By: Capt Elmo Jayawardena
I will make this article short, simply because what I am writing is extremely sad. 350 plus totally innocent people died on Easter Sunday morning due to random bomb explosions. 500 or more were maimed and are fighting for their lives in hospitals. The extremists who are responsible would have had their own reasons for creating this terrible tragedy. Everyone has reasons for everything they do: but does that give them the right to kill innocent people? They planned, they came, they bombed, and the ones who paid the price were people who had gone to church on this Black Easter to pray and those who sat at a table to enjoy a celebrative breakfast.
So we heard the sirens again of ambulances carrying the wounded screaming to reach hospitals. Shell-shocked by-standers in semi-zombi mode were talking in whispers, making attempts to figure out what had happened. A ghostly silence shrouded everyone and those who were old enough were dragged back to pre-Nandikadal days which we have almost forgotten in the last ten years. It is four days as I write since the first bomb went off in Katuwapitiya. The gloom has gathered around everyone. And it has spread across the island like a weed-clogged wave. We do not know what happened except bombs killed people and we do not know why it happened. We also do not know what is going to happen. In some ways it is a deja wu of the days of our ethnic conflict. We fed on bitterness for three decades, the taste is well remembered and that is what is most frightening.
I paid my humble respects to a dear friend, Menik Suriyarachchi and her daughter 10 year-old Alex. They both died in the Negombo blast. I shook the husband Sudesh’s hand mumbling meaninglessly as I was totally incapable of any form of consolation with words. What can you tell a man who had lost both his worlds, the loving wife and a darling daughter? Driving back from the wake I thought of my old basketball friend Remigius Perera of Shamrocks and Sri Lanka fame. He had gone to Kochchikade church for Easter mass. His final ‘time-out’ was called by a vicious suicide bomber who did not know him at all. Didn’t know Remigius was a simple tall man who played basketball. He didn’t have to die like this leaving a grieving family totally bewildered for the absolute waste of it all. That is what is so sad about this, everyone who died or got maimed had nothing to do with anything that is connected to this carnage.
Then came the aftermath and they started passing the political blame ball. It was embarrassing to watch them on television screens. I do not have any knowledge of security strategies and how they are implemented. But when a big-wig says we didn’t know this was so big, I wonder where he draws the death toll demarcation line of what is big and what is small? Then the Island editorial states that a senior minister dropped a bombshell at a press conference. I too saw it on a broadcast of ‘Ada Derana.’ He categorically stated that some people were arrested as suspects of terror activities in January; places were mentioned and so were the bomb-making equipment they were caught with. A terrorist training camp was mentioned. According to his revelation a powerful politician used his influence and got one of the arrested freed who was subsequently identified as one of the Easter Sunday suicide bombers. Suspected terrorist, police arrest and then released through someone’s political clout. Where is the bombshell without a name? Who is this un-named Rumpelstiltskin? 359 innocent lives lost. Their devastated loved ones sure have a right to know.
By the 11th of April it is said that there was a warning of a terror attack given by an intelligence arm of a friendly neighboring country. The warning was repeated and with some details and names and it was also mentioned that the probable date was Easter Sunday and the attack would be against catholic churches. The so-received information was printed and distributed to the relevant people in the helm of national security. It certainly would have gone to many a nook and corner so much so that an elderly gentleman on a hospital bed had warned his politician son to avoid going to church on Easter Sunday as there were stories going around of a possible bomb attack.
What is stranger than fiction is both the President and the Prime Minister very clearly stating on national television that they were not aware that there was such a warning.
The Minister who was warned by his father lying on a sick bed may not have gone to church. So would the masses that were killed had they known the possibility of this horrendous tragedy.
I know for sure there were 5 other people who didn’t know of this possible heinous crime. My friend Menik Suriyarachchi and her little darling daughter did not know. So was my basketball friend Remigius who had no idea of any planned bomb attack. That is 3 out of the 5 people who definitely were unaware. The balance two knowing would have made all the difference. Unfortunately, they happen to be the Captain and the Vice-Captain of our nation. What kind of a circus is our governing administration? Who is responsible for this breakdown of vital communication? Will they ever be exposed and charged for their negligence? Or like so many other instances will all this end up under the proverbial carpet?
Looks like we are on track again to eat bitterness, as if 30 years weren’t enough.
That is the sum-total of this unbelievable chain of events. What I wrote here is what I gathered from the newspapers and from the television channels. Who knows what is true and what is not? As sad as this situation is what is infinitely sadder is the mockery I see at times in press conferences and the ones who make vain attempts grinning like clowns to pass the buck, whilst some others try to pick Brownie Points at the expense of a national tragedy. 359 innocent lives that were lost on Easter morning should not be pawned for political excuses or political gain.
Sadly, all that of course, come straight from Diyawanna Oya.
BY: Capt Elmo Jayawardena