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National disaster turned into political football

16 April 2021 12:14 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The government seems to be in a fix in meeting the ultimatum thrown by the Archbishop of Colombo, His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith to bring the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks to justice before April 21.   
The Archbishop who had expressed satisfaction over the investigation into the terrorist attacks on churches and tourist hotels carried out on April 21, 2019, after the new government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa assumed office in November 2019.   


However, later he began to doubt the sincerity of the government in this regard. When former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother who had been arrested over these attacks was released from the CID custody in October last year, he even said that certain action by the government smacks of a deal.   
Although Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith had not referred to the parties of the deal which he suspected of, the comment prompted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to issue a statement as a Facebook post on October 4 claiming that his government had not entered into any deal with Parliamentarian Rishad Bathiudeen.   

"Cardinal demanded action against the former President Maithripala Sirisena as  well for allowing the terrorists to carry out the heinous crime. He has  also been demanding the authorities to reveal the masterminds of the Easter Sunday carnage."

Then, while declaring March 7 as a Black Sunday, the Cardinal on March 3, this year set an ultimatum to the government to arraign the culprits of the terrorist attacks before its second anniversary, April 21, this year. Renewing his call again on this Year’s Easter Sunday (April 4) Cardinal demanded action against the former President Maithripala Sirisena as well for allowing the terrorists to carry out the heinous crime. He has also been demanding the authorities to reveal the masterminds of the Easter Sunday carnage.   
Earlier, last month, Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara joining the debate on the Easter Sunday attacks explained to the Parliament the steps so far taken by the government in respect of the terrorist attacks.   


“So far 676 people have been arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks. Out of them, 202 have been imprisoned and 66 are being detained. Although 408 of them have been released on bail, investigations are still being carried out on them,” he briefed the House.  
He further stated “50 out of the 54 suspects arrested in connection with the attacks by five foreign countries have been brought to Sri Lanka by the State Intelligence Service in coordination with foreign intelligence agencies. The other four would be brought back to Sri Lanka once the investigations in those countries are completed.”  
Minister Sarath Weerasekara again on April 6 told the media that the government has identified Naufer Moulavi who is already in police custody as the mastermind of the attacks. And the government on Tuesday (April 13) proscribed 11 Muslim organisations including the international terror outfits ISIS and Al-Qaeda.   


However, many Opposition politicians do not seem to believe that Naufer Moulavi is the mastermind of the terrorist attacks, though he might be a major player in the crime. Some questioned as to why Naufer Moulavi was not produced before the Presidential Commission on Easter Sunday attacks. Many seem to believe that some foreign hand is involved in the carnage and the government has announced Naufer Moulavi’s name as the mastermind of the crime due to the pressure by the Cardinal.   
It is not clear as to what the Cardinal’s and the Catholic Church’s response would be to this announcement on the mastermind and the proscription on Muslim organisations. In fact, not only the Cardinal and the Catholic community, but the whole world awaits a clear picture of what happened two years ago and who really behind that carnage. However, the political culture in the country which politicizes everything does not seem to permit it to happen.   

"JVP argued that even the state intelligence apparatuses were unaware of the connection between Ibrahim and the National Thawheed Jama’ath, the organisation that directly involved in the attacks. They also deny that Bimal Ratnayake made the purported statement and claim that Jama’athe Islami was a constituent group in the NPP for a short period."

Politicians want to blame all their adversaries for any crime or corruption. They very cleverly codify things and incidents in order to prove their point. They blame even President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) for the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, citing “circumstantial pieces of evidence.” Their contention against President Rajapaksa is that it was he who was benefited from the terrorist attacks.   
It must be recalled that President Ranasinghe Premadasa insinuated that the late Gamini Dissanayake was behind the murder of Lalith Athulathmudali on the ground that the former was benefited from the latter’s death.   


Needless to say, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was benefited and intentionally got the advantage of the disaster, at the last Presidential election. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had already been enjoying the credit for the defeat of the LTTE along with his brother and the leader of the party, Mahinda Rajapaksa publicly announced five days after the attacks his willingness to contest the forthcoming Presidential election. Although he was preparing for the fray since 2017, this was his public announcement on the matter where he said he would stop the spread of Islamist extremism by rebuilding the intelligence service.  
Also, the anti-Muslim wave that followed the attacks too helped the SLPP as the Muslim leaders who had already sided with the United National Party (UNP) had been implicated with the crime by the pro-SLPP media. However, now that the suicide attacks are clear to be the result of indoctrination by a fanatic group, one cannot imagine any link between the crime and the SLPP leaders. It is doubtful whether those who attempt to implicate the SLPP leaders believe what they accuse.  


Similarly, some people in the SLPP attempt to implicate the JVP with the terrorist attacks. They very cleverly put several factors together to blame the former rebels. One of the national list candidates of the JVP at the 2015 Parliamentary election was the Dematagoda businessman, Mohamed Ibrahim whose two sons were Insaf Ahmed and Ilham Ahmed. These Ahmed brothers were two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at Cinnamon Grand hotel and Shangri-La Hotel. Among the organisations that joined hands with the JVP to form the National People’s Power (NPP) was Jama’athe Islami, the former leader of which was arrested in connection with the attacks. Meanwhile, they alleged that one of the leaders of the JVP, Bimal Ratnayake had expressed views against idol worshiping. It was well-known that the suicide bombers were also against idol worshiping.  
However, the JVP argued that even the state intelligence apparatuses were unaware of the connection between Ibrahim and the National Thawheed Jama’ath, the organisation that directly involved in the attacks. They also deny that Bimal Ratnayake made the purported statement and claim that Jama’athe Islami was a constituent group in the NPP for a short period. Here too, it is doubtful whether those who attempt to implicate the JVP believe what they say.  


Sometimes, the SLPP politicians argue that the UNP which was the ruling party at the time of the attacks was behind it, as they wanted to put the blame on the SLPP and defeat it at the presidential election. Meanwhile, some people point finger at the Indian intelligence agencies, apparently forgetting the fact that it was an Indian intelligence agency that had warned the Sri Lankan authorities about the attacks before it with details. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem while speaking during the debate on the Easter Sunday Attacks requested the authorities to investigate the possibility of Israeli involvement in the attacks.   
Al these theories seem to have developed in a manner that suits their respective politics. The result of it is a national disaster becoming a political football and people tending to ignore the seriousness of it.   

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