Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Parliament let down armed forces

Out of 225 lawmakers, only 18 UNP and 4 UPFA vote for emergency



The Army marches in Kilinochchi on May 22, 2019 to celebrate Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE a decade ago. Maj. Gen. Vijitha Ravipriya, Security Forces Commander, Kilinochchi leads officers and men. Ravipriya was one of those who commanded troops on the Vanni front during Eelam War IV. The Kilinochchi Command took precautions to prevent any untoward incident against the backdrop of fresh threats to national security. The fall of Kilinochchi in early January 2009 paved the way for the swift collapse of LTTE defences east of the Kandy-Jaffna road. (Pic courtesy Army)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In the absence of a tri-services National Victory Day parade, to cerebrate Sri Lanka’s triumph over ‘the world’s most ruthless terrorist organisation’, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on May 19, a decade ago, the armed forces marked the day with a series of events in Colombo and the provinces, three days later.

Seven Army Commands covering the country marked the day on May 22, 2019. 

The government celebrated the event, on the afternoon of May 19, 2019, at the War Heroes’ monument, at Battaramulla with the participation of President Maithripala Sirisena, Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP, whose resolute political leadership ensured Sri Lanka’s victory over the LTTE. Rajapaksa brought together a team that relentlessly conducted a nearly three-year long combined forces offensive, until the LTTE collapsed on the Vanni east front.

Rajapaksa successfully resisted intense Western pressure to call off the largest ever offensive undertaken by Sri Lanka to eradicate the LTTE. Rajapaksa launched his offensive in the first week of Sept 2006 at Sampur in the Eastern Sri Lanka and brought the Eastern Province under its control in July 2007. The Vanni offensive, launched in March 2007, was brought to a successful conclusion, in May 2009. 

The Victory Day events took place this year amidst ongoing military operations, directed at the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) et al in the wake of the Easter Sunday carnage - the worst ever single post-independence terrorist attack. The April 21 coordinated near-simultaneous-suicide-bombings, on three churches in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, and three Colombo hotels, claimed the lives of 260, including nearly 50 foreigners. About 500 received injuries.

The NTJ and its associates carried out the massacre on behalf of their ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

In response to the daunting terrorist challenge, Parliament, on 24th April, 2019, unanimously re-introduced emergency to pave the way for the armed forces’ deployment, in support of law enforcement authorities. One-time LTTE mouthpiece, the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), too, endorsed the re-introduction of emergency. TNA leader R. Sampanthan, who once declared the LTTE as the Tamil people’s sole representative and steadfastly stood by Prabhakaran until the very end, had no option but to support the emergency. Sampanthan’s decision should be examined against the backdrop of the NTJ bombing of Zion Church, Batticaloa, and an alleged plan to attack St. Theresa’s Church, Kilinochchi, on April 21. However, the TNA changed its position on emergency the following month.

It would be pertinent to examine the response of political parties, represented in Parliament, to the first extension of the emergency that took place on May 24, 2019.

Parliament owe an explanation as to why nearly 200 out of 225 lawmakers skipped the vote on the extension of the emergency 

Parliament extended emergency for one month with a majority of 14 votes. A vote followed after TNA heavyweight and Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) leader Mavai Senathirajah (Jaffna District MP) called for a division.

Twenty two out of 30 MPs, who were present in the Chamber when the division was called, voted in favour of the extension of emergency. Eight MPs of the TNA voted against the resolution.

Gampaha District UNP MP Karu Jayasuriya was in the Speaker’s Chair.

The UNP and the UPFA voted in favour of the resolution. The JVP MPs were not present in the Chamber.

Gayantha Karunatileka, Lakshman Kiriella, Harsha de Silva, Lucky Jayawardena, Vadivel Suresh, Seyed Ali Zahir Maulana, Edward Gunasekara, Nalin Bandara Jayamaha, Anoma Gamage, Piyasena Gamage, Sidney Jayarathne, K. K Piyadasa, Hector Appuhamy, Thusitha Wijemanna, Rohini Wijerathna, Sandith Samarasinghe, Wijepala Hettiarachchi, Ashu Marasinghe, Duminda Dissanayake Lasantha Alagiyawanna and Shantha Bandara voted in favour of the Resolution while Mavai Senathirajah, Selvam Adaikkalanathan, Seenithamby Yoheswaran, S. Sritharan, Kaveendran Kodeswaran, Charles Nirmalanthan, Gnanamuthu Srinesan and Shanthi Sriskandarasa voted against.

Of the 22 lawmakers who voted for the emergency, only four, namely Duminda Dissanayake (Anuradhapura) Lasantha Alagiyawanna (Gampaha), Piyasena Gamage (Galle) and Shantha Bandara (National List) represented the UPFA. Piyasena Gamage switched his allegiance to the UNP in the wake of the Oct 2018 constitutional coup.

Notable absentees were UNP leader and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, Deputy UNP leader Sajith Premadasa, State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, Mangala Samaraweera, Tilak Marapana, PC, and MP Sarath Fonseka, who had been very critical of the government handling of the post-Easter Sunday carnage situation,

Many an eyebrow was raised over the Joint Opposition’s (JO) failure to vote for emergency required to sustain military operations. None of those loyal to war-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa voted for the emergency. Lawmaker Mahinda Rajapaksa should explain as to why he withheld support for emergency. The JO’s decision cannot be justified under any circumstances and leading members, including Rajapaksa himself, should be ashamed of their failure. 

Having handed over a No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen over his alleged involvement with those responsible for the April 21 bombings, the JO skipped the vote. Shame on those lawmakers! The JO certainly owed an explanation as to why its members skipped the crucial vote on the emergency. By throwing its full weight behind the emergency, the JO could have given a message to the country, struggling to come to terms with the devastating April 21 bombings. 

The UPFA (JO/SLPP and SLFP groups) can never absolve itself of responsibility for failing to throw its full weight behind the armed forces.

The JO could have reiterated its commitment to a sustained military campaign by overwhelmingly voting for emergency. Why didn’t JO vote for the emergency? Did UPFA constituents discuss its stand on emergency before May 24 vote? 

Parliament comprised the UNP, UPFA, TNA and JVP groups. In addition to them, the SLMC and EPDP are represented by a lawmaker each. At the last parliamentary election, in Aug 2015, the UNP secured 106 seats, the UPFA obtained 95, the TNA 16 and the JVP 06. In addition, there are two persons elected on the SLMC and the EPDP tickets. 

Having re-introduced emergency unanimously a month ago, can political parties, represented in Parliament, explain as to why a consensus couldn’t be reached on continuous deployment of the military?

Did President Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and the Minister in charge of the Defence portfolio take up the emergency vote with Premier and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the National Security Council? 

Of the UNP parliamentary group, numbering over 100, only 18 voted for it. All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Bathiudeen’s inability to vote for emergency is understandable. The five-member ACMC parliamentary group is a constituent of the government group. In fact, Muslim MPs could have been excused if they felt uncomfortable in voting for the emergency.

Of the seven-member SLMC parliamentary group, its National List MP and State Minister for Social Empowerment, Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana, voted for emergency. Moulana, a former UNP MP from Batticaloa, set a sterling example by voting for it. Moulana, the only Muslim MP to back emergency, told the writer last Sunday (May 26) that as a lawmaker it was his duty to vote for the emergency. All government members had to support emergency as it was part of the current dispensation’s moves to meet the unprecedented security threat.

 "In fact, I tried to contact several members. They didn’t respond," Moulana said. The State Minister emphasized that the national security couldn’t be compromised under any circumstances. Asked whether the SLMC and the UNP-led UNF discussed the impending vote on emergency, Moulana said that though they didn’t formally discuss the matter he always believed the government members should back emergency.

Moulana lost his parliamentary seat in mid-2003 over his role in helping the head of breakaway LTTE faction Karuna to leave Batticaloa following his battle with the LTTE’s Kilinochchi group. The top UNP leadership asked Moulana to resign his seat and take refuge overseas.

The JVP parliamentary group, too, skipped the vote. Can the former Marxist party explain its decision? It would be pertinent to mention whatever the differences among the UNP, the TNA and the JVP; they worked together for Maithripala Sirisena’s victory at the January 2015 presidential election. The same coalition backed General Sarath Fonseka at the previous presidential election, in January 2010. The JVP continues to play politics with national security.

Having backed the re-introduction of emergency, in April 2019, the TNA called for a division the following month. The TNA too obviously played politics with the issue with its national leadership still unable to cope up with the situation. The NTJ infiltration of the Parliament sent shock waves through the government and the security establishment. Arresting of an interpreter, on the Parliament staff with direct links to the NTJ, underscored the threat posed by extremists. The TNA seems unable to back the emergency used against fresh extremist threat without compromising its stand against the armed forces. The TNA still holds the armed forces responsible for eradicating the LTTE’s conventional military power.

Low key armed forces victory celebrations 

Four persons, namely Wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the then Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Navy Chief Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and SLAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonatileke, weren’t among the guests at the Battaramulla event. Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE would never have been possible without their leadership. A furious Fonseka is believed to have turned down the invitation whereas others didn’t receive invitations. Their unparalleled contribution made the victory possible though current dispensation felt uncomfortable in inviting them. The government definitely ignored all top ex-Generals/Officers who spearheaded the successful war effort. The government should be appreciated for promoting Fonseka to the rank of Field Marshal, but it deprived Karannagoda and Goonatileke promotions to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet and Marshal of the Air Force, respectively. 

The government earned public wrath for not inviting those who made Sri Lanka’s greatest victory possible. The government deprived Sri Lanka’s right to celebrate war victory with a National Victory Day parade in Colombo. Had there been a proper parade, each service would have had a headquarters element and separate sections for Wanni, Eastern and Northern theatres. Instead Army Commands for Wanni, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Jaffna, East, West and Central, marked the day with a march on main roads. The Kilinochchi Command marched from Karadiyapokku bridge to War Heroes monument in Kilinochchi. The print and electronic media didn’t even bother to report events organized by the Army at Command level. The Navy had its main commemorative event at its Welisara base while the Air Force had none.

Canada, on behalf of a section of the international community, the TNA and the Tamil Diaspora, in 2014, made an attempt to abolish the National Victory Day parade. 

The then Canadian High Commissioner in Colombo, Shelly Whiting, in a strongly worded statement, issued exclusively to ‘The Island’, explained the Canadian decision to boycott the event. The writer front-paged Whiting’s statement, on the May 16, 2014 edition of The Island. The then Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya explained that it was Sri Lanka’s prerogative to engage in such celebrations. The Rajapaksa administration rejected the Canadian demand. The then government went ahead with the Matara parade.

The following is the text of Shelly’s statement, headlined ‘Canada to boycott Victory Day parade’ with strap line ‘such events won’t help post war national reconciliation’: "As in past years, heads of mission, resident in Sri Lanka, have recently received invitations to participate in this year’s Victory Parade, scheduled to be held, in Matara, on May 18. As Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, part of my role includes celebrating the successes of the country, alongside the Sri Lankan people. However, I will not be attending the Victory Day Parade on May 18. Some commentators will no doubt rush to judge and erroneously conclude that I am doing so out of some misplaced nostalgia for the LTTE. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"Let me be clear the LTTE was a scourge that brought untold suffering to this island nation and all its people.

"Prior to arriving in Sri Lanka, my previous assignment was in Afghanistan where I saw first-hand the terrorist tactics (use of suicide bombers, IEDs) that are sadly the LTTE’s legacy to the world. The LTTE and its supporters were ruthless and single-minded, and did not faithfully represent the political aspirations of the communities they purported to represent. Canada joined the world in welcoming the defeat of the LTTE, in 2009. In fact, the LTTE has been proscribed as a terrorist entity in Canada since 2006. To help stop the flow of funding to the LTTE, Canada further proscribed the World Tamil Movement (WTM) in 2008. Both of these organizations remain banned in Canada today.

"However, five years after the end of the conflict, the time has arrived for Sri Lanka to move past wartime discourse and to start working seriously towards reconciliation. It is time to mend relations between communities and to ensure that all Sri Lankans can live in dignity and free from discrimination, based on ethnic, religious or linguistic identities. Fathers and daughters, sons and mothers, all were victims, who were killed or never returned home at the end of the conflict. No community here – whether Sinhalese or Tamil, Muslim or Burgher – was spared during the conflict. In this vein, Canada has encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to retire its annual Victory Day Parade, which perpetuates roles of victors and vanquished within the country, for a day of remembrance for all those who suffered as a result of the conflict. Indeed, Sri Lanka’s own homegrown Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report recommends that a solemn day of remembrance for all victims of the war would be more conducive to sustaining peace here. Such a gesture would go a long way towards putting wartime posturing behind Sri Lanka.

"I will not be in Matara, but I will be thinking and remembering all those who lost their loved ones over the 30-year conflict."

Soon after the change of government, in January 2015, the Yahapalana leadership accepted the international call for the cancellation of the Victory Day parade. For five years Sri Lanka didn’t have a military parade with politicians taking the centre stage much to the disappointment of those who recognize the true heroes.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Shocking failure in costly foreign funded projects to recognize terrorist threat



In accordance with Collective Engagement for Religious Freedom (CERF), Catholics, Buddhists and Muslims, including religious leaders, came together, in Weligama, the day after the Easter Sunday bombings, on April 21, to pray for the victims

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva was the first lawmaker to reach Shangri-La in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings. Shangri-La was targeted by two suicide bombers, including Zaharan Hashim, widely believed to be a key leader of the now proscribed National Thowheed Jamat (NTJ).

The UNPer had been alerted by the 1990 Suwaseriya ambulance service soon after its command and control centre started receiving calls seeking assistance in the wake of the April 21 suicide bombings in Colombo, Katuwapitiya (Negombo) and Batticaloa. Minister de Silva had been at an aluth avurudu event at Nugegoda when he was alerted by the Suwaseriya ambulance service and rushed to Fort.

It would be pertinent to mention that the economist retained a special relationship with 1990 Suwaseriya ambulance service due to his spearheading role in the controversial project launched in 2016 with Indian grant assistance. India launched the project, second only to the ongoing massive housing programme with initial investment of USD 7.56 mn. The project was launched on Sri Lanka’s request. Harsha de Silva played a pivotal role in securing the Indian investment at a time the Joint Opposition aggressively campaigned against it. India gradually extended the project to cover all regions except the Eastern Province. Suwaseriya service is scheduled to be extended to the Eastern Province comprising Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee Districts on May 30, 2019.

The total Indian grant for the unprecedented service amounted to a little over USD 22 mn. Whatever the criticism as regards New Delhi’s motive, Sri Lankans certainly benefited from the service immensely at times of medical emergencies of individual nature, as well as in major incidents like the Easter Sunday carnage.

The then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, who had been subsequently forced to quit over negligence that facilitated the April 21 bombings, got in touch with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene on de Silva’s phone. Premier Wickremesinghe had been at Bentota at the time, suicide bombers launched near simultaneous attacks in three districts. President Maithripala Sirisena had been holidaying in Singapore after worshiping Tirupathi when the bombers struck. Premier Wickremesinghe, accompanied by his wife, Prof. Maithree, worshiped Tirupathi in the first week of March 2019. Wickremesinghe’s previous visit was in August 2018, two months before President Sirisena sacked him. President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe remain at loggerheads over a range of issues, from the fate of the Colombo Port East Container Terminal to constitutional reforms.

In spite of Wickremesinghe regaining the premiership, in mid Dec 2018, consequent to 122 lawmakers representing the UNP and its partners ACMC (All Ceylon Makkal Congress), SLMC (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress), JHU (Jathika Hela Urumaya), DPF (Democratic People’s Front), LSSP (Lanka Sama Samaja Party) as well as the TNA and the JVP successfully moving court, the country is in deep political crisis. Misguided fanatical Sri Lankan Muslim youth, in collusion with the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), carried out coordinated attacks. The terrorist operation was meant to intensify political chaos. Obviously, the perpetrators of the April 21 bombings took the simmering political crisis as well as the impending 2019 presidential poll into consideration before execution of the operation.

At the time the bombers struck, President Sirisena, in addition to being the Defence Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, held the law and order portfolio, hence he cannot absolve himself of responsibility for the worst atrocity committed on our soil since the successful conclusion of the war against the LTTE a decade ago.

The previous government brought the war to an end on the morning of May 19, 2009, with the killing of LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. Having visited Shangrila-La, Harsha and ministerial colleague Harin Fernando visited Kingsbury and St. Anthony’s church, Kochchikade, separately. Fernando earned the wrath of the vast majority of people for claiming that he knew of the impending attack, thanks to his father. His shocking revelation received the attention of Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith who censured the minister on several occasions.

Those who had attended the first meeting at the Defence Ministry following the multiple blasts acknowledged the top security apparatus knew of the impending attack though he did absolutely nothing to thwart it. A well informed source quoted another colleague as having said, following the Defence Ministry briefing: ‘I was more than surprised at what I heard. They pretty much knew everything’.

State Defence Minister Wijewardene chaired the meeting. Among those present were Defence Secretary, service commanders, IGP et al.

Both President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe claimed they weren’t informed of the imminent threat. On that basis, President Sirisena demanded the immediate resignation of Defence Secretary Fernando and IGP Jayasundera. However, Western Province Governor Azath Salley, who is at the receiving end over alleged patronage extended to Muslim extremists, told the writer how he alerted President Sirisena, Premier Wickremesinghe and Defence Secretary Fernando regarding extremist groups. Salley, one-time Deputy Mayor of Colombo Municipal Council, at the time the UNP had been at the helm, subsequently switched sides and ended up with the UPFA. Salley’s claims hadn’t been disputed so far by the President’s or the Prime Minister’s Office. His accusations are too serious to be ignored, especially at a time law enforcement authorities are struggling to ascertain the truth.

Salley is clear about complaints regarding the failure on the part of the top political leadership to tackle the threat posed by those who propagated extremist views. Salley also revealed to the writer a direct link between Atchchi Muhammadu Muhammadu Hasthun, who blew up the Easter Sunday congregation at St. Sebastian Church, Katuwapitiya, and Abdul Razik of the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamat (SLTJ), who had appeared on television on several occasions following the bombings. Salley alleged that those in authority lacked the political will to go the whole hog. The Sirisena loyalist pushed for a wider investigation into the Easter Sunday carnage. Many an eyebrow was raised when he accused some judges of backing extremist elements.

However, the violence directed at the Muslim community in the North Western Province, comprising Kurunegala and Puttalam districts as well as Minuwangoda in the Gampaha District, obviously took the pressure off the Muslim community. Those who carried out attacks on May 12, 13 and 14 played into the hands of those waiting to divert the attention away from the Easter Sunday carnage. The Muslim leadership, too, changed its mode, in the aftermath of violence against the Muslim community. The Muslim leadership conveniently forgot the failure on its part to address the contentious issue of extremism among the youth. They cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility for allowing the likes of Zaharan to subvert an entire community, leading to an unprecedented national security threat. It would be the responsibility of the community to ensure that it took tangible measures to counter the threat posed by extremist elements. But, it would be their responsibility to identify those who promoted and encouraged extremism over a period of time until the ISIS stepped in. The Muslim leadership shouldn’t exploit the recent violence to divert attention from their culpability and proceed as if the Easter Sunday carnage didn’t take place. Now, despicable attempts are being made to muddy the water. Interested parties had even found fault with the Catholic Church instigating anti-Muslim violence, a charge contemptuously rejected by Rev. Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, parish priest of St. Anne’s, Kurana. The former spokesperson for the Catholic Church told the writer nothing could be further from the truth. Under the leadership of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Church did everything possible to prevent retaliatory attacks in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings. In fact, there hadn’t been a single incident in predominately Catholic areas until interested parties caused mayhem at Poruthota on May 05, followed by unbridled violence in the Wayamba Province and Minuwangoda.

The Island sought an explanation from the National Peace Council (NPC) regarding foreign-funded projects undertaken by the outfit following the end of the conflict to promote close relationship among communities.

The Island submitted the following questions to Jehan Perera, the Executive Director of the NPC: (1) number of specific projects conducted since the end of war in May 2009 to improve relations/religious harmony among communities/identify the projects (2) focus of those projects (3) sponsors (4) Did Muslim religious leaders or members of the community complain about extremists among their community and (5) Did NPC ever raise the issue of extremism among youth with those who participated in various events organized by you.

Dr. Perera provided the following answers:

NPC – List of inter religious projects

Questions 1-3


Humanitarian Solutions through Multi-Religious Cooperation – (12 districts/ establishing District Inter-Religious Committees (DIRCs). EU funded project.


RIID – Reconciling Inter-Religious and Inter-Ethnic Differences project (continuing work with 12 DIRCs). USAID funded project.


Inter-faith and Inter-ethnic Dialogue in Sri Lanka (2 districts). Funded by the British High Commission and the Asia Foundation


Initiating Multi-level Partnership Action for Conflict Transformation (IMPACT) 16 districts - (continuing work with DIRCs and targeting new groups including media, universities and local politicians.) Funded by Misereor (Germany)/CAFOD (UK)


= Religions to Reconcile: Strengthening Inter Religious People to People Community Engagement for Reconciliation and Social Cohesion in Post Conflict Sri Lanka. USAID funded project.

= Collective Engagement for Religious Freedom (CERF). Local inter religious groups will engage with police officials to ensure that people are able to practice their religion freely in areas identified as possible sites of tension. Funded by US Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor.

(4) Did Muslim religious leaders or members of the community complain about extremists among the community?

The main purpose of the inter-religious committees formed by the National Peace Council has been to promote social cohesion and mitigate conflict that may occur at the local level. One of the issues that came up in the discussions was the internal clash amongst Muslim groups about the proper religious procedures to be followed in the mosques.

The issue of the danger of Muslim youth getting radicalized came up in discussions that followed the anti-Muslim riots in Kandy in March 2018. The Kandy District Inter Religious Committee conducted a fact finding inquiry after the riots. During the course of meeting people in May 2018, they encountered Muslim youth who warned of youth unrest and that they would no longer follow their elders.

(5) Did NPC ever raise the issue of extremism among youth with those who participated in various events organized by the outfit?

The issue of Muslim extremism did not arise at these discussions as this was not a public issue prior to the Easter Sunday attacks. The National Peace Council’s focus has been on the thirty-year war, its causes and the path to be taken to reach national reconciliation. The main focus was on Tamil grievances and how to deal with them. In the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks, this focus will change.

In the post-graduate classes at Colombo University on peace-building, the military personnel who were students brought up the issue of radicalization of Muslims in the east. The fact that the government was not taking visible action made me believe that the problem was being dealt with politically. But now it is clear it was not.

The Easter Sunday carnage should compel the civil society as well as those who fund costly project to reexamine their strategies. Obviously, there cannot be any justifiable excuse for the participants as well as the organizers of these projects to miss growing danger signs.

In the aftermath of the Oslo-arranged Ceasefire Agreement in Feb 2002, a section of the international community funded a spate of costly projects meant to strengthen the peace process. The NPC was among those recipients of foreign-funding made available for fancy projects Westerners believed were quite useful. They believed such projects could help secure an agreement with the LTTE. The LTTE believed in war. Those who undertook projects believing in the LTTE never bothered to understand the LTTE strategies. Similarly, the NPC appeared to have completely missed the danger signals though being involved in a spate of projects since 2010. Perhaps, the NPC should revisit the projects; inquire from those who represented the Muslim community to know whether they knew what was going on clandestinely within the community. The NPC certainly owed an explanation to the public and its sponsors as to how it failed to recognize extremism. The NPC projects covered Ampara and Batticaloa - two districts badly affected by extremist activity, as well as the Vanni region. The NPC, according to a public announcement made in Oct 2017, intended to identify what it called hot spots and then proceed to take tangible measures to neutralize threats.

The NPC is the only outfit to undertake large scale projects at grassroots level meant to improve relations among communities. Against the backdrop of the Easter Sunday carnage as a result of the level of sophistication achieved by Muslim youth is nothing but a warning to those who value genuine religious freedom. Can NPC explain how it missed causing of damages to Buddha statues in the Mawanella police area leading to the Wanathavilluwa explosives recovery?

The Army cannot absolve itself of the responsibility for failing to thwart the Easter Sunday carnage. The Army shouldn’t expect the public to buy often repeated complain that the DMI was deprieved of the Indian warning via proper channels therefore the fault lies elsewhere. The Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) in spite of being aware of the extremist build-up here and their link up with the ISIS too was caught napping.

Having failed to thwart the attack, the Army is now engaged in an exercise to curb extremism and also to improve relations among the communities by deploying a group of Muslim Army officers to seek consensus with Moulavis, State Administrators, Educational authorities and sections of senior citizens in Trincomalee, Muttur, Kinniya, Batticaloa, Kattankudy and Eravur areas.

Led by Brigadier M.A Azad Izadeen, Director Rehabilitation, Bureau of Commissioner General Rehabilitation, the Army intends to continue the project.

During their three-day long interactions in the East, those Muslim Army Officers spoke to Moulavis and others at Akkarechenai Jumma Mosque in Muttur, Masjidul Jummah Mosque in Kinniya, Trincomalee Jummah Mosque, Eravur Divisional Secretariat Office in Batticaloa, Kattankudy Islamic Centre and Batticaloa Jummah Mosque. In each place, at least 100 Moulavis, Divisional Secretaries in Muttur and Kinniya, State officials, Education Department authorities and senior community leaders listened to those Senior Army Officers who emphatically underlined the significance of co-existence and reconciliation at this hour of national concern.

The Army should examine its failures to identify the threat much earlier though its current efforts to address the daunting challenges should be appreciated.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

NTJ-JMI combine still an enigma, threat persists, Prez away in Beijing




Brigadier M. A Azad Izadeen, the senior officer in charge of Rehabilitation Directorate, on Sunday (May 12), didn’t mince his words when he reminded a group of Mavlavis, Colombo District Masjeed Federation members et al, at the Dehiwela Jumma Mosque, the responsibility on the part of the Muslim community for the crisis in the country. Armoured Corps officer Izadeen said that he was ashamed of the situation while strongly advising the community leaders, in particular, and the community in general, they should be mindful of the sufferings of those who suffered at the hands of Muslim extremists/terrorists. Izadeen said what no other Muslim leader, including people’s representatives, dared to say in the wake of the Easter Sunday carnage.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Hilton Colombo Residences (HCR) is among those relatively high-end city hotels seriously concerned about the safety and security of its patrons in the wake of the Easter Sunday carnage. Situated at No 200, Union Place, the HCR blocked the entrance, closer to the main road, as part of its overall security precautions. Now, those entering the HCR use one entry/exit point (you can call it the rear entrance) guarded by Police and Air Force in addition to private security personnel. Patrons, in case they are Sri Lankans, have no option but to leave their National Identity Cards (NICs) at the entry point.

The writer exchanged his NIC for a HCR visitor’s pass, a few days ago, to meet a diplomat visiting Colombo on a fact-finding mission. Close on the heels of an unprecedented coordinated attack, allegedly influenced by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or IS (Islamic State); foreign governments are reviewing their position/policy vis-a-vis Sri Lanka. ISIS/IS declaration of a new ‘province’ in Kashmir, three weeks after the high profile operation in Sri Lanka, underscores the urgent need to re-evaluate the situation.

At the time this was being written, trouble erupted at Chilaw, on Sunday (May 12), afternoon. The government responded by declaring curfew till 6 am the following day. On the previous week, Poruthota erupted though the situation was quickly brought under control. The situation remains fragile.

Within 48 hours, for want of tangible measures to prevent untoward incidents in Chilaw and in neighbouring areas caused a fresh crisis. As a result, the government was compelled, on Monday night, to clamp a countrywide curfew, with effect from 9 pm to 4 am in the following day. By then, President Sirisena, accompanied by a group of UNP members, and officials, were in the air on their way to Beijing.

Positioning of security personnel outside hotels certainly doesn’t inspire confidence among foreigners or locals. Instead, the return of armed forces to the streets in the City and its suburbs as well as all other administrative district is grim reminder of Sri Lanka’s collective failure to guarantee security and safety of its citizens, as well as foreigners visiting the country.

Almost after a decade, people have been compelled to carry their NICs or face the consequences.

Among those killed, in the April 21 attacks, were about 50 foreigners including US Commerce Department employee Chelsea Decaminada, who suffered serious injuries as a result of two bombs, triggered by suicide cadres, within the Shangri-La Hotel, situated next to the Army Commander’s Secretariat. It would be pertinent to mention the war-winning Rajapaksa administration vacated the Army headquarters, the nerve centre of successive combined security forces campaigns against the LTTE, to pave the way for the Shangri-la, on a controversial 99-year-lease. The current dispensation, released further land, originally occupied by the Army, to Shangri-La, also on a 99-year-old lease. As far as Shangrila-La is concerned, administrations, past and present, seemed to have followed one policy. Ms. Decaminada, was on an assignment, in Colombo, when she was caught up in the blast. The US transferred her from Colombo to Singapore where she succumbed to her injuries.

A decade after the eradication of the LTTE, Sri Lanka, obviously took post-war security situation lightly. There is no doubt, the armed forces, too, took things for granted. Members of the National Thawheed Jamath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem (JMI) could have even made an attempt on a vehicle leaving the Army Commander’s Secretariat, the only section remaining there, pending relocation. Units, formerly based at Army headquarters, are now scattered all over the City, and its suburbs, due to undue delay in completing the Akuregoda Defence Complex, the brainchild of wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The former Gajaba Regiment veteran is on record as having said that he took the decision to shift the Army headquarters, in keeping with the late President JR Jayewardene’s policy.

A divided parliament

Parliament unanimously approved the re-introduction of Emergency Regulations to pave the way for the deployment of the armed forces in support of law enforcement authorities. The police lacked the wherewithal to meet the daunting security challenge. posed by NTJ and JMI. The Easter Sunday carnage compelled those political parties, opposed to Emergency Regulations, to back the move. One-time LTTE proxy, the TNA, too, had no option but to accept Emergency Regulations, leading to the resumption of military operations in the Northern and Eastern regions. A section of the TNA publicly called for continued military presence in those areas in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday carnage, whereas its much-touted demand, since the eradication of the LTTE, was for a military free region. No less a person than Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) heavyweight Mavai Senathiraja publicly underscored the pivotal importance of continued military presence in predominately Tamil region.

The situation certainly took the TNA, and those Western countries as well as the UN pushing for sharp reduction of military presence in the Northern region to facilitate post-war national reconciliation, by surprise. The suicide bombing of Zion Church Batticaloa and alleged plan to bomb St. Theresa’s Church in Kilinochchi on Easter Sunday compelled those hell-bent on getting rid of the military to play a different tune.

Although political parties, represented in parliament, unanimously agreed on the re-imposition of Emergency Regulations, they are deeply divided over strategy, with the Government and the Opposition pulling in different directions. There is no consensus among the clergy as well as the civil society on how to face the threat. In the absence of a common strategy, all stakeholders are seeking to exploit the situation for their advantage. Public interest seems to be last thing on their mind as they seek to advance petty agendas at the expense of national interest. Over three weeks after the bombings, the Government and the Opposition are yet to reach consensus on ways and means of tackling the threat. In fact, as far as the parliament is concerned, there is agreement in respect of perks and privileges received by lawmakers. There had never been any dispute in parliament regarding lawmakers’ perks and privileges, in addition to their monthly salary.

In the wake of the NTJ-JMI bombing campaign, the UNP resumed its campaign to regain the law and order ministry. The UNP is of the view that the government should be given the law and order ministry to ensure safety and security of the people. However, President Sirisena, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, rejected the UNP request. The embattled President insists he is in a better position to guarantee security by having that portfolio under his purview.

President Sirisena has rejected the UNP proposal to accommodate Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka in the cabinet as the Law and Order Minister. The UNP bid to regain the law and order ministry should be studied, taking into consideration President Sirisena accusing Fonseka of being part of a high profile conspiracy, involving disgraced head of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) DIG Nalaka de Silva, to assassinate him. Fonseka on Dec 21, 2018, in parliament, denied the accusation, citing a letter sent by then IGP Pujith Jayasundera clearing him of involvement in the alleged plot. Fonseka’s statement followed a request he made to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, on Nov 09, 2018, in respect of accusations directed at him.

Against the backdrop of a new threat, President Sirisena is unlikely to part with law and order under any circumstances. Last week, President Sirisena visited Sainthamaruthu, in the East, where a group of NTJ-JMI terrorists blew themselves up to avoid being apprehended by the police. The Sainthamaruthu blast, on April 26, effectively thwarted a second wave of attacks. If not for the chance, but timely detection of the safe-house, thanks to a specific tip off received by a traffic policeman, attached to the Kalmunai police, the NTJ-JMI combine would have certainly delivered a massive blow. The traffic policeman, obviously did very much better than the police top brass and the political leadership. Police headquarters promoted him to the rank of Sergeant and offered him half a million rupees as a reward whereas three Muslims, who provided invaluable information leading to the Sainthamaruthu detection, were given Rs 1 mn each and two more policemen - a Seageant and constable half a mn each for volunteering to help the traffic constable. The policemen as well as Muslim villagers acted promptly at a risk to their lives.

Had the Kalmunai police hesitated to act, or delayed responding, pending approval from Colombo, the result would have been catastrophic.

President Sirisena, accompanied by senior police and military officials in charge of the East, visited the Sainthamaruthu safe-house where some NTJ-JMI members detonated bombs. Among President Sirisena’s entourage was UPFA politician Mahamood Lebbe Alim Mohamed Hisbullah, current Governor of the Eastern Province, accused by political opponents as a key supporter of extremist Muslim groups. Hisbullah, a defeated candidate at the last parliamentary polls in August 2015, functioned as an UPFA National List member before being shifted in January this year to the Eastern Province.

Hisbullah is President Sirisena’s nominee. Hisbullah, like many other lawmakers, switched allegiance to various political parties on more than one occasion, after having initially entered parliament, in 1989, on the SLMC ticket. President Sirisena seems to be quite confident of Hisbullah’s non- involvement in Easter Sunday bombings for he chose to take the politician with him during the visit to the Ampara electoral district.

TNA heavyweight M.A. Sumanthiran called for an inquiry into Hisbullah’s conduct during the debate on re-imposition of Emergency Regulations. The senior attorney-at-law also strongly censured President Sirisena for having the police under his purview - a decision the President’s Counsel described as unconstitutional.

In addition to Hisbullah, still unsubstantiated allegations have been made against All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen (ACMC is a constituent of the UNP administration), UNP Colombo District lawmaker Mujibur Rahaman and Western Province Governor Azath Salley (Presidential nominee).Salley received appointment as the WP Governor at the same time Hisbullah was named EP Governor in January this year.

The UNP should have appointed Fonseka the Law and Order Minister soon after he was accommodated on the National List in Feb 2016. Defeated candidate at the January 2010 presidential poll, Fonseka contested the Aug 2015 parliamentary election as the leader of the Democratic Party. The DP failed to secure a single seat. The demise of UNP National List MP M.K.D.S. Gunawardena paved the way for Fonseka to join the government. The UNP owed an explanation as to why Fonseka was deprived of the Law and Order Ministry in spite of him being the foremost authority, in the UNP, on security. After the change of government, in January 2015, President’s Counsel Tilak Marapana received the Law and Order portfolio. Marapana quit in Nov 2015 following severe criticism of his alleged support to Avant Garde Maritime Services (AGMS) under high profile investigation over running a floating armoury. Marapana was replaced by Sagala Ratnayake. Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe briefly held the portfolio following the Feb 10, 2018 Local Government polls debacle. Subsequently, senior UNPer Ranjith Madumma Bandara held the post. President Sirisena brought the police under his purview in the wake of Oct 26, 2018 constitutional coup. At the time the suicide bombings took place, both the defence and law and order portfolios were held by President Sirisena. The President cannot absolve himself of the responsibility for the current crisis. President Sirisena acknowledged his culpability for the circumstances leading to the bombings at a meeting with a selected group of journalists on April 26 at the President’s House. Subsequently, President Sirisena declared that in the wake of ISIS bombings in various parts of the world, the people never called for the resignation of leaders. Instead, they wanted terrorism eradicated.

2019 prez poll

 With nominations for the presidential poll scheduled to be called in a couple of months, political parties represented in parliament may endorse Emergency Regulations required to ensure sustained armed forces deployment though consensus is unlikely on a common agenda to overcome political, economic and security challenges.

In the absence of a genuine dialogue among political parties, those responsible for addressing growing security challenges will find their task difficult. Although there hadn’t been attacks since April 21, the NTJ-JMI combine remains an enigma. Political alliances with those even falsely accused of collaborating and influencing NTJ-JMI combine or endorsing violence by remaining mum will be quite controversial.

The government cannot under any circumstances completely rule out the possibility of fresh attacks in the run-up the to presidential poll. NTJ-JMI launched its campaign with the killing of two policemen at Vavunathivu, Batticaloa, on Nov 30, 2018. Had the police and the DMI conducted a thorough inquiry, the grouping could have been exposed. Unfortunately, the killings were conveniently blamed on ex-members of the LTTE. Authorities comfortably alleged that ex-LTTE cadres brutalized and killed two officers-a Sinhalese from the South, and a Tamil from the East, to retaliate against the Vavnativu police blocking ex-LTTE cadres organizing a public event to commemorate Heroes’ Week, an annual feature during the war.

The NTJ-JMI killings were meant to further exploit the political crisis. They struck as the UNP and the UPFA were struggling to secure control of parliament in the wake of the former seeking judicial intervention to reverse the constitutional coup. Finally, the war-winning President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa accepted defeat by giving up premiership in the third week of Dec 2018. Wickremesinghe returned as the premier though he is yet to command at least a simple majority in parliament.

At the moment, the ACMC’s five-member parliamentary group remains loyal to Wickremesinghe. Minister Bathiudeen recently declared that MP S.B. Dissanayake worked overtime to tarnish the image of him and his party because his refusal to back the Oct 2018 constitutional coup. Bathiudeen alleged that Dissanayake was seeking to avenge the toppling of the political project.

In addition to the ACMC, the main Muslim political party, the SLMC is in an unenviable situation. The SLMC parliamentary group comprises seven lawmakers, with only one elected on the SLMC ticket and the rest elected and appointed on the UNP lists and the National List, respectively. The ACMC, the SLMC and other Muslim people’s representatives in parliament are struggling to come to terms with the ground situation. They are determined to denounce those who perpetrated the Easter Sunday massacre while defending their right to practice religion as a community. It would be of pivotal importance to ensure the Muslim community didn’t suffer due to the actions of a few. SLMC leader Hakeem and MP Faiszer Musthapha, PC, both acknowledged shortcomings on their part leading to April 21 bombings.

Political parties should rationally address the threat posed by Muslim extremists/terrorists. The US and the UK and other foreign powers, such as India, should assist Sri Lanka to ascertain the threat. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how ISIS influenced the NTJ-JMI combine to take multiple targets? This should be examined against the backdrop of first Sri Lankan Muslim dying in Syria in an American air strike in the second week of July 2015. Who picked April 21 targets - St. Anthony’s Church at Kotahena, Kochikade, St Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya, and the Batticaloa Church and the three hotels in Colombo?

Can Sri Lanka rule out the possibility of fresh attacks? Sophisticated nature of the coordinated strikes can inspire ISIS activists/ sympathizers the world over. Western powers have caused massive death and destruction among Muslim communities the world over, and having needlessly humiliated them, it wouldn’t take much to brainwash the followers. The government is struggling to cope up with a situation which is obviously beyond Sri Lanka’s control. The government also seems unable to comprehend the ground realities with a range of international factors, including Western powers’ determined efforts to counter China’s emergence as a global power, causing confusion. The current dispensation has also mixed up priorities with efforts being made to do away with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in accordance with an assurance given to a section of the international community. The government appears to be convinced that the Easter Sunday bombings can be exploited to bring in counter terrorism law – a move connected to post-war so called national reconciliation process following the eradication of the LTTE.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

UK, too, seeks a bigger role in the wake of Easter Sunday bombings


Kamal Bogoda captured UK Minister for Security and Economic Crimes, Ben Wallace, with the Parish Priest St. Anthony’s Church Kochchikade (Colombo) Rev Father Jude Raj Fernando on May 03 in front of the place of religious worship targeted by a suicide bomber on Easter Sunday, April 21. 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Have you ever heard of a British politician visiting Colombo in the immediate aftermath of an attack carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)?

During the Eelam War, terrorists mounted several major attacks in Colombo but the UK never felt the need to send a minister in charge of security or defence here. However, in the wake of the Easter Sunday carnage, the UK government sent its Minister for Security and Economic Crimes, Ben Wallace, to Colombo. Wallace arrived in Colombo, on May 02, 2019, days after the multiple bombings. Wallace was here on a two-day visit.

Wallace visited the Cinnamon Grand and Shangri-La hotels where eight British nationals perished, in addition to St. Anthony’s Church Kochchikade (Colombo).

At the conclusion of his visit, the British High Commission issued a statement that dealt with the developments here. According to the HC, Wallace, during his meetings with President Sirisena, Premier Wickremesinghe, ministers, military and religious leaders and tourism sector officials, discussed Easter Sunday attacks’ impact on Sri Lanka, how to address the security threat, and identify further UK support. The British Minister received update on the ongoing investigations.

In addition to UK police officers, its Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command has sent a team of specialists.

The UK statement, unlike in the past, didn’t call for talks between the government and those responsible for the Easter Sunday massacre, carried out at the behest of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

Obviously, the UK responded to the latest security threat very much differently from its handling of LTTE terrorism that was militarily crushed a decade ago. The UK never backed military campaigns directed against the LTTE. Instead, the UK made every effort to throw a lifeline to the LTTE until the very end. Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion, on the morning of May 19, 2009.

US diplomatic cables, now in public domain, thanks to Wiki Leaks, and the world knows how the then UK government sought to save the LTTE for domestic political reasons. The UK played politics with terrorism here and, unfortunately, continues to do so. The UK’s role in Geneva Resolution, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, in Oct 2015, is a case in point.

The UK stand on the Easter Sunday carnage should be examined against the backdrop of high profile Western powers battle with the ISIS in different theaters. With Ben Wallace’s visit, Western powers had included Sri Lanka in their overall strategy meant to subdue ISIS. Most probably Sri Lanka didn’t even realize what was going on in the immediate aftermath of multiple bombings.

The BBC, including its Sinhala service, as usual, presented the story in a way detrimental to Sri Lanka. The BBC went to the extent of asserting that law enforcement authorities and the military killed the relatives of the Easter Sunday bombings whereas they committed suicide by detonating explosives. The BBC played its controversial role to the hilt. Essentially, the British media can’t stomach Sri Lanka’s victory over terrorism.

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven Omalpe Sobitha thera expressed serious concern over the British response to the Easter Sunday carnage. Addressing the media at the Bishop’s House, Borella, they, in no uncertain terms, questioned the UK’s stand on terrorism. The Catholic Church here had never raised concerns over the UK role during the war waged by the LTTE. The UK provided refuge to hundreds if not thousands of ex-LTTE and members of other Sri Lankan terrorists groups. Theoretician of the LTTE, Anton Balasingham operated from the UK. One-time British High Commission employee here, Balasingham received British citizenship and was free to promote terrorism. The UK allowed Balasingham a free hand even after the LTTE assassinated the then Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, in Aug 2005. Balasingham’s Australian-born wife, Adele, in spite of her role in promoting terrorism, including suicide bombings continues to live in the UK. Views expressed by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven. Sobitha in respect of UK should be viewed against the UK approach towards terrorism.

The British High Commission issued a statement in the wake of the clergy voicing concern over UK response. The UK denied accusations.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in London Manisha Gunasekera had no option but to intervene in the wake of the BBC alleging Sinhala Buddhists carried out the Easter Sunday attacks. The BBC, on the basis of a deliberate lie propagated by a UK-based Tamil, alleged that Sinhala Buddhists mounted suicide attacks on churches and three leading hotels. The Sri Lankan High Commission in London effectively countered separatist Tamil propaganda.

Obviously, the BBC, including its Sinhala service, cannot bear up Sri Lanka overcoming terrorism.

Solheim and al-Hussein on

Sri Lanka bombings

It would be pertinent to mention that immediately after the suicide bombings, some interested parties sought to blame the dastardly acts on the majority community. One-time Norwegian minister who spearheaded Oslo initiative here, as their peace negotiator, Erik Solheim tweeted: "When we watch the horrific pictures from Sri Lanka, it is important to remember that Muslims and Christians are small minorities. Muslims historically were moderate and peaceful. They have been victims of violence in Sri Lanka, not orchestrating it."

Former UN Human Rights Commissioner Jordanian Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein tweeted on April 22, 2019: "Sri Lanka-a beautiful country with a tortured plan and now these appalling bombings against a Christian community hitherto un-targeted. While awaiting the evidence, can’t help but wonder: who benefits from such wickedness? Do the upcoming elections have anything to do with it"

The previous Rajapaksa administration earned the wrath of Western powers for co-operating with China. Western powers and India sought a change of government at the last presidential election in January 2015. They succeeded though the January 2010 bid to oust Mahinda Rajapaksa failed. At both instances, the projects involved the US hell bent on removing President Rajapaksa. The Rajapaksas earned the wrath of the US and its allies, India included, for being too close to China.

Why did ISIS launch operations in Sri Lanka? ISIS simply picked the Sri Lankan terrorist group active in the Eastern Province. Was it part of overall ISIS strategy influenced by some interested influential party? Close on the heels of the Easter Sunday slaughter, both the US and the UK intervened here. Many an eyebrow was raised over the swift and decisive US and UK intervention.

President Maithripala Sirisena on more than one occasion reassured that foreign troops wouldn’t be called in under any circumstances. President Sirisena, also in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief, repeatedly expressed confidence that his law enforcement authorities and armed forces had the wherewithal to neutralize the threat. In spite of that, speculation is rife of intensified foreign intelligence interventions paving the way for a wider Western role here.

The US is obviously aware of growing concerns in Sri Lanka over its role here. Alleged detection of two US nationals at Jaic Hilton with hi-tech equipment used to detect explosives, which were stumbled upon by our sniffer dogs, caused serious concerns among the people.

First US statement issued

on April 27

Let me reproduce a brief statement issued by the US in the wake of accusations in respect of American intervention here. The following is the text of US embassy statement headlined ‘United States Provides Support to Sri Lanka in Wake of Attacks’ dated April 27, 2019: "Following the tragic Easter Sunday attacks, President Trump immediately extended an offer of comprehensive support to Sri Lanka to support investigation and recovery efforts. The Sri Lankan government accepted this offer and U.S. teams are already working closely with their Sri Lankan partners on efforts including explosives detection, crime scene investigation, and forensics analysis. All activities are at the request of and closely coordinated with Sri Lankan authorities. This cooperation is short term, temporary, and specific to the recent attacks and bringing the perpetrators to justice."

The US embassy also issued the same statement in Sinhala and Tamil as well.

Second US statement issued

on April 27

The three statements issued in the afternoon were followed by a second communiqué headlined ‘U.S. Cooperation to Enhance Safety in Sri Lanka.’ It was also issued in both Sinhala and Tamil.

The communiqué issued on the same day (on the night of April 27) expanded on the original statement released earlier in the day. The following is the text of the statement: "The United States Government continues to assist Sri Lankan authorities in the aftermath of the horrific attacks that occurred in the country on Easter Sunday. At the request of the Sri Lankan Government, U.S. experts are already working closely with their Sri Lankan partners on fulfilling short term, specific objectives related to the recent attacks and to bringing the perpetrators to justice. This cooperation does not indicate a larger, long term presence of US security teams in the country.

"As Sri Lanka looks to the future and to implementing changes in security and communications procedures to prevent future atrocities, the United States stands ready to assist with lessons learned from our own past tragedies and through our ongoing cooperation with local authorities.

"In realizing and applying improved safety mechanisms to protect Sri Lanka’s citizens from new threats, it is imperative that the Sri Lanka Government do so in ways that also protect rule of law and that do not infringe upon the human rights of individuals or groups, or limit their ability to worship, communicate and to live together in peace".

U.S. Ambassador Teplitz stated in her call for unity on April 25: "These terrible attacks are the work of a few individuals and not of an entire community. Sri Lankans of all backgrounds and faiths have come together to condemn these atrocities. Unity is the most powerful answer to terrorism."

Ambassador Teplitz further underscored that "while we work together to bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice, we must remain vigilant in defending the democratic ideals that form the pillars of a strong society.  And we must do so without destroying communities of peaceful, innocent people who share the faith of the attackers, but not their warped ideology.  We must always respect the wonderful diversity of Sri Lanka and fortify the culture of unity that the country needs to thrive."

Sri Lanka-US relations have reached a higher level with extended military-to-military cooperation since the change of government. Obviously President Sirisena is not officially aware of these developments. The parliament seems to be blind to the situation.

William Blum’s best seller ‘Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower,’ quoted by Osama bin Laden in an audiotape dated January 19, 2006, should be made available to lawmakers to help understand ground realities. Blum’s work explains as to how longstanding US foreign policy contributed to the current deterioration of security world over. Blum expertly dealt with how US heavily used terrorism as a tool to achieve its political and military objectives.

Let me just reproduce a brief paragraph from Blum’s introduction: "More than 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, America is still saving countries and peoples from one danger or another. The scorecard reads as follows: Between 1945 and 2005 the United States has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the US has caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair."

One-time State Department employee Blum has authored several books. They painted a frightening picture of American style of ‘governance’ and interventions. Post-war treatment of those who had fought for the US in different conflicts, including in Iraq, is shocking. Perhaps, parliament can make available ‘Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower,’ to lawmakers.

Appearing on Sirasa Pathikada, former Navy Commander Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage, who also earned title of Professor on Monday (May 06) discussed the situation with Bandula Jayasekera. Colombage dealt with how Indo-Pacific strategy could influence the developments in the region, including Sri Lanka. The writer sought Admiral Colombage’s response to a high profile ongoing project undertaken by the US-Japan-India combine in the region and how it could bear on Sri Lanka. The query was posed through Pathikada anchor Jayasekera.

The Director of the Centre for Indo-Lanka relations of the Pathfinder Foundation explained the circumstances under which the grouping consisting of the US, Japan, India and Australia engaged in a strategic project to counter growing Chinese power. Colombage discussed how the US led project could affect strategically located Sri Lanka. Colombage rationally explained the operation of the Indo-Pacific strategy vis-a-vis China.

Unfortunately, those enjoying political authority today seemed quite blind to rapid developments taking place in the wake of the ISIS backed bombing campaign here. Or perhaps, they have deliberately turned a blind eye to facilitate the despicable project.

Shouldn’t we at least meticulously analyze Sri Lanka’s failure to act on specific intelligence provided by New Delhi, on April 04, 2019, in respect of the Easter Sunday bombings carried out on April 21, 2019.

India couldn’t be unaware of vital intelligence passed on to Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) here was disregarded. A section of the Indian media revealed that New Delhi warned Colombo thrice - on April 04, April 20 and about one hour before the human bombs started exploding in Colombo, Katuwapitiya (Negombo) and Batticaloa on April 21. Did India make an effort to warn its nationals here during this period? At least a dozen Indians perished in the bombings.

Sri Lanka, and those countries assisting Colombo, cannot ignore explosive revelation that Saudi Arabia knew of the Easter Sunday bombings hence advised its mission in Colombo five days before the actual strike. The revelation was made by Lebanese Al-ahed news agency. Instructions, dated April 16, 2019 issued from Riyadh exposed shocking possibility of possible Saudi connection-an unprecedented situation Sri Lanka find extremely difficult to cope up with. Saudi embassy in Colombo on April 30-09 days after the massacre advised its nationals to leave the country.

"Due to the current security situation in the Republic of Sri Lanka, the embassy advises citizens in Sri Lanka to leave," the Saudi embassy said in a tweet.

Perhaps, the US and the UK can help Sri Lanka establish the truth. Sri Lanka cannot ignore its responsibility to raise the issue with Riyadh without further delay. The writer sought a clarification as regards Riyadh warning its mission here with a senior official who couldn’t have been unaware. However, the Saudi diplomat insisted he wasn’t aware.

Now that law enforcement authorities have established the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday carnage carried out their first attack at Vavnativu, Batticaloa, on Nov 30, 2018, it would be easy to establish they exploited political turmoil to cause chaos. With political parties represented in parliament pulling in different directions even after the Easter Sunday bombings the country is certainly open for clandestine foreign actions. Those at the helm of political parties seemed to be unwilling or pathetically incapable of addressing daunting security-political-foreign policy challenge.