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Easter Tragedy: Four months on

Today marks four months since 259 men, women and children paid the ultimate price for the negligence, irresponsibility and sheer incompetence of the powers that be. Four months to the day since those entrusted with the lives of our citizens – the very people that pay their salaries – let them down in ways that redefine betrayal.

Four months have passed, and the friends and families left behind have yet to see anyone of significance held accountable. Not one person of real power, despite ample evidence to their culpability, has seen the inside of a jail cell for their blatantly criminal negligence that led to so much devastation, their petty bickering that literally tore people apart. And as the national preoccupation with elections intensifies, it’s looking less and less likely that the loved ones of the victims will see justice anytime soon.

Just yesterday, members of the Presidential Commission appointed to probe the Easter Sunday attack blamed the bombings on security lapses and delayed information sharing between security agencies. Testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that’s carrying out its own investigation, the commission members said the first intelligence report on the attack was received on 5 April, over two weeks before the incident. A lack of coordination between agencies, they told the PSC, resulted in the tragedy.

To say that this is only the tip of the iceberg would be an understatement. The level of incompetence and negligence that resulted in the most horrific terrorist attack in recent memory, one imagines, goes much deeper. Much of the blame can be laid squarely at the door of the highest echelons of power. The toxic relationship between the President and the Prime Minister, which had been deteriorating for some time and hit rock bottom in October last year, ensured that the groundwork was laid for the entire security apparatus to crumble. The fact that there was no genuine effort at reconciliation by either party, even in the face of such senseless violence, only served to remind us that the ruling class of this country cannot be relied upon to set aside party politics in the interest of the people – not even in times of national tragedy. The Opposition too, true to form, wasted no time in capitalising on the attack and fanning the flames of communal tension to clear a path to state power. The hapless public, battered, bruised and betrayed, had nowhere to turn.

Four months on, questions remain. There is no reason to believe that those who allowed this devastation will face any kind of justice. There is no sign that the elites whose lust for power, whose deliberate abuse of deep-seated divisions, whose constant appeal to the baser instincts of a generation moulded by violence will answer for their crimes. Crimes that paved the way for Zahran Hashim and his misguided followers to take so many innocent lives.

No amount of scapegoating toothless bureaucrats will change the undeniable truth that the political establishment of this country unforgivably failed the people it claims to represent. No amount of finger-pointing or holier-than-thou posturing – government or opposition, layman or clergy – will wash away the blood on their hands. A crucial election is round the corner, and the people are once again faced with the unenviable task of choosing the least objectionable of a truly reprehensible lot. The mood of the country has predictably changed, and the Easter Sunday attack – and the anti-Muslim violence that came in its wake – are fast becoming a distant memory. Just four months later, those who laid down their lives are in danger of being forgotten, of becoming yet another statistic. One hopes, however, that come December, the voters keep their fire alive.

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