Sri Lankan cardinal calls for full investigation into Easter bombings

Sri Lankan cardinal calls for full investigation into Easter bombings

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith outside his residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Jan. 13, 2015. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith outside his residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Jan. 13, 2015. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA

.- Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, has called for a full investigation into the bombing attacks on Easter Sunday 2019, and introduced a program to pray for the victims of the attacks. 

“The people of this country have a right to know the truth about the Easter bomb attacks,” said Ranjith on Feb. 18. “We hope that our political leaders will work to fulfill that obligation.” 

The Easter bomb attacks killed 259 people and injured more than 500. Two Catholic churches, one evangelical Christian church, four hotels, and a housing complex were hit by a total of nine suicide bombers. 

The suicide bombers, who were all Sri Lankan citizens, belonged to an Islamist group known as the National Thowheeth Jama’ath. They attacked the three churches in the middle of Easter Sunday services. 

"Anybody who had dealings with these people who set off the bombs, even their bank accounts and their telephone calls, has to be investigated," the cardinal said.  

Ranjith has criticised past inquiries into the attacks. 

“It is difficult for us to say what happened based on the reports of former government commissions. We believe [the commissions] may have worked to cover up what happened,” said Ranjith. 

“We are pleased with the new presidential commission. They are trying to explain every aspect of the issue.” 

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who assumed office in November 2019, has worked with Ranjith on the investigation into the attacks, and asked him to appoint a representative to the commission. Ranjith did not nominate a representative, and instead appeared before the commission himself on December 6 and 7. 

Ranjith said that he wished to represent the concerns of both the victims and the country’s Catholic community. The Archdiocese of Colombo, which he leads, is the only Catholic diocese in the country and also includes the Maldive islands. Christians make up approximately 7% of Sri Lanka’s population, but roughly eight out of 10 Christians in Sri Lanka are Catholic. 

In addition to the request for a further investigation, Ranjith also announced prayer services to mark the anniversary of the attack. 

“It is the responsibility of the Archdiocese of Colombo to never forget all those who lost their lives in this tragic attack on that day,” he said. 

Two of the prayer services will be held at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kotahena and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, the locations of the attacks. 

Ranjith has been increasingly critical of the Sri Lankan authorities’ failure to prevent the attacks. It has been reported that Indian intelligence services repeatedly warned Sri Lanka about the possibility of an attack occurring on Easter Sunday, including the morning of the attacks. 

“Nobody took serious note,” said Ranjith in June. “This disaster could have been prevented because if I knew that there was an attack planned I would have closed the churches and told the people to go home.”