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Sri Lankan Church calls for ban on extremist groups

Bishops and priests condemn 'astonishing puzzle' of failure to find perpetrators of Easter Sunday attacks

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Published: March 29, 2021 05:00 PM GMT

Updated: March 30, 2021 08:51 AM GMT

Sri Lankan Church calls for ban on extremist groups

The damaged interior of St. Sebastian's Church after a suicide bombing on April 21, 2019. (Photo: Facebook)

Catholic leaders have urged the Sri Lankan government to ban Muslim extremist groups that pose a threat to national security.

Colombo Archdiocese's declaration committee called on the government to identify foreign sponsors and preachers who sow hatred and expel them from the country.

"We call for the seizure of various types of weapons reportedly smuggled into the country and expeditious confiscation of financial resources, movable and immovable property that fuel extremist terrorism," said bishops and priests in a March 29 statement.

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Signatories included Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Auxiliary Bishop Maxwell Silva, Auxiliary Bishop J.D. Anthony and Auxiliary Bishop Anton Ranjith.

"Two years have passed but the failure to find and punish the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday attacks is an astonishing puzzle," the statement said.

Nine suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) targeted three Christian churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, 2019, killing 269 people and injuring more than 500.

The committee requested the government take action to implement its recommendations before the second anniversary of the attack.

"It was not only Catholics who were destroyed by this barbaric practice. This country includes people such as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malays, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Catholics as well as foreigners," the statement added.

"We need a comprehensive investigation into all individuals and organizations that have had various dealings and relationships with Saharan Hashim, who is suspected of leading the suicide squad, since the end of the war in the north and east.

"Let us not forget the economic damage caused to the whole country by these suicide attacks. It is the responsibility of all officers and authorities to maintain peace, enforce the law and prove that there is no escape from the law for anyone who plans, carries out, assists and supports such terrorist acts.

"We urge enforcement of the law against political leaders and officials who deliberately neglected their responsibility to prevent this massacre despite the fact that they received sufficient intelligence."

MP Maithripala Sirisena, the former president, told parliament on March 26 that if he had known about the Easter Sunday attacks in advance, he would have acted to prevent them.

A parliamentary committee on national security has proposed an immediate ban on the burqa and suspended the registration of religious and ethnic-based political parties last year.

A large number of swords were found in mosques and other places after the Easter attacks.

Teacher Aruna Paul Fernando from Negombo said people cannot believe that justice will be done by politicians.

"Both the previous government and this government are trying to deceive us. The politicians misused the attacks to gain political advantage and gain power," said Fernando.

"The silence of the responsible government institutions and officers is a big problem. Steps should be taken to prevent such attacks again in the country. The National Security Council should be made a statutory body."

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