Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo called on the population to demonstrate on August 21, 2021 to protest what he describes as the government's failure to shed light on the Easter Sunday 2019 attacks.
Raise a black flag on August 21 in front of your homes, institutions, and markets as a strong symbol of silent protest,” the Cardinal said at a press briefing on August 13. He added that he was not satisfied with the legal actions currently being taken by the authorities against those suspected of being responsible for the attacks.
More than 260 people died and more than 500 were injured in the coordinated suicide bombings against three churches, four hotels, and a building complex on Easter Sunday in April 2019. Several of the bombings took place during Mass and other religious services.
In a letter dated July 12, Cardinal Ranjith criticized the lethargy of the government investigation into the attacks. He also wondered why recommendations made by an official investigation into the attacks had yet to be acted upon. This was signed by Cardinal Ranjith and several bishops, as well as by nearly 30 priests.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's response “made no mention of any appropriate government action or investigation into the issues we have raised about the attacks,” the Colombo cardinal told reporters.
The Government's Explanations
As of August 11, Sri Lankan authorities said they had laid 23,270 charges against 25 people in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks. The charges are: conspiracy to commit murder, aiding and abetting, collecting arms and ammunition, and attempted murder.
The country's attorney general also asked the president of the Supreme Court to appoint a special three-member High Court tribunal to review the cases expeditiously.
Cardinal Ranjith, however, maintained that the investigation was not conducted properly, saying the real conspirators are still loose. “We will never be able to believe that the truth will come out of the current process,” he further explained.
In an earlier statement, the Archdiocese of Colombo said it is “clear” that the government “has no interest in finding out the truth about the attack and will cover it up and wash its hands of it.”
“The government took political advantage of the Easter Sunday attack,” the statement added. “Our country is still not secure and attacks like the one that took place on Easter Sunday are still possible at any time.” According to the statement, “the real killers must be identified and the country must know the truth.”
In October 2020, five of the seven suspects arrested in connection with the attacks were released by the government due to lack of evidence. The cardinal, however, said security officials confirmed to him that there was sufficient evidence against many of the suspects who had been arrested.
The Cardinal, as well as friends and families of the victims, have repeatedly expressed concern that the release of the suspects was due to corruption or the lack of a thorough investigation.