Apr 20 2020. view 286
Exactly one year ago Sri Lanka was rocked to its core with the explosion of a series of bombings. Islamic terrorists alleged to be members of the so-called Islamic State attacked churches and hotels. Eight men laden with bombs encased in backpacks strapped on their back exploded themselves in churches and luxury hotels in Negombo, Colombo, and Batticaloa murdering 269 people and maiming hundreds more.
As news broke on TV channels, Sri Lankans across the island were bewildered as to who could be behind the attacks as the LTTE had been vanquished almost a decade earlier. It soon came to light that the bombers were all part of an extremist organization that was intent on killing Christians and tourists. Although they had issued dozens of warnings to the Sri Lankan government none of them were acted upon and the bombers were free to embark on a killing spree.
Two weeks ago in a documentary titled ‘Terror in Paradise’ aired on the BBC, Dr. Rohan Gunaratne a political analyst specializing in international terrorism underscoring the lack of action on the part of the Sri Lankan government said “ if they (the Sri Lankan government) acted promptly there would have been no Easter Sunday attack. The attack clearly demonstrated that the ISIS had arrived in Sri Lanka and there was a new wave of terrorism that was going to affect Asia and Sri Lanka was going to be a key center”.
Despite accusatory fingers being pointed at different parties, the tragedy remains that despite plenty of prior warnings people were needlessly killed. Two such victims were British tourists Amelie and Daniel Lindsay who along with their father were on holiday in Sri Lanka. Reaching the end of their stay in Sri Lanka, Amelie and Daniel and their father were staying at the Shangri-La in Colombo. While at the breakfast buffet the siblings were caught up in the bombings and died.
Back in London, their brother David was waking up to the incomprehensible news that his brother and sister had died in a bomb blast. Despite being shattered by this tragedy, David decided the untimely deaths of his siblings should not be in vain and instead was resolute in his intentions in starting a charity that would spread good in the world. Thus the Amelie and Daniel Linsey Foundation was formed.
Approaching the first anniversary of the deaths of his siblings David says “What has happened still does not seem real. I am doing what I can to try and make the world a better place for when my new reality finally does settle in.” Approaching the first anniversary of the Easter bombings David had intended to return to Sri Lanka on what would have been his third trip. However, he says “Sadly that can no longer happen because of the lockdown in both the UK in Sri Lanka, so I plan to spend the day at home with my family.”
I first met David at his home in London when I interviewed him for a feature story I was writing at the time. The grief that was etched on his face was palpable. At the time of the bombings, David was a student at Oxford University but had then decided to take a year out from his studies to concentrate on the charity.
At the Art Auction where over 50 paintings were donated by artists from the UK and Sri Lanka, held a few weeks later in Central London it was evident that David had determination coursing through his veins as he spoke with such passion and intensity on what the charity aimed to achieve in Sri Lanka.
Helped by his friends and family the charity raised hundreds of thousands of pounds through an art auction, a ball and other fundraising schemes including donations from people across the world.
Since the deaths of his siblings, David has visited Sri Lanka twice. “The first trip in September 2019 was to familiarize myself with the country so that I would know how I could best direct my efforts to help people affected by the Easter Attack. The second trip in November 2019 was to oversee our first major donation, of 100 hospital beds to 9 hospitals around the country. I can say after those visits that I am honoured to be able to work with such a welcoming and hardworking community of people” he says.
To date, the charity has raised Sterling 400,000. Speaking of his vision for the charity’s scope in Sri Lanka David says “Our main goal is to work with the Sri Lankan Health services to improve responses to traumatic events such as terrorist attacks. It is my hope that if such an attack were to happen again, more lives could be saved. We have so far made an initial donation of 100 hospital beds, and have assembled a global team of medics, including a team of surgeons from McGill University in Canada, to help us implement our plans.”
One year on, I ask David if he is keeping a close eye on the steps the Sri Lankan government is taking to bring the culprits to justice. In an answer tempered with honesty, he says “I think it is best to leave the pursuit of justice to the government, and not to come overly invested myself in something I cannot control. I hope that the government brings all those responsible to justice, but I do not think it would make me feel any better to constantly track these efforts. Justice is often slow in coming, and I would prefer to use my energy to build a positive legacy in remembrance of Amelie and Daniel.”
Coronavirus permitting David plans to sit his exams in May. However, his zeal to ensure the charity continues to uphold the memory of Amelie and Daniel does not appear to wane. Of his future plans, he adds “Lockdown permitting, I hope to return to Sri Lanka as soon as possible. I am excited to work on my mission of helping to improve the country’s trauma system. I am fortunate enough to be working with a team of trauma experts from McGill University hospital, who are equally excited to visit and start working with the wonderful local doctors.”
Torqued by grief and tragedy that engulfed his family, David’s actions are to be celebrated as he has created a legacy for his siblings in the form of the Amelie and Daniel Linsey Foundation to create something positive from a hopeless situation.