Sri Lanka blasts: Vigil, letter of support from NZ

Published: Tue 23 Apr 2019 10:38 AM
New Zealanders with links to Sri Lanka are sending a letter of support to those affected by the blasts there which have killed and injured hundreds of people.
More than 100 people attended a vigil in Auckland the day after the attacks in Sri Lanka which killed at least 290 people. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang
The explosions during Easter Sunday services at two churches and four hotels in the capital Colombo and two churches in other Sri Lankan cities started about 8.45am local time.
The attacks left at least 290 people dead and about 500 injured.
Police have now arrested 24 people in connection with the attacks, but the government has not yet identified who carried out the attacks.
Thirteen of the arrests came after police raided a house, although three officers were killed in blasts during the raid.
Sri Lankans living in New Zealand are in shock and mourning the loss of those killed in the bombings.
Chula Rajapakse, from the United Sri Lanka Association, said members met together last night at a funeral and also spoke about their response to the bombings.
"The association I understand is going to send a letter to the community - especially to our Christian and Catholic members of our community expressing our solidarity and our sympathy.
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Dr Rajapakse said the association would be watching closely over the next few days to see what kind of support was needed, including potential fundraising.
Sri Lanka Association of New Zealand president Athula Wanasinghe said April was a month of festivities and celebrating the new year.
"Things like this happening during this period when people are happy and relaxing is terrible.
"So we are all shocked by whatever has happened and is still happening ... so what we can see is that it is a very coward act by whoever," he said.
Mr Wanasinghe said discussions had started on what financial support or other aid might be needed.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's Federation of Tamil Associations is fiercely condeming the bombings.
It said the attacks were no less treacherous than the recent attacks in Christchurch which killed 50 people, and should be dealt with in the same manner.
The association said it was still trying to contact people back in Sri Lanka to find out whether any of its members have been affected by the bombings.
Vigil in Auckland
More than 100 people stood in the rain at a vigil in Aotea Square in Auckland this afternoon, singing Sri Lankan songs and observing a minute's silence for those killed.
Dozens of people gathered at Aotea Square for a vigil after Sri Lankan attacks @radionz #SriLanka— Jessie Chiang (@je_chiang) April 22, 2019
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One community leader, Jay Basnayake, called for unity.
"The prime minister of New Zealand said that was the darkest days in New Zealand and after three weeks we are here again, it is one of the darkest days in Sri Lanka."
One of the organisers of the event Sandani Wjetunga recalled what happened in Christchurch on 15 March.
"A month or so later we're back here for another tragedy that happened in Sri Lanka and I think all of us are feeling a very raw sense of grief and shock and have not yet processed what it is," she said.
Ms Wjetunga called for everyone to be united and show solidarity in the face of the bombings.
She said the bombings made her feel powerless but the vigil was a way of stopping division.
"This was an absolute deliberate well-planned out act of terror," she said.
"The one thing we can do right now as a people, as a community, is to band together and show people we are strong, we are resilient and we are one."
The vigil's organisers, Sandani Wjetunga (left) and Jason Bandara (right), observe a minute's silence. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang
The police also spoke at the vigil and asked people to stay vigilant and report anything suspicious.
Senior Sergeant Mark Clayton expressed his sadness at what happened.
"I just want to extend our condolences to those directly affected in Sri Lanka, and also our Sri Lankan whanau here who we know are hurting today, so our thoughts and our prayers and our aroha are with you all."
Organisers asked people not to share videos or news articles of the people responsible for the attacks, and urged everyone to remember the victims.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says more than 200 New Zealanders are registered as being in Sri Lanka.
But it said there's nothing at this stage to suggest that any of them have been caught up in the bombings.
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