25 July 2011

My thoughts are with you Norway, so are my prayers for the one’s you lost

My thoughts are with you Norway, so are my prayers for the one’s you lost

There were many incidents, but when it all started in my little world of Colombo was that famous night in July 1983. A good friend lived right across from A F Raymond and his view from his bedroom was the Kanatte (cemetery) Junction and the Borella Kanatte itself.
Lucky immediately called me wanting to know if I could come to view the excitement. The rumours had already started and parental approval to leave the house was impossible. He however narrated how as the 13 soldiers burial commenced angry crowds demonstrated their displeasure of their deaths by a Tamil Tigers (LTTE) bomb in Jaffna. A famous well-endowed and much feared Superintendent of Police was an auxiliary victim at this demonstration. When trying to control protesters they rewarded his efforts by beating him up and throwing him among the soldier’s graves. Half and hour afterwards everyone had started to run ‘Kotti Gahanawa’ (the Tigers are attacking).
 Mass hysteria was common then amongst the majority in Sri Lanka, so was the loathing of the newly formed terrorist organisation LTTE by Tamil fundamentalists in northern Sri Lanka. The next day actually marked Sri Lanka’s international shame. The day Sri Lanka erupted in communal violence. One, which I first hand, experienced the actual effectiveness of mob violence.

As I grew older the LTTE grew stronger. I watched many sportsmen of Royal College true sons of our soil join the armed forces. I envied how they became overnight heroes and worried for their safety. Sri Lanka’s fertile soil became stained with blood; the night sky lit up in fire and day became night from the smoke. My classmate, Stubbs shield champion boxer and major in the Army came back home to Gampaha without both his legs.

The next attack I remember well. It was an early Colombo hot, humid afternoon. Jo our CD and I were chilling out in her office, one of the few nicer offices to hangout in as her upper floor windows brought in much needed coolness with large tree and its branch’s looming outside. Suddenly there was a loud boom and the windows to her office shook violently. Jo characteristically screamed, all of us proceeded dreading what we were about to see in the boardroom TV. The drivers who continuously listen to the radio informed us of the suicide bomb truck that had driven into the Central Bank, taking down along with it the surrounding building and Colombo’s famous Ceylinco Tower. Over 100 people died and millions of dollars damage was caused. We worried the most as our agencies Ceylinco advertising team were there for a meeting. They arrived back safely and their tale was more harrowing than what we were seeing on TV.

The third one, not the last or least amongst the many terror attacks in Sri Lanka was the one I experienced best. It was a lazy weekend. Suddenly far away I could hear the sounds of gunfire. We lived in Kynsey Road and our apartment was on the top third floor. From the back balcony it sounded to me that the gunfire was coming out of Galle Face. Again a rush to the TV and this time around we all had cell phones. Mine rang immediately and it was my friends from the Ministry of Justice. It took Prabath, Ranga and Chaminda ( You were in Germany, Blacker, otherwise they would have picked you up too) about 20mins to arrive home and for me to quickly jump in the car with them. These were what I call my glory years when a sibling had the dubious powers to have a car with full security clearance that said such most clearly on that cars windscreen. Also Prabath, Ranga and Chaminda of dubious Policeman or something like that fame(Chaminda’s OK and now drives the Sectary to the Treasury).

A gunfight had developed between LTTE suicide terrorists who had attacked the Government newspaper offices, the Lake House. With clearance to enter the Presidential Security Zone and the Treasury we had the stupid pleasure of driving through all the roadblocks set up to control traffic around the attack area. With so many PSD and MSD men in plainclothes it was easy for us to park in the treasury and mingle freely. Finally we got to view three of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up. Neither a life experience I will never forget nor the smells of burning human flesh.

All through these senseless attacks what strikes in my mind most are the civilian casualties. If you are a terrorist they are civilian casualties, if you are the US and their allies, they are called casualties of war or collateral damage.

I skim only through my three decades long life with terrorism as my shadow. Guns, bombs and mayhem were facts of life. 
Great Sri Lankan leaders being assassinated by suicide bombers became a part of my life.

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, 

9/11 in New York

 and 7/7 in London changed the world’s perception of terrorism.

Now one of the gentlest countries in the world, Norway has suffered a devastating loss. Homeland Security, Border Controls, Scanners, X-Ray, Checkpoints, Barricaded Buildings, and the everlasting memory of those they lost to terrorism will become part of their proud Viking history forever.

My thoughts are with you Norway, so are my prayers for the one’s you lost.

My greatest regret is when the Sri Lanka government last year defeated the Tamil Tigers, I was not there. My biggest happiness is that I was there when Sri Lanka went through such loss of property and life.

Terrorism must stop all over the world. Civilian casualties, collateral damage and human rights violations are part of defeating terrorism. You can never win against anything being nice. Sport provides us a good example, look at the aggressiveness of any sport champion, they never got there being nice or becoming second.

When you meet people like me who are not fundamentalist or a terrorist but fiercely love our country and it’s sovereignty, I hope you will begin to understand our pride and horror of terrorism. You will also understand our the importance we place in protecting our country against anything or anyone. So when you complain about your manufactured 'are you with us, or against us' Sri Lankan mentality, and then turn around to profess great love for Sri Lanka, your sincerity doesn't quite ring true. 

I of course am making ready to celebrate England’s test victory over India at Lords, two more wickets to go! Common England!

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