Hopeless terror cannot halt united Lanka’s progress | Daily News

Hopeless terror cannot halt united Lanka’s progress

Even as battered and shocked survivors of yesterday’s cruel blast inside the St. Anthony’s Church and Shrine, Kochchikade, staggered out of the building, residents of all faiths and ethnicities in that very multicultural neighbourhood in central Colombo had already rushed in enmasse to help the victims. Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and Hindu citizens of that crowded, oldest, part of the city were the ‘first responders’ even before the emergency services arrived.

Even after the emergency services began operations and the security forces took control, residents of the area were seen standing silently, facing the Shrine amid the furore of the rescue efforts, with hands together and heads bowed, praying. It was the same in all the other sites of attack as locals, irrespective of faith and ethnicity, pitched in to support those celebrants of Easter who became victims of terror on a balmy, festive, Sunday morning.

The sheer spontaneity of the people’s immediate collective response symbolised Lanka’s social unity and sheer grit in the face of extreme violence and tragedy. Such was their sense of humanity and civilised reasoning, many onlookers, watching the victims being taken away, simply shook their heads in bewilderment, unable to fathom the logic behind this brutal disruption of annual festivity and piety. “Why?” is the question now being asked by Sri Lankans across this resplendent isle that is yet again wracked in violence and agony.

The “Why?” of this shocking bombing campaign is also being probed by the security agencies as they swiftly take up investigations. The fact that already – on the very same day of the attacks - several suspects have been apprehended, demonstrates the professionalism and vigour of the security agencies whose skills have been honed by decades of counter-insurgency and disaster mitigation.

The “How?” is a matter of expert forensics and is easier to handle for our national security services. It is the motivation of the perpetrators that remains the challenge for not merely the agencies of security and Law & Order but also for society as a whole, especially the political and community leaderships.

The urban bombings and insurgency of the past were the evolving outcome of decades of expressed dissent and agitation over hotly debated political and social issues. The nation was keenly aware of its own internal rumblings and heated contestations, of the mounting frustration and social fears and mistrust. Because of the articulations of frustration and anger, when the violence finally broke out, the causes were known and leaderships were ready to engage – even though the complexities, for long, confounded attempts at resolution.

But when bombers silently plot and then wreak large scale violence without any prior notice or even a hint at a motive or raisond'être, it is difficult for society to respond in any reasonable manner that could stem the spiral into social chaos. And into this murk and confusion can step in any number of opportunists and dangerous charlatans seeking to utilise any social and political disorder as stepping stones to their own gain and advantage.

It will not be the first time that cold-hearted and unscrupulous political opportunists have calculatingly manipulated social suspicion and mistrust to mobilise ethno-centric fears as the building blocks of political power. Many a politician has swept to power on a wave of ethnic fear and sense of siege. Some are still trying these same old unsavoury tactics.

Yesterday’s series of bombings clearly target one religion but the spread of the attacks to include high-end tourist hotels in the heart of Colombo seem also to indicate an intention to attract the widest global attention. The world community has already closed ranks with Sri Lanka and is readily cooperating in the effort to combat this violence.

But as pointed out above, even as our international friends, allies and neighbours extend support, the principal test is within. Will the nation unify in this moment of adversity or, are there political opportunists waiting in dark corners to exploit this tragedy and twist and distort public perceptions, discredit governmental efforts and sow doubts and suspicions in order to benefit politically?

The nation will judge by the initiatives of its leaders in response to this latest challenge of religious hatred. Meanwhile, all the communities of this nation must also look within to seek out the pockets of extremism and irrationality so that they can be engaged with and civilised behaviour instilled.Barely a decade after the worst war of this island’s history, we stand at a juncture in which unified endeavours could take us forward or, disunity and opportunism could lead us down the precipice of new social conflicts, a new conflagration and consequent socio-economic disaster. 

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