Almost seven years after the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was decisively won, the emergence of a suicide kit in Chavakachcheri has sent alarm bells, ringing in the country’s military and political establishments and rightly so, too.
While a renaissance of the LTTE will not become a reality overnight, even the possibility that the terrorist organization has remnants that were planning a suicide attack is cause for serious concern. Unfortunately, however, the response from the government, the opposition and law enforcement authorities has been at best, confusing.
The official response from law enforcement came in the form of responses from Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi who said there was a “huge gap” between the discovery of explosives and a threat to national security. He also made it a point to note that explosives hidden during the war could be unearthed at any time- although he stopped short of saying this was one such instance.
Rushing in where angels fear to tread has always been a pastime of former Minister G.L. Peiris who then told a media briefing that the explosives were purportedly destined for an address in Wellawatte in Colombo.
Reacting to this, Cabinet Spokesman and Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka then declared that Peiris should be interrogated for the remarks he made and indeed, interrogated he was by the Police shortly afterwards.
Of course, there are the usual suspects such as Wimal Weerawansa who are quick to jump on the bandwagon to blame the government, no matter what. That too Weerawansa and his acolytes did with expected flair, implying that the Tigers are about to regroup and attack and calling for the resignation of the Defence Secretary.
To his credit, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been restrained in his comments on the issue. Although he has spoken publicly about it, he did not seek to gain political mileage from the incident saying only that it merited a thorough investigation.
Nevertheless, the bottom-line is that, although an investigation has been promised, Sri Lankans are none the wiser about the discovery explosives because the government and the opposition have been indulging in a game of scoring brownie points with the electorate. That is a sad state of affairs.
This country witnessed a bloody and brutal war for thirty years. In that conflict, the suicide bomber was a frequent invader into the psyche of the average Sri Lankan. This was long before suicide bombings became the norm in other theatres of conflict around the world. As such, the average citizen would be understandably apprehensive about this latest find and would quite rightly want to know the truth.
The truth, however, has been hard to come by in this incident. The government is still taking cover under the ‘it is under investigation’ theme while the opposition is hell bent on painting a picture of doom and gloom.
An expeditious investigation where the truth, however unpalatable it is, can be laid before the public is imperative. If there have been lapses in the defence establishment, let us know about it – as much as security considerations permit – and let us take pre-emptive measures so that they will not be repeated again. Is that too much to ask from the mandarins in the Defence Ministry and the armed forces and the ministers in charge of them?
What we do not want is a government trying to cover up facts because they could be politically embarrassing. We also do not need an opposition trying to rekindle the ghost of the LTTE just to gain political mileage. On both counts, what has happened thus far has not been encouraging.
Being economical with the truth will serve short-term political objectives but in the long run, it pays to be honest with the masses. It is something those walking the corridors of power and those aspiring to get there seem to have conveniently ignored in this issue, at least until now.