2019 May 17
A feel of unease unearthed yet again as one of the first amongst many curfews was put to effect in Chilaw on the 12th of May. Following which, curfews were imposed in the police areas of Kuliyapitiya, Bingiriya and Dummalasuriya until 6 am (Monday, 13th) after a said “tense” situation. The ban of social media stimulated the tech-savvy to explore new means of utilizing the internet and find out about the rest of the curfews to follow that included an island-wide curfew on the 13th of May. However, what happened prior to the curfews? What birthed these tense situations and where are its roots? With the unfolding of many eyebrow-raising occurrences as such, we’re posing a few questions for you to ponder on.
As a nation in deep insecurity, there are many avenues of thought gnawing in the back of our minds, as it would, given that necessary answers weren’t and still aren’t delivered to the general public. From the question of why authorities didn’t implement necessary actions to prevent the Easter Sunday bombings albeit having the needed intelligence, to why experienced politicians continue to make controversial comments in such ease, almost as done intentionally to stir the ethnic hot-pot.
Quite extraordinarily, 3 weeks after the Easter Sunday Attacks, a chain of shameful acts were carried out in many parts of the country in the name of patriotism. However, what happened within this period of time for the attackers to suddenly spring into action? Which poses the first question of,
Why did this so-called retaliation take place after 3 weeks?
Eyewitnesses remarked that the said mob attackers were not residents of the area and entered the towns in a collective, leaving after damaging property that belonged to the Sinhalese community in certain instances. And so we come to our second question of,
What exactly was the objective of these attackers? Was it a game of tit-for-tat or a political gimmick in which all of us are pawns in a brutal hoax for power?
When deep-diving into the fiasco, another question that arises is,
What are we to make of the 21 letters in the general post said to have come from New York inciting ethnic tension between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority? Those which were so dexterously executed that even fingerprints couldn’t be detected?
If undoubtedly from America, in which context do they belong in the picture?
Speaking at the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) in Washington in February, denouncing China’s presence in Sri Lanka, the US Navy Indo-Pacific Command Chief Admiral Philip Davidson called for sturdier US-Sri Lanka military relations. Furthermore, his report to the SASC fundamentally revolved around the need for a stronger US aggression against China, stressing on Washington’s focus in keeping Sri Lanka in the US geo-strategic agenda.
Sri Lanka’s position in the Indian Ocean has been of imperative importance since the beginning of time, acting as a key location in trade throughout millennia. Colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British to dock and refuel their ships in Sri Lankan ports, they also used it as a transit hub. In the present context, Sri Lanka is located in the centre of the busiest sea lanes of communication with approximately 50% of trade journeying through here. Apart from being geared with several ports, the natural deep-water harbour at Trincomalee is known for being the fifth largest natural harbour in the world. The port city of Trincomalee was the main base for the Easter Fleet and British Royal Navy during the Second World War, thus heavily served commercial, industrial and military agendas. A crucial location for the current One Belt One Road initiative, both through land and sea, China established its presence quickly and steadily within the island since the ending of the war against the LTTE. Ownership of this strategic location is so grave, so much so that former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill considered the most dangerous moment of the Second World War and the one which caused him the greatest alarm, to be when the Japanese fleet headed to what was then known as Ceylon.
(The London School of Economics and Political Science)
In this light, the tug-o-war between these superpowers should not come as a surprise to any of us. However, what is alarming is the number of underlying narratives to be considered in an unfortunate situation as what we are facing today. While there is more to be considered and coherently discussed, it is crucial that we as Sri Lankans stay vigilant and clever in the face of manipulative agendas. If there’s one thing we cannot be stripped of, it is our ability to think freely. Keeping in mind that one of the major results of the devastating Black July was the postponing of elections and a brutal 30 year-long war, thinking cleverly as one nation has never been more essential.
Cover image courtesy of Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images