Cardinal and President trade barbs – Lankan style

President Maithripala Sirisena and Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith have exchanged barbs in typically Sri Lankan style – criticize and rebuff without naming names.

Cardinal Ranjith fired the first salvo when he spoke at the Sunday Mass at St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya on July 21, three months to the day the Church was bombed by Islamic extremists killing 102 worshippers and injuring many more.

The same group of extremists from the National Towheed Jamaat also bombed two other Churches and three five-star hotels killing a total of 260 people on the same day.

In his sermon, the Cardinal launched an attack on what he called the “spineless leaders of the country,” blaming them for the carnage.

The country’s leading Catholic Prelate said that the Indian High Commissioner had told him that they had informed the security agencies about the attacks.  “But the top leadership failed to act on it,” he said.

“Selfish power-hungry politicians were fighting among themselves and did not prevent this attack,” he told the congregation which included victims still carrying their injuries and many others who had lost family members.

“Those of you who came to the church walking that day now have to come here in wheelchairs because of these leaders. The time has come to ask all of them to go,” he thundered. “We pardon them for their sins but they must leave.”

Sirisena fires back without naming names
President Maithripala Sirisena being welcomed by Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Gen. Shantha Kottegoda at the Sathviru Abiman event July 22/ Sandaruwan Amarasinghe PMD

Although the Prelate’s accusations seemed to be against the entire government which included the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers, it was President Sirisena who shot back.

Sirisena said that in his tenure as President he has shown plenty of spine. “Although some have tried to portray me as a leader without a backbone, I amply demonstrated to the country that I am a strong leader in the 2015 presidential election and on many other occasions,” he said at an event honouring military personnel yesterday July 22.

Ranjith said that he has no enmity with the Muslims of this country because he is aware that Sri Lankan Muslims are not involved in the conspiracy to bomb the churches and the hotels. “This is an international conspiracy to destabilize this country so that a foreign power can intervene. They wanted to create a situation where the Sinhalese and Muslims will fight,” he said.

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He also said that the present government had weakened the intelligence services to the point that these services which used to be very good had become ineffective.

“The Intelligence services were destroyed to please the international agencies, the United Nations, the Human Rights Council and the international NGO movement,” he said.

These two points were precisely what the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna orators including Wimal Weerawansha had made at their Nugegoda rally a few days ago.

Sirisena did not miss that and called out the Cardinal for being politically biased.

“Criticism is necessary and I honour all religious leaders and am willing to discuss with them. But their criticism must not be driven by their personal political agenda,” he added.

This is not the first time that the Cardinal. has been called for political bias

In June Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera criticised the Cardinal for visiting MP Athureliye Rathana Thero when he was fasting demanding the resignation of Muslim Ministers from the government.

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