Sri Lanka's Catholic church asks for action against former leaders for failing to prevent Easter attack

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Colombo, Jul 13 (PTI) Sri Lanka's Catholic church on Tuesday demanded that action be taken against former president Maithripala Sirisena and ex-prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for their failures to prevent the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed 270 people, including 11 Indians.

Nine suicide bombers, belonging to local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS, carried out a series of blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, killing over 270 people and injuring more than 500 people on April 21, 2019.

The local Catholic church has reiterated its demand for justice in the attack, asserting that no action has been taken against Sirisena and Wickremesinghe despite a commission of inquiry finding both of them culpable for their failures to prevent the attack.

In a 10-page letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the church reminded that the commission of inquiry had recommended that criminal proceedings be initiated against Sirisena for the failure of his responsibilities.

The church stressed that it had been five months since the inquiry report came out, yet no action had been taken against Sirisena.

On Wickremesinghe, the church held that the inquiry had concluded that the former prime minister was found lax in his attitude towards the rising Islamist extremism and it was one of the reasons for the failure on the part of the previous government to stop the attack despite the availability of intelligence on impending attacks.

“We have always believed that investigations on the Easter Sunday attacks were not happening in any satisfactory manner,” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo and the head of the local Catholic Church, told reporters.

“The attack happened when the current Opposition was in government. So, why this unsatisfactory nature of investigations?” Father Cyril Gamini asked.

The church said if truth and justice cannot be assured by ending the “present lethargic and slow” process, it will be forced to agitate “through alternative means”.

The government denies any lethargy in investigations and says nearly 700 people have been arrested and the due legal procedures are in place.

The blasts targeted St Anthony's Church in Colombo, St Sebastian's Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and a church in the eastern town of Batticaloa when the Easter Sunday mass was in progress.

Three explosions were reported from three five-star hotels - the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury in Colombo. PTI CORR MRJ MRJ

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