Speaking at a press conference organised by Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN), Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith says that from the very beginning there have been doubts that this was just “the product of a group of misguided youths bent on terrorism. It was very well organised and coordinated, there were bombs in seven places in 15 minutes, although one of the bombers did not set off his explosives”.
Several commissions and inquiries were announced to try to get to the bottom of this tragedy and hold to account those responsible. Although some of these reports have been kept from the public and from Church leaders, what has emerged is damning towards the authorities.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Colombo, in Sri Lanka, demands clarity about possible collusion between authorities, including Government figures and information services, and the terrorists who killed at least 269 people in coordinated attacks on Easter Sunday, 2019.
“The Parliament Select Committee report makes recommendations against the former President, former inspector general of police, former defence secretary, former chief of intelligence and other top-level officials, for not having prevented the attacks. They knew beforehand from information they had gathered and also from warnings given by the Indian intelligence services, but they did nothing. In fact, the Government seems to have done its best to prevent the arrest of the attackers. There are indications that the authorities wanted the attacks to be carried out”, explains Cardinal Ranjith.
“There is a sense of frustration people are experiencing. We have many questions, and the entire public is asking for answers. Why is it that those who were recommended for prosecution are not being prosecuted by the legal authorities? There are some areas indicated in the Parliament Committee report for further investigation, but they are not being investigated, why?”, asks the Cardinal.
The report of the Parliament Select Committee also points to collusion, hinting that it may have been for electoral gains. “The committee makes a very serious finding in terms of the status of the state intelligence apparatus, where intelligence information known to a few was not shared with relevant parties. It also observes that further investigations will be needed to understand whether those with vested interests did not act on intelligence so as to create chaos and instil fear and uncertainty in the lead up to the presidential election to be held later that same year”, says the Cardinal, quoting directly from the executive summary of the report.
Although justice, if it ever arrives, will come too late for those who were killed, there are many survivors who still carry the scars, both physical and emotional, of these terrorist attacks. The Cardinal was moved to tears as he shared some of their stories. “A man who lost his wife committed suicide three months ago, leaving his three daughters orphans. Another man who lost his wife and three children was living with his mother-in-law, but he had to leave and he went and slept in the cemetery, where his family is buried. Another woman was a dance teacher, but the explosion left her bedridden. She has a small child, but meanwhile her husband left her. The suffering she is going through is tremendous.”
Having just returned from the Vatican, where he was received by Pope Francis, Cardinal Ranjith explained that he will not rest in his pursuit of justice and truth. “The Pope has been a great source of inspiration and hope for us. He has always told me to move ahead, struggle with the people to get justice for them. That is the challenge I have.”
“Help us to create an atmosphere where our questions will be answered by the authorities. We do not want to degrade our country, but we want to make sure the lives of innocent people are not played with by politics”, he concluded.
After the bombing attacks, ACN came to the aid of the Sri Lankan Church and its traumatised members, funding psycho-social support for the affected and bereaved families and helping to train priests, sisters and lay leaders to face tragic situations and give the most urgent and adequate help when such tragedies occur. Since then, ACN has continued to support the Church in Sri Lanka, including during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- By Filipe d’Avillez
Featured Image: Names of the victims of the attacks carried out in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.