Updated: December 17, 2019 08:24 AM GMT
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith (left) and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, look at a blood-splattered statue of Jesus Christ damaged in the April 21 Easter Sunday bomb attacks. (Photo by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP
An inquiry into the Easter Sunday bombings that killed and wounded several hundred people in Sri Lanka has been told it could have been avoided and people must be held accountable.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith appeared before the presidential commission to represent the concerns, grievances and views of the victims, their families and the entire Catholic community at large.
“[We are] all awaiting the truth of these matters to be fully revealed and for justice to be carried in all its aspects,” Cardinal Ranjith told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the attacks.
The prelate gave his evidence in secret for four hours over two days, Dec. 06 and 07, but it took 10 days for the media to be allowed to report it.
He said the country’s security council and other relevant institutions responsible for maintaining security in the country, should have acted beforehand, since relevant information was available to the authorities concerned.
“I would have saved my people; they are the most important asset,” he told the commission. “Responsible people should be brought to the book and those who are linked to the attack directly and indirectly should be punished.”
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had promised in his election campaign to appoint an independent commission with full powers to investigate the Easter Sunday attacks.
He said he intended to expose and punish the real culprits, partners, supporters and all those responsible for the Easter massacre.
Indeed, the Easter bombings cast such a cloud over the election that the theme of national security dominated campaign debates. Cardinal Ranjith said in November, however, that he was not ready to meet with presidential candidates because was not satisfied with the investigation into the attacks.
Easter Sunday blasts have left many innocent lives dead, many injured and disabled, destroying many properties.
A local group of radical nine suicide bombers affiliated with local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaath (NTJ) blasted three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, killing 270 people including 40 foreign nationals and wounding at least 500.
“I would have taken every possible measure to save the lives of my people, if we had been informed about the possible attack on Easter Sunday,” said Cardinal Ranjith.
“We presented the evidence and the facts we have before the committee. We hope that the government will take the required action according to the recommendations of the commission.”
Cardinal Ranjith said that he would fully cooperate with the investigation.
The commission is chaired by Appeal Court Judge Janak de Silva. Its other members are former Appeal Court Judges Bandula Karunaratne and Sunil Rajapaksa, former High Court Judge Bandula Atapattu and former secretary to the Ministry of Justice HMS Adikari. HMBP Herath serves as the secretary to the commission.
“Strict measures should be confirmed to avoid similar incidents in the future,” said Cardinal Ranjith.