Easter Sunday Massacre happened because minorities don’t matter
A week ago one of the greatest ever civilian tragedies in the world in our time took place as hundreds of Christians worshiping on their most important day were brutally killed in Sri Lanka by suicide bombers motivated by an extremist ideology.
Within hours it became known that the Intelligence Agencies and officials had information about an impending attack against Roman Catholic churches and Hotels by a group motivated by a fanatical group with Islamist roots.
Little or no action was taken.
This now proves that in today’s Sri Lanka the safety of minorities do not matter.
On Friday when President Maithripala Sirisena met Media Heads in Colombo he detailed what had taken place since April 4 when a foreign Intelligence Agency – which we know now is from India – first informed our defense establishment that Catholic Churches and Tourist destinations were going to be targeted by Islamist extremist suicide bombers.
“They followed procedure but didn’t inform me”
He told the gathered media that the information came to the Director National Intelligence on April 4. Then it went to the then Secretary Ministry of Defense Hemasiri Fernando. He then made a minute and sent it to the Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundera. The IGP sent it to his Staff DIG with an additional minute.
“They followed procedure, the information went from the Secretary to the IG and up and down. Nobody informed me or the Prime Minister of this impending attack. That is why I asked the Secretary and the IGP to resign,” the President said.
He said that the Ministers and officials had asked him to cancel Cabinet meetings and other official events during the Avurudu season.
“The Secretary and the IGP came to wish me on the day of the New Year, they did not appraise me about this impending threat,” the President told the Media.
Muslim Civil Society warned police of the growth of extremism
On the other hand members from the Muslim community in Sri Lanka have been sending warning signals to the authorities about extremism in their community from 2014.
Journalist Hilmy Ahamed told RepublicNext he and a group of concerned Muslims had been meeting defense ministry and Intelligence officials with regard to the rise of anti-Muslim movements and the reaction to that from within their community since 2014.
Ahamed who is Vice-Chair of the Sri Lanka Council of Muslims says that a broad coalition of Muslim civil society organizations led by the All Ceylon Jamiyyatul Ulema had asked the defense establishment to curb the activities of the Bodu Bala Sena led by the Monk Galagoda-aththe Gnanasara as he was being virulently anti-Muslim.
“At the same time we pointed out to the Intelligence agencies that the actions of people such as Ven. Gnanasara was giving credence to the ideology spouted by extremist groups within the Muslim spectrum such as the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamaat,” Ahamed said.
Interrogations of the many suspects from the Islamist groups arrested after the Easter Sunday massacre have confirmed this information as they have told the investigators that their primary motivation for forming their groups has been the rise of Gnanasara and like-minded extremist groups from the Sinhala Buddhist Right-wing sponsored at a high level during the last regime.
Former Secretary to the Ministry of Defense and presidential aspirant Gotabaya Rajapaksa was often associated with Gnanasara and other groups such as Ravana Balaya, even appearing as a chief guest at their events.
Ahamed and others met with Intelligence officials several times and asked for the arrest of Zaharan Hashmi and others who were advocating the killing of followers of all other religions who they call infidels.
Ahamed met with high level intelligence officials on December 28th and February 11th again calling for Zahran’s arrest as his splinter group the National Thowheed Jamaat developed connections to like-minded groups in India, in Tamilnadu.
But nothing was done.
After the attack police action has been swift
Informed sources said that Police had repeatedly gone to arrest Zaharan but he appeared to be tipped off as he was able to flee to India by sea and stay there until the heat was off.
The speed and efficiency shown by the security forces in going after the extremist groups, rolling up at least eight terrorist cells and homing in on the safe-houses in Negombo, Dematagoda, Sainthamaruthu and other places showed that they had the information that was required to shackle these groups for some time.
A CID source said “we knew about these people and what they were up to, but we never were asked to prioritize action against them.”
The information was there, but there was no political will.
On the part of the Roman Catholic Church, its leader Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has been silent with regards to communal violence, failing to respond immediately when Muslims were attacked in the Digana area last year.
He has also not condemned more than a hundred attacks on churches, many of them Evangelical places of worship.
In fact when the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka produced a report about the attacks, President Sirisena reportedly called the Cardinal and asked him about it and he had said there have been no such incidents.
Part of the problem was that some of the Muslim politicians connected to the government were using these extremists for their own political survival.
Even on Friday Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen was publicly referring to Zaharan as “Moulvi,” a title that he does not deserve as he was expelled from the course for teachers of Islam for his extreme views.
It is also clear that the top-down culture in Sri Lanka did not help.
When the intelligence warning came saying clearly that tourist destinations and Catholic places of worship were to be attacked only VIP security was tightened.
The police was only interested in protecting their political masters and the ordinary folk were not protected.
Was it because the threat was against a minority?
Nobody in the security apparatus thought it would be a good idea to inform the Catholic and other Christian Churches that maybe it would be a good idea for them to be warned as well.
The UNF government should have seen these signs and acted upon them, especially considering Minister Kabir Hashim had brought it to their notice. President Sirisena is ducking and weaving from the criticism that he is the leader and has failed his peopled.
This was a matter for the Muslims for them to solve internally, was the attitude of the officials.
When the threat came against the Christians, again the apparatus was idle because they are also a minority.
So that is why it is clear that the safety of minorities does not matter in this country.