|Sunday, 19 December 2004|
The show and the throw
Weekend Politics by Suraj & Viraj
The gala musical event of the year "Temptation 2004" which starred the heart throb of the Hindi cinema Shah Rukh Khan and his group ended up in vibration last Saturday resulting in two deaths. Fingers are pointed at various sections but the truth is yet to unfold. Police investigations are continuing without a clue.
Protests against "Temptation 2004' began three weeks prior to the event. Sections of the monks began to protest calling upon the government to either postpone or cancel the event. This was organised by the private sector and the Ceylon Tourist Board only blessed the event.
The late Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera's first death anniversary fell on Sunday. But the event was scheduled the previous day. For the first time in Sri Lanka, the highest ticket was priced at an exorbitant Rs. 10,000. Well all tickets were sold to a crowd of 25,000 fans of Shah Rukh Khan.
As the deadline approached even some monks launched a protest in the city. The amiable Shah Rukh Khan, known as gentleman of the Indian cinema tendered an unqualified apology for being present claiming that he was not aware of the death anniversary of Ven Soma Thera.
The protesting monks accepted the apology and called off the protest. The organisers of the event went to the extent of observing a minute's silence as a mark of respect to the late monk. Despite this understanding reached, a crowd of people led by several persons in saffron robes walked towards the venue of the event that evening. The police by then had erected barricades at points leading to the Race Course grounds to prevent any untoward incident.
The crowd which behaved unruly as they came closer to the venue were asked to disperse by the police. Here started the trouble with the crowd going violent hurling stones at the police. Police shot tear gas and used water canon. One element was seen throwing a huge stone at a car sale centre showroom that badly damaged the centre.
Men in saffron robes played the role of being saviours to this unruly mob. They were seen arguing with law enforcement officers who tried the quell the violence. A State run bus was also badly damaged causing serious injury to a passenger who was later hospitalised. Police managed to arrest twelve suspects. with the intervention of those in saffron robes they were released from the Cinnamon Gardens police the same night.
While this pandemonium was going on outside the venue, fans of Shah Rukh Khan began to pour into the venue from 4.00 pm that day. They were unaware of what was happening outside. Security checks were said to be tight. Several Parliamentarians including Ravi Karunanayake and Deputy Minister Arjuna Ranatunga too were present at the show.
Despite tight security checks, a hand grenade that made its way inside the venue vibrated the location at 11.20 pm when the heart throb Shah Rukh Khan was at his peak in performance. To Shah Rukh it first looked like a cracker explosion. But when people started falling, the Indian stars were immediately moved behind stage for protection.
A young Photographer of 'Sunday Times', Lanka Jayasundere and the Receptionist of Taj Samudra Dilini Maheshika were seen bleeding profusely from their heads in the passage between the centre stage and the audience. They had died instantly. Other wounded were seen crawling. Indian cricketer and Commentator Ravi Shasthri's wife Rithu was slightly wounded but hospitalised. She was the only Indian caught up in the tragedy.
The Shah Rukh Khan comment on his return to India that God saved him and his regret about the incident certainly causes pain of mind to all Sri Lankans. The incident tarnished the country's image. Respected monks claimed that the violent action on that day would only benefit the LTTE to tell the world that the Sinhala people behaved like animals. It seems that the life and the doctrine preached by Ven. Soma Thera is now being used by certain persons in saffron robes to meet their political agendas.
The police must used all available resources to track down the suspect who threw the grenade towards the stage. Sri Lanka was fortunate the Indian stars escaped unhurt. Shah Rukh Khan has millions following him in India. Indians love their stars and sportsmen more than politicians.
India is anxiously awaiting the results of the investigation launched into the attack. The Criminal Investigation Department has now been called into take over the probe. Despite a single Indian woman being injured in the explosion, India wants a positive investigation conducted.
This aspect had been conveyed to Colombo by New Delhi through its mission in Colombo. A hand picked team of CID sleuths are now probing the incident.
They are now trying to ascertain how the grenade made its way to the venue. There is a belief that it had been carried inside a plastic drink bottle of a child, according to some investigators.
When the Sharuk Khan episode took centre stage the Norwegians were trying to review the peace process during the last week. Leaders of the two major Muslim parties, the SLMC and the NUA arrived at a consensus to set up a Muslim Peace Secretariat on Wednesday. SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem and NUA leader Ferial Ashraff reached agreement to ask for a separate muslim delegation at future peace talks.
They discussed at length the issues faced by the muslims in the North and East. Four Media Associations on Thursday staged a protest urging the Government to probe and arrest those responsible for the killing of Lankadeepa photographer Lanka Jayasundara at the Race Course Mega Indian Show.
When Journalists were shouting slogans opposite the Fort Railway station, Finance Minister Dr.Sarath Amunugama who was on his way to the Ministry stopped his car and alighted. He joined the media men and held a placard urging the authorities to arrest the culprits.
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was having a busy schedule last week. Despite her busy schedule, she called officials of the Disaster Management Unit and directed them to provide necessary facilities to the flood victims.
Meanwhile, Jathika Hela Urumaya MP Athuraliye Rathana faced severe criticism from the party men and others. They blamed Ven.Rathana for being at Saturday's chaos at the Race Course. Angry monks also challenged President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to reveal the names of two JHU MPs who led the mayhem at the Race Course.
In order to protest against the jailing of former Minister S.B.Dissanayake, his family and the UNP had organised a march from Haguranketha to Colombo. The march started on Wednesday after participants sought divine intervention to release Dissanayake at the Vishnu Kovil at Haguranketha.
The march is expected to join the mass rally to be held on 21st December at the Hyde Park. Though the march was organised, the Party stalwarts were not present on the first day. Jailed MP's wife Tamara Dissanayake had expressed displeasure and told her brother- in- law Saliya that when SB was the Minister thousands of people including influential persons were ready to help him.
But when he was in trouble only his family and few political activists were with them. Only Johnston Fernando, Ravi Karunanayake, Bandula Gunawardane and few others participated in the march.
Meanwhile, former Minister Ravi Karunanayake threatened to sue JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa claiming Rs.1,000 million for dragging his name to the bomb attack at the Indian Mega show. Angry Karunanayake had told his close friend Dr.Rajitha Senaratne that he will take Weerawansa to Courts if Weerawansa repeats such statements in the future.
JHU renegade MP Aparakke Pungnananda last week slammed Ven.Athuraliye Rathana and Dr.Omalpe Sobitha for leading the mob at the Indian Mega Show. He blamed them for provoking the youth.
In an attack on the UPFA, UNP MP Johnston Fernando handed over a letter requesting Chief Justice Sarath Silva to issue an order of contempt on Anura Bandaranaike on the statement he made that "SB will spend the Sinhala new year in jail". He was entrusted this task at the Opposition Leader's office by the party stalwarts last week.
Peace envoy Erik Solheim who visited the country made another effort to revive the stalled peace process. He met SLMM, foreign donors, LTTE leaders. He also met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday and discussed how to revive the talks. friendly meeting
While "SB.Dissanayake free March" was coming down from Haguranketha, UNP leaders conducted another march to the Ministry of Local Government. UNPers wanted to conduct a massive protest to get the attention of the media staging a protest in front of the Provincial Council and Local Government Ministry. But the march later turned out to be a friendly meeting when the Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon came out and embraced his parliamentary colleagues.
He said "Machang why are you all here to see me. I am happy to see all of you in my Ministry." Thereafter, he called all the protestors to his room and arranged a tea party.
There he promised not to scrap funds for the Local Government institutions. UNP MPs Dr.Rajitha Senaratne, Tissa Attanayake, Amara Piyasili Ratnayake, P.Dayaratne, Gamini Lokuge, Lakshman Yapa, Keheliya Rambukwelle led the march.
The UNP has also decided to launch the Presidential Election campaign from January 28th. Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has directed Deputy General Secretary Tissa Attanayake to organise public rallies round the country. The first rally has been scheduled to start from Anuradhapura.
Meanwhile, Speaker W.J.M.Lokubandara has ordered parliamentary officials to keep plastic cups on MPs table. The Speaker has decided so following the violent conduct of the UNP MP T.Maheshwaran who hurled a glass on the Mace at the last Parliamentary session.
Produced by Lake House