ucanews.com reporter, KatuwapitiyaUpdated: July 23, 2019 01:40 AM GMT
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, two auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese of Colombo, military personnel, government officials and priests lay foundation stones for a housing scheme for victims of the Easter Sunday bombing. (Photo by S. Ganasiri)
Sri Lanka's Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has stepped up criticism of the nation's government for alleged culpability in Easter Sunday bombings that he maintains could have been prevented.
Simultaneous attacks on three Catholic churches and several hotels killed more than 260 people and injured hundreds more.
"They had been informed about the attacks more than three times by the High Commission of India,” said Cardinal Ranjith when giving a homily on July 21 at St. Sebastian Church in Katuwapitiya which was one of the locations bombed by terrorists.
However, he added that "nobody took serious note" of the warnings provided.
"Some of you became injured and sick due to a total lack of interest in this matter on the part of government," Cardinal Ranjith said.
"Our political leaders do not have proper policies."
He said that the time has come for parliamentarians to step down if they are unable to govern the country.
The Catholics celebrating Easter at the Katuwapitiya, Kochchikade and Batticaloa churches on April 21 were caught up in the wave of bombings carried out by local Islamic militants affiliated with the international terrorist group Islamic State.
Muslims in general were not responsible for the attacks, only mislead radical youths, the cardinal added.
Cardinal Ranjith said that the government had previously weakened its intelligence unit to satisfy demands from various local and international organizations.
Catholic priests, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and ten other groups have filed legal cases with the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka accusing the government of failing to act on prior warnings.
The groups allege that public officials, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, are guilty of a dereliction of duty and of violating citizens' fundamental human rights, including Catholics right to freely practice their religion.
Cardinal Ranjith has supported the legal actions.
The Sri Lankan government has initiated several investigations into the Easter Sunday blasts, including one by a presidential committee and another by a parliamentary select committee.
However, Cardinal Ranjith said that people don't have faith in government appointed committees since they have political agendas.
Rights activist Sirilal Fernando said the truth had yet to be ascertained in relation to identifying all those who were involved in the bombings.
He said some political and religious figures were playing "political games" with the tragedy in an attempt to win votes at an election scheduled for later this year.
"This is a very pathetic situation in a country which faced three decades of war,” said Fernando when referring to Sri Lanka's long-running civil conflict in which some religious leaders exacerbated the violence.
Meanwhile, the Catholic charity Caritas announced that it had distributed Rs.71 million (US$403,000) from a special relief fund to 352 affected families since the attack.