Updated: February 23, 2021 02:50 AM GMT
St. Sebastian’s Church, which was damaged in the Easter 2019 bombings, celebrates its first feast after the attacks on Jan. 20, 2020. (Photo: UCA News)
Sri Lankan Catholics have demonstrated against the government-appointed cabinet panel studying the report compiled by the presidential commission probing the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.
Relatives of victims in Negombo held a protest on Feb. 20 against the new cabinet committee and to demand publication of the report and to bring the culprits before the law.
The protesters hold placards saying "Justice also silent,” “Expose the perpetrators,” “No more committees” and “Can't wait any longer.”
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Auxiliary Bishop J.D. Anthony and several parish priests joined relatives of victims at their Feb. 20 morning protest at St. Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo.
"Publish the report as it is and we will decide what to do. We do not accept the cabinet committee. We need to find out who is behind all the forces that planned and carried out these bombings. The president promised us justice," Cardinal Ranjith said.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a six-member cabinet committee on Feb. 19 to study the commission's final report in depth. The report was compiled by five judges who have given their recommendations and decisions to the government and the attorney general to take action.
A group of suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing at least 306 people including 37 foreign nationals, on Easter morning in 2019.
"I wrote a letter to the president asking him to give us a copy of the report and we are waiting for this. It is not a big task to reveal the information through the internet, newspapers and media,” said Cardinal Ranjith.
“We will not bow our heads to leaders without getting justice but will continue to fight for our rights. Reveal all the proposals made by this commission and then take action to implement those proposals."
The cabinet committee is headed by National Security Minister Chamal Rajapaksa and the other members are Johnston Fernando, Udaya Gammanpila, Prasanna Ranathunga, Ramesh Pathirana and Rohitha Abeygunawardene. The committee is required to submit its report before March 15.
Rajapaksa said the committee's task is to look into what steps the government has taken so far and what else needs to be done in the line with the recommendations.
Bishop Anthony said the presidential commission was appointed to make recommendations with full powers. "If that commission has made recommendations, no more commissions or boards are needed," he said.
“If necessary, we would like to bring all the priests from the archdiocese and pressure the government for a solution to this issue,” said Father Sujeewa Athukorala, parish priest of St. Sebastian's Church in Sea Street, Negombo.
"Our people are dead, therefore we need to find a solution to this. This is the first step."
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