Updated: November 25, 2021 10:38 AM GMT
The damaged interior of St. Sebastian's Church after the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019. (Photo: Facebook)
As Sri Lanka’s High Court began the trial of 25 men accused of plotting the Easter Sunday terror attack, a Catholic leader repeated his demand for further investigation to reveal a suspected larger plot linked to the atrocity.
"I urge all Catholics to stand together until the issue is resolved," he said on Nov. 23, asking all Catholic priests and nuns to prioritize working for the victims of the explosions that killed 269 people and injured over 500 on Easter Sunday 2019.
A local Islamist extremist group, National Thowheed Jamath, was identified as carrying out the suicide attacks that targeted three churches and four hotels across the country.
After a protracted investigation, police have filed over 23,000 charges against 25 men accusing them of plotting the bombings, including conspiracy to murder. The top court's trial began on Nov. 24.
The probe took several dramatic political turns after a presidential commission, meant to fix responsibilities for the government’s security lapses, suggested the involvement of high-ranking politicians and security officials in allowing the attacks.
Who did the evil deed? Why did they do it? Our struggle will not stop until we find the truth
The commission’s report said that “further investigations will be needed to understand whether those with vested interests did not act on intelligence so as to create chaos and instill fear and uncertainty in the country in the lead up to the presidential election.”
It further said that such a chaotic situation “would then lead to the call for a change of regime to contain such acts of terrorism … fear would be unleashed months away from the presidential election … These are extremely serious observations that can impact the democratic governance, electoral processes and security of Sri Lanka and must require urgent attention.”
In the November 2019 presidential election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa unseated Maithripala Sirisena and became president. In the run-up to the election, Rajapaksa blamed Sirisena for lax security in the country and promised justice to the victims of the Easter attacks.
Catholic officials now express frustration at the Rajapaksa administration’s inability to find the “real culprits” behind the violence that killed hundreds, including several innocent children and women inside churches.
"Who did the evil deed? Why did they do it? Our struggle will not stop until we find the truth,” Cardinal Ranjith said while addressing a gathering in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Wadduwa, a beach town in Western Province.
“We are increasingly realizing that there was a bigger program beneath what appeared on the surface of the attack. There are a lot of reasons for that," the cardinal said on the day the court began the trial.
"We do not want to take revenge on anyone but the Church needs to know the truth. Those who knew about the attack and promised to hold high positions now seem to know nothing."
President Rajapaksa on Nov. 24 said the previous government was responsible for allowing the terror act to happen.
The presidential commission, appointed by the previous government, recommended that the former government — including the former president, prime minister and cabinet — be held responsible for the attacks, Rajapaksa said.
“It has been referred to parliament, the attorney general and the Criminal Investigation Department for further action. The law can be enforced on the culprits exposed by the commission through an act of parliament," he said.
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