Sri Lankan cardinal calls for protests over government’s Easter attack inquiry

Sri Lankan cardinal calls for protests over government’s Easter attack inquiry

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo in his cathedral city, Jan. 13, 2015. / Alan Holdren/CNA.

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Aug 17, 2021 / 15:14 pm (CNA).

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith of Colombo has called on the people to demonstrate Aug. 21 to protest what he described as the government’s failure to shed light on the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

“Raise a black flag on August 21 in front of your homes, institutions and market places as a strong symbol of the silent protest,” the cardinal said in Colombo at an Aug. 13 media briefing.

He said he was not satisfied with the legal action currently being undertaken by authorities against those suspected to be responsible for the attacks.

More than 260 people died and over 500 were injured in the coordinated suicide bombings on three churches, four hotels, and one housing complex on Easter Sunday in April 2019. 

Several of the bombings took place during Mass and other religious services.

The cardinal said he received President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s response to a letter asking for the “truth” behind the bombings.

He said the president’s response “did not mention any action the government would take and a proper investigation into the serious issues we raised about the attacks.”

In a letter in July, the cardinal criticized the “lethargic pace” of a government inquiry into the attacks. It also questioned why recommendations brought by an official inquiry into the attacks have not yet been acted upon.

The July 12 letter was signed by Cardinal Ranjith and several other bishops, and nearly 30 priests.

As of Aug. 11, Sri Lankan authorities claimed that they have filed 23,270 charges against 25 people in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks.

The charges include conspiring to murder, aiding and abetting, collecting arms and ammunition, and attempted murder.

The country’s attorney general has also asked the chief justice to appoint a special three-member high court bench to hear the cases speedily.

Two local groups that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State have been blamed for the attacks.

Cardinal Ranjith, however, maintained that the investigation was not done properly, saying that the real conspirators are still at large.

“We can never believe that the truth will come out through this ongoing process,” said Cardinal Ranjith during the media briefing.

He said that if a committee is to be appointed to implement the recommendations of the government, “there should (also) be a committee involving all political parties.”

In an earlier statement, the Archdiocese of Colombo said that it is “clear” that the government “has no interest in finding out the truth about the attack and they are going to cover it up and wash their hands.”

“The government took political advantage of the Easter Sunday attack,” added the statement. “Our country is still not secure and attacks like the one that took place on Easter Sunday are still possible at any time,” it said. 

“We can’t allow this culture of killing to continue. The country must learn a lesson from the sacrifices of the innocents killed on Easter Sunday,” it added.

The statement said “the real killers must be identified and the country must know the truth.”

“Politicians do not want to end this culture of killing. Extremism is beneficial to them and they continue their selfish journey through the tears of human suffering,” it added.

In October 2020, five of seven suspects arrested in connection with the attacks were released by the government because of lack of evidence.

The cardinal, however, said security officials had confirmed to him that there was sufficient evidence against many of the suspects who had been arrested.

The cardinal, along with friends and family of the victims, have repeatedly expressed fear that the release of the suspects was due to corruption or because of lack of a thorough investigation.