Solidarity for Sri Lanka

Tuesday 23rd April 2019 13:19 EDT

Easter Sunday traditionally commemorates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead but this year, 21 April, citizens across the globe regardless of their religion mourned the tragic deaths of over 300 people who were caught unaware in the series of barbourous bombings in Sri Lanka. The terrorist attacks on three churches and four hotels for which the IS have now staked claim observed a loss of over a dozen British and Indian nationals, government and military sources have revealed.

R Raj Vithuran, founder of British charity Vithu Trust Fund, revealed that one of the trustees of his charity, Dutto Selvarajah was on the 17th floor of the five-star hotel Shangri-La. Dutto who had been delayed in going to the breakfast room because of his child told Vithuran about how he had initially perceived the suicide blast for an “earthquake”.

“When the blast went off, Dutto said it went off like an earthquake, he thought it was an earthquake and then the second one went off. That is when he realised what had actually happened and then they went towards the fire exit to go out. Once downstairs they found glasses everywhere, and people crying and screaming. Luckily, nothing happened to him or his family.

“Dutto is currently being helped by the British Embassy in Sri Lanka, and is awaiting a flight back to the UK,” said Vithuran to Asian Voice.

President Maithripala Sirisena's government it seems has finally woken up after the attack with opening an investigation and police detaining approximately 40 people, including a Syrian national. However, the country has now imposed national emergency at a time when the death toll continues to increase and the number of victims injured continues to rise above 500. Most of the dead and wounded were Sri Lankans, although government officials said 38 foreigners were killed. That included British, US, Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

Politicians condemn attack on places of worship

MP Tulip Siddiq for Hampstead and Kilburn had also “lost a relative” in these viscious attacks but refrained from providing further information.

“It’s all so devastating. Hope everyone is keeping safe. Solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka,” read her post on Twitter.
Offering her deepest sympathies Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the attacks on places of worship is appalling and said- "The acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time. We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practise their faith in fear."

Meanwhile, opposition leader and Labour minister Jeremy Corbyn said- "I'm appalled by the horrific attacks in Sri Lanka, on Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian calendar. I stand with the victims, their families, the people of Sri Lanka and Christians around the world. We must defeat this hatred with unity, love and respect."

Modi invokes Sri Lanka attacks as election pitch

Meanwhile as India is in the middle of electing its new national government, the incumbent Prime Minister of the country has invoked the Sri Lankan attacks as an election pitch against the opposition Congress Party.

“What was the situation in India before 2014 – every other day there used to be a blast in some or the other corner of the country,” he said and pointed to the terror attacks in Pune, Mumbai and Gujarat.

Attacking the Congress and the NCP for what he said was a weak response to the Pakistan-sponsored attacks, Modi said that the party only used to shed fake tears.

“The Congress and the NCP, which call themselves experienced, only used to conduct condolence meetings, go around the world crying about Pakistan,” he said.

Eight Britons killed

The UK's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka confirmed that eight Britons killed in this attack, including Anita Nicholson, her 14-year-old son and her 11-year-old daughter. Nicholson's husband survived the attack in Shangri-La Hotel's restuarant. Nicholson, who was fortunate to have survived the attack was "deeply distressed" at the loss of his wife and children.
Mrs Nicholson was based in Singapore as managing counsel at the mining and metals company Anglo American. Former firefighter Bill Harrop and doctor Sally Bradley, a British couple who lived in Australia, were killed in one of the hotels.

Ten Indians killed including seven from a political party

Ten Indians, including seven activists of political party Janata Dal (Secular) were among the victims. The seven JDS activists from Karnataka were on a holiday after the end of Lok Sabha elections in Bengaluru. They were identified as K G Hanumantharaya, M Rangappa, K M Laxminarayan, Lakshmana Gowda Ramesh, H Shivakumar, A Maregowda and H Puttaraju. They were eating breakfast at Colombo’s Shangri-La Hotel when the blast went off.

Sri Lankan celebrity chef, and her daughter killed

Shantha Mayadunne and her daughter Nisanga had also been staying at the Shangri-La hotel were one of the first victims to have been identified at the attack. Nisanga Mayadunne, believed to be aged in her 30s, had studied at the University of London, according to her social media page.

The grandson of a Bangladeshi politician killed

The grandson of Bangladeshi MP Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim was killed in the attacks. Mr Selim's grandson - who is himself a prominent member of the Awami League political party - died in an explosion in the hotel where the family was staying, according to local media reports.
At least four Americans were among those who were killed and several others seriously injured. Switzerland's foreign ministry said that a Swiss national, a Swiss dual national and a non-Swiss member of the same family were killed. It didn't identify the second country or give other details on the victims. Spain's foreign ministry says a Spanish man and woman were killed but didn't provide further details. Australia's prime minister says a mother and daughter from that country were killed. Manik Suriaaratchi and her 10-year-old daughter, Alexendria, were attending a church service in Negombo when they died. China's foreign ministry says one Chinese citizen was killed in the blasts, while five are missing. Five others were injured, including two who suffered severe injuries. The Netherlands, Japan and Portugal have confirmed their nationals were among the dead.

Asos billionaire's children

According to the BBC, three children of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen died in the same attack. Mr Povlsen, 46, owns the Bestseller clothing chain and is the largest stakeholder in the hugely popular online retailer Asos.

Suspects might have explosives?

But while the country fights to rise from the trauma of these attacks about which “it had been warned 14 days” before the unfortunate Sunday, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister at a press conference revealed how “some suspects were still on the run” and added that “some might even have explosives.”
However, the focus of suspicion is falling on Islamist militants with links to foreign groups. US intelligence sources said the attacks bore some of the hallmarks of the Islamic State extremist group. The first six attacks - on three churches and three luxury hotels - came within 20 minutes on Sunday morning during Easter services and as hotels served breakfast. Two more explosions - at a down-market hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital, Colombo - came in the early afternoon.

FBI aid in investigation

The bombs brought a shattering end to a relative calm that had existed in the Buddhist-majority Indian Ocean island since a bitter civil war fought by Tamil separatists ended 10 years ago and raised fears of a return to sectarian violence. Sri Lanka's 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. The Washington Post quoted an unidentified law enforcement official as saying Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents were being sent to Sri Lanka to assist in the investigation. The FBI has also offered laboratory expertise to test evidence and analysts for scouring databases for information that might shed light on the attacks, the Post said. Counter-terrorism officials from Britain were also due to arrive, a Western diplomat in Colombo said.

Internal feud and India's prior warning

The attacks have also underlined concern over fractures in Sri Lanka's government, and whether the discord between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe prevented action that might have stopped them. Reports suggest that the government had received a tip-off from India this month about a possible attack on churches by a little-known domestic Islamist group, the National Thawheed Jama'ut group. It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken in response. However, a government minister said- “Wickremesinghe had not been informed about the warning.”

87 detonators were found

On the following Monday, 87 detonators were found from the main bus station at Pettah in Colombo while a bomb the security forces were trying to defuse unexploded near the St Anthony Church in Colombo, triggering panic in the area. An improvised explosive device was also detected near the Bandaranaike International Airport on Monday and was defused.

Standing together and a solidarity march

A statement from the Co-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network (IFN) for the UK and Moderators of the IFN Faith Communities Forum came together to express their condolences and stand in solidarity.
“As we said after the terrorist attacks in Pittsburgh USA and Christchurch New Zealand – such attacks on places of worship are a reminder of the need to condemn extremist violence in the strongest terms and to stand together and to continue to work together with ever greater urgency against ignorance, prejudice and hatred.”
On Tuesday evening, April 23, a group of folks from the Nyc Lankan island & Ealam diasporas representing Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Tamil, Burgher, and Sinhala ethnic communities also came together at the Union Square in London for a vigil for the Sri Lankan attacks.

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter