Piecing together a mystery blast
In a bid to crack down on last week's Bollywood mega show tragedy, police have appealed for more public co-operation. Colombo Crimes Division Chief SSP Sarath Lugoda said they had questioned about 50 eyewitnesses, but no breakthrough had been made and they were trying to track down those involved in the protests earlier in the day, to trace the suspect or suspects responsible for the grenade attack which claimed two lives and injured 14.

He said they had remanded some of the protestors for further questioning. He said one of the main reasons for the slow progress of the investigation, was the lack of media footage of the crowd that evening. "No Television rights were given inside the grounds, and the organizer's video cameras were mostly focused on the stage. This is where he says the spectators could be of assistance because many of them had brought their own digital cameras and camcorders. "If any of them have footages of the crowd we ask that they please contact the CCD," SSP Lugoda appealed.

Emphasising the importance of eyewitness accounts he said the grenade had been thrown from a crowded area and at least a few people would have seen what happened. "We urge them to come forward and tell us what they saw," he said.

While declining to give exact particulars regarding the investigations he said the Crimes Division has deployed about 50 personnel to look into every angle of the case. However, giving a hint of the nature of the probe he said they believed that the attack would have been carried out by two or three people as one person could not have managed such a feat.

He said they were also investigating how the attacker or attackers managed to smuggle the grenade in to the grounds which were under such tight security.

Meanwhile, some of those who were injured in the Saturday blast are still undergoing treatment with two of them being treated at the ICU. Two others had been transfered to general wards. A twelve-year-old boy is one of the two casualties still in the ICU. Commenting on the boy's condition, National Hospital Director Hector Weerasingha said he had received head injuries from the blast and had suffered internal haemorrhaging. He had been on the ventilator till Thursday. Dr. Weerasingha said that he was now in a semi-conscious state, and was still confused. The other patient in the ICU had received injuries to his abdomen and chest. The two people transferred to general wards had suffered multiple injuries but were now out of danger, Dr. Weerasinghe said.

Inspite of last Saturday's mega show ending in tragedy, organisers are going ahead with a scheduled Indian concert on December 31. Dr. S. Priyantha of MTV/MBC told The Sunday Times that necessary arrangements were being made for the concert featuring Indian artistes to be held at the Town Hall. He said there were no plans to scrap the show.

Meanwhile star performer at last week's show Shahrukh Khan, had expressed his grief and shock over the incident to the Indian media earlier this week. "Right at this moment, my heart and thoughts are with the bereaved families in Colombo. Besides reaching out to them, I wish I could just comfort and soothe their pain. As a person who loves to spread smiles and happiness, this has been the lowest ebb in my career.

"For a moment I was numb. It saddens me to think that innocent children and adults who just came to have a good time at the show were victims of some disgusting, Machiavellian mind" he had said. "The enormity of the situation hit me when I was finally in the plane" he had added.

The week also saw political parties reacting to the blast. In an apology to the performers, the Indian public and the Indian government the JVP said, "Sri Lanka is not full of fundamentalists or extremists, and we would like to make it clear to the international community that these horrific events were carried out by a very small group of people."

The JVP also said that they, along with the people of Sri Lanka, would work towards defeating the political motives of these wicked forces and would then create an environment suitable for inviting Shahrukh Khan back to the country.

The party further alleged that Colombo Deputy Mayor Azad Sally and JHU Secretary Champaka Ranawaka were involved in a protest march while the concert was in progress. They charged that the group had broken through Police barricades and proceeded towards the concert venue.

Meanwhile UNP MP Ravi Karunanayaka has filed a defamation case of one billion rupees against Government MP Wimal Weerawansa, in response to an allegation made by the JVP Parliamentarian linking Mr. Karunanayaka with the blast. Mr. Weerawansa had made these allegations at a public rally held a day after the blast.

Reports by Mahangu Weerasinghe, Marisa de Silva, Asif Fuard, Sachithra Mahendra and Santhush Fernando

Ven. Seelavansa Thera sees LTTE hand in explosion
Says CID questioned him on blast and fast
The monk in the forefront of the protest fast campaign against last Saturday's tragedy-hit Shahrukh Khan mega concert says he suspects an LTTE hand in the grenade explosion and blames the government for not providing adequate security at the show.

Ven Ratmalane Seelavansa Thera, a founder of the Soma Himi Chinthana Padanama and one-time JHU member, said, the blast only served the interest of the LTTE which stood to gain if the Indo-Lanka relations reached a low ebb. He said that the LTTE could have masterminded the attack with the help of some security officers.

"The area was heavily guarded as though the concert was a political meeting that was to be attended by a VVIP. How could the culprit have escaped the security net so easily? It was quite incomprehensible. We were shocked to hear about the grenade explosion the following day morning. We got up late because we were exhausted after Saturday's troubles," said Ven. Seelavansa, who withdrew his JHU nomination from the Hambantota district at the April elections and quit politics.

The monk said he was questioned by the CID on the blast. "The CID asked me questions regarding the fast, the beginning of the Soma Himi Chintana Padanama and its links with the JHU," he said. Ven. Seelavansa said the CID also questioned him regarding President Chandrika Kumaratunga's statement linking two JHU monks with the Race Course incident.

"If the President believes we are involved in the incident, let her come up with evidence and punish us, rather than sending the CID and harassing us," said Ven. Silavansa Thera. The monk and other members of the Soma Himi Chintana Padanama staged a protest fast outside the Race Course grounds, the venue for the all-star Bollywood show, demanding that the concert be postponed as it fell on a day the country was commemorating the first anniversary of Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera's death.

Commenting on allegations that the foundation directed its protest only at the Race Course event while several other musical shows were being held on the same day throughout the country without being disturbed by any protest, he said,"We fasted in protest against all concerts and tamashas. However, we were not in a position to stage a fast outside every concert venue. We selected the Shahrukh Khan's concert because it was given wide media coverage.”

The monk blamed the government for aggravating the crisis by not acting upon the advice of Buddhist leaders."We sent fax messages to Government leaders, including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, warning them of our fast and expressing our displeasure, but they failed to heed our advice."

Ven. Seelavansa also said JHU monk Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera who was injured in last Saturday's police teargas attack, was a long time associate, even before the JHU was formed. He said Ven. Sobitha Thera had found fault with him for not informing the JHU of the protest fast in advance.

The President acted irresponsibly
JHU frontliner Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera has denied any involvement in the fast by Buddhist monks, against the Bollywood show on Saturday.He has also objected to President Kumaratunga’s charge that he and Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thera had any connection with the grenade explosion during the concert. President Kumaratunga had reportedly made these allegations at a public rally in Matara. "The President seems to know who is behind the attack. She holds the most powerful position in the government and it is regrettable that a person of such a standing should make such irresponsible statements,” he said.

"What we did was to go to the spot where the fast was being held and discuss matters with the fasting monks. We urged them to call off the fast” "Even Sharukh Khan against whom the protest was held, has said that the Buddhist monks had nothiing to do with the grenade explosion. But the President of this country accuses us,” he said.

Shattered stars
In the aftermath of the grenade blast, at the mega show Temptation 2004, the Bollywood stars who won the hearts of the Sri Lankan audience have expressed their shock and grief over the incident, in various media interviews, after they went back to India.

In an interview with an Indian newspaper, mega star Shahrukh Khan has reportedly said, "Please don't politicise this event. It could have happened in any country or state. Why, it could have happened even here." Why must these elements target the innocents, he had questioned adding that they, as actors and artistes try to bridge the gulf between nations through entertainment. In fact, all art is above politics and religion, the Bollywood heartthrob had said.

He went on to say, that the blast had upset him mainly because the attackers had used their show as a platform to commit a heinous crime. "The protest by Buddhist leaders was a separate incident," he added. "Once I spoke to them and explained that we didn't mean to offend any religious sentiment, they were gracious and let us perform."

One of the other leading stars Priyanka Chopra also reacting to the incident had told the Indian media, "We were doing the last 'item' of a romantic medley, the song Lehja lehja, Just before the grand finale, when all the girls were supposed to join Shahrukh, a blast went off, which we initially mistook for fireworks."

At first she had thought it was a smoke bomb. But just as she was going backstage to change her outfit for the next item she saw bodies lying on the ground. She said there was chaos and the police were trying to pacify the crowd. She said before they fully realized what had hit them they were ushered into a car and taken directly to the airport.

"I have never looked at death so closely in real life. The incident shook me. It made me sick and I was in bed the whole day after reaching Mumbai. I pray for those who lost their dear ones in the blast. I don't know who was behind the incident. I don't think the monks will do these kinds of acts. Yes, they had protested against our show because they felt it was inappropriate to hold a show on that day. But monks are non-violent people. Besides, no one has claimed responsibility for this heinous act. I will not go to Colombo for any public appearances in future. Even if I do, I will think twice before I go. If I ever go there, it will only be for a holiday as my mother loved the place," she is reported to have told the Indian media.

Saif Ali Khan, the other star attraction speaking to the Indian media has said, "Though no one has taken responsibility for the blast so far, I am definite it wasn't the work of the Buddhist monks. I haven't heard of a Buddhist terrorist outfit."

Blasted lives
The two victims of Saturday's blast were Lanka Jayasundara and Dilani Maheshika. Lanka Jayasundara 22, who joined the Wijeya group one and half years ago as a freelance photographer, was loved by his colleagues for his cheerful personality. He worked for Lankadeepa, Wijeya, Sirikatha and Tharunaya in the Wijeya group.

An old pupil of Kongala Maha Vidyalaya, Hakmana, Jayasundara did his A Levels in the Arts stream. His parents still in shock over the death of their young son said he had been creative from his childhood.

Talking about that fateful day his colleagues recalled that Lanka had treated some of them to coffee that day. When they had jokingly asked him why he was treating them he said he just felt like doing so. It was almost like he had a premonition of what fate had in store for him later that night, his colleagues said.

Deepika, Lanka's elder sister is employed at the Telecom office in Galle while his younger sister, Varunika is a graduate awaiting employment. "We still can't believe he is gone. He was such an affectionate brother," they said.

Dilani Maheshika, who worked at the Taj Samudra was two months pregnant when her life was tragically cut short by Saturday night's bomb explosion. She had served in two places before joining Hotel Taj Samudra as a telephone operator. Twenty-five-year-old Maheshika had married Dilan Ishara, in Augest this year. They had married after a three-year relationship.

An old girl of Sumana Balika Vidyalaya Ratnapura, Maheshika did her A Levels in the Commerce stream. She has a younger brother and it was her widowed mother, who had raised them up from the time Sumana was just eight.

"She is usually not keen on these musical shows. But she was really keen on attending this concert, as she was an ardent fan of Shahrukh Khan. It was a last minute decision and it turned out to be her last," her husband laments.

JHU: We opposed the show because it received state patronage
Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera, Secretary of the Jathika Sanga Sammelanaya (JSS), one of the main arms of the Jathika Hela Urumaya, says they opposed the staging of the Shahrukh Khan show and did not direct their protest at any other musical show that was held on that day, because it was the only show that received state patronage.

In a statement, the JHU said it was in no way connected to the Soma Himi Chinthana Padanama, which staged the protest fast campaign outside the Race Course grounds. The statement said the grenade attack was a deliberate attempt to damage Indo-Sri Lanka relations, tarnish the image of the Sinhala Buddhists in the country and bring disrepute to the JHU.

The JHU also blamed the Government and the organizers for not taking adequate security measures to prevent the attack. The statement also said. "We also like to place on record our regrets to the Indian people, the Indian artistes and the Indian Government for having had to witness this wanton act of terrorism, and to face a protest action prompted by a set of organizers absolutely out of sync with the sensibilities of Sinhala Buddhists and a Government that had the power to resolve the issue before it went out of control, but didn't".

JHU Propaganda Secretary Udaya Gammanpila said they were not against the concert, but against holding of it on a day when the country was commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Ven. Ganagodawila Soma Thera.

"The state should have intervened to strike a balance between conflict of interests. The Government should have taken necessary steps so as not to hurt the feelings of the Buddhists in the country," he said.

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