Sri Lanka faces more bloodshed ahead unless govt acts

Nineteen days before it marks a decade since the end of the civil war between Sinhalese and Tamils, Sri Lanka is again in turmoil following a co-ordinated series of bombings by Islamic terrorists on Easter Sunday, nine days ago.

The Sri Lankan authorities appear to have become quite lackadaisical in their attitude towards security on the island, given that so many people could be killed in what appears to be a well-organised bombing campaign with simultaneous blasts in different parts of the country, all aimed at Christians celebrating Easter.

The incompetence of the authorities in Colombo can be gauged from the fact that they first said the death toll was as high as 359, before revising it downwards by more than 100.

Additionally, the lack of intelligence sharing has become apparent, with a rift between the president, Maithripala Sirisena and the prime minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe, leading to an amazing situation where the latter was kept away from security briefings.

But apart from this, the government has also left the door open for terrorist and extremist groups to prosper by not making it a priority to draft a political solution to the Tamil problem which caused problems in the country from 1983 onwards until 2009.

Last year, Sirisena sacked Wickremasinghe and appointed former president, Mahinda Rajapakse, the man responsible for ending the Tamil conflict, in his stead. But the courts reversed that move and Wickremasinghe was reappointed. Since then, the two men have not been on talking terms apart from when needed, and in public.

When the bombers struck, the two politicians had to admit their lack of communication. It looked very shabby for a country that has known more than its fair share of bombings; there have been uprising by Sinhalese terror groups as well, both in 1971 and 1989, to add to the Tamil problem.

And now it looks like Muslims have got into the act, though claims by Islamic State about being behind the bombings have to be taken with a tonne of salt as the group is well-known for claiming bombings in order to give the impression that it is more powerful and has tentacles in more areas than it actually has. This was to be expected after the group lost its last stronghold in Iraq a few months back.

There has been tension in Sri Lanka on occasion after the war with the Tamil rebels ended. Last year, there were clashes between militant Buddhists and Muslims and the government was forced to declare a state of emergency.

After the Easter bombings, the government also imposed a ban on social media, apart from declaring a state of emergency.

Conflicts between ethnic or religious minorities can only be brought to an end by a political settlement. The best example of that is the Good Friday agreement that ended the violence between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Sri Lanka has already endured decades of ethnic conflict. If the government does not put aside petty internal differences and bring about political settlements between the parties involved, the island can look forward to more decades of bloody violence.

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