IS IT SAFE, BE­CAUSE THEY SAY SO?

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - EDITORIAL -

Given the present ‘tense’ sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try the up­com­ing Ve­sak Fes­ti­val might have to be cel­e­brated at home.

If we don’t send our chil­dren to school due to safety con­cerns then we do have se­ri­ous is­sues re­gard­ing se­cu­rity in this coun­try. But the Govern­ment au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Prime Min­is­ter, keep main­tain­ing that the un­healthy sit­u­a­tion that pre­vailed a few days ago has been brought un­der con­trol.

Ve­sak is a fes­ti­val which at­tracts the par­tic­i­pa­tion of folks prac­tis­ing all re­li­gions. We have heard of Chris­tians in Ne­gombo and Wat­tala ar­eas, not for­get­ting Mus­lims in cer­tain other parts of the coun­try, tak­ing the ini­tia­tive to or­gan­ise free meals for Ve­sak sight­seers. It is very un­likely that these non-bud­dhists would or­gan­ise such events-known as Dansal in Sin­halese-this year.

The govern­ment has been quick to put up no­tices to con­vey the mes­sage that liquor shops will be closed from May 17-20 and that Mon­day (May 20) has been de­clared a pub­lic hol­i­day. But peo­ple still don’t be­lieve it when the govern­ment makes state­ments, in dou­ble quick time, to the fact the coun­try’s volatile sit­u­a­tion has been ar­rested.

The threat of ex­trem­ist forces strik­ing again looms large. This is be­cause the govern­ment is keep­ing cer­tain find­ings made dur­ing search op­er­a­tions un­der wraps. The Govern­ment of Sri Lanka (GOSL) has re­quested me­dia in­sti­tutes not to pub­lish pho­to­graphs of swords and weapons which are found dur­ing raids cit­ing that such vi­su­als would drive panic into peo­ple.

Peo­ple would em­brace fear when in­for­ma­tion is blocked. This govern­ment fails to un­der­stand that block­ing vi­tal in­for­ma­tion from reach­ing peo­ple gives ru­mour­mon­gers an op­por­tu­nity to do the rounds. Par­ents of both school­child­ren and mem­bers of the adult work­ing force end up wor­ry­ing when their off­spring get to know about an im­pend­ing cur­few- just hours away from be­ing im­posed-only when they board the buses, bikes and cars they travel in af­ter work. This was what hap­pened last Mon­day (May 12).

Mem­bers of these ex­treme groups are yet to strike af­ter the Easter Sun­day strikes and other mi­nor in­ci­dents. But mem­bers of these ex­trem­ists groups are not the only ones caus­ing prob­lems in the coun­try. Now we hear of cer­tain Sin­hala groups-which are backed by saf­fron robed monks-sow­ing seeds of ha­tred. Mem­bers of these groups pose no lesser threat to the so­ci­ety when com­pared to the ex­trem­ist, Groups which car­ried out the at­tacks on churches and ho­tels, re­cently.

For the record a group of Bud­dhist monks has re­cently vis­ited the Act­ing IGP’S of­fice and handed over a pe­ti­tion which con­tained many de­mands. Among them are the ar­rest of min­is­ter Rishad Bathiudeen and Eastern Prov­ince Gov­er­nor His­bulla. This group has stated in the let­ter that the se­cu­rity forces should take over the coun­try if they were not al­lowed to take nec­es­sary ac­tions.

No one should be al­lowed to take the law into their hands. The law should be equal to ev­ery­one. Quick ar­rests were made to ap­pre­hend those in­volved in the re­cent bomb­ings. But very lit­tle has been done to put in their places the ri­ot­ers who caused may­hem in vil­lages like Kobeigane, Het­tipola, Chillaw, Min­uwan­goda, Wariyap­ola, Katupotha and Kuliyapi­tiya. In some ar­eas it has been re­ported that the po­lice had been pas­sively watch­ing when the ri­ot­ers de­mol­ished Mus­lim owned build­ings in the above ar­eas. There was also a re­cent news­pa­per re­port which stated that a sus­pi­cious look­ing in­di­vid­ual, clad in an at­tire sim­i­lar to that worn by the se­cu­rity forces, was seen loi­ter­ing around and pas­sively watch­ing the riots in Thun­modara un­fold. If in­ves­ti­ga­tions prove that he is an em­ployee of the forces he would be se­verely pun­ished. All is still not right yet be­cause the premier has in­structed the act­ing IGP to im­pose

Po­lice cur­few when and where nec­es­sary.

Come this Satur­day, Bud­dhist flags will flut­ter and the courages would visit the tem­ple. The rest would re­main at home and pray for peace to re­turn to this coun­try which for nine years en­joyed the bliss of liv­ing in a ‘coun­try free of ter­ror­ism’.

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