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Tuesday September 28th, 2021

Sri Lanka’s Catholic church wants action against former president, PM over Easter bombings

FILE PHOTO – Navy personnel guarding the Kochchikade shrine after the Easter Sunday attacks/Pathum Dhananjana EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT – The head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa seeking legal action against several key individuals including former President Maithripala Sirisena and then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

A letter to the president dated July 13 and signed by Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, six auxiliary bishops and 27 Catholic priests, called for further investigation into the findings of the presidential commission of inquiry (PCoI) that probed the Easter attack and the implementation of its recommendations.

“It has been 26 months since the Easter Sunday bombings on April 21, 2019. Nearly five months have passed since the final report of the PCoI into the attack was released. However, we would like to express our sincere concern that the perpetrators of this attack, the people who planned it, and the process of properly locating and prosecuting those responsible for preventing the massacre have so far been largely slow.” the letter said.

In its final report, the PCoI – appointed by Sirisena himself – recommended that criminal proceedings be instituted against former President Maithripala Sirisena and others over the incident. No action was recommended against Wickremesinghe, however, though the commission has faulted the former premier for not raising the issue of not being invited to security council meetings in parliament or cabinet and also for an alleged “lax approach” to Islamic extremism.

In the letter, the church has requested legal action against both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for their failure to prevent the attack, former Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis and former Director of State Intelligence Service Nilantha Jayawardena.

The letter also requested action against officials of law enforcement agencies who had allegedly neglected their duties, as recommended by PCol.

This includes 10 senior police officers including the former Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara who is already being charged and two officials of the Attorney General Department.

Action is also sought against those who are alleged to have aided the attack, as mentioned in the PCoI report.

This includes former MP M L A M Hizbullah, MP Rishad Bathiudeen, his brother Riyaj Bathiudeen, Dr Muhamed Zulyan Muhammed Zafras and Ahamed Thalith.

The church also wants a fresh investigation into the whereabouts and the connections of Pulasthini Rajendran aka Sarah Jasmine who is suspected to have fled to India from Manner with the aid of a police officer attached to Kaluwanchikudy police station, who is currently in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID.

A military intelligence officer who had allegedly met with Jameel the suicide bomber who was supposed to attack Taj Samudra hotel but blew himself up later in a guest house in Dehiwala must also be investigated, the letter stated.

MPs Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara referred to this intelligence officer on April 20 this year in parliament claiming that, when the officer was arrested through tracing an IP address by the former CID Director Shani Abeysekara, the army had released him saying he was “one of their projects”.

The bishops have also asked that former Attorney General Dappula de Livera’s claim that there was a “grand conspiracy” behind the attack be also probed.

Days before his retirement, the outgoing Attorney General on May 18 this year said there was clear evidence of a grand conspiracy linked to the April 21 2019 bombings that killed 269 people and injured over 500.

At a press conference Tuesday (13) announcing the letter, Cardinal Ranjith said he is sceptical of a politically compromised law enforcement’s ability to probe this “grand conspiracy”.

There can be doubts about finding out what really happened with a “police that acts according to the wishes of the current political leadership, a criminal investigation department (CID) that follows the political leadership’s agenda, and a legal system and law enforcement personnel that political leaders are trying to control,” Ranjith said.

Related: Sri Lanka Easter attack probe: Cardinal sceptical of politically compromised law enforcement



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