15 October, 2019

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The Day After

By Chamindra Weerawardhana –

Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana

On a day after tragedy of unprecedented proportions has hit one’s people, plunging one’s country into a state of tremendous vulnerability and chaos, it is not easy to pen a word. However, it is crucial to highlight a few key factors that surround the Easter Sunday terror attacks and their aftermath. 

1. National security negligence?

In the admission of the Prime Minister himself, there have been prior Intelligence warnings about a terror incident in the brewing. No significant action was taken. The blame for this squarely lands on the individuals providing political leadership to the state defence apparatus, from the Commander-in-Chief downwards. Sri Lankan security forces and intelligence structures are highly sophisticated, having faced their share of challenges fighting against a secessionist foe in a 30-year civil war. Intelligence officials who flagged the threat must be commended for the diligent warnings issued. 

The political leadership, for its part, resorted to inaction. Why so? 

The logical conclusion one cannot but afford to reach is that the political class, the Executive in particular [as the security forces come under the direct purview of the Executive], did not take action in a ‘deliberate’ move. 

Firstly, Sri Lanka is heading towards national elections, and the political class has a long tradition of seeking to sustain itself from ethnonational tensions, threats to national security, a climate of high insecurity and uncertainty, and of heavy distrust among the different ethnonational communities, in order to sustain their political agendas. It is as if the political class were simply unable to engage in a mature brand of democratic politics in the absence of a threat to national security, coupled with ethnonational tensions. 

If indeed the political class were in dire need for an ‘enemy’ for political reasons, it has now found one, in no uncertain terms. 

Secondly, to reiterate the obvious, no national-level political developments in Sri Lanka take place without direct behind-the-scenes interventions of certain external ‘powers that be’. It is very clear that this attack has been ‘allowed to happen’, in order to create a climate of unprecedented tensions, which would: 

a) Benefit the external powers, as in, the instability of a country facilitates their inroads into that country and its systems, and to strengthen their strategic strongholds in a geo-strategically crucial location in the Indian Ocean.

b) Benefit the local power-wielders, as it would enable them to play the ‘terrorist threat’ card once again, and call for ‘strong leadership’ [read ‘Sinhala majoritarian-nationalist alpha-male-image-presenting leadership]. 

2. The “weak government” narrative 

In the aftermath of this tragedy, there is absolutely no running away whatsoever from the reality that the UNP-led government is a weak government, in terms of national security. True, the defence portfolio comes under their ‘cohabiting political opponent’ the Commander-in-Chief, the President [as a mark of respect to the innocent victims these ruthless attacks, this writer refuses to write the name of Sri Lanka’s current head of state]. However, the UNP has a clear foothold, with a close relative of the Prime Minister holding office as state minister of defence. If the government had a more effective approach of managing the national security brief, these attacks could have been contained, if not averted. 

Public pronouncements of senior government ministers in the aftermath of the attacks are brimming with nothing but hopelessness, a fine dose of cowardice, and the lack of a consistent vision for the country. 

Not only the present government? 

In admitting the above reality, however, we must never lose sight of the fact that threats to national security also occurred under the post-war Rajapaksa administration. Suffice to recall the 2014 Aluthgama incident, and the rise of Bodu Bala Sena. If there were a growing threat of Islamic radicalising, the security forces and Intelligence were well-placed to pursue a nip-in-the-bud approach. 

Instead, the state looked on, as a Sinhala-Buddhist extremist discourse took shape freely, flouting casual islamophobia [the accusation, levelled by some, that Bodu Bala Sena, and other groups such as Ravana Balakaya, were fuelled under the auspices of the defence apparatus, is a factor that requires clarification at some stage]. What can be noted with full certainty is that under the post-war Rajapaksa regime, no outfit of that nature could have raised its head without the knowledge and [implicit or explicit] approbation of those in power.

The result was the growth of ethnoreligious, ethnonational and xenophobic hatred along a  Sinhala-Buddhist vs. Muslim axis, leading to the unfortunate incidents of Aluthgama. In hindsight, Aluthgama 2014 can also be considered as an early sign of the eventual fall of the Rajapaksa administration. Aluthgama was an indication that the tremendous national security prowess achieved by ending the war, and the consequent consolidation of the Rajapaksa power base, were not sufficiently ‘re-oriented’ to suit, and be effective in, a post-war context within a small South Asian island state that is always volatile to external interferences. 

This writer, however, does not blame the Rajapaksa administration. 

Managing national security and external affairs of a small country with tremendous geo-strategic significance in the Indian Ocean region is no easy task. It becomes even more challenging when the strategies, structures, approaches, principles and objectives all require a fulsome overhaul, after three long decades of civil war and national security uncertainties. The Rajapaksa administration failed in this test, which is why it could be ousted, through a cautiously crafted regime change operation, in January 2015. 

The post-2015 mirage 

Post-2015, many in civil society celebrated a newfound sense of ‘freedom’. However, this was a pure smokescreen at best. The inclination of external powers was to ensure that Sri Lanka remained volatile in terms of governance, and open to interferences of any description. The joint government mechanism provided a great platform to sustain such an agenda. From one crisis to another [bond-scam to the October 2018 coup, and much more], the joint government has been an experiment of debilitated governance – with next to no public policy agenda. This is the reason behind the overall air of ineffectiveness that characterises the joint government. To make this point clearer, if one were to ask what the government’s policy line is in relation to any given matter, the answer, inevitably drifts to a blurry and inconsistent one. 

The absence of a Sri Lankan Jacinda Ardern

When the Christchurch attacks struck in March 2019, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood firmly against white supremacist terrorism, went to the victims’ families, and stood by them. Despite her party’s somewhat politically volatile position in coalition with NZ First and the Greens, Ardern gave leadership to essential policy changes, especially in relation to gun control. Most importantly, the Ardern leadership set a strong precedent of an inspiring leader, committed to a peaceful and pluralist Aotearoa. Sri Lanka, for her sins, does not have an inspiring, dynamic and cosmopolitan leadership that has the force and charisma to set such a precedent grounded on peace, intercommunal coexistence and national security. At the present time, this unfortunately carries the risk of further ethnonational tensions and chaos. The best of leadership in the face of this crisis has been provided by citizens themselves, who have been repeatedly calling for responsible social media use, co-existence and mutual support. 

3. Geostrategic priorities

The biggest challenge facing any government in Colombo is that of managing Sri Lanka’s external affairs in the best interests of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. The daytime nightmare we witnessed on Easter Sunday 2019 is what happens when that challenge is mismanaged. We need to work and collaborate with India, but we HAVE to uphold Sri Lankan interests in issues such as the polemic over fisheries in Sri Lankan territorial waters. We need to be friends with the West, but we cannot let Sri Lanka become an easily manipulatable proxy in a Western power’s Indian Ocean strategy, over and above Sri Lankan interests. We need to be friends with China, but Chinese trade and strategic interests cannot be allowed to prime over Sri Lankan interests on Sri Lankan soil. This is where the crème de la crème of talent is required in high politics, in managing our external affairs, strategic priorities, state defence and national security. 

*The write is a political analyst, author and international consultant. 

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Latest comments

  • 10
    2

    all most 14 days Prior warning provided for the Intelligence Apparatus in sri Lanka was misunderstood —–because all Military Personals in SL have have not completed OR Passed ENGLISH in schools they only have completed till 8th grade…so the provided Intelligence was and still pending to be red by English able Intellectual….

    on the other hand general Public is no difference DUMB BRAIN sinhalese in this retard Island ****k they know about CONSPIRACY and speculations…[like what is Speculation to start with…it is the Probability / Likelihood of something Occuring] Ooops can someone please translate that for them !

    These Dumb Losers believes anything to everything DERANA-SIRASA-HIRU and of course the government puts out. what else can they do….

    • 9
      0

      A country who has failed to produce good leaders can pave all the ways to hurt the nation. We elected SIRISENA for a better future, he took us to all edges by today. We want him to resign and leave out of our sights. That can heal our hurt mindsets.

      • 5
        4

        Good analysis here: The Easter Sunday attacks were externally planned very likely CIA using some local Muslims as pawns to destabilize Sri Lanka, hit China and get a US security stranglehold and perhaps military base on Sri Lanka. The FBI is even now crafting the narrative.
        Long suffering Sri Lanka is certainly in the eye of the storm caused by Asia Rising–as a new superpower is born and the US Empire crashes out..
        THE FACT IS that there is absolutely NO MOTIVE and NO HISTORY of local Muslims attacking Christians in Sri Lanka as they are both MINORITY COMMUNITIES. This narrative of Christian-Muslim conflict will not fly in Sri Lanka and no self respecting Lanka social or political analyst will accept it!
        Now the FBI and all the King’s horses are trying to craft a narrative after getting the plot line wrong. This is were LOCAL CONTEXT becomes so important and defeats the global plot.
        The attack on Churches on Easter Sunday was meant to cause maximum distraction, confuse, and a spiral of violence destabiize Sri Lanka and enable pushing the US MCC agenda in Lanka as the days of Trumpland puppet Bondscam Ranil are numbered with elections on the horizon;
        Sri Lanka needs to know and identify the US deep state as the culprit if it is to recover and prevent further attacks.
        The attack on Colombo’s sea front hotels selected for the operation may give more clues as to the motive of the Easter attack and its perpetrators.
        There a covert warning to the rising superpower – China – hands off Lanka – from the crashing empire as the Western security noose tightens around the island. After all, Diego Garcia military base against which the UN’s highest court, ICJ ruled is not so far away and they need another place for oil processing to supply US war toys – ships and airplanes.

    • 4
      10

      Lost in Translation,
      Cut your crap. Soldiers do not read intelligence reports. Those who read these things understood them very well and informed the people who should take action but they failed to act. We had one of the best intelligence apparatus while Gotabhaya was the Secretary of the Ministry of Defense. That is why they managed to send your ‘Sun God’ to hell. After this Government came to power they ruined it to please Western countries and ‘Koti Diaspora’ . Still they did their job.

      • 7
        0

        That is why SOME ,muslim men were attacked in 2013 ?
        .
        Why you need to be that obsequeous to Gotabaya.? You are now in your early 80ties.
        He would not be your boy friend right ?
        :
        Please take good care of your Mahindapalayo…. dont spread lies. BaPUTHA Rajaakshes are the worst leaders this country ever produced.: They could let the current men do their job and leave away from politics. but they are to be blamed for not having allowed the elected men to do the job. Now Sirisena is in Rajakashes lap again .. just because ballige putha Rajaakshe cant live without abusive politics.
        He should leave from lanken . politics.. or even out of our sights for ever. I thought BP Rajaksehs may have been behind all these attacks.

      • 8
        3

        Eagle Blind Eye

        “We had one of the best intelligence apparatus while Gotabhaya was the Secretary of the Ministry of Defense. “

        I do not understand your logic.
        Let me try.
        Are you saying when Gota (the national hangman) was sacked from his job in 2015 did he take all their intelligence from the operative for safe keeping until his return one way or another?

      • 7
        0

        Eagle-eye….wouldn’t it be very easy for you to say that YOU are well [here @ CT] known-Lunatic-Die Hard SYMPATHIZER of those Genocidal Rajapakse Dynasty….
        =
        on the other hand I know very well the moron who works on SL armed forces-Air force Included [they attend for our RHEL-CISCO classes] those guys are bunch of OVER ARROGANT Losers….they call themselves Cyber Security expert….most guys at SL army cyber security are neither have a Bachelor’s degree most instances they fails on certifications repeatedly…yet god knows how they got appointed to those positions in first place

        • 1
          0

          Lost in T,
          You are quite correct . A real Cyber expert can make half a million p.m. Easily. Why would anyone work for the forces unless they were clueless and nobody else will hire them?

    • 3
      0

      Lost in Translation,

      Lost in translation because the mean IQ is 79, Sinhala is the official language.

      Even when translated, would they get it

  • 6
    0

    for God sake ; please bring peace to Sri Lanka ..
    We are destroying our country by any form of extremism..
    extemism of all kind must be wiped out .

  • 9
    0

    Now that one question is answered, where all suicidal bombers are locals/ home grown we should be asking following questions. 1) Why now???. 2)Why Christians???? 3)Why government sat on the intelligence for two weeks doing nothing??? 4)Did any politician play indirect role- who were aware but still wanted it to take place (we know how JR gave extra time in 1984 and the rumors created in murdering more people, how PA at the time begged JR /Premadasa to not to hold the funerals in public knowing well riots of larger scale have already been planned ). ISIS usually targets maximum human loss and not economical loss. Why target hotels??? and official news claims of a bomb detected in KIA ???? How a unknown group that too under the nose of high alert security, could coordinate an attack which LTTE could not have staged at their peak. Agree with you . lost in translation.

  • 2
    0

    Chamindra,
    [Edited out]
    You then start-off be pointing your pen, finger and your nose to the Executive with no reasoning, claiming that the root cause of this problem lies therein.
    In the mean while, two senior minister have come forth to claim that they had prior knowledge of the impending situation by way of their relatives/ the security squad. With all this in the backdrop, the prime minister comes forth to claim that he and his cabinet had no prior knowledge of these events, and this needs to be probed into.
    If the cabinet is to act and behave on the ethical guideline of “Collective Responsibility”, may I pose the question as to why the rest of the cabinet and the prime minister was not informed of such a matter regarding national security or was not escalated by either of the ministers to the prime minister or the Speaker?
    Even if such was escalated to the prime minister, what action would he and his cabinet have taken, given the history that Meetotamulla garbage mountain issue, was not only was escalated to him, but even several environmental protest were held in front of the ministry?
    What Action did Ranil et al, take when the Bond scam was raised in parliament, NOT once, or twice but three times over.
    Chamindra,
    This may sound awful given my worst nah to your egoistic issues with the many you interact in the journalist sphere but , NaH in the world of chemistry is a reducing agent, that one might claim to deprotonate many acidic conditions to b neutralized instantaneously.
    You need some growing up my dear, in to adulthood and beyond, since your claims, logic, and reasoning do not seem to be compatible with the type and age of your portrayed thinking.

  • 1
    0

    Chamindra.

    ……..We need to work and collaborate with India……
    ………We need to be friends with the West………..
    ……….We need to be friends with with China……
    ………..This is where the creme de la creme of talent is required in high Politics
    All the aforesaid had been done but still the Blasts took place no?
    Only thing is , I admit,; we never had HIGH Politics; It was low right from day one.

  • 4
    0

    We all talk about national security, what does it mean to Srilanka? This is the security of the nation state, its citizens, economy and institutions. Fortunately, Srilanka never had a external military threat to Srilanka and Srilanka do not have the capability to protect this nation state from external threat. What we had in Srilanka until now is an internal Fundamentalist extremism (Buddhist Sinhala and Islamist) and Tamil Youth extremism & Sinhal youth extremism to challenge the Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism and Capitalism. If Srilanka should be in peace first we should eliminate the Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism from this island.

  • 1
    0

    Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana has in mind “The Day After ” is really ‘The day after the Black 2019 Easter Sunday’,
    Chamindra says “……… The logical conclusion one cannot but afford to reach is that the political class, the Executive in particular [as the security forces come under the direct purview of the Executive], did not take action in a ‘deliberate’ move…..”.
    Unfair to suggest it was deliberate.
    The pogrom of 1958 was deliberate and so was Black July 1983, and the June 2014 Aluthgama Pogrom.

  • 2
    0

    Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana

    It is obvious that you are Mahinthas baby. But from what I understand is that the so called intelligence ( which I dont believe even from the SOPHISTCATED Sri Lankan forces) was not pased on to RW. You say RWs Government is weak and why dont you bring back MR & Gotha who are the cause of the attack on easter Sunday. Under the patronage of Gotha BBS embarked on destroying muslim owned businesses and palces of Worship which was the cause of ths attack iand did you condemn it.
    There is going to be a lot of mass arrests and the White van syndrome will return if MR is reelected. This will anger muslims with people disappearing and never to be seen again . You are dealing with an enemy who has clutches all around the world and they will attack Sri Lankans and Sri Lankas interests especially in the Arab World. So Sri Lankans take notice that the Jihadi war in on . MR & Gotha -vs- ISIS

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