Sri Lankan priest: Government has failed to investigate 2019 Easter bombings

shutterstock 1359468545 St Mary's church in Negombo in Sri Lanka. | Shutterstock.

A Sri Lankan priest criticized the government's response to last year's Easter bombings, saying the failure to thoroughly investigate has amounted to a betrayal of the people.

Father Nishantha Cooray spoke to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on the first anniversary of the bombings that targeted numerous sites across the country, including three churches, on April 21, 2019. The Easter attacks claimed over 259 lives and injured at least 500 more.

Police made 135 arrests following the attacks. Former president of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena created a presidential commission to look into the perpetrators behind the bombings. Current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a similar committee.

But Cooray, who ministered at victims' funerals, argued that the actions undertaken so far are inadequate. He warned that if the government does not take the investigation more seriously, it could lead to more attacks in the future.

"Although we have completed one year [since the bombings], no acceptable step has been taken in arresting the persons involved in the crime," he said.

The priest argued that politicians made promises of a thorough investigation, and gained votes by doing so, but have not followed through on these promises.

"The newly elected government started the second chapter of the same book with the same writing style… They did not want to hurt the Muslim politicians," he said.

"Now, we feel as if we are betrayed. Just to arouse the emotions of the people, the representatives of the government say something about the investigations [into the bombings]. It is only a good slogan for the next election."

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka has appealed to the government to appoint an independent commission to conduct an impartial inquiry.

Commemorating the attacks on their one-year anniversary, parishes in Sri Lanka rang church bells, encouraged people to observe a two-minute period of silence, and lit lamps in memory of the dead victims.

While public Masses have been canceled in Sri Lanka because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo live-streamed Easter Mass on April 12. During the live stream, Ranjith voiced forgiveness for the attackers.

"[W]e meditated on Christ's teachings and loved them, forgave them and had pity on them," he said, according to Vatican News.

"We did not hate them and return them the violence. Resurrection is the complete rejection of selfishness," the cardinal said.

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