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Jakarta Post

Ignoring intelligence

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, April 23, 2019   /   12:04 pm
Ignoring intelligence Grieving: People pray outside the St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo on Monday, a day after the building was hit as part of a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. The death toll rose dramatically to 290 -- including dozens of foreigners -- as police announced new arrests over the country’s worst attacks for more than a decade. (AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

The barbaric Sunday terrorist acts in predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka could have been prevented, or at least the devastating impacts could have been minimized, if only the government officials followed up the warning of a senior police officer over possible suicide bomb attacks during Easter celebrations.

The world condemned the terrorist acts, and has offered assistance including humanitarian aid. Indonesia has also expressed readiness to share its experience in investigating terrorist attacks.

Nearly 300 churchgoers and hotel guests were killed and over 500 were wounded. No party has claimed responsibility for the massacre. In his Easter Sunday message, Pope Francis expressed “[…] my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, hit while it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence”.

Sri Lanka restored peace and order in 2009 after a decades-long civil war and after a tsunami hit the country in December 2004. With a population of about 22 million, the country is still rebuilding, and tourism, one of the main sources of foreign exchange revenue, is growing rapidly. Following the serious setback on Sunday, international confidence can only be restored when the government is perceived to be able to root out the problems of the security threats.

Other countries including Indonesia should learn from such a fatal mistake. Indonesia’s antiterror capacity and capability are internationally recognized following several attacks, among the worst being the suicide bombing that killed 202 people in Bali on Oct. 12, 2012.

Citing foreign intelligence reports, the Sri Lankan police officer had identified the potential suspects of the attacks and the organization to which they belonged. He had pointed out that “highly confidential investigations […] are in process”.

“You should instruct all personnel to pay strict heed to this report and be extra vigilant and cautious of the VIPs and locations coming under your purview,” wrote deputy inspector general Priyalal Dassanayake, as quoted by international news agencies. Officials including Prime Minister Ranil Shriyan Wickremesinghe are blaming each other; the PM said he had not been informed of such information.

We pray for Sri Lanka. Let us help the beautiful nation in facing this disaster. The perpetators should be brought to justice and the roots of the problems should be addressed.

We also need to learn from failure to follow up intelligence warnings.