Sri Lankans are still in shock over the Easter Sunday attacks that devastated a nation. The morning brought more news of rising death tolls and communities around the country remain wrecked with grief. Streets are quieter as a nation attempts to come to grips with the tragedy.
The silver lining has been the outpouring of solidarity from people of different communities. It has been a time when people have put aside their differences and come together for the sake of humanity. Information filtering out of the Government suggests that it is time for party politics to do the same. Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, at one point a vociferous supporter of President Maithripala Sirisena, told reporters on Monday that since the constitutional crisis Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was not allowed to participate in National Security Council meetings. The details emerging of the rift include descriptions of how Wickremesinghe was denied access even on Sunday.
Whatever the exact circumstances may be, one thing is clear. It is time to end the extreme politicisation that has seeped into every level of Sri Lankan life. Politics has always been important, passionate and even acrimonious in Sri Lanka, but it is time for important spheres to be kept out of its corrosive influence. Security, which is really the safety of Sri Lanka’s citizens and not just its politicians, should be a non-political matter where relevant parties should be allowed to do their jobs irrespective of their political affiliations.
Politics cannot be the reason why Sri Lanka becomes more vulnerable to terrorism. That simply cannot be allowed, especially given the high price that all Sri Lankans have already paid during nearly three decades of conflict. Even after the end of the protracted conflict in 2009 there were sporadic attacks, raising concerns of violence against ethnic and religious minorities. The law, which exists to protect all people and their rights, should have been implemented. If there was indeed intelligence shared of impending attacks that should have superseded any division that was generated due to politics.
Political representatives are appointed to protect the people. They cannot let their hunger for power direct their actions. The frightening part of these attacks is the sheer scale at which they were executed and the extensive damage that they caused. Obviously it is imperative that the Government now put its military, police and intelligence establishments in order along with a clear chain of command that functions beyond the murky considerations of party politics.
Those behind the attacks are yet to be clearly identified and Sri Lanka is still only at the beginning of attempting to untangle the complicated links that would have led up to the attacks. There cannot be any more tugs of war between leaders of political parties on key intuitions that are run on public funds and were established to protect citizens. The fact that this even needed to be said is a sign of how politics has gotten out of hand in Sri Lanka.
Today is a day of mourning, not simply because the Government has declared it so but because it is necessary for Sri Lankans to come together to find a way forward. The Government needs to be a part of this process and, ideally, provide direction and leadership.