It is three months to the day since the despicable bombings in Colombo and Batticaloa on Easter Sunday.
The defeat of the LTTE a decade ago and the relative peace that followed had lulled the country’s security apparatus – and its political leadership, into sleep mode. Much has taken place since Easter Sunday.
The President made sacrificial lambs of his IGP and Defence Secretary refusing to take the responsibility for the failure to take preventive measures on early Intelligence reports of an impending attack. Anti-Muslim sentiments resurfaced and festered, and the country’s economy took a hit when so-called friendly countries issued travel advisories against their citizens visiting Sri Lanka. Hotels faced cancellations by the floors.
All that is now passé; the damage is done. It is time to get back up on our feet and heal the wounds – not reopen old ones; to see that the orphaned and the destitute are cared for, and ensure this kind of history does not repeat itself.
The Muslim community has faced the brunt of the backlash from the Easter Sunday blasts. Groups targeted the community in the guise of pursuing politicians who were hand-in-glove with the extremist elements responsible for the bombings. Boycotting of Muslim shops, eating houses, businesses, even taxi drivers, has taken the country down a dangerous path. The repercussions were felt in Islamic countries with which this country has had good relations, and relies on heavily for the sustenance of the economy.
Our news stories today, however, point to what has become a national defect – the inability of the Establishment to work towards a common goal. The political leadership is all skewed, but so too, it seems, the bureaucracy. Allegations and counter allegations between the Police Department and the Attorney General’s Department show the investigations into the new threat of religious radicalisation going nowhere.
While they sort out their issues, there is a dire need for a ‘radical cure’ for the social rehabilitation of especially educated youth getting indoctrinated through the dark web by extremists, often abroad, espousing violence through hate speech and various interpretations of their holy book.
This calls for a counter-radicalisation strategy which many countries have already adopted. India started the CT-CR (Counter Terrorism and Counter Radicalisation Division) in 2017. The UK (CONTEST), Australia (CVE), even Saudi Arabia (Thumamah) and Pakistan (DDR), have such programmes with the Government, security agencies, police, those involved with cyber security – and most importantly, the community working together focusing on helping young people, who are radical by nature, learn technology and embrace a more contemporary practice of their religions.
At the heart of such programmes is to understand that this much talked of “war on terror’ is not a war on the battlefield, but in human minds, and that youth are by nature radical. Sri Lanka must join the Christchurch Call co-sponsored by the leaders of New Zealand and France aimed at bringing together countries and the global tech companies to end the ability to use social media to organise and promote terrorism and violent extremism.
The Muslim community complains that they are misunderstood, and rightly so. The Easter Sunday bombers did them no favours, only making a bad situation worse. The true interpretation of the tenets of their religion must be communicated by muftis through social media platforms to reach the young and these must correspond with the law of the land.
Fanaticism is not the exclusive monopoly of any one religion, but Islam has been branded as the forerunner not least because of Muslims’ reaction to the violence and suffering bestowed upon them in West Asia due to the military assaults of Western powers.
In Sri Lanka, the state of emergency must not continue for much longer than necessary, and investigations to the dozens now in detention need to be fast tracked while a counter-narrative to extremism in all its forms must come with the help from the community itself. One of the good signs post-Easter is the greater involvement of the community in adapting religious laws to the laws of the land as we have seen in the changes brought forth to the Muslim Marriages and Divorce Act, the Halal registration, Sharia Universities and the Burqa dress code.
By Gad Sir, It’s not Cricket
Last Sunday’s sensational, nerve-wrecking cricket World Cup final at Lords is really not over, yet. The heated debate on the ‘real winner’ continues and Sri Lanka – or a Sri Lankan is part of the controversy, alas, for the wrong reasons of arguably giving an extra run which made the difference on deciding the ultimate winner.
The cricketing world has all of this week refused to come to any unanimity on the winner (England) following the tied match eventually decided by the fine-print of the tournament rules. The losers (New Zealand) have accepted the controversial decision with supreme grace, but then, they have always played the sport in the much vaunted “spirit of the game”.
Much like the British weather, a cloud will always hang over this ‘win’. Calls for the 2019 World Cup to be shared as the fairest outcome of the nail-biting final which the cricketing world witnessed are being increasingly heard from many quarters.
The England and Wales Cricket Boards, and the MCC (now to be headed by another Sri Lankan) might want to consider this option and come out the true winners by taking it up with the event organiser, the ICC. There is, after all, already a precedent where the ICC Champions Trophy of 2002 was shared between India and Sri Lanka.
The Queen of England is the Queen of New Zealand as well, and as the Head of the Commonwealth best placed to be that unifying symbol. After all, if Britain is looking to reinvigorate the 54-member grouping after exiting the European Union, it has this great opportunity to show there’s more to the gentleman’s game of cricket, and to life itself, than just holding a piece of silver that is the World Cup.