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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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,"