The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo endangered the lives of hundreds of thousands of people today by becoming the newest, most far-reaching fake news source.
Rev. Fr. Deninton Subasinghe, the principle assistant Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Administration Secretary of the Archdiocese of Colombo, sent out an unverified mass text message to parish priests in the early hours of Monday, 13 May, claiming that he had intelligence on terrorists wearing military fatigues.
The full message read,
Forwarded from His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.
FOR URGENT ATTENTION
Dear Father, good morning. I have complaints of terrorists clad in Army and police uniforms coming to houses to attack with swords. Kindly be on alert and inform your parishioners not to open the door. God bless.
Fr Deninton Subasinghe
Security sources said that the message puts civilians at risk as police and military conducting legitimate search operations would treat those who refuse access as hindering searches. The Emergency Regulations under the State of Emergency authorise security personnel to use force to enter properties if necessary.
Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that the message was not cleared with the Cardinal before it was sent in the early hours of on Monday.
The message was expected to reach to reach nearly a million Roman Catholics which come under the nearly 250 parishes under the Archdiocese though parish priests, and the other ten diocese in Sri Lanka.
Multiple sources from the Archdiocese confirmed that Fr Subasinghe did not verify the information from government sources, nor did he inform or consult the military deployed to the Archbishop’s Residence before sending his message.
The Government and Security Services had earlier threatened that those who spread fake news that would incite violence will be arrested.
However, two sources from the newly set-up Joint Operations Command under Maj Gen Sathyapriya Liyanage said that they have been ordered not to scrutinise Fr Subasinghe’s actions.