Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith fired a series of salvos against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa about his floundering over delivering justice for victims of the Easter Sunday terror attacks and the brazen way in which his Government was ignoring the pleas of Sri Lanka’s Catholic clergy, as he continued to insist that there was more to the terror attacks than meets the eye.
Addressing a special webinar organized by the Australia-Sri Lanka Forum for Justice for Easter Sunday Victims, the head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka all but accused the Government of using the bombings to attain political power, and related how President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had informed him that to act on all the recommendations of the Easter Sunday Commission would cost him popularity.
“The President before his election campaign went all over the place assuring our public that he will attend to this matter as soon as he comes to power. At a meeting held soon after his victory with the Bishops conference and with me. He assured us and promised us that he will carry on with the commission and implement all the decisions of the commission,” the Cardinal complained in a keynote address at the beginning of the webinar.
When President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the Easter Sunday Commission report, he immediately picked a group of ministers from his own Government, the Cardinal recalled. “This was a political decision and a political committee to pick and choose what (sections of the report) were to be implemented in order to protect his (Gotabaya’s) interests, and whatever should not be implemented, also to protect his (Gotabaya’s) interests,” the Cardinal charged.
“So it is very clear. Because two days after the report was handed over, he called me and asked me: ‘I cannot do all this. Because there are some provisions in the report, that if I implement I will become unpopular.'”
Slamming the President for cherry-picking recommendations by the Easter Sunday commission purely on the basis of political considerations, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said it had become obvious that the Attorney General too had become hostage to the Government’s agenda. Last week, when a fraud case involving Finance Minister and presidential sibling Basil Rajapaksa was taken up in court, Solicitor General Azad Navavi had appeared on behalf of the Attorney General’s Department, the Cardinal said, expressing disgust that the Attorney General was continuing to use the services of a prosecutor against whom the Presidential Commission investigating the Easter attacks had recommended criminal proceedings.
The Commission had also recommended that the Attorney General should order an investigation by the intelligence services to inquire into a “whole series of suspicious grey areas” with regard to the Easter bombings, the Cardinal charged. “But nothing has been done. No investigations are happening. We know from inside that it is only words they mention, and only a camouflage that’s happening,” he complained bitterly.
The Cardinal expressed deep disgruntlement over the conduct of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Government with regard to agitation and appeals from the Catholic community about an fair investigation into the bombings.
“I would say that the people who were expecting justice and to know the truth behind these attacks have been let down very badly by the present Government and the present leadership. We are absolutely shocked and horrified about this attitude and the rather brazenly harsh attitude of not at all considering repeated appeals sent by us,” Cardinal Ranjith told participants at a well-attended webinar.
The head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic church also resorted to a now familiar refrain that there was something bigger behind the Easter bombings. “This attack could not have been done by seven or eight extremist Muslims. There was something big behind. We want to know what was this big thing that was behind this attack. Until we know that, we will not be satisfied,” the Cardinal insisted.
He urged the international community to back the Catholic community in Sri Lanka to find out what truly transpired on Easter Sunday 2019. “Who really did it? Not just a few rabid Muslim extremists, but who made use of those characters in order to achieve political aims? We want to know,” the Cardinal charged.
“For over 70 years, Sri Lanka has suffered from all kinds of strategies used by political leaders to divide this country. To create trouble in this country and make use of that trouble to have their own way,” he accused.
The Cardinal said that the only part of the Commission on the Easter attacks released to the public was a kind of summary of its findings and recommendations. “We want to know on what they have based those findings. It is important for us to have knowledge of these 21 other books. They also have a huge volume of recorded statements, CDs and books sent to the AG. It is important that political leaders allow the truth to come out independently, If the present Government is not keen or is trying to hide it, it shows that this Government had some part in this Easter attack,” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith charged.
The webinar included a detailed presentation about incidents preceding the Easter bombings and their aftermath. The presentation referred to Zaharan Hashim and the NTJ in the years before the bombings, and how the NTJ was allegedly collaborating with the Directorate of Military Intelligence, directly under the supervision of then Brigadier Suresh Sallay.The presentation noted that Brigadier Sallay had in contact with NTJ members, served some time in Malaysia as a diplomat after the fall of the Rajapaksa administration in 2015 and was reportedly in India at the time of the Easter Sunday terror attacks. The presentation noted that Sallay, now Major General, was effectively the head of intelligence services after the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president. Maj.Gen. Sallay serves as Gotabaya’s chief of State Intelligence Services. The SIS Chief’s name has repeatedly been linked to the terror plot that propelled his political boss to power.
Questions and comments about NTJ being on the Ministry of Defence payroll as intelligence operatives while current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was serving as Secretary of Defence. The presentation also made reference to the timing of Candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private announcement that he would run for president, just days after the bombings, and made note of the fact that the former Defence Secretary was facing an internal fight over the candidacy within the SLPP, with several senior politicians wary of his untested political mettle, experience with party politics, deadly track record and strongman instincts.