Three weeks has passed since the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels, which killed nearly 300 people and it is 18 days since the last suicide explosion took place at Sainthamaruthu in the Ampara District. Yet, normalcy has not returned to the country. Instead, fear of more attacks and sporadic clashes between communities has engulfed the country.
Unlike the fear of suicide attacks, the fear of clashes between communities was not so unfounded. Media reports have created a terrific atmosphere, which in turn might have emotionally charged many people. In the meantime, people with vested interests seem to have capitalized on the situation, and as a result of which, anti-Muslim violence erupted on Sunday and Monday in some parts of the North-Western Province and the Gampaha District. With the government enforcing an islandwide Police curfew, normalcy has been further distanced from the lives of the people.
Interestingly, this is a country that has seen hundreds of suicide attacks against political leaders, military leaders and also against ordinary people. A President and a Presidential candidate had been killed and another President had been seriously injured while a Navy Commander was killed and an Army Commander was seriously injured due to those suicide attacks.
Huge bombs had been planted targeting ordinary people in the heart of capital Colombo as well, in places such as Fort, Pettah, Slave Island, Town Hall, Joint Operational Command premises, Dehiwala, Maradana and several other places where hundreds of people were blown into pieces.
Yet, people braved the bomb threats and practically lived with bombs carrying out their day-to-day activities. However, 10 years after the end of the war, people have not come to terms with the situation this time, even after 18 days has passed since the last terrorist attack.
The Government and military leaders have been assuring the country as well as the people that the security has been strengthened and no untoward incidents would happen.
President Maithripala Sirisena, who is responsible for Law and Order apart from Defence, and Defence Secretary General Shantha Kottegoda - a former Army Commander - are among them. However, the Opposition, especially the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by war-time President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the current Opposition Leader seems not to be optimistic about the situation. Archbishop of Colombo His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who, as a true Christian, guided the Catholic community to remain calm after the Easter Sunday mayhem against the community, is also not happy with the security situation.
Rumours had it last week that “something” was to happen yesterday (Monday, May 13) in places such as Fort, Panchikawatta, Wellawatte and Nawala and some politicians including the Opposition Leader, were seen on TV warning the people not to ignore those rumours.
The Police, though they scoffed at the rumours claimed that they anyway would not be complacent. Interestingly “something” happened on Monday, but it was not a suicide bomb attack; rather it was a mob attacks on Muslims in certain parts of the country.
Is it the government’s version or the others’ that people should believe, when it comes to safety and security? Even a supporter of the ruling parties would not prefer to take a chance. The Opposition says that parents did not send their children to school last week as they did not trust the Government. Yes, people never reposed their trust on any Government when it came to the safety of them and the members of their family. Thus, some parents chose to travel in two vehicles during the war.
However, there is a role to be played by the people as well in bringing in normalcy. Normalcy is seen and measured by the movement of people. On the other hand, the moving about of people depends on their comprehension of the situation and the compulsions of their day-to-day life. In other words, for people to move about, we need normalcy and it needs people to move about, despite incidents taking place. That was the undeclared theory that was practised during the 30-year-long war.
We cannot hide ourselves forever at our homes. Also, we cannot kill ourselves or our loved ones either. Besides, no Government could give a 100% assurance on the safety and security of each and every citizen.
However, the situation becomes worse when a Government is not in a position to speak in one voice. Yet, we want normalcy. Let’s make our own judgements without looking at the situation through political or communal prisms.