistic. The responsibility lies with the inept President who was totally in the dark, & in his customary stupid way, blamed others & passed the buck to scapegoats. The PM was no better, his response being a callous ”what to do? I was not in the loop” but the most stupidest comment was from a Minister whose hospitalised father was apparently better informed of the events to follow & all the Minister did was to stay at home without informing even his own church of the possible disaster. For him to glibly state this in public shows not only his stupidity but his incompetence & lack of responsibility as a senior Minister. No doubt his political career will continue but the voter has no choice, our political situation is such.

    The intelligence was there but the failure to act was due to the incompetence of the leaders from top down. A couple of scapegoats were sacrificed but I have no sympathy for them, after all, they are cronies who benefit from scraps thrown at them from the top table & taking the rap when things go wrong is an ‘occupational hazard’ for such bum suckers. Unfortunately, those who should have been taken to task are still clinging on to political power. These leaders of our country not only have armour plated skins but can probably sleep at nights without any sleeping pills because they have no conscience.

  • 2

    In Srilanka, there is no possibility to find the true terrorists who mastermind these terrorist atrocities. This is because the police, CID, military are not independent they only act in the orders of their political masters. Our political masters are good at taking revenge on their political enemies and safeguarding the true criminals behind the terror. The terror incidence happened only one day. The planning of this terror, executing the terror, and the terror followed after the events should be considered in an investigation.

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