Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan cardinal rejects parliamentary allegations

During a debate, parliamentarians accused Malcolm Ranjith of politicizing the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings ahead of polls

Rubatheesan Sandran

Updated: April 30, 2024 12:43 PM GMT

Nuns carry photos as they pay tribute to the victims killed in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings in the capital Colombo on April 21. The perpetrators are still at large. (Photo: AFP)

Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has denied allegations leveled by the country's parliamentarians that he was politicizing the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings ahead of the polls this year.

A three-day parliamentary debate on Easter Sunday attacks that concluded on April 26 saw members accuse each other of responsibility for the attacks and criticize Ranjith of being politically biased ahead of presidential elections due later this year.

Some parliamentarians also reportedly said the 76-year-old cardinal sought an extension from the Vatican to continue in office and fight for the families of the victims of the Easter Sunday attack.

Ranjith refuted allegations he had requested to vote for a particular political party recently during a program that marked the fifth anniversary of deadly Easter Sunday attacks on April 21.

The allegation is a fallacy by itself, and I have never asked anyone to vote for any party, the Church leader said in an April 29 statement.

The only thing I have mentioned when talking about the attacks is to not vote for parties that have violated human rights or [are] not willing to take steps to ensure justice and fairness over probes into the attacks, the statement said.

The cardinal also noted that only two political parties — the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya and the left-leaning Peoples Liberation Front-led electoral alliance National Peoples' Power (NPP) — have proposed ways to ensure justice for victims' families if they are voted to power.

We have asked all of them and we are asking them today to conduct a fair and transparent investigation into the Easter attacks, he said, urging people to vote for any party that offers such a solution.

Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Colombo, told UCA News that it was unfortunate that a parliamentary debate meant to ensure justice for innocent victims of the attacks turned out to be a cheap political act with the cardinal coming under severe criticism.

Fernando denied allegations that the cardinal sought an extension to continue as archbishop of Colombo last year after he had completed 75 years, the canonical age at which clerics are requested to retire.

As the Church law demands, the cardinal had already submitted his resignation when he completed 75 years. It's up to the Holy Sea to decide, Fernando said.

The parliamentary debate was about past governments' failure to probe the attacks comprehensively even after five years, as the cardinal reiterated. Is it a crime to demand justice? This shows clearly what kind of Parliamentarians they are, Fernando said.

Ranjith has been campaigning for a transparent probe into the attacks and sought an international investigation if the local government failed to provide justice to the victims.

The deadly 2019 bombings targeted two Catholic churches, a protestant church, and three luxury hotels in Colombo, killing 279 people, primarily Catholic mass-goers, and wounded over 500.

Media reports claim intelligence officers close to former President Mahindra Rajapaksa deliberately allowed Islamic militants to conduct the suicide attack to help him come to power, accusing the ruling party of security failures. Rajapaksa won the 2019 November elections.  

The attorney general's office has said 43 indictment papers have been filed against 93 accused. A bench, headed by a high court judge, is also set up to try the main suspects.

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