FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings

The number of dead is bound to rise, already standing at more than three hundred.  The bombs, worn by seven suicide bombers, struck at three churches during the period of Easter Sunday worship, and three hotels.  As the dead were counted and the wounded accounted for, the situation through the glass darkly was a troubled one.  Information relayed had either been ignored or discounted. In some cases, it never reached necessary recipients.

While the individuals behind the bombings were hardly forthcoming about their handiwork, there were suggestions as early as April 4 from Indian security sources that one group was readying to initiate various attacks.  National Thowheeth Jama’ath, an Islamic group, had piqued the interest of police enough to lead to the identification of members and their addresses on April 11.

One of the suicide bombers, it transpired, had also been arrested some few months prior on suspicion of vandalizing a statue of Buddha.  Such acts of serious desecration were not alien to the NTJ; the use of bombings on such scale was, however, not their forte.

On Monday, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, confirmed what had already been a fast held suspicion: even after the warning of April 4, the prime minister and his associates had been “completely blind to the situation.”

The picture painted by the minister seemed a gruesome admission of defiance in the face of detailed warnings.  Intelligence agencies had “informed, from time to time, starting from April 4, 48 hours before the attacks and finally ten minutes before the tragedy struck.  They gave warnings about a possible attack on April 4 for the first time.”  From then on, the National Intelligence Chief Sisira Mendis kept the Inspector General Police (IGP) abreast of the “imminent attacks” having “actually informed that an organisation called ‘Thowheed Jamath’ planned suicide attacks and had even mentioned their names.”

Scenes of confusion and dangerously comic dysfunction unfolded in the government.  Despite various organs being informed about the threat – the ministerial security division (MSD), the judicial security division, and security divisions of former presidents and the Diplomatic Security Unit, there was a failure, according to Senaratne, “to warn the Prime Ministerial Security Division (PMSD) and the Presidential Security Division (PSD) of the attacks.”  When the PM attempted to convene a security council meeting, no one turned up.  When the President had made a previous effort to do the same thing, there was a delay of 20 minutes.  He had to “sit in the State Defence Minister’s room for some time.”  Nor was the Tourism Minister, John Amaratunga, briefed.  “Unfortunately, I did not know anything about it.”

Efforts to minimise, contain and deflect have become standard fare, with blithe ignorance forming the central defence. Rich lashings of blame are also in full circulation.  This gives the air of monstrous acceptance: we bungled, but haven’t we before?  Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Monday, felt that the intelligence assessments had not warranted a serious, full security response, despite the level of detail supplied, and their frequency.  “Intelligence,” he stated disingenuously, “never indicated that it’s going to be an attack on this magnitude.  They were talking about isolated incidents.  Besides, there is no emergency in this country.  We cannot request the armed forces to come and assist as we can only depend on the police.”

Having claimed the received intelligence pointed to mere potential “isolated incidents” (the suggestion here is that a monstrous act, when seen as an isolated one, can be rationalised according to a security and ethical calculus; in short, more permissible), Fernando proceeded to normalise the entire episode.  “It’s not the first time a bomb went off in this country.  During the height of the war, when emergency regulations were in force and roadblocks installed at every two kilometres, bombs went off.  Why are you trying to isolate this unfortunate incident?”

At the highest levels, the Sri Lankan government has suffered political sclerosis.  President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, have been waging wars cold and hot against each other for some time. When Wickremesinghe was re-appointed after being sacked by the cranky Sirisena in December last year, in turn replacing a cantankerous Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President extolled his own democratic credentials.  While he held a personal dislike for his appointee, he also respected “the parliamentary tradition”.

The post-attack reaction is also proving to be an unhinged affair.  Sri Lankan authorities immediately imposed a social media blackout.  Dazed and confused as officials are, the idea of not containing an agitated public as inquiries are conducted seemed a grave threat. Besides, a country bathed in the blood of decades of communal violence continues to teeter before the next provocation, the next inflammatory message of inspired retribution.

There was little pride in asserting that the group was “a local organisation”, with all suicide bombers having been Sri Lankan citizens.  But not wishing it to be an entirely indigenous affair, Senaratne wished to speculate that, “there was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”  Another source of blame had been identified.

As Fernando surmised, it would be foolish to put too much stock in future efforts on the part of the government.  Yes, assistance was being sought from Interpol, the FBI and the Australian Federal Police. But he could not “take confidence with terrorism.  No country in the world can assure that it’s not going to happen.  But we are trying our best.”  A brutally frank response, though hardly a cleansing exculpation.

 

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 21, 2019
Craig Collins
Endangered Species Act: A Failure Worth Fighting For?
Colin Todhunter
Offering Choice But Delivering Tyranny: the Corporate Capture of Agriculture
Michael Welton
That Couldn’t Be True: Restorying and Reconciliation
John Feffer
‘Slowbalization’: Is the Slowing Global Economy a Boon or Bane?
Johnny Hazard
In Protest Against Police Raping Spree, Women Burn Their Station in Mexico City.
Tom Engelhardt
2084: Orwell Revisited in the Age of Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
The Dead Letter Office of Capitalist Imperium: a Poverty of Mundus Imaginalis 
George Wuerthner
The Forest Service Puts Ranchers Ahead of Grizzlies (and the Public Interest)
Stephen Martin
Geopolitics of Arse and Elbow, with Apologies to Schopenhauer.
Gary Lindorff
The Smiling Turtle
August 20, 2019
James Bovard
America’s Forgotten Bullshit Bombing of Serbia
Peter Bolton
Biden’s Complicity in Obama’s Toxic Legacy
James Phillips
Calm and Conflict: a Dispatch From Nicaragua
Karl Grossman
Einstein’s Atomic Regrets
Colter Louwerse
Kushner’s Threat to Palestine: An Interview with Norman Finkelstein
Nyla Ali Khan
Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370
Dean Baker
The Mythology of the Stock Market
Daniel Warner
Is Hong Kong Important? For Whom?
Frederick B. Mills
Monroeism is the Other Side of Jim Crow, the Side Facing South
Binoy Kampmark
God, Guns and Video Games
John Kendall Hawkins
Toni Morrison: Beloved or Belovéd?
Martin Billheimer
A Clerk’s Guide to the Unspectacular, 1914
Elliot Sperber
On the 10-Year Treasury Bonds 
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail