ucanews.com reporter, ColomboUpdated: August 02, 2019 08:35 AM GMT
Sri Lanka's Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who is threatening to boycott meeting presidential election candidates, arrives during a Mass attended by Easter Sunday attack survivors on the occasion of the reopening of St. Anthony's Church in Colombo on June 12. (Photo by Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP)
Sri Lanka's Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has refused to meet election presidential candidates unless they act to achieve justice for victims of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings that claimed 263 lives.
Cardinal Ranjith complained that more than three months after the April 21 attacks on churches and hotels, the results of official inquiries, including purportedly to determine the masterminds, have not been made public.
"I will not meet any presidential candidates who will be representing the government, the opposition or any other political party without these issues being resolved,” Cardinal Ranjith told a July 31 media conference.
He added that all official reports compiled by the various commissions, committees and agencies had been "kept under the carpet".
The cardinal criticized both government and opposition leaders.
As well as making public the findings of probes already carried out, there needed to be a new "impartial and transparent” investigation.
It is known that the suicide bombers hailed from the local fanatical Islamic group called National Thowheed Jammath with links to the international terrorist outfit the so-called Islamic State.
However, various church and community leaders suspect that some political figures could well have been implicated.
They also want a reckoning as to why prior warnings of imminent attacks from Indian intelligence sources were not acted on.
Following the attacks, defense secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned and police chief Pujitha Jayasundara was suspended.
Cardinal Ranjith said that if and when an impartial commission is formed, the president, prime minister and the opposition leader should come together with a common goal to secure justice for victims.
But he is concerned that the need to establish the full extent of involvement of so-far undisclosed individuals or groups in the Easter attacks, directly or indirectly, will be overshadowed by campaigning for national elections scheduled for December.
So far, Sri Lanka's main opposition politicians had failed to exert sufficient pressure on the government over the issue, Cardinal Ranjith said.
He recalled past cases in which justice had not been delivered when Catholic and other workers were killed or injured during anti-government protests in 2011 and 2013.
Cardinal Ranjith stressed that he is not politically partisan.
"I always stand for the rights of my countrymen," he said.
Of Sri Lanka's 21 million people, 70 percent are Buddhist, 15 percent Hindu, 9 percent Muslim and 7 percent Christian.