Saturday, 04 May 2019 10:54

The day the nation was let down by ITS leaders

On Easter Sunday, my wife and I attended the Easter Sunday Mass at 6:30 a.m. at All Saints Church, Colombo 8, then visited Cinnamon Grand, returned home by around 9:15 a.m. only to hear the reports of explosions in three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and  Kochchikade. 

The blasts also rocked the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country’s capital. 

One week after this devastating attack, Sri Lanka is still in a state of shock and confusion, trying to understand how a little-known radical Islamist group, living in luxury, had unleashed this wave of co-ordinated suicide bombings that resulted in killing 250+ people – the worst since 2008.

These heartless criminals, who masterminded this mayhem, demonstrated that they did not even have an iota of concern for children. The country and its people are obviously in a state of shock. It will take several more Easter Sundays and years to forget this slaughter of innocent people and shameful governance. 

Whether this attack was totally home grown or planned in Siriya and executed by local or foreign criminals and whether it was a revenge attack for an earlier carnage inflicted on another entity by some foreign power or local powers, is not the concern now for the innocent people who lost their fathers, mothers or their close relatives. 

It is the responsibility of the Government of Sri Lanka and its intelligence and security departments to protect the poor man on the street. They owe it to them. While I know the government will now leave no stone unturned in investigating this attack and the full force of the law will be used to hunt down the criminals, the question is why this carnage was not avoided, especially, given that the intelligence reports were available.

Therefore, who is responsible administratively and/or politically for this utter incompetence? The leaders of Sri Lanka cannot plead ignorance for their failure because the impact of this attack on the national peace and economy is unimaginable. The opposition on the other hand for a change should refrain from playing politics to build their base with the investigations and allow the law enforcement to do its work without any interference to rid this country out of this mess.

If the security intelligence had carefully followed the National Thowheeth Jama’ath, its social media, the movements of the leader/s and the ideology behind, it would not have been difficult to identify the dangers of the movement well before it escalated to this level. Had the discovery of a huge amount of explosives and a training camp in January 2019 been followed up properly, this plot could have been uncovered. 

Coffins of victims being carried during a mass burial

The failure of the national security intelligence has been made worse by the lackadaisical attitude taken by the Defence Ministry and Police when clear intelligence warnings with details were conveyed from India in early April. Even before, when the moderate Muslim community leaders alerted the police about extremist advocacy, no action had been taken with all knowledge about the people involved.

Protecting the Muslim community, their places of worship and their rights in Sri Lanka is a must. The prevention of terrorism, including hate speech necessary for the protection of the nation in general, is paramount. 

Given the available information, why were the suspects not arrested? Why weren’t their residence searched? The public needs answers. Those responsible for neglecting their official duties leading to this carnage must be charged.

While it’s too early to quantify the economic impact from the attacks, the expected hit to Sri Lanka’s important tourism sector has led consultancy capital economics to downgrade its 2019 growth forecast for the country to just one percent from 3.2 percent previously. The economic hit will likely to be felt in the tourism and financial sectors.

Many industries in the country are linked to the tourism sector, so the overall economic impact could be far reaching. The total contribution — including the spillover impact to the sectors such as food and beverage, according to the estimates by the World Travel and Tourism in 2018, was around 11 percent of GDP. Therefore, the last thing the Sri Lankan public now wants is more violence and economic mayhem. 

To ensure this senseless act will not have a long-term impact on Sri Lanka’s economy, the president and prime minister must demonstrate unity, put a good team together to bring security, economy and services to work together and appoint people who don’t pass the buck to others, to pull Sri Lanka back to where it was. 

(Daily Mirror)

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