Catholic devotees gathered last week to mark the fourth anniversary of the Easter Sunday attack by unknown assailants that left indelible scars on society at large.

The event commemorated the attack victims, mostly Catholic devotees, and was attended by religious leaders from all major faiths. It was a stark reminder of the importance of religious tolerance and coexistence in the face of hatred and violence.

The overnight procession that started at St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya Negombo proceeded along the Colombo-Negombo road and reached St. Anthony’s shrine in Kochchikade, Colombo. A massive demonstration was held following the procession, demanding justice for the Easter Sunday attack victims. A two-minute silence was observed at the shrine in memory of the victims of the attack. People from all walks of life participated in the procession and the demonstration, expressing their sorrow and outrage at the tragedy. Flowers were laid at the shrine in tribute to the victims.

The main accusation made by the participants was that, after four years, the government has failed to identify the real culprits behind the Easter Sunday mayhem. This brought a trail of destruction to the country and slowed down the economy, leading to a major economic catastrophe.

The Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, is relentlessly working to ensure justice is meted out to the victims of the Easter Sunday attack in 2019 by multiple suicide bombers. This has created unprecedented hardship for the people. He is also supporting the families of the victims, providing them with financial and emotional relief in a time of immense grief.

The victims’ families are raising pertinent questions about the government’s inaction following the Supreme Court judgment. The court found that DIG Nilantha Jayawardana was guilty of blatantly violating the rights of the victims. It ordered him to pay a fine of Rs. 75 million. The court found fault with others, including former President Maithrpala Sirisena, who was ordered to pay Rs 100 million as a fine. The victims’ families believe that the fines are token gestures and do not reflect the gravity of the crimes committed. They are demanding that justice be served and that the guilty parties be held accountable for their actions. They are also calling on the government to take steps to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.

The archbishop demanded an international investigation into the matter. President Ranil Wickremesinghe promised an investigation by the Scotland Yard Police to uncover the truth behind the carnage. The Catholic Church has lost confidence in the government’s ability to undertake a transparent investigation into the matter. This compelled him to look for other alternatives. It is incumbent on the government to uncover the mysteries surrounding the Easter Sunday attack and how it was done. After all, Ranil Wickremesinghe was prime minister of the government when the incident took place; hence, he bears an exceptional responsibility to probe the matter to the satisfaction of everybody. This is because the government failed to hold those responsible accountable. The Catholic Church felt that it was necessary to take matters into its own hands to ensure justice and truth. The government’s inaction has made it clear that an independent inquiry is needed to ensure all the facts are brought to light. Nevertheless, people were perturbed when former Minister Vajira Abeywardene said that the criminals were all dead and gone. There is no evidence or information to carry out further investigations. This is why the Catholic Church has called for an independent inquiry to investigate the matter. Such an inquiry would be able to uncover the facts and bring justice to the victims of the crime. Moreover, it would ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable, regardless of whether they are alive or not. Furthermore, the independent inquiry would provide the transparency needed to restore public trust in the Catholic Church by showing that the Church is willing to take responsibility for its past and present actions. It would also give a voice to the victims and their families, who have been silenced for too long, and help to create a safer environment for future generations. Following the procession from Negombo on the 21st morning, the Archbishop addressed the devotees. He said there was a sinister political conspiracy behind the explosions. He extensively quoted from the executive summary of the report of the special parliamentary committee appointed for the purpose to substantiate his claim. He inquired whether there was another person who triggered the remote control that caused the explosions. All these matters pointed to the unusual presidential election campaign that took place in 2019.

The United States Ambassador Julie Chung also supports the demonstrators for justice on the pretext that five Americans died in the Easter Sunday blasts in 2019. They, too, were eager to learn the truth. The ambassador tweeted: Today I remember the hundreds of innocent people, including five Americans, who were murdered four years ago in a horrific act of terror on Easter Sunday. The U.S. honors the victims, their families, and all affected communities and stands in solidarity with those awaiting justice. The government is now not in a position to hush it up any further since there is a strong call among the people that justice be done to the victims of the Easter Sunday horror.

Besides, the government is also finding it difficult to proceed with the draft anti-terrorism bill, which restricts the personal liberties of the people. The European Union and the United States government have expressed reservations about the proposed bill. This defines terrorism with a broader meaning and scope. This is so that anyone on the road could be taken into custody under the law and detained without questions being asked. Therefore, a judicial review is imperative to minimize misdemeanors committed by law enforcement agencies. This bill could lead to abuses of power and target innocent people. Furthermore, it could also be used to restrict civil liberties and freedom of speech. Therefore, the bill needs to be revisited and amended to ensure compliance with international standards. The European Union has warned that the anti-terrorism law as it stands would create unprecedented social upheaval. It said that Sri Lanka may stand to lose the GSP+ facility granted by the EU if it resolves to get the nod of the House of Parliament. Many people, including lawyers, feel that it needs broader discussion and consultation before being made law in the country. Hence, the anti-terrorism law must be thoroughly discussed and consulted on to ensure it meets international standards and to avoid the risk of losing GSP+ facilities to the EU. People are asking if the opposition is doing enough to challenge the government’s anti-terrorism bill designed to create a vassal state. There is a major concern among many about losing preferential trade status with the EU. The EU has strict standards for human rights and other aspects of international law. If the anti-terrorism law does not meet those standards, the EU could revoke the GSP+ facilities, which would further decelerate the country’s economy. This is why the government must take a thorough and consultative approach to ensure the law meets international standards. This would mean an increase in the cost of imports as well as the loss of market access for local products in the EU. This could have a major negative impact on the economy and lead to job losses and a decline in the purchasing power of the local currency. President Ranil Wickremesinghe, a mature politician who has worked with so many state leaders, is well aware of the implications that may follow. Therefore, he may consider following the correct path to keep the country’s democratic image intact. President Wickremesinghe has another significant task in hand: to present the IMF agreement to Parliament for approval on the 25th of April. There, he would make another call to all the parliamentarians to join hands with him to form a national government. The president may go for plan B if his call is not heeded by the opposition parties. He will also have an opportunity to emerge as a hero who delivered the country out of an outright mess. He will do this by invoking the International Monetary Fund agreement that rescued the country. Parliament will argue for and against the IMF bailout package, but finally, according to Wickremesinghe, certain provisions of the agreement may become law. Parliament is likely to praise Wickremesinghe for taking bold steps to rescue the country from a wayward political culture to a somewhat refined one, dismantling many obstacles on the way. This will involve reducing public debt, improving public services, and boosting economic growth. In essence, Wickremesinghe’s goal is to strengthen the country’s economy and create a better future for its citizens. His efforts will be vital in achieving this goal. For Wickremesinghe, this may mark the beginning of his campaign for the next presidential hustings. In any case, a presidential election is possible only by the end of next year. A stand-in president is not entitled to go for early elections, as in the case of an incumbent president. No doubt Wickremesinghe has patience until the time knocks at his door.


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