Yesterday, April 21 marked the second anniversary of the barbaric terrorist attacks on three hotels and three churches targeting Christians on one of their holiest day, Easter Sunday. April 21, 2019, was a day of shame not only because the terrorists with Muslim name tags killed more than 260 innocent men, women and children for no crime they had committed, but also due to the fact that authorities- political as well as bureaucratic- empowered and duty-bound to protect the people of the country let the terrorists carry out the heinous crime, despite having prior information on the disaster.
Yesterday also marked the ultimatum thrown by the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith to the Government to initiate legal action against the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday carnage. He has been repeatedly warning that countrywide protests would be held if the government failed to produce before courts, by April 21, those behind the Easter Sunday attacks.
“If we don’t see anything concrete happening before 21 April, we will organise protests across the country. We urge the government to investigate the attacks impartially and transparently. At least take actions against those named in the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on Easter Sunday attacks before 21 April. Otherwise, we will hold a continuous protest,” the Cardinal had warned.
The Easter Sunday attacks had drawn the attention of the world than what hundreds of similar or more disastrous bomb attacks took place during the war against the LTTE had drawn, since it targeted the Christians by a group of terrorists with Muslim tags while they were celebrating one of their holiest days along with their brethren across the world.
Also, the attacks were initially believed to have links to the ISIS, the most dreadful international terrorist organisation in recent years. Hence, if the Christian community or at least the Catholics resort to street protests it would also draw the attention of the world on a similar scale. This would be an embarrassing situation for the government.
As an apparent response to the Cardinal’s ultimatum, the Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara during the Parliamentary debate on the PCoI report on Easter Sunday attacks, last month gave a detailed account of the investigation into the terrorist attacks and on the actions that had been hitherto taken by the authorities.
“So far 676 people have been arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks. Out of them, 202 have been imprisoned and 66 are being detained. Although 408 of them have been released on bail, investigations are still being carried out on them.50 out of the 54 suspects arrested in connection with the attacks by five foreign countries have been brought to Sri Lanka by the State Intelligence Service in coordination with foreign intelligence agencies. The other four would be brought back to Sri Lanka once the investigations in those countries are completed” he stated.
However, the Cardinal renewed his ultimatum again on this year’s Easter Sunday which fell on April 4 after which Minister Weerasekara on April 6 announced that the authorities have identified Naufer Moulavi as the mastermind of the terrorist attacks.
And 11 Muslim organisations including two international terrorist outfits, the ISIS and the Al-Qaida were proscribed in Sri Lanka on April 13. Yet, this too seems to have not satisfied the Cardinal who later said that naming a person as the mastermind just because he exerted pressure would not serve the purpose. Then he dropped a bombshell on Sunday by saying that the Easter Sunday attacks were an attempt by certain parties to consolidate their political position and alleged that it was not solely the result of religious extremism.
However, on Monday the Cardinal said he did not target any political party here during his Sunday’s speech but the international forces that might have used the extremism here to advance their interests. Also, he softened his ultimatum and said it was not a strict deadline but he was willing to give more time to the authorities to identify all those behind the attacks and bring them to justice. Nevertheless, he again expressed his suspicion of ‘deal politics’ that might be hindering the probe. He had referred to this when a brother of a politician was released last September after questioning over the Easter Sunday carnage.
Cardinal seems to have suspicions over certain politician or politicians in this regard. A person in his calibre would not suspect a person or a group or a political party on mere personal hatred or hearsay. Hence, it would be cautious for him to have a constant dialogue with relevant authorities and speak his mind, rather than going public which would always prone to be distorted.