From Sri Lanka to Turkey, disunity takes its toll

From Sri Lanka to Turkey, disunity takes its toll

Following the first explosion Sunday morning, seven additional bombings took place in a matter of 45 minutes, leaving 359 dead and more than 500 wounded in Sri Lanka. Two Turkish engineers working at the construction of the U.S. embassy were among the dead.

Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister, who are political foes, blame each other, as it has been revealed that Sri Lankan authorities were warned in advance about possible attacks.

Even this blame game between Sri Lanka’s top two leaders tells volumes about why such a heinous terror act took place in a country which is not high on the international community’s agenda. Elsewhere in the world, tragedies like that serve to unite, even if temporarily, a divided country.

The “sophistication” of the attacks, the simultaneous bombings within a very short period of time and the high toll that came with it defy claims that it is the doing of a local organization.

In addition, the selection of Christian churches instead of Buddhist temples might be interpreted as a high-degree of fine tuning. Had it been Buddhist temples, Muslims would have become immediate targets of deadly attacks and the country would have spiraled into a tremendous bloodshed. A continuous violent turmoil on an island in the Indian Ocean located in the crossroads of strategic maritime routes is not desirable. A small dose of turbulence, it seems, might do the trick in terms of global players that have high stakes in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful island that was designated as the top country to travel to in 2019 by the Lonely Planet. The fact remains that Sri Lanka is a soft target for terror organizations and powers using them for their purposes. It is a soft target not only because of its lax security environment — and a corrupt system that can open gaps in its security measures — but also because of its strategic location. A regional hub whose importance has become even higher with China’s “One Belt, One Road” project, Sri Lanka is a country where global and regional powers are in a hegemonic struggle.

It might not come as a surprise to see after the attacks some countries racing to provide security, intelligence and technology assistance to Sri Lanka. Take it one step further; we could end up seeing military bases of foreign countries on Sri Lanka.

No doubt the hegemonic struggle will continue in an intensified way especially following the poor performance shown by the Sri Lankan leadership. Political disunity and polarization provides the fertile ground for global and regional players to advance their agenda.

Unfortunately, the picture Turkey has been sending to the world is similar: One of bitter disunity and acrimonious polarization. In a few days, it will be a month since the local elections, and we might still be in the dark as to who will be the mayor of Istanbul, the country’s most important city.

The governing coalition contesting the results come with all sort of accusations which unfortunately harm Turkey’s decades-old culture of holding democratic and fair elections. The fact that the governing coalition’s leaders avoided directly contacting main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who survived a violent attack, does not leave room for optimism in terms of the polarization in the country.

As stated by the country’s president, however, it’s time for an alliance for Turkey. One hope President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will not let the junior partner of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) challenge his initial messages that it is “time to cool off the hot irons, to shake hands, to embrace and to strengthen our unity and togetherness.”

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