A person mourns near the grave of a suicide bombing victim at Sellakanda Catholic cemetery in Negombo, Sri Lanka, April 23, 2019. The country’s bishops are demanding that the Sri Lankan government provides answers about the church attacks that killed 269 and caused hundreds of injuries. (CNS photo/Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters)
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNS) — Catholic bishops have given Sri Lanka’s government a one-month deadline to answer their letter sent on behalf of victims of the Easter 2019 church bombings, warning that they will begin organizing the faithful to action if their demands for an official explanation are not met.
Declining to say what any “alternative actions” they might take, the bishops and the National Catholic Committee for Justice to Easter Sunday Attack Victims called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to provide a credible answer to its letter, reported ucanews.com.
Signing the letter were Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Bishop Valence Mendis of Chilaw, Bishop Harold Anthony Perera of Kurunegala, Bishop Raymond Wickramasinghe of Galle, and Colombo auxiliary bishops J.D. Anthony Jayakody and Anton Ranjith Pillainayagam.
Cardinal Ranjith said in March 2020 that he was ready to launch street protests if Sri Lanka’s government did not find and arrest the culprits behind the Easter bombings.
“It is the right of the people to know the conspiracy behind the Easter Sunday attacks and the government’s responsibility is to expose it to the country immediately,” Cardinal Ranjith said at a news conference in Colombo July 13.
“The investigations into the Easter attack were carried out carelessly,” the cardinal said. “An independent active investigation should be conducted rather than the current one. We urge the government not to brush the issue under the carpet by taking a few people to court.”
The 17-page letter questions whether the cases to be filed against 42 suspects include the main culprits who masterminded the attack, which claimed 269 lives and injured hundreds of Massgoers.
“It is now 26 months since the Easter Sunday bomb attack of April 21, 2019. And by now, nearly five months have gone since the presentation of the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate this attack,” the letter said.
“Yet we are truly saddened by the lethargic pace at which the state machinery is moving in order to find those who are responsible for these attacks; those who planned it and those who, even though they had forewarning about it and could have easily prevented it, did not fulfill that responsibility, and willfully neglected it, and bring them before the law,” it continued.
The correspondence warned that if authorities were attempting to file action only against a few marginally involved people, the “big brains” behind the attacks and those who helped them by neglecting their duties would be freed of their culpability.
“We hope that your government would take stock of the present lethargic and slow-moving approach to investigations, which seems to reveal a conspiracy to protect certain individuals and prevent the truth from emerging, and take quick action to unravel all causes of this massacre, thus ensuring justice to those affected as soon as possible. Only that will prove to us that you stand for truth and justice, and the protection of the rule of law, and not for political gain,” the letter said.
The government has denied that it is slow-walking its investigation and has said nearly 700 people have been arrested as the legal case against those connected to the bombing continues to be built.
Nine suicide bombers affiliated with the Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath targeted three churches and three luxury hotels in a series of bombings in 2019.