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Sri Lanka

Sri Lankans pray for justice for Easter attack victims

Priests at the forefront of demonstrations calling on the government to reveal the truth

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Published: November 23, 2021 07:44 AM GMT

Updated: November 23, 2021 09:19 AM GMT

Sri Lankans pray for justice for Easter attack victims

Priests and nuns attend a demonstration at Katuwapitiya junction in Negombo on Nov. 21 calling for the government to reveal the truth about the Easter attacks. (Photo: UCA News)

Sri Lankans held prayer services, Masses and demonstrations to call for justice for the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks as a Catholic priest was again called for questioning by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Father Cyril Gamini was summoned by the CID for the third time on Nov. 22. On the previous two occasions, he was questioned for nearly eight hours.

Thirty-one months after the terrorist atrocity, Auxiliary Bishop Maxwell Silva held a Mass with survivors and priests on Nov. 21 at St. Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya.

After the Mass in the evening, priests and the faithful gathered in front of the memorial bearing the names of all the believers who died in the bombings and prayed for their souls.

Some protesters including priests walked to the main road and held another demonstration at Katuwapitiya junction demanding that justice be done by revealing the hidden truths behind the attacks.

Father Sarath Iddamalgoda, a prominent rights activist, attended the protest. 

Now, instead of revealing the truth, the government has started to intimidate priests like Father Gamini who demanded to reveal the truth

"The identity of those who planned this assassination has yet to be revealed. We are pressuring the government to reveal the truth to the people of the country," the priest said.

"Now, instead of revealing the truth, the government has started to intimidate priests like Father Gamini who demanded to reveal the truth."

The CID questioned Father Gamini, the media spokesman for the archdiocese’s Easter Committee, for over seven hours on Nov. 15 over a complaint lodged by Major General Suresh Sallay, director of the State Intelligence Service, regarding remarks made by the priest.

The CID earlier informed the Supreme Court that there was no move at the moment to arrest Father Gamini. The priest had filed a fundamental rights petition seeking an injunction order preventing him from being arrested.

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Father Jude Chrisantha, archdiocesan director of mass communication, said the statement made by the police media spokesperson on Nov. 21 that there would be more evidence in spite of the report of the Presidential Commission, which examined the evidence for more than a year at a cost of millions of rupees, had been severely criticized.

A court on Nov. 22 began the first of three trials connected to the bombings. A total of 1,215 witnesses have been listed to give evidence. Sri Lanka's former police chief was charged with criminal negligence for failing to act despite receiving prior intelligence warnings on the terror attacks.

Another prayer service was held in front of St. Philip Neri's Church at Thammita in Negombo on Nov. 21 with the participation of a large number of youths. They recited the rosary to seek justice for victims of the Easter attacks.

Neil Fernando, a survivor of the attacks, said the government has no interest in seeking the truth for victims.

"In the coming elections too, the government and the other opposition parties will tell different stories on the issue to gain power," said Fernando.

The Supreme Court bench of judges has set March 12 next year to hear 12 fundamental rights petitions filed in connection with the Easter attacks.

Former president Maithripala Sirisena, former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the cabinet of the previous government and the attorney general have been named as respondents in the petitions.

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