Unrest created to prop up a certain presidential candidate – Cardinal

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By Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that probed the 21 April 2019 Easter Sunday Attacks revealed that unrest had been created in the island to win the 2019 Presidential Election by a candidate, Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said.

He alleged that creating conflicts between ethnic groups was also a part of the plot to gain power by this candidate.

Recounting the happenings of the past three years, Cardinal Ranjith said it was becoming evident that there was a bigger conspiracy behind the Easter Attacks than extremism. Quoting from the final reports of the Presidential Commission and the Sub Committees, the Cardinal queried as to why investigations had not been conducted on information that Intelligence agencies had received with regard to the armoury of Zaharan Hashim and his group.  “Indian Intelligence agencies too had given four warnings to their Sri Lankan counterparts regarding the impending attacks. No move had been made even then to arrest and question them.” He alleged that former Minister Keheliya Rambukwella accepted that there had been a connection between Hashim and the Intelligence community and that the latter had been on the payroll of the Intelligence Unit. The Unit also knew the bomber who had been to Taj Samudra Hotel, and had been to his house even before he detonated the bomb at a hotel in Dehiwala.   

Quoting the Presidential Commission, Cardinal Ranjith accused former President Maithripala Sirisena of having been aware of the explosives cache that had been found in Vanathavilluwa, and yet had failed to make inquiries from the Security Council. “When Intelligence requested the former President to have Hashim and his group arrested, he had only told them not to cause unwanted trouble.”

“It remains a mystery to us as to why President Sirisena, the Intelligence Units and the Police withheld details of the attacks even though they had prior knowledge of them,” he added.

The Commission report has noted that Sirisena had grossly neglected hisduties as a leader. 

“He even went beyond by failing to fulfil his civic duty,” Cardinal Ranjith charged. According to recommendations made by the Commission Report, President Sirisena can face charges under the Penal Code. The Catholic Church is in a dilemma as to why neither the incumbent Attorney General nor the Government was implementing the recommendations of the Commission and filing charges against Sirisena. The Catholic Church and the people of this country have strong doubts as to whether the reluctance shown by the Government to implement the recommendations of the Commission against the former President was due to its fear that the connection of its higher echelon to the attacks would be revealed.”

He also alleged that questions have arisen as to whether the Government was afraid that Sirisena, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, former Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and former Head of State Intelligence Service Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena would reveal facts that may cause issues to the Government.

The Cardinal said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledged during the Presidential Election to do justice by the victims and bring the perpetrators of the 2019 Easter Attacks to book. “However, he has set aside all those pledges and was bent on concealing the findings of the report.”

Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka, Archbishop Brian Udaigwe, bringing the message of consolation of Pope Francis, said the Church and the people of good will continue to pray and ask for justice for the victims of that attack. They pray also for the perpetrators and those with similar inclinations. 

“Let us also renew our commitment to not let such atrocities happen again, while encouraging the authorities in their effort, through the services of their Security Forces to ensure that incidents such as these do not happen again.”

The service began with the tolling of the church bell, while the Catholic priests, invited dignitaries, and representatives from the families of the Easter Sunday victims lit candles in remembrance of victims to the background singing of Nanda Malini’s song ‘Yukthiya Wenuwen,’ composed by Dr. Rohana Weerasinghe and sung at the 2021 commemorative ceremony. A two minute silence was observed in memory of the dead.

Ambassadors from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Portugal, Japan, China, Bangladesh and India were present.

The bombings at St. Anthony’s Church Kochchikade, St. Sebastian’s Church Katuwapitiya, Zion Church, Batticaloa, Kingsbury, Shangri-La and Kingsbury Hotels claimed the lives of 269 and injured over 500 persons.