ucanews.com reporter, ColomboUpdated: July 22, 2019 08:27 AM GMT
Sri Lankan Christians hold oil lamps at a remembrance ceremony in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, on June 21 after Easter Sunday bombings targeting churches and luxury hotels killed 258 people. (Photo by Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP)
Sri Lankan Catholic leaders have demanded that the government appoint an independent commission to achieve justice for victims of the Easter Sunday attacks that claimed more than 250 lives.
"This investigation should be thorough and should be transparent," Bishop J.D. Anthony Jayakody, the auxiliary bishop of Colombo, said in the capital on July 18.
The report of its findings should be made public, he added. "If an independent body investigates on the Easter Sunday blasts, then the truth will come out," the bishop said.
A local jihadist group called National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ), which claims affiliation with the Islamic State international terrorist group, bombed three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday, April 21.
Traumatized Sri Lankans live in fear that there could be more such attacks.
The Sri Lankan government has initiated several investigations, including a presidential committee and a parliamentary select committee.
Catholic priests have filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka targeting the government for failing to act on warnings that could potentially have prevented the attacks.
The priests have accused 13 public officials, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, of dereliction of duty and violating fundamental human rights, notably Catholics' right to freely practice their religion.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith expressed concern over a failure to identify more people who were involved in planning and financing the Easter bombings.
"The power-hungry politicians want to grab everything to themselves while propagating hate," said Cardinal Ranjith when addressing Sri Lankans at a special Mass in Milan in Italy on June 23.
“They never accept their mistake, their fault. How could one kill another man in the name of God? Where is that god who finds pleasure in killing human beings?"
Those who carried out such acts would never enter Heaven, he added.
President Maithripala Sirisena said at first that the Easter attacks were the work of international drug dealers, but several days after the bombings his office maintained that local and international terror groups were responsible.
Inspector-general of police Pujitha Jayasundara said President Sirisena had asked him to take the blame for the suicide attacks by resigning, but after refusing to do so he was required to go on leave.
Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Colombo has established a healing center to provide support for affected families by employing 20 professional counselors, 17 psychiatrists and 10 psychotherapists.