His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at St. Anthony’s Church on Thursday

The government may have thought the Easter Sunday attacks would be forgotten with the passage of time like the other such tragic incidents and attendant probes the country has witnessed. It may also have labored under the delusion that IGP Chandana Wickramaratne’s special statement in August on the progress in the ongoing probes into the carnage, and the explanations he provided for delays in them, would help pacify those who are demanding justice. But it was mistaken. The arrest and detection of former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen over the Easter Sunday attacks were also widely seen as an attempt tomollify the Catholic Church. But the government efforts havenot yielded the desired results.

The Catholic Church is determined to have justice served without further delay, and ready to go to any extent to achieve its objective. Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith is bitterly critical of the way the government is handling the ongoing probes into the Easter Sunday killings and implementing the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), which probed the tragedy. Speaking (in Sinhala), during a special service, at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade, on Thursday, in memory of the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks, the Cardinal reiterated the allegations he had made previously.

 The Cardinal’s consternation is understandable. In the immediate aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings, he made a solemn pledge to the Catholics that he together with other Church leaders would have the crime probed speedily and all those responsible for it would be brought to justice soon. He also promised that he himself would take to the streets seeking justice in case of his failure to ensure the promised course of action would reach fruition. Thus, he and other Catholic priests prevented a violent backlash. That many people voted for the present government in the hope of having the bombings thoroughly probed and justice served is common knowledge.

The church leaders are disillusioned today because the government has baulked at taking action against Maithripala Sirisena, who was the President at the time of the attacks and has been named by the PCoI as one of persons responsible for the serious security lapses that made the terror attacks possible.

The Catholic church organized a black flag protest, a couple of months ago, to pressure the government to implement the recommendations in the PCoI report, among other things. But its efforts were in vain. The protest campaign had to be suspended in view of the rapid spread of the pandemic, and the Cardinal has sought to ratchet up pressure on the government, again. His disillusionment is palpable.

The salient points in the Cardinal’s speech on Thursday areas follows:

·         It has been two and a half years since the Easter Sunday terror attacks, but the mastermind behind them has not been identified. In March 2021, the then Attorney General met the Cardinal and undertook to launch a thorough probe after studying the complete set of PCoI reports. But nothing has been done so far.

·         The Church is not happy with the manner in which the carnage has been probed, and there should be an impartial investigation. The PCoI has said certain aspects of the attacks have to be further investigated. No such probes have been launched.

·         The PCoI produced a five-volume report consisting of 22 documents, but only Volume One has been released to the public. The Cardinal wants the people to be given access to all the documents.

·         The recommendations made by the PCoI have notbeen implemented properly. Only some of them have been carried out selectively.

·         Some of the probes have been halted, and certaindefence bigwigs are trying to derail investigations.

·         The government came to power promising one law for the whole country, but in reality, there is one law for those who are close to the government and another for others.

·         Those responsible for enforcing the law are also part of the conspiracy [which is not specified].

·         It is not possible to have the PCoI recommendations implemented under the present administration.

·         The government has broken its promises.

·         The Cardinal wonders whether the carnage has become a curse for the country. The country has been troubled by destructive forces since the tragedy; no one is happy.

·         If one is innocent, one should be able to have the carnage probed properly and bring all those responsible for it to justice.

·         Why aren’t officials given necessary powers to probe the carnage thoroughly? Wrongdoers always try to get away by blaming others. But those who harm the innocent will never have any peace of mind.

·         If ‘anyone’ has tried, or tries, to come to power with the help of the blood of the innocent, ‘they’ will not be able to savour power. They will only incur divine wrath.

·         If ‘they’ are innocent, they must allow probes to be conducted impartially, and legal action must be taken against those the PCoI has held responsible. [The Cardinal is referring to former President Sirisena without naming him.] The Cardinal asks rhetorically whether those who are protecting such persons are themselves responsible for the crime?


The Cardinal’ message is loud and clear, but he should have been more specific when he made certain allegations. He did not name names, and some sentences lacked clarity. He also left much to the imagination of the listener/viewer.

The Easter Sunday terror attacks brought the country under a pall of uncertainty with the people fearing for their safety. The SLPP had already turned the tables on the UNP and the SLFP by winning the 2018 local government polls, and would have won the subsequent elections as the tide had turned, but the tragedy gave it a tremendous boost; it asked for a mandate to protect national security and ensure that there would be no such terror attacks again. It also undertook to probe the carnage and ensure justice.

The leaders of the present government would have lost no time in having all PCoI recommendations implemented immediately if former President Sirisena had not been on their side. Sirisena, as the leader of the SLFP with 14 MPs in the government, is a force to be reckoned with.

It is now clear that the Cardinal as well as other Catholic prelates have no faith in the government; they have decided to explore other means of achieving their goal. The Cardinal says those who are seeking justice have left the matter in the hands of God, but it is obvious that the church will adopt worldly means as well for that purpose. What it is planning to do remains to be seen. Whatever it does is sure to adversely impact the government, whose popularity is on the wane. The only way the SLPP leaders can wriggle out of this situation is to pluck up the courage to allow criminal proceedings to be instituted against Sirisena, and brace themselves for political shocks.   




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