BY Buddhika Samaraweera
Two days after the release of the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 21 April 2019, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had telephoned Archbishop of Colombo His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and informed that it is not possible to implement all the recommendations of said report, claimed the Archbishop.
Speaking during a virtual discussion with a group of Sri Lankans living in Australia (in which Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera and several other religious leaders also participated), he said: “When the President received a copy of said PCoI report, he appointed several members of his Government to implement or reject some of the PCoI’s recommendations, which was a political decision in the President’s interest. He told me that not all of the recommendations could be implemented since doing so would make him unpopular.”
Prior to the Presidential Election in 2019, the Archbishop claimed that then presidential candidate Rajapaksa was seen going around the country, promising to bring justice to the Easter Sunday terror attacks victims when he came to power. He also said that the President had pledged to implement the PCoI’s recommendations during a meeting with the bishops, held prior to the release of the PCoI report, as soon as he took office.
However, the Archbishop said that so far, most of the recommendations made by the PCoI have not been implemented, and that the present Government and current leaders have shattered all hopes of the victims.
“Due to these matters, time has been wasted, and we all lost hope. This report shows that the Attorney General (AG) should question about suspicious incidents from the intelligence services, but such a thing has not taken place so far. They have become mere words and the current Government and leaders have shattered all the hopes of the victims. We are amazed at their behaviour,” he charged.
Speaking further, the Archbishop added that the support of the international community was needed to find out who really was behind the Easter Sunday terror attacks.
When inquired about the allegations made by the Archbishop, President’s Spokesman Kingsly Rathnayake told The Morning that the President has not yet made an official response to it. “I also saw this circulating on social media platforms, but I have not yet been instructed to issue an official statement,” he said.
On 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, three churches (St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, and Zion Church in Batticaloa) and three luxury hotels in Colombo (Cinnamon Grand Colombo, The Kingsbury Colombo, and Shangri-La Colombo) were targeted in a series of co-ordinated suicide bombings. Later that day, another two bomb explosions took place at a house in Dematagoda and the Tropical Inn Lodge in Dehiwala.
A total of 269 people excluding the bombers were killed in the bombings, including about 45 foreign nationals, while at least 500 were injured. All eight of the suicide bombers in the attacks were Sri Lankan citizens associated with the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) organisation founded by the suicide bomber at Shangri-La Colombo, Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zaharan alias Zaharan Hashim.