ECONOMYNEXT – The head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic church, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, has expressed doubt that justice will be done for the victims of the 2019 Easter bombings under the present administration.
Anyone who comes to power through the blood of innocents will earn God’s wrath and will not enjoy that power for long, Cardinal Ranjjith said at a commemoration event on Thursday (21) marking 30 months since the 2019 Easter bombings.
“The rule of has been brought to ridicule today.
“When friends are accused, they are acquitted. Opponents are punished even where no wrong has been done. In this context, it is clear we will not be able to get the recommendations of the [presidential commission of inquiry on the attack] implemented in the present administrative structure,” he said.
The cardinal, who has been increasingly and scathingly critical of what he claims is the slow pace of government probe into the bombings, once again demanded to know what was happening with the investigations that were promised by the government that came to power in the months that followed the attack.
“If one is innocent, why not allow the freedom to probe it? Why not empower the officials? Why the attempt to brush this under the carpet?” he said.
“One might do this only if they are guilty, if they realise that their nakedness will be exposed.
“The guilty tries to pin the blame on others and hide away,” the archbishop said.
“Those who shed the blood of innocents will never know peace. That must be remembered,” he added.
The archbishop has repeatedly expressed his frustration over the pace of the investigations and an alleged inability to find the masterminds of the attack, which he has implied on several occasions was the result of a “grand conspiracy” – a claim originally attributed to former Attorney General Dappula de Livera.
The Easter bombings were carried out by a small band of suspected Islamist terrorists, though opposition parties in Sri Lanka, some members of the Catholic community and others have expressed scepticism over the official narrative.
In August this year, Ranjith also questioned claims that the terrorists had been backed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
In July, Ranjith said he was sceptical of what he called a politically compromised law enforcement’s ability to probe the “grand conspiracy” behind the bombings.
On Monday (18), the cardinal claimed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had told him that he could not implement certain “unpopular” recommendations made by a presidential commission of inquiry (PCoI) on the 2019 Easter bombings.
“… two days after the [PCoI] report was handed over, [the president] called me, and he asked me ‘how I cannot do all this, because there are some provisions in the report that if I implement, I will become unpopular’ (sp),” the cardinal claimed on Monday.
“The government has not implemented most of the recommendations of this report. The report has been a waste of time and a waste of hope to all of us,” he said, calling for international assistance in uncovering the truth.
The recommendations made by the PCoI included criminal proceedings to be instituted against former President Maithripala Sirisena and others. The report also identified a number of Islamist groups accused of causing or supporting “racial and religious disturbances” and the Sinhalese Buddhist organisation known as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) which the report said had “contributed to the events”.
The cardinal said that, in the run-up to the November 2019 presidential polls, Rajapaksa assured the public that the Easter attack – which had killed 269 people and injured over 500 – would be probed as soon as he came to power.
Speaking at the commemoration ceremony on Thursday, held at the St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade – one of the bomb sites – Ranjith said: “A majority of 269 victims lost their lives in churches. Those who came to the house of God to thank Jesus for his sacrifice were shred to pieces and hung on the beams of this roof. Their blood was everywhere in these holy grounds.”
“If anyone attempted to come to power through the blood of innocents, God’s wrath (udahasa) would be upon them and they will never be able to enjoy that power. They must remember that,” he said.
Invoking divine intervention, the cardinal said the country has been cursed possibly as a result of the Easter tragedy, referring to an “a disastrous situation in the country like nothing ever seen before”.
“If they are not guilty, they must allow these investigations to take place independently. If they’re not linked to these, action must be taken against those the PCoI have named as guilty, without fear. They must be brought before the law.
“The question arises to all of us, are they being protected because [those who promised investigations] are party to the wrongdoing?” he added.
Cardinal Ranjith said he would pray to God to reveal the truth and mete out justice to the victims.
“We pray to St Anthony to expose every force behind the attack. Please perform that miracle for us,” he said. (Colombo/Oct21/2021)