By Jehan Perera –
Sri Lanka ended its first week after coordinated terror attacks in six locations left more than 250 killed and 500 injured without any further attacks. But the country remained in a state of semi-paralysis with people fearful about going to their workplaces in urban areas and to crowded places such as shopping centres and markets. Schools also remain closed. Some foreign embassies even ordered the evacuation of children and asked their staff not to report to work. After churches and hotels were attacked people do not know what the next target will be.
Such sustained and widespread fear did not grip the country even during the worst days of the three decade long war with the LTTE. There were suicide and other bombings then too but they did not denude the streets of people for so many days at a time. The willingness of the NJT to expend the lives of as many as nine of its members as suicide bombers on a single day suggests the availability of more waiting in the wings. This is a major cause for apprehension.
The NJT is reported to have had about 150 members. Whether they are all ready to be suicide bombers is a matter for speculation when little is known of this organization. So far the security forces have made many arrests. Whether they are all members of the organization or others who are supportive of them or members of other extremist groups is not known. The people await the government’s announcement that security is assured before they will be willing to venture out of their homes with confidence.
The ending of the nationwide curfew on Sunday a week after attacks seems to have had a positive impact on the public mood. There is more of normalcy in the flow of traffic and in office attendance. The continuation of the curfew was an indication that the government was adopting a cautious attitude to national security. The country cannot afford another bomb attack that kills and maims people.
There is already much anger seething in society about the government’s failure to give the people advance warning about the possibility of these attacks. This is anger that can be turned into a communal conflagration as in the past which needs to be prevented at all costs. Information regarding Muslim extremists was given by the Muslim religious and civil leaders to the government as long as three years ago and also more recently. This information was detailed, giving names and even videos of the speeches that these extremists were giving.
There was information that came from Indian intelligence services of the day and specific targets. It is a grave dereliction of responsibilities that the government failed to take all these warnings into account to protect the people. It is beyond belief that the top political leaders of the government and opposition did not get these intelligence reports about the impending catastrophe. These intelligence reports appear to have been widely disseminated within the security and intelligence services, and it is difficult to believe that none of them shared this information with those who were leading the country and with whom they had been working closely.
The tragedy of Sri Lanka is that no one takes responsibility for the security lapse or for downplaying the threat or for waiting to take political advantage of the crisis that was bound to come. The president and prime minister who lead the country have been pulling in different directions since their working relations began to seriously deteriorate last year. The government from which so much was expected has failed to deliver on its potential due to infighting.
The leaders of the opposition who continue to have influence in the area of national security claim innocence. They promise to come back to power and deal effectively with the situation. There is widespread public yearning for strong leaders who will do the needful to eliminate terrorism. Indeed there is a very powerful undercurrent of emotion amongst the people that unscrupulous political leaders can seek to exploit. When anger is mixed with fear it can easily get transmuted into hate.
One of the achievements of the present time, and in which Sri Lankan society can take strength, is that there have been no acts of retaliatory violence. The primary credit for this should go to the clergy of the Catholic Church whose adherents paid the biggest price in terms of the numbers of lives lost. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has been the public face of the church in calling for accountability from the government leaders who did not take the necessary action to prevent this catastrophe and for asking the people not to take the law into their own hands.
Sri Lanka can also take strength in the competence of its security forces that once battled the LTTE and set up systems of information gathering and counter terrorism that military personnel from other countries have come to study. The government has brought in Emergency Regulations to arm the security forces with additional powers. It is important that they be reminded of the need to function within the laws and to respect the dignity and honour of the people whose homes they may have to enter in search of terror suspects.
Dealing with religion based extremism requires a sophisticated approach. Civic, moral and religious leaders of all communities should reflect on the areas in which each of their communities could do more to improve engagement and relationships with those of other communities. We should not repeat the mistakes of the past. In 1979, President J R Jayewardene issued orders to the security forces to go to the North and eradicate terrorism in six months. However, the alienation that set in as a result of heavy handed counter-terrorism action alienated the people and the seeds of the thirty year war were sown.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Catholic Church have set a good example in a time of national anguish and fear, and in a situation in which the Catholic community feels that they have been targeted. Muslim-Christian relations in Sri Lanka were never bad or conflictual and must not ever become so, which is what the Cardinal and other leaders of the Church have sought to ensure. The reliance on the coercive power of the state needs to be backed by the moral and reconciliatory power of religion as it is meant to be.
sriraman.v.v / April 29, 2019
hi, iam from INDIA,our comisserations ,let peace prevail in your lovely ISLAND
Jadon / April 29, 2019
Dr. Jehan Why was Chinese owned Shangri la hotel targted with 2 suicide bombers, while only 1 bomber was used in all the other attacks?
Yes, we need a sophisticated global investigation on this, so please drop the blinkered “innocence” and exclusive focus on local matters and address the great game of Trumpland and its Saudi Arabian proxy $$$ role in setting up and recruiting IS terror networks for their their Cold War, trade War and Propaganda war against China in the Indian Ocean?
Now we are being fed more tall stories and absurd “narratives” that: This IS Caliphate is in Lanka and has declared South Asia as a Province– to mask the truth, spread fear psychosis and paralyze and destroy the economy by Fake terrorism experts from Singapore who have proven links to US Defense and arms manufacturers and the murky world of terrorist intelligence. Like Singapoe citizens Mahendran who came to loot the Central Bank we have the redoubtable Prof. Rohan Gunaratne Singapore Terror expert who has dreamed that IS without any rhyme or reason fancies 80 percent Buddhist and Hindu Sri Lanka for its Caliphate, when it is in fact the USA that fancies Lanka for a military base in its Cold War with China!!
FBI should be a prime suspect in the investigation on the Carnage on Easter Sunday in in Sri Lanka and should be be ask to GET OUT of Lanka. Also the US embassy should be searched for explosives first!
Don Stanley / April 30, 2019
Why are Sri Lankan experts being marginalized and FBI and all sorts of foreign agencies conducting the investigation, especially when US embassy staff with explosives were sniffed out by sniffer dogs at JAIC Hilten?
It seems that the foreign media and experts are more interested in advertizing and exploiting the divide between Trumpland puppet bondscam Ranil and the Presidential Clown Sira in order to craft their ‘alternative facts’ narrative and — remain in Sri Lanka. This is particularly clear from CNN and US ambassador’s Ada Derana interviews where there are claims that the IS is permenently interested in Sri Lanka when it is infact the US that wants to be in Lanka.
Lanka Civil society needs to call for exit of ALL foreign Xperts who are also spreading fear psychosis. Lankan intelligence and forces are capable, working overseas in UN peace keeping and exterminated the LTTE which was the most dangerous terror outfit at that time.
Civil society needs to call for the exit of FBI and also prevent any US fake peace corps – 150 with full diplomatic immunity – entering the country to cause more havoc.
K.Anaga / April 29, 2019
Sophisticated Response Needed?
Easily said than done. If only the government had promptly responded to the information received from India, the death and destruction could have been mitigated.
It is a well known fact that Srilanka never trusted India in peace Time. Perhaps Srilankan government as a whole or those who got the message,were rather skeptical about it because of the Love Hate relationship. On the contrary if the message was about a possible Tamil uprising, action would have been initiated to take into custody the” rehabilitated and released LTTE Cadres” as in the case of two policemen who were murdered. If not for the confession of the arrested Muslim,
LTTE cadres will continue to be under arrest. I am not sure whether they have been released.
USA, UK, INDIA and MALDIVES too have given their support to assist Srilanka in the search. Other than to go and worship the Thirupathy temple. India is not considered a Good friend. Further, every time the Prime Minister and President seek the blessings of Thirupathy there seem to be some problem- a Constitutional Coup or a Terrorist attack.
Under these circumstances it is better to rely on Srilankan gods, like the government not wanting foreign judges to hear the war crime charges..
Suriya / April 29, 2019
Dr. Jehan, How many foreign intelligence agencies does it take to screw on a light bulb?
Seems that there are 8 and counting so far: P3 – FBI, Scotland Yard, Interpol, and Aussie Intel, RAW and IB, Japanese Intel maybe, China (an injured party) and perhaps KGB, and of course Singapore Expert– Mr. Inside Al Quaida himself are
all in Lanka to craft the ” narrative” that the IS Caliphate has landed (Hollywood style) in this tropical island paradise, because, Kingpin Al Bagdadi, got tired of desert sands and mountains and wanted a Swim in the Indian Ocean, correction, the recently invented INDO-PACIFIC.
This fantastic story of the IS Caliphate moving to it recently invented “South Asian Province”, with 90 percent Buddhist, Hindu and Christian Sri Lanka’s Chinese owed Shangi la hotel as its capital, is of course to entertain, distract and scare the shit out of poor traumatized Lankans who have presumably suspended disbelief, and abdicated their critical thinking faculties at this time of national tragedy. Has anyone heard that TOO MANY COOKS SPOIL THE SOUP?!
But, so let us Lankan Intellects get cracking with our own geopolitical fantasies too to explain and find motive for our Easter carnage??
It seems that anyone can set up a website an claim responsibility for the Easter Carnage now that Wikileaks is also down..
TOO MANY COOKS SPOIL THE SOUP?
Kapila / April 30, 2019
How about Israels MOSSAD? they also are probably in town with the US bomb squad at JAIC Hilton.
Simhi / April 29, 2019
We need not wait till the opposition to gain power to deal with the problem. President knows very well that a General who is now a Field Marshall could the job better than a retired Lt. Colonel. Why is he intransigent?
CaliphateCyst / April 29, 2019
Could you please elaborate on the “sophisticated” methods you espouse? US troops on the ground as you are a US funded NGO head? I feel FBI is the best crime investigation organization in the world. They can help with cyber-forensics to follow the money trail and crack phone calls. They can also help with rapid DNA tests; but so can Interpol. Not sure what you mean. What I saw was an abysmal failure by you and CPA both to unequivocally condemn the attacks and empathize with the victims when this happened. You all I have noticed many times rush to condemn everyone of the majority for the thugs of BBS types and others responsible for Digana and Aluthgama incidents. But even this publication tried to blame 2 opposition MPS for Mawanella statue descrecration and never corrected it. These are Muslim extremists of Wahabi-Salafist intolerant extemism dying to claim that Ceylon is an ISIS land. What you and CPA Sara lack the balls and backbone is to deny that and CONDEMN it; instead you act just like Latif Farouk the man who blames everything on others instead of radical islam. Very sad to see you again being a cream-puff know it all pundit with your “Should Could” . Someone should tell you to go ***k yourself and your apologists. You all attacked all Sinhalese for riots by a few hundred thugs. Where is your voice when you wanted to demonize all Buddhists and Hindus?
Sri-Krish / April 29, 2019
Sri Lankan intelligence could have obtained valuable information had they infiltrated into the terrorist organizations.
All other malformations are second hand and not reliable.
If they had not infiltrated they could not claim to be an intelligent intelligence unit
CaliphateCyst / April 30, 2019
A video purporting to be from ISIS Head Baghdadi says the attacks in Sri Lanka were “vengeance for the brothers in Baghouz”.
So with your extensive knowledge, what will you say about that? A lot of you tried to link this to attacks by BBS etc. This was simply Arab Muslim Islamic Demon ideology taking over brainwashed dimwit LOW IQ tamil speaking Dravidian Muslims to do their shitty work.. Why don’t you grow a pair of balls to call it for what it is mate? Why not condemn the attacks like how you defamed all Sinhalese for BBS attacks in Digana and Althugama ? Or at least condemn the Islamists who attacked these hapless devout god-fearing Catholics who never took up arms against Syrians or Iraqis and had nothing to do with that imported ideology? Is it your pathetic inability to be honest?
KILL these ISIS bastards. You cannot hold hands with them and sing Kumbaya. 2 Millionaires and their wives too hate people and want to kill as many people in this multi religious nation and you think they will understand anything other than a hole in their heads ? Kill or be killed mate. No need to understand their demented Satanic ideas.
Sri-Krish / April 30, 2019
In my earlier comment it is not malformation, but information.It is. a typo error.
Lalith / April 30, 2019
Make it compulsory for police and intelligence personnel to speak and read tamil
kali / May 1, 2019
Sophisticated Response To Terror Attacks Needed
SLFP urges govt to heed Gnanasara Thera’s claim:
*** The only Sophisticated response that can solve the danger facing the Country is to remove the causes of dissestion. But no body is prepared to listen to it which is anathema to the vast majority but will rather listen to “Gnanasara Thera’s claim” from behind bars.
There is now an international dimension to the danger with Bagdadi adding his voice which will revitalise the Muslims all over the World . One of the suicide bombers was trained in Syria. The most frightening thing for ordinary civilans living in Cosmopolitan areas must be the introduction of knife attacks. So any alienation of the Muslim population will increase the risk rather than decrease it. The west has tried but failed as a determined fanatic can cause havoc. In Sri Lanka 70 years of Brutality is now paying dividends and the seeds were sown in 1958.