A day after a series of blasts ripped through Sri Lanka killing more than 290 people, the grief-stricken country suffered another blow: a ninth hit. Amid fears of even more attacks, expats in the UAE have expressed anger and a community spirit that only strengthens in the face of the bloody violence back home.
The Sri Lankan expat community is organising several prayer meetings this week to pay tribute to the victims of Sunday’s horrific attacks. A mass is being held on Monday at the St. Francis Church, Jebel Ali, at 8pm. The Buddhist community of Lankan expats are also organising a prayer meeting at 7.30pm at the Lankaramaya Meditation Centre in Garhoud and Mahamewna meditation centre in Jumeirah.
Forty-year-old Dubai expat Suresh Gunathilaka, who is an insurance professional, said his community is working closely with the parish at St. Mary’s church in the city to hold a prayer meeting on Friday at 6.15pm, as a mark of respect. “All are welcome to attend. [At] the end of the day it is an attack on a human race and we cannot limit it just to a country or a nation. Yesterday was a terrible day not just for Sri Lankans but [also for] the entire world. [The] violence has to end and innocent people cannot die this way,” he said.
Following the bloody attacks, Gunathilaka said the Lankan expat community will be in mourning this week and has cancelled all events planned over the weekend. An event organised by the Old Boys Association of two leading schools of Sri Lanka has cancelled plans to fly in a local Colombo band who were set to perform this Thursday at Movenpick Hotel.
All are welcome to attend. End of the day it is an attack on a human race and we cannot limit it just to a country or a nation. Yesterday was a terrible day not just for Sri Lankans, but the entire world. Violence has to end and innocent people cannot die this way.
Another event that was to be held under the patronage of Consulate General Office of Sri Lanka for Dubai and Northern Emirates has also been cancelled. “An annual Wesak celebration – festival of lanterns – was to be held on May 3 at [the] Shaikha Lathifa Hospital – Ladies Club’s ground in Dubai. We are not celebrating this weekend,” said Gunathilaka.
“The Lankan community has decided to spend the next week in prayers for the departed souls and the loved ones they [left] behind,” he said.
Another prominent Dubai expat, a beauty pageant winner, has lashed out at the perpetrators of Sunday’s Easter attacks at three churches and hotels in Colombo. “As I watched the news all day my heart went out to people who died and those they left behind. This is something you don’t wish even for your worst enemy,” said Nushara Atapattu Former Miss Sri Lanka for Miss World and Universe 1994. She has been a Dubai resident for 14 years.
I was taken back to my childhood when I grew up amidst a long driven Sri Lankan Civil War. It had a numbing effect on me. I was emotional.
For over 25 years, the Sri Lankan Civil War caused hardships for Sri Lankans; at least 100,000 died during this time.
“As someone who lived through it, I know [how] hard it was. Unfortunately, an incident like this can set a nation back several years. As a child I remember missing days at school because there was a curfew. We [studied] in other people’s homes to cover the lessons missed. There were no shopping malls and getting a luxury item was almost impossible.”
Yesterday reminded me of all that, she said. “[There] was [a] deep sadness.”
Atapattu said the last 10 years had been peaceful for the country. “The only disaster to strike was the tsunami which was very sad also but the country bounced back from all this. Things have significantly improved in the country in terms of people’s lifestyle, availability of facilities and even tourism prospered significantly during this time. We have a quest to grow as a nation, so let us live in peace,” said Atapattu.
“I am stilling getting my head around as to why all this is happening and how something of this magnitude could hit our country.”
The former beauty queen visited the country last month. She added: “It is such a beautiful country and I am so proud of it. I hope the people behind this will be found and the government heads get to the bottom of all this. We need to take a step back and see what is going on here,” she said.
I know this place so well. I used to meet the manager of the Inn often on my way home. Two German Shepherd dogs would always be in front of the hotel, guarding the place. They were my friends. I hope they are alive.
Chinthake Gunasekera, a 36-year-old manager for a private firm in the UAE, wants his government to do more and spruce up security in the country. His mother, who lives in their family home in Dehiwala close to the zoological centre, just 100 metres away from the Tropical Inn where one of the blasts occurred, had a narrow escape. “She returned home only a few minutes before the blast. There is a good chance she could have lost her life as the Inn is located before my house and we have to pass through this [area] to reach our home. The nation is mourning and we want answers.”
“I know this place so well. I used to meet the manager of the Inn often on my way home. Two German Shepherd dogs would always be in front of the hotel, guarding the place. They were my friends. I hope they are alive,” said an emotional Chiranthake.
Terrorism has to stop. We urge the government of Sri Lanka to spruce up security.
"There are several questions in our mind: Why did this happen? Who is the culprit? What was their motive? Did our government slack in security provisions?” he said. “April is the peak season for tourism and my heart goes out to anyone who lost their life.”
Ajith Wickramasinghe, 39, a partner in an insurance firm in Dubai, called for such brutal acts to end. “Terrorism has to stop. We urge the government of Sri Lanka to spruce up security.”