“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of the things which matter least.” Goethe
Despite insidious efforts by mischief-makers, rumour-mongers and even some politicians playing Jekyll and Hyde to envelope this country in a fear psychosis, it is gladdening to see Sri Lanka gradually returning to normal with school attendance too improving by the day amid assurances by the commanders of the Tri-forces and the acting Police Chief that the ground situation in Sri Lanka is well under control.
In the aftermath of the unprecedented suicide bomb attacks on April 21, which killed 266 worshippers and hotel guests and left some 500 wounded, maimed or disfigured, what is so saddening to contemplate is the fact that this carnage could have been prevented and so many innocent lives of men, women and children saved if only the political leaders and the powers-that-be had not ignored the prior warnings of a disaster waiting to happen and gave the proper orders to our armed services and the Police, who so effectively and efficiently, in the days after the Easter Sunday attacks, flushed out the terrorists, their accomplices and their handlers, located their safe houses and hideouts and in the process unearthed a number of weapons’ caches and even seized their bank accounts.
We appreciate the continuing efforts of our security forces to make this country a safe place for all Sri Lankans to live in. Against this background came another black mark in Sri Lanka’s post-war history. It was the well-coordinated and well-organised anti-Muslim riots on May 12 and 13 carried out by Sinhala extremists, who damaged and vandalised several mosques and burnt and destroyed Muslim homes and shops in several parts of the North-Western Province. This too could have been prevented or thwarted if the powers-that-be had taken notice of the pattern of sectarian violence that took place, not many years ago, in the Kalutara District and very recently in the Kandy District.
Meanwhile, a weekend newspaper reported that an open warrant had been issued by a Colombo Magistrate for the arrest of the self-proclaimed leader of the National Thowheed Jama’at (NJT), Zaharan Hashim way back in August last year on the basis that he was using the internet to sow seeds of disharmony among the communities and in connection with suspected terrorist activities. But he had gone underground and the search operations to nab him had lost steam and then came to a standstill with the subsequent arrest of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) Chief, DIG Nalaka de Silva on October 25, 2018 and released on bail nearly seven months later on May 21 this year.
In the on-going search operations, the Police last week arrested five more suspects, among them was a development officer attached to the Horowpathana Divisional Secretariat, a government school teacher, two teachers of an Arabic school in Kiwulekada and a resident of Kebitigollewa. They are alleged to have maintained links with the NTJ and its leader Zaharan Hashim. Police said preliminary investigations had also revealed that the suspects had nearly a billion rupees in their bank accounts and were also known to have delivered extremist sermons in Anuradhapura and Trincomalee.
Police had obtained Court orders to freeze the bank accounts with funds totalling Rs.134 million belonging to the 89 suspects currently detained by the CID and the TID in connection with the Easter Sunday bombings. According to Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara, the police had also confiscated assets worth Rs140 million belonging to the terror suspects.
The foregoing raises several questions as to why, when so much was done within a month after the suicide attacks on that fateful Sunday, how much more could have been done if such an operation had been carried out long before April 21 no sooner the authorities were privy to the warnings of impending danger. This only underpins the fact that a person or persons in the line of command had let the entire country its citizenry down and left the door open for an unprecedented terrorist attack of such magnitude previously unknown in post-war Sri Lanka.
Now that what has happened has happened, only the passage of time and prudent and rational thinking will heal the mental and emotional scars and the suffering and trauma that such a mindless and heartless tragedy has left behind. It was Albert Einstein, who observed that, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”.