I am grieving for Sri Lanka, but it feels like no one is grieving with me
Posted on May 6th, 2019

By Shynee Jananjalie  Hewavidana

Easter Sunday. 8am. Out of the blue, my dad received a text from one of his friends asking if our family were safe. Safe from what?” A pause. Switch on the news”, the next text grimly informed us. We all bundled into a room and switched on Sky News. Emblazoned on the screen was the breaking news that Sri Lanka had been bombed by terrorists. Colombo, the capital, had been attacked four times.

Panic is a strange thing. I’d always assumed I felt it before – during exams I hadn’t fully revised for; before giving presentations in class; that moment in a job interview where you forget everything about yourself, including your name. But I was wrong. Panic is more than feeling a bit sweaty and nervous – it grapples your insides, stops you breathing. It makes you vomit. It is every fear, every choking terror you’ve ever had, revealing itself in vivid colour.

My entire family lives in Colombo. My parents migrated to the UK in the 80s, but my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and scores of cousins are dotted around Colombo. Everyone I love and hold dear lives there. The news reporter chimed on adding that three churches in Colombo had been bombed and we all lurched, no one having the words to express the horror we were feeling. My aunt and uncle are devout Christians and we knew they were attending communion that day. 

There are no words to express the horror and the dread of having to pick up the phone to see if your family are still alive”

After a tragedy, there are some things which are hard to talk about. And some things which are just impossible. There are no words to express the horror and the dread of having to pick up the phone to see if your family are still alive. Of hearing the dialing tone endlessly beep on. The feeling of being so disconnected and far away, useless. Knowing that if something had happened, you would be the last to find out, because who would tell you? You’re nearly 6,000 miles away and oceans apart. You’re not really part of it, you’re not a main character here: sit back down.

Being part of a diaspora is complex. On the one hand, we’re as English as they come. I was born and bred in Kent and went to university in Cambridge – a cliché picture of an English upbringing. Yet, there’s still a deep, unshakeable connection to my homeland. It’s the place of love, where we all come together and connect – last summer, my family threw a graduation party for me in the Shangri La Hotel. The same Shangri La was one of the buildings bombed on Sunday.

However, while Sri Lankans are grieving, across the world it seems that our pain is only felt by a few. On the day Notre Dame burned, my entire Facebook feed was filled with statuses. Instagram was teeming with people posting pictures of their trips to Paris, mourning the cathedral. It trended on Twitter for days on end.

Where is that energy for Sri Lanka? Within a few days of the fire, a cool 1 billion dollars was raised for Notre Dame. Although there isn’t a definitive figure, we know that the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society has garnered less than £100,000, whilst just over £70,000 has been raised on the main GoFundMe initiative for Sri Lankan victims. The contrast is astounding – Malcolm Turnbull called for an Australian fund for the restoration of Notre Dame. But Sri Lanka? Oh, just love and sympathy”. Al Jazeera also stated that Google searches for the cathedral outnumbered Sri Lanka attacks 7:1. 

Malcolm Turnbull called for an Australian fund for the restoration of Notre Dame. But Sri Lanka? Oh, just ‘love and sympathy’”

Currently, 250 people have been confirmed dead and over 500 injured. That’s 250 people who had lives, ambitions, quirks, dreams, hopes, goals. Hotel workers frying eggs and bacon. Little kids impatient to break their fast and finally eat some chocolate. People impatiently lining up for the buffet at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel hoping that they don’t run out of hoppers. Families, who were just praying.

The people who died could have been my family – in fact, I feel as though they were. Sri Lanka is the home of my family, my friends and people who look like me. For every picture of the dead I see, I feel a jolt. They have those same familiar features that you only see in a Sri Lankan, features I see when I look in the mirror. Every girl who died feels like my sister, every boy feels like my brother. I grieve for them. I grieve for my home that I cannot really call home.

Shynie Jananjalie Hewavidana

[email protected]

One Response to “I am grieving for Sri Lanka, but it feels like no one is grieving with me”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Wages of an Ungrateful Nation
    “Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it” – Santayana

    Sri Lankan nation is horror-struck and deeply saddened by the Easter Sunday carnage. Hundreds of innocent people mostly Christians and other foreigners, were murdered in the most gruesome of ways – by bombings. In the other modes of killings, there is even a body to take home and mourn over. Some bodies had to be identified by only a little ring finger, others by a tattoo! These horrendous crimes took place at churches and hotels around Sri Lanka.

    Sad to say this nation was already condemned by the gods for what was waiting to happen. A nation full of ungrateful citizens richly deserved the outcome for they so quickly forgot the past. They allowed the deterioration of sanity to its lowest with hardly a look backward. This time they allowed the seeds of Islamic Terrorism to take root and giving precedence to the Middle East and Tamil Diaspora money and their own self-interest. They sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind! Meanwhile, events around the Islamic World were rapidly changing.

    If by chance these atrocities happened against the majority Sinhala Buddhist Community, the world would now be having a different narrative, it would have been no big deal! However, this was not going to stop BBC and Al Jazeera trying hard to fish in troubled waters and find a Sinhala Buddhist connection to the Easter Sunday atrocities albeit with little success. Now that it has happened against the Christian Community the tallest building in Dubai gets painted with the Sri Lankan flag, and similar sentiments expressed from around the world. For the moment, there is a semblance of heartfelt sympathy and solidarity with those who suffered and for the nation of Sri Lanka. Fortunately, Sri Lanka has a window of opportunity to do and correct many a thing in their security lapses with international understanding, but that only time will tell!

    In 2015, exactly 200 years after a similar cataclysmic event in the history of Sri Lanka – where a similarly vilified ruler of Sri Lanka was replaced by the British – people of Sri Lanka went for a CHANGE and they got a change that was well funded by the so-called International Community led by the US, who alone spent US$ 550 Million for regime changes in Nigeria, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. As can be seen from around the world their agenda has little to do with the welfare of smaller nations. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Serbia n now Yemen n Venezuela are prime examples who were and are at the end of this International Community benevolence!

    Today, Sri Lanka is in a conundrum unable to get rid of the President, the Prime Minister, and their jocular and grossly unsuccessful administration. They have together demonstrated beyond any doubt their inability to lead, their dereliction of duty and their criminal negligence in the administration of Sri Lanka!

    These are the wages of an ungrateful nation who forgot the past and now have to relive it. Within the span of ten years, the Sri Lankan nation forgot how it was before the end of the Terrorist War in May 2009. This terrorist war spanned over 30 years, caused by over 70 years of unrelenting minority bickering for a mono-ethnic fiefdom with no relevance in history or real ethnic demography. It was a time of bombs going on all over the island willy nilly at the whims of a multitude of Tamil terror groups. These terror groups made carnage all over Sri Lanka while fighting each other for dominance and finally coalesced into one powerful terrorist organization the LTTE led by the terrorist warlord – Prabhakaran. The LTTE carnage was targeted at politicians, ordinary people, places of religious worship – mainly Buddhist and sometimes Muslim.

    Ordinary people who were going about their ordinary day to day business of getting to work in trains and buses were targeted. Ordinary people at their day to day shopping were targeted. Ordinary people taking their children to school were targeted. Ordinary people at their places of worship were targeted and brutally murdered. All this found a simple explanation that Sinhalese Buddhists are discriminating against the Hindu Tamils and hence Tamil Freedom Fighters are fighting for their freedoms and for a land of their own. That was good enough for the so-called International Community and India to fund, resource and train the LTTE Terrorists against Sri Lanka.

    Most parents using public modes of transport did not go to work in one vehicle. Father and Mother chose with heavy hearts not to travel together, in case a bomb went off and one died at least one parent will be there to look after the children. Mothers congregated in front of schools and school closing times to take their children home in safety. Do I need to elaborate on the actual bombings – these are well documented and public knowledge. Do I need to elaborate on the types of insecurity and hardship that went through the minds of ordinary people due to terrorism over a period of well over 30 years?

    Politicians of all hues including those who fathered the terrorists were brutally murdered. National leaders such as the former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi and President Premadasa, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar were assassinated and among the rest, a myriad of politicians such as Gamini Dissanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali and Ranjan Wijeratne was bombed to oblivion.

    Security Forces sacrificed over 30,000 dead and a similar number with lifelong injuries. Over a hundred thousand civilians too died at their little villagers, farming fields and in the crowded cities around the island. All this was forgotten fast with no remorse or even a semblance of gratitude to those who made peace possible in Sri Lanka. Leave aside the politicians, the war heroes able and the disabled and their still suffering families were quickly forgotten and what’s more vilified. The cream of Sri Lanka’s Intelligence Community is behind bars on trumped-up charges. The Foreign Minister went to Geneva without even a Cabinet Approval to make a major change in national policy and to accept a proposal put forward by those who are intent on prosecuting Sri Lanka for winning the war on LTTE Terrorism. This proposal included weakening the Tri Forces, weakening the Intelligence Apparatus, leveling trumped-up charges against security forces and bringing them before dubiously powered courts of Law and a myriad of other measures to bring in ‘reconciliation, human rights, and democracy’ to Sri Lanka!

    Following the end of hostilities and the subsequent destruction of the LTTE as a fighting force within Sri Lanka for ten years almost to a month, there was peace in the island. People were free to enjoy the fruits of freedom that was there for all to enjoy including those who took up arms against the nation. It was a heady admixture of carefree bohemian life and dog eat dog mentality where the rat race took precedence over simple ethics of live and let live. The rich and the privileged wined, dined and played ‘golf’ literally and otherwise and took luxury holidays with nary a thought to those who were instrumental in bringing peace to the land.

    What became important was democracy, human rights, and reconciliation – the catchwords used by the powerful to subjugate less fortunate nations. There was freedom of speech, all manners of freedom of expression, ‘right to this and right to that’ and promotion of other ways of alternative living not conducive to the simple Sri Lankan culture. These became more important than even the minimum basic needs ordinary living – national security, food security shelter, etc. An agenda proposed and recommended by the so-called Internation Community led by the US and Human Right bodies in the UN – now described as a cesspit of corruption became the working document for their local agents in Sri Lanka. This is how the cry for a Just Society – Saadharana Samajayak, Good Governance – Yahapalanaya and other similar euphemism were made common parlance among the population. A vain Buddhist Priest in the person of Maduluwawe Sobhitha who was waiting for a platform to find prominence was tapped on his shoulders and made to carry their flag. Country’s rich and the powerful visited his temple and words were put in his ears that he could even be a possible contender for the Presidency. This is how the now infamous Regime Change on 8 Jan 2015 was brought about.

    A lackluster disgruntled politician in the person of Maithripala Sirisena was brought into the contest the war-winning President Mahinda Rajapakse. Sirisena won the Presidency with a margin of 500,000 votes. There was hardly a vote for Sirisena per se for all those votes that brought him to power were from the supporters of the UNP, the Anti Rajapakse voters who resented his style of governance since winning the 2010 Presidential Election and other block votes from Christians, Muslims, and Tamils. Even a great majority did not know well who he was. Sinhalese are divided between two traitorous political parties the UNP and the SLFP and the die was cast for the end of Mahinda Rajapakse presidency.

    After winning the Jan 2015 elections it did not take long to understand the rudiments of what was in store for Sri Lanka. The following events and measures were put in place in rapid succession.

    1. The Central Bank Bond Scam through which the whole nation was robbed of billions – this happened on 26 Feb 2015 following the appointment of Ranil W as the PM, taking over Central Bank, the appointment of Arjun Mahendran as the Central Bank Governor and then the Scam itself. This money went on to finance the August 2015 election for monetary inducements, as everyone knows by now, plays a crucial part in Sri Lankan politics. As a result of this scam, interest rates went up and so too the taxes, thus affecting the whole nation. They are still paying for it while the main culprit is still out in the open.
    2. Measures to weaken the Security Apparatus of the nation – The Tri Forces. Eviction of security forces from their camps and reduction of all manners of surveillance.
    3. Measures to demoralize the Intelligence Community and arrest some of its members on trumped-up petit charges.
    4. Measures to demoralize, to vilify and to make the Buddhist Establishment ineffective.
    5. Introduction of FCID mainly to cow down the opposition as well as the Administrative Apparatus making the decision making a mere political process.
    6. Making the real opposition in the parliament a nonentity and ineffective.
    7. Measures to disturb the food security of the island.
    8. Pauperizing small and medium scale farmer, entrepreneur and investor and the list go on.
    9. The 19 May was to be Ranaviru Day in Sri Lanka. This was the day the Sri Lankan nation found emancipation from Tamil Racist Terrorism. All ordinary peace-loving people, be they Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or other profited from it for they had above everything – Peace. There were measures to stop any celebrations of the great event of victory over terrorism in Sri Lanka on this day. This is in the backdrop of other nations who still celebrate their war victories even100 years after WW1 and 74 years after WW2 and even their monumental debacles such as Gallipoli with the ANZAC day remembrances by the Australians and New Zealanders.

    These and a myriad of other measures have brought the Sri Lankan nation to what it is today. The President and the Prime Minister have failed utterly in their duty. President went on pilgrimage to a Hindu Kovil in India and a luxury holiday in Singapore without leaving a clear line of command or authority in his absence. The Prime Minister who has failed to attend the Security Council meetings for months denied any knowledge of the Islamic threat.

    The behavior of a government minister who was warned by his father not to attend church on Easter Sunday has left more questions than his pitiful answers. The other more powerful and usually vociferous ministers of the Government are yet to open their mouths! Another Government Minister a Muslim says in front of the nation that he did not think the bombs would be this powerful! A Muslim Mosque leader, when asked about hundreds of brand new swords found in mosques around the country, says they are for cutting grass in their cemeteries – a colorful demonstration of Islamic Taquiyya or Deception!

    An ordinary person affected by the church bombing in Negombo, tears flowing down his cheeks, he and his Christian Community, who voted this government into power are asking their UNP political leaders as to why they let this happen; why they did not give even a simple warning? The President and the Prime Minister denied responsibility; having failed the nation and mostly their own supporters, they still rule this hapless nation! Even in close by India, a simple train accident leads to the resignation of the minister responsible. People are asking why two leaders who have failed the nation miserably are not resigning. Perhaps the answer is in the following:

    The then President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines was asked why he is not resigning when confronted with large scale countrywide demonstrations asking for his resignation. He simply told, “I will resign when Americans ask me to do so”. We wonder loudly if this is the case in Sri Lanka too?

    Today once again the so much vilified Security Forces are back on the streets trying to provide security to the ordinary people of Sri Lanka, not to mention the all-powerful politicians and their minions. The ground reality is that even the Tamil Politicians who only a few weeks ago with blood in their throats were asking for the security forces to leave their areas are now asking the Security Forces not to leave them and give them protection!

    This ungrateful nation has come a full circle, back to where it was 30 years ago because of politics and selfishness. This ungrateful nation forgot the past and are now re-living it once over. Only the future will tell what they will do in the future!

    How long does Sri Lanka have to suffer this ignominy?

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