ASIA/SRI LANKA - Catholic leaders: "We will not stop asking for truth and justice for the 2019 attacks"

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 human rights   justice   politics  

Colombo (Agenzia Fides) - "We will not stop asking for truth and justice regarding the 2019 attacks. The authorities must commit to finding the culprits and those responsible for the massacres". This is what Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, told Agenzia Fides, reiterating to the government the urgent request to find the perpetrators of the series of attacks of 2019 which left 279 dead. "We have to establish who was actually behind these attacks. This is not a problem only for Catholics. All Sri Lankans suffered after this attack", said Cardinal Ranjith, while on Sunday March 7 the Catholics organized silent demonstrations in front of the churches of the capital.
Several Buddhist monks joined Catholic leaders and other protesters outside St Anthony's Church, one of the sites attacked in 2019, carrying banners demanding justice. "Who conducted the operation behind the scenes?" and "the law must be applied against those found to be negligent" were some of the banners present at the protest.
In the church of St. Sebastian in Negombo, a predominantly Catholic area in the north of Colombo, where 115 people were killed in the 2019 Easter attacks, on Sunday 7 March parishioners attended mass dressed in black, showing off placards outside the church as part of a silent demonstration called "Black Sunday".
"The main purpose of this gesture is to show the people and our rulers that justice has not been obtained for the victims of the Easter attacks", said Auxiliary Bishop Maxwell Silva. Grace Deshapriya, a lay Catholic leader, told Fides: "We note with regret that the investigation report failed to identify those behind the attacks. It failed to do justice to the victims who lost their lives in the attacks and their families".
The Church in Sri Lanka bitterly notes that no one has been officially prosecuted for the attacks on three hotels and three churches in Colombo that killed 279 people on April 21, 2019, although a local investigation has shown that supporters of an armed group were involved. Last week, several Catholic leaders publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in the investigation. "If the authorities fail to provide answers on who was behind the attacks by the second anniversary of the attacks, we will call for a campaign to display black flags at the national level", said Cardinal Ranjith. The campaign is expected to involve all Sri Lankans, by inviting them to wave a black flag over their homes in protest, he added.
Immediately after the attacks, an investigation was launched by former President Maithripala Sirisena. An investigative report released last month says the former president himself and intelligence chiefs should be charged for failing to prevent the attacks after a number of warning signs was identified.
In January 2021, the US Department of Justice accused three Sri Lankans of supporting terrorism for their alleged participation in the attacks, claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) group. All three are in custody in Sri Lanka, but have not been charged locally. As many as 45 foreigners, including five Americans, were among those killed. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 9/3/2021)