Stunned, deeply bereaved look at the past week


Cassandra is not going to be drawn into discussion of the whys and wherefores; who dun it; who’s to blame and other conjecturing regards the tragedy that befell Sri Lanka. She leaves it to those who delight in teasing out the convolutions in any situation to come to conclusions. Easter Sunday with its church services and hotel brunches was the worst time to launch an attack on a nation, its people and ultimately its economy with the most impactful places selected to be blown up by suicide bombers. When you read this, you will know more about the suspected group - National Thowheed Jama’ath - and the actual numbers dead and injured. Stupefying statistics and cannot-be-accepted fact that a proportion of those figures are children and foreigners, mostly tourists.

A few truths outed

Cass listened to Dr Rajitha Senaratna, Rauf Hakeem and Kabir Hashim speak to the media on Monday 22 at Temple Trees where, on behalf of the government they humbly apologized to all those who were affected by the bomb blasts and outlined compensation to be paid/given. Senaratna’s narration of the Prime Minister not being aware of the security warnings and shut out of Security Council meetings and Hashim declaring that one of the suicide bombers and another were arrested by the police but released on the order of a political big wig were revealing. Again politicisation prefacing mayhem. These politicians who contributed to the disaster by commission or omission must be outed and punished.

Many foreign news agencies focused on Sri Lanka. Cassandra hid her face in shame when on Wednesday 24 at the noon CNN news briefing, Rosemary Church very cynically criticized the security situ in Sri Lanka prior to 9.00 a m on Easter Sunday and for months before that. She was very critical of the State Minister of Defense in his address to the foreign media.

Blame laying was rampant. The Opposition Leader emerged loudest. Not only did he say the government had failed to protect the country; he went further by demanding the resignation of the entire Cabinet (UNP). It would have been complete destabilization and more room given anyone and everyone who wanted to kill, maim, rob. Instead of coming together in a time of dire need, this was his idea – to grab power, never mind what happened to dear suffering, highly damaged Sri Lanka.

We closed our ears when the televised Parliamentary proceedings had Gunawardena and Weerawanse ranting. In contrast was Field Marshall Fonseka speaking calmly and thus more forcefully. He said a person like himself should be made use of. So true and correct. Cass remembers commenting on the fact he was not made Minister in charge of security by the President though nominated by the PM.

Many Sri Lankan

traits exhibited.

Killing with kindness is one. Cass feels certain the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, Hemasiri Fernando, would have, when intimated on the imminent threats, mulled over the question of whether he could disturb and distract his boss the president while he, the prez, was on holiday. Further, knowing the Prez and PM were not seeing eye to eye, he may not have informed the PM.

Another national trait: pettiness. The displeasure between the Prez and PM most definitely contributed to the disaster, since if they were in contact with each other, warnings given would have been shared and action taken.

We Sir Lankans are notorious for not taking things seriously. Easy paths are always looked for. As a nation we tend to see the glass always half full, because that view or presumption calls for no action and we live up to our reputation of being lotus eaters. The warnings were taken lightly. The Secy to Security said this: "Yes, we were warned but we did not think it would be so serious." (May not be exact words but content is intact). Hope springing eternal in his optimistic mind?

Any pluses?

Cass with her beady eye surveyed the destruction; not by actually visiting the churches and hotels blasted but via pictures, TV and imagination. Hard woman though she be, she is basically a coward, blaming it on her delicate femaleness as a member of the weaker sex. (She knows full well the sex she belongs to is not weaker but steely strong inside). As a woman with maternal love she would not have been able to survey the carnage in the suicide killing fields.

Even the darkest, most threatening black cloud has a silver lining, just a streak maybe, and those were hunted for by Cass, yearning for some consolation in this attack on her beloved country and its church going Catholics and higher-end hotel patronizing clientele. Streaks were visible.

One was the apology tendered by the spokesman of the government, speaking more on behalf of the UNP. Dr Senaratna and others apologized humbly to the victims, their families, and to the Catholic Church and institutes the targeted sites belonged to.

Compensation was promised, but never can even billions compensate for a killed person, a lost limb or irreparable damage to a building

The largest plus point which Cass and every one sane and loyal to the country commends is the way the Sinhalese behaved. None instantly and violently reacted. Curfew was imposed but until it was done and even after, the rabble rousing rioter could have vent his blood thirst attacking Muslims and shops. This did not happen so we seem to have learnt a lesson that remains effective from the 1983 disgraceful pogrom of Tamils.

Among all the blame laying, I did not hear Ranil Wickremasinghe pointing a finger even once, or blame laying, trying to absolve himself and his party. He got down to business no sooner he heard about the first bomb. I heard his interview with the foreign press. He held his own and was a credit to the country.

Field Marshall Fonseka made a reasoned, measured address in Parliament on Wednesday 24. When on the previous day Mahinda R vituperated in Parliament against all and sundry and said while he was in power with his brother in charge of security never did, and would, such a calamity have occurred. He added, pointing to the Field Marshall: "Ask him! Ask him!" The Field Marshall replied but TV footage was cut short. The reply would have been something to listen to!

Oh my goodness, how the security forces and police went into action. If only they had been given orders earlier, (a warning was received on the 11th). How easily, casually and confidently, as shown on CCTV, the suicide bombers who blasted the church in Negombo and the two hotels walked with explosives in backpacks. The police and army are on constant patrol now. Bless them for their task is fraught with danger and stress, and perhaps long hours too.

And so to a restricted life; no burden at all when the many dead and wounded are remembered. Terror is global. The questions persist: why Sri Lanka; why the Catholic Church? Answers may eventually be forthcoming.

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