Four years after the Easter massacre, the plot keeps thickening

Author - Editor
Four years after the Easter massacre, the plot keeps thickening

The families of the victims still weep and mourn, their hurt spilling over in painful tears. They express their disappointment at the lack of progress on the investigation into the Easter Bombings of 2019. Justice for the victims has proved to be oddly elusive since the 21st of April that year. four years on, the authorities seem to be still staring at a blank wall, unable to connect the dots and follow the trail of evidence in the public domain and those collected at various commissions and by official investigations.

The public, horrified at the utterly unexpected outrage four years ago, are beginning to construct their own theories, partly out of frustration and partly because it’s impossible to leave such a gaping hole in their collective consciousness without filling it. Why did it happen? Why then? Who was behind it? What was the point of it all? Did they achieve what they wanted? Who won? We lost, as a people, so who won as a result of the mindless carnage?

It didn’t just happen to the several hundred dead and injured and their families. It happened to us all in this country, to ordinary folk who had put their violent collective history behind them, and were looking forward to a different future after 30 years of war. Who pulled us back into such horror?

The Catholic Church which had shown remarkable patience from the very beginning, displayed its intense displeasure at the failure of the government to provide any satisfactory answers at the Mass held on the 4th anniversary of the bombing.

Malcom Cardinal Ranjith made a strident speech at the Mass commemorating the dead, stating that the Church had no trust in the present leadership to do what they promised. He read out from the pages of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry established to look into the Easter bombing. He reiterated the conclusions of the former Attorney General who said that the evidence points to a political conspiracy behind the event.

The Conspiracy Theory

The people want to know what happened and are putting the pieces together in the absence of a credible official version. If the people lose faith in their institutions, it won’t be pretty, since that’s not all they are dealing with. The public already knows a lot of what is said to have happened, and going by what’s in the public domain, a political conspiracy is not outside the domain of logic and beyond the realm of possibility.

So far, it has been worked out that some outside the ring of suicide bombers benefitted. About the bombers themselves we cannot know for sure, but their hope was ‘glory’ and we can’t know if they managed to achieve it. It may be the case that those others who obviously benefitted, did so completely by accident and horrified though they were together with the rest of us, the very circumstances may have contributed in some measure towards their success. And the most conspicuous success was political. Thus, the conspiracy theory.

To be fair, it’s not conclusive therefore, that those who succeeded as a result of an event, had anything to do with the event itself. In Israel, following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a rightwing Zionist infuriated by the signing of the Oslo peace accords and the handshake with Yasser Arafat in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Netanyahu was about to lose the election to Leah Rabin, the slain PM’s widow and strong peace campaigner, when an extremist Palestinian group set off a bomb killing civilians on a bus. Mr. Netanyahu was hardly known as a friend of the group and was in fact its opposite, but he benefitted nevertheless by the swing of Jewish sentiment in its aftermath. He could convincingly run as the national security candidate and did so successfully.

The central theme of a brand-new Netflix series called The Diplomat, much acclaimed already, is a false flag event which finally turns out to be commissioned by the personality who benefitted politically, with the same highly placed politician drowning out all other voices by shouting “Russia first, second and third” on the agenda at every opportunity as responsible for the death of 41 British sailors. He insists on a plan to bomb Russia as the culprit, having cynically ‘masterminded’ the hiring of a Russian mercenary for the job. Such a scenario is obviously not inconceivable, and makes for a successful drama.

For us in Sri Lanka though, life was much more tragically dramatic. Even art couldn’t conceive of the killing worshippers in Church on a religious holiday. Evil reigned here together with self-interest.

Justice delayed

The problem here is the delay in piecing together what happened, and issuing a credible official report which would offer some kind of closure to the victims. It would also offer some reassurance to the general public that some random group cannot go around bombing several different locations in a coordinated manner, killing and injuring hundreds of unarmed civilians and leave the authorities baffled four years after the event.

The pieces of evidence in the public domain are so curious as to naturally provoke speculation. A few are bizarrely so. The top in this list is the repeated DNA testing of the wife of a member of the suicide squad, Sarah Jasmin, (now a household name), in order to ascertain whether she is alive or dead. When the first two tests came up positive for “alive”, in addition to reports that she was seen being taken away, the authorities persisted until a third test gave what they seem to have wanted, which was that she was dead. So, which is it? Is it two out of three, or the last one wins the day?

Next up, there’s the case of the reluctant suicide bomber Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed. Cardinal Ranjith read from a report that said that this particular would-be bomber of the Hotel Taj Samudra in Colombo, went in, turned on his heels and headed back to Dehiwala where he allegedly spent a few hours wandering around. His wife was located in a house in the area where military intelligence actually went in and spoke to her. The Cardinal asks on behalf of us all, why he wasn’t apprehended. They knew where he lived. Instead, he blew himself up elsewhere, in less exalted premises.

The Cardinal said that he would like everyone to know that the Catholic Church “will remain watchful till justice is delivered”.

Things get further confused when reports appear to say that someone was heard on a telephone begging ISIS to claim the bombing, which they were reluctant to do. However, eventually they seem to have been persuaded. How bizarre can this get?

How curious is it also, that no parliamentarian actually attended the Easter Mass that Sunday morning? No, I’m not wishing that they were there on that day. But they obviously weren’t as fervent in the observation of ‘days of obligation’ as the thousands of ordinary worshippers who did. How fortunate for them, who missed Mass that Sunday.

People are connecting the dots every which way. If they are doing so incorrectly, it’s best that the authorities snap to it before the popular narrative takes hold. If they come to their own conclusions, that will have its own consequences.


If as the Cardinal and the former Attorney-General say, there was in fact a ‘Mastermind’ other than the ringleader of the suicide squad, he or she made a pretty bad call. Whichever way you look at it, resorting to this particular strategy wasn’t smart.

If as is alleged, this Mastermind was also responsible for the “political links”, that too didn’t work out as a prize winning strategy since all the gains turned out to be short-lived. Political strategists are prized professionals but their success depends on their discernment of the local realities. It takes intimate knowledge of the personalities involved and a reading of the respective country’s people as a whole, their sensitivities, the limits of their tolerance and the level of rebelliousness in times of stress.

Considering the failure of the project other than to get international ISIS to claim the carnage, (hardly making a ripple internationally), the Mastermind wasn’t all that, except utterly devoid of humanity. No Islamic group gained anything at all by the random bombing of Churches on Easter Sunday. And yet some people thought it was worth the tragedy, and some people decided to look the other way. That these people who looked the other way by ignoring intelligence about the event, well before the event, were the guardians of this country’s security is a tragedy reaching a whole new dimension. An entire stratum of intelligence officials, coincidentally thought, quite separately from each other, that the higher authorities who could have prevented it, had no need to know, is the most frightening thing of all. They, the lot of them, thought exactly the same thing, and they were all so wrong. They ignored the most evil project to date on this island.

In this country where people have seen decades of violence, it has always been about some grievance, with hot-blooded passion aroused by issues such as poverty, inequality, racism, discrimination. The Easter bombing seems to be the first time in our country’s modern history that such heinous acts were planned with cold-blooded calculation to take lives for no public purpose and without the support of any segment of the public. Everyone knows that there was no background of friction between the Catholics/Christians of Sri Lanka and the Muslim community.

That Mastermind, if there is one, is still at large, free to engage in further evil strategising. This Mastermind has continued to elude the authorities, despite the hundreds who have been questioned, the pages of evidence and reports. He outsmarts our smartest intelligence operatives who are still struggling to name him or her. That is his or her real genius.

The many hands that went up in prayer, the many eyes that looked up in broken-hearted supplication offering praise and prayer for the delivery of justice for those innocent victims of unprecedented evil deserve closure. Fervent prayer has been known to generously deliver much more.