Sri Lanka: Easter Sunday Attacks – Truth, Half-Truth and Untruth

Mis/dis-information campaigns are not new, not the first nor would be the last. These are like “bots” and will pop up from time to time but never ends.

by A Special Correspondent 

Is the justice for the Easter Sunday attack too far? No one knows. The truth of the Easter Sunday attack by Islam State-inspired extremists seem far beyond the half-truths and untruths filled in today’s information environment.

How possible the half-truths and untruths take precedence over the truth. All these efforts are well planned, calculated, twisted, manipulated and injected into the information environment for different reasons.

These mis/dis-information campaigns are not new, not the first nor would be the last. These are like “bots” and will pop up from time to time but never ends.

Someone surfing social media these days might think that Zahran is innocent. Cannot complain. Because in the world of conspiracy theories of the Easter Sunday attack, Zahran’s actual manifestation seemed insignificant. There were many conspiracy theories of the Easter Sunday attacks but the theory “Easter Attack is a Gotabaya’s Plan” came into very active when Gotabaya Rajapaksa came into power.

The previous government is for sure responsible for the lack of national security concerns and letting the Easter attack to happen freely. There is no doubt of it. Zahran took the advantage of that situation and simply conduct the attack. Any other person would also have done a similar attack if want. Because the previous government was blinded by the illusions of “reconciliation” and did not take any inputs which they think would hamper the “reconciliation”. So, in command responsibility, previous government is at 100% fault.

This situation pushed the previous government also to lose the last 2 elections (Presidential and General).

There were different stakeholders in the previous government. Largely (a) liberalists (UNPers and those in that line) those who gave zero concern to national security priorities and (b) nationalist those who joined the previous government due to political rivalry (Sirisena and his followers) and political survivalists (people like Patali).

When the Easter Sunday attack happened, nationalists in the previous government were so upset because they would also be responsible for being in that government, not doing anything to strengthen the national security, not preventing the extremism and not letting the Easter Sunday attack to happened thus their political careers would also get black marks and threatened.

Take Patali as an example. His future objective of becoming the “President” would never materialize unless he wash out his black marks of shared command responsibility in Easter Sunday attacks just him being in the previous government.

On the other hand, even for people in SJB, those who were there in the earlier regime need to wash their black marks as well to come back clean in next election.

When the attack happened, Cardinal was furious. His anger means the anger of Catholic community in Sri Lanka as well as the anger of Catholic community worldwide. So does the West…! This is a very bad situation for liberalists, all in the previous government.

Now, how to get away with this pressure, divert the “public anger”, satisfy Cardinal, Catholic community (who largely voted for previous government), how to get away from “command responsibility” and wash out the black marks of Easter Sunday attack?

If they (UNP, SJB, SLFP, other parties like Patali) says previous government is responsible for the attack, that is a suicide as they are digging their own grave. Anyway, they can do some damage control by making former President, Defence Secretary, CNI, IGP, Director SIS and a few others responsible and sending them to guillotine.

If they say this is an Indian conspiracy (R&AW plan), they know the repercussions. So, they simply dropped the “Sara Jasmine” theory and now no one remembers what happened to Sara or Abubaker who let Sara go to India.

If they says this is a Western conspiracy (CIA plan or someone else), that would impact the liberalist line and relations with West and West would be furious. Cardinal would be helpless and cannot ask Vatican to conduct investigation.

Thus, there MUST be some other theory. Some convincing theory of attack.

It seemed that “Gotabaya” theory is the most viable and working for all their troubles.

“Gotabaya” factor is disturbing the UNP, SJB, JVP, FSP, 43 Brigade, all other political opportunists, larger portion of Catholic and Muslim communities, West, all Tom, Dick and Harry.

All above people who lost the ground in 2019 due to the Easter Sunday attack, those who want to come back clean and who dislike “Gotabaya” icon and Rajapaksa regime are now very smartly twisting the facts of Easter Sunday attacks to divert the public anger and its responsibility to the President and to intelligence agencies for cooking the conspiracy of Easter Sunday attacks for bringing Gotabaya Rajapaksa to power.

There were two commissions before the present PCoI (appointed by previous regime and completed during the same period) and what were the outputs of those commissions? No one knows and no one cares. Why? Those outputs are not to their taste. Had those commissions created any doubts of a conspiracy by Gotabaya? No, then why now everyone talking about a conspiracy?

Shani was there in the CID under previous regime. As now people says he is a FBI trained, good enough. So, why not he persuade the “main suspect identified through IP address” “Sonic – Sonic” or whoever when he had the full authority under previous regime. Why now? How come Military Intelligence intervened to release SIS person? Who was under power that time if the Military Intelligence had done that? Gotabaya Rajapaksa or previous government ? Very childish theories but problem is these are conveniently consumed by common public.

We cannot blame the public because when people like ex-AG himself making statements saying that the attack is a conspiracy, not only anguish Cardinal, everyone would believe these conspiracy theories.

Interested parties fill the information environment with all false and supportive false narratives to their main false narrative and little by little everyone begins to believe that Zahran is a cat-paw of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and think intelligence has some hand behind Easter Sunday attacks.

Intelligence organization are always infiltrating into any organization (LTTE, NTJ, JMI or any other) to gather intelligence and these are common tactics by any intelligence organization, But these interested parties are trying to interpret those efforts as intelligence involvement in the conspiracy theory.

Can you remember what happened to Millennium City case in 2001? UNP hit the Millennium City safe house thinking of a jackpot but apparently found they hit a wrong bucket. Unfortunately, Mr. Ranil W did not want to accept what actually happened in the safe house and when he begins to realize, the damage has already done by lives of intelligence operatives. No one remember that past now.

In the same time, all the interested parties are using Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s common faith and affiliation to military (of course being a former military person) and trust on intelligence to substantiate the claim of intelligence / military is behind the Easter Sunday.

The story is well written, neatly connected to be acceptable to any common person, “Gotabaya used the intelligence to manipulate Zahran to manifest the Easter Sunday attack and thereby come into power”. Very convincing story….!

Unfortunately, present government’s actions to communicate the right message to public, build or socialize a counter-narrative or fill the information environment with alternative narratives are very less or none. Government action plan on how to deal with the PCoI report and legal procedures are not enough to change the tide, Thus, the public continue to believe what is available in the information environment and in gossip.

Cardinal is no exception. Cardinal is discontented due to the attack on Churches and death of Catholic community in the Easter Sunday attack. Catholic community is pushing the Cardinal for take the responsible persons behind bar. Cardinal in turn needs to turn to someone for answers. When answers are late, he needs some getaway strategy to overcome the pressure of Catholic community. Option available for Cardinal is the use of conspiracy theories of all interested parties.

So, as an escape strategy, even the Cardinal is now using “Gotabaya” conspiracy articulated by all the interested parties, political rivalries.

Those who are actually responsible for Easter Sunday attacks are Zahran and clan and they are all gone. Others who are directly linked like Naufer are in custody and will take legal actions against them.

Deciding on command responsibility is very difficult. UN is still debating on the command responsibility of Sri Lanka’s hierarchy for alleged war crimes during humanitarian operations. So, what to say about the command responsibility in Easter Sunday attacks.

Which one is the most satisfying the Cardinal? (a) punishing the Zahran’s clan who manifested the attack or (b) punishing the command layers for not preventing it? It seemed that Cardinal is not interested on punishing those who are directly involved in the attack (maybe to avoid becoming target of extremists or to avoid backfire of Muslim community) and largely focusing on command responsibility, which is an objective too far. I doubt whether Cardinal is also want to gain the time seen no solution to the problem.

Very unfortunate. This government has no responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks and no involvement in the same. The previous government is fully responsible for the attack and their members may invariably involve (like Bathurdeen). However, this government, to that matter the President, in particular, is facing all the blame for something that has been done by someone.

Let the Vatican conduct an investigation, let the UN conduct an investigation, let Scotland Yard conduct an investigation, let anyone, any regime to conduct an investigation, no one would find a solution to this. So, we can use this time gain strategy forever….!

Justice for those who suffered in the Easter Sunday attacks will never be delivered. Because, as it can see, the truth of the Easter Sunday attacks seem far beyond the half-truths and untruths.

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