Allaying fears | Daily News

Allaying fears

The assurance given by the Army Commander and Acting Police Chief to the general public that the terrorist threat was now over and to get about their daily chores without fear or suspicion, no doubt, is welcome news after the nation was kept on tenterhooks in the two weeks after the Easter Sunday terror attacks. Speaking at a meeting at the Defence Ministry on Monday, Army Commander Lt. Gen, Mahesh Senanayake urged the public not to panic and be seized by a fear psychosis. He appealed to all to sort out information using their discretion without falling prey to rumours.” Keep your full confidence in the Security Forces who eradicated 30 years of terrorism and brought peace to the country”, he said. Acting IGP C. D. Wickremaratne said all those involved in the Easter Sunday attacks have been either arrested or killed and the public need not entertain any fears as regards their security. President Sirisena too told a special session of Parliament on Tuesday that 99% of the 150 or so suspects involved in the Easter Sunday attacks have been arrested. In addition the Security Forces have raided 13 Safe Houses, unearthed 41 bank accounts of the terrorists which have been frozen and confiscated other assets and property.

Of course, the country cannot remain in suspended animation forever. Normal life has to resume and wheels of the state must get moving. Sri Lanka is not the only country which has suffered from Jihadist terror. A number of Western countries recently were at the receiving end of Islamist terrorism causing much death and destruction. All these countries recovered from these catastrophes within a short span of time and life returned to normal. Even the US quickly got its second wind after the 9/11 carnage while also successfully hunting down the perpetrators.

Sri Lanka, though, is a different kettle of fish in that it was the first time the country was invaded by global terrorism. We were hardly prepared for the surprise element even though there had been rumblings about a nascent Islamist militancy for sometime. We had also never faced coordinated terror attacks prior to this and this certainly is a key element in the public mind stoking their fear together with the magnitude and ferocity of the attacks. Hence, the public cannot be faulted for wanting more reassurance before they venture out. It is this mindset that is driving parents not to send their children to schools. The continuing detection of weapons caches and explosives have also fueled fears of a security risk. The fact that a Colombo school run for the children of the defence forces witnessed only a handful of attendees no doubt tells a tale. The scaling down of the official Vesak celebrations too has contributed to the unease. Buddhasasana Minister Gamini Jayawickreme Perera said, this time the National Vesak Festival will be confined to two days while a joint statement issued by the Mahanayakes has called for Vesak to be strictly confined to the spiritual exercise shorn off the usual bright lights and displays.

Still, things have to get moving at some point. For this, it will require the support and cooperation of all segments. A moratorium should be placed on party politics at this juncture and the disaster not be used for partisan purposes. The lead given in this regard by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith should be followed by all who have the interest of the nation at heart.

Meanwhile, in a welcome development, the Holy Shrine of St. Anthony at Kochchikade which was one of the targets of the terrorists was partially opened for prayer and worship on Tuesday. A far cry from the bustling throngs seen at the shine on any given day, it, nevertheless, saw a fair share of the faithful with a front page picture in the newspapers capturing a poignant moment where a handful of devotees prayed in earnest before the statue of the saint. Hopefully, all churches will follow suit before long and services resumed to provide solace and spiritual upliftment to a badly wounded Catholic community.

In the meantime, thought should also be given to the injured victims who are still lying in agony in hospitals. Permanent care should be given to the children who were orphaned by the loss of one or both parents. The needs of the bereaved families should be looked into on a permanent basis including counselling. We say this because there is a tendency to forget things fast in our society. This phenomenon was seen even in the case of the Tsunami, where even after one and half decades of the catastrophe, a large number of victims are still left to fend for themselves. The Christian Affairs Ministry should set up a special unit in the ministry to look into the welfare of the victims and monitor all support extended by the Government and other benefactors. The reconstruction of the destroyed churches too should be speeded up. In this respect, the Armed Forces, especially the Navy, should receive the unequivocal praise and gratitude of the Catholic community for undertaking the full construction of the Kochchikade shrine, which a Navy spokesman said would be completed before the feast of church on June 13.

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