Expression of solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the brutal attacks on several churches in Sri Lanka, which killed a large number of persons attending Easter Sunday mass. There were also attacks on several tourist hotels, killing about 32 foreign tourists. This tragedy has shocked and distressed the entire nation, with lamentations heard from so many families and their loved ones.

While politicians are talking about preventing such attacks in the future, there have been no serious reflections on what made such a widespread attack possible. The AHRC for many years has pointed at the country’s collapse of rule of law, and the failing of the judicial (investigative, prosecutorial and the court) system. Without addressing these issues, there is no way to prevent future attacks of this nature, or other forms of attack that are destabilizing the country. Curfews and interventions of the military may work in the short term, but the country must eventually return to civilian rule. Unfortunately, civilian rule in the country is under serious threat from internal political factors.

This internal instability can be exploited by anyone, including international and local terrorism. The security of the nation lies in the government’s capacity to govern. And governance requires the institutions functioning as guardians of the country to function effectively, efficiently and faithfully in taking up the tasks assigned to them by law.

The extent, to which governance has failed in Sri Lanka, is that the regard for the law itself has been undermined, while international norms and standards of liberal constitutionalism have been discarded carelessly. Just as the failure of the immune system in the human body leads to all kinds of diseases, the failure of governance in Sri Lanka has led to this catastrophe. Unless corrective action is taken urgently, it will certainly lead to many other catastrophes as well.

It is tragic that Sri Lanka’s political leaders are mostly preoccupied with petty matters relating to their own self interest, rather than considering the larger and deeper problems of the country’s governance. At this time of mourning, people themselves must reflect on the predicaments that await them in the future. The light-hearted talk and promises by politicians that this will be prevented in future should be ignored as pure rhetoric. In fact, the protection of themselves and their country is in the hands of the people. Many in the security forces will contribute to enhance such protection, provided they are allowed to act within the framework of the law, and that they are protected.

All tragedies provide an occasion for sober reflection; it is up to the people to make use of the occasion and let their thoughts and reflections be known to each other, so that a consensus may emerge on how to protect their unfortunate motherland.

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