By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Hierarchy Takes Over Protest Project
Around March 2021 we saw black flags all over the Catholic belt in Sri Lanka coming up in rare collective discipline. Government got scared. What with all the burgeoning problems like no forex, surging cost of living and lack of money to buy essential food and medicine for the people. The demonstrations threatened to continue until demands for an impartial inquiry into the 2019 Easter Sunday bombing are met as promised by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election platform. Catholic rank and file were determined. Alas! The hierarchy of the church, in a subtle maneuver, took over the protest project. Ever since that nothing ever seems happening and the ordinary catholic folk are surrendering to the inevitable. The protest is diluted.
Over 260 persons both praying in Churches for Easter and those in hotels went to pieces in one of the major bombings in recent history. The magnitude and exceptional nature of the massacre was such that any country should have gone into action and got hold the culprits within three months. But this did not happen. The episode occurred during the last months of the Yahapalanaya government. President Sirisena who was in charge of defence just played around. Sisena deliberately kept the Prime Minister in the dark and prohibited his attendance at Security Council meetings. As though preplanned, Sirisena fled to Singapore for some inconsequential reason and he arrived after the deed was done
The president showed no shock and he reacted as though it was all another thing that happens. However, he was quick to appoint a Presidential Commission to make inquiry. The Commission made some vague statements putting the blame on the government. It did, however, cast suspicion on Sirisena and wanted the latter and some others investigated.
The fact is that by this time Sirisena was persona non grata with Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP government. He had been attempting to conspire with some UNPers to leave the party. Apparently President Sirisena had previously set up the 52 -day illegal government headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa to enable the Rajapaksas to get hold of the government machinery for some sordid purpose. These reminded many as Macbeth – like sinister acts done in preparation for something bigger.
One does not need big brains to perceive that President Maitripala Sirisena would have played a pivotal role in this mass tragedy. At least the forgoing facts can enable one to set up a hypothesis centred around a macabre Sirisena.
On the other hand, those entrusted with the promised investigation are not setting up a hypothesis like this. Without a hypothesis no investigation of this sort can succeed. President Maitripala behaves as though nothing at all had happened. He is a good actor and he is able to ignore an evil deed of his with much ease until the public begins to think that he should be off the hook
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith
Why blame Sirisena when His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith also appears vague and unfocused over this issue. This is the impression I got after watching a Webinar Organized day before yesterday (17/10). Now this is serious if true for the simple reason that he has officially taken over the protest on behalf of the rank and file who had been asked to fold up their black flags. The Webinar was arranged by Australian Catholics.
The Cardinal appeared lacklustre from the commencement of his address at the seminar. His body language was zero. He seemed waving here and there without having a target or devoid of a reasonable hypothesis. Cardinal went on for a long time putting the blame “On politicians,” at large. What a vague and untrue generalization! Does the TNA carry blame? JVP? UNP? Certainly not. Then why try to dilute by unfair sharing? When you apportion the blame for the attack on all politicians, that is the surest path to confusing any inquiry. Cardinal Ranjith should have enough political literacy to narrow down the target toward the current government, as this government had been the first beneficiary of the blast. It is sound hypothesis to assert that leaders who brought this government to power are possible offenders. Upon such a hypothesis investigations must be worked out. In the event that this theory is contradicted by evidence then we have to think of other hypotheses. All crime investigators go on hypotheses. That gives them direction.
On the other hand, for His Eminence “all politicians” are responsible. That assumption simply makes no sense and it only helps to dilute investigations.
This ambiguity on the part of the chief Catholic prosecutor makes his prosecution case lack target and focus. The right thing for Cardinal to do is to go, for now, on the hypothesis that government leaders are behind it. He can change his opinion after investigations into this and switch onto another. The progress of different hypothesis will eventually bring out a definite picture about what really had occurred.
Secondly, instead of just asking for an inquiry Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith can demand that initial action be taken about Sirisena and others named by the Presidential Commission. Is he scared to do that because Sirisena is in the government camp?
A prosecution moving this way can tighten the grip of a reluctant government.
On the other hand, what we observe now happening is a meek request to “do something and try and find those responsible-if you can.”
Demands must be well- targeted and specific, giving deadlines. If government is guilty, as in my view it is, it is not going to do anything serious about this; it would not even touch Maitripala Sirisena
Show Game or Pradarshanaya
Big suspicions crept my mind after the Webinar. Is His Holiness acting to a script to make a good show suggesting he is doing something? Or is it all pradarshanaya? The latter term is now used to describe government leaders-President, Prime Minister and ministers as pradarshanakaarayin or showmen. The idea is to show you are at it; whereas you are not. The cardinal’s past performance is such (e.g. visiting fasting Revd Athuraliye Rathana) that there is credence for such a supposition.