Church urges justice for Sri Lankan rights activist

Church urges justice for Sri Lankan rights activist

Catholic has been questioned by the CID for five days over his statement on the 2019 Easter terror attacks

Published: August 30, 2021 10:21 AM GMT
Church urges justice for Sri Lankan rights activist
Black flags and placards are seen at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo on Aug. 21 in protest at the alleged failure to prosecute those responsible for the 2019 Easter Sunday bomb attacks. (Photo: AFP)

Church officials have urged the Sri Lankan government to give justice to a Catholic social activist who has been questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for five days over the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Shehan Malaka Gamage was grilled after a statement he made to media regarding the attacks of April 21, 2019.

Oblate Priest Father Rohan Silva said the Church and all others are on a journey to find truth and justice and all rights activists should be protected.

“Investigations should be directed in the right direction without trying to silence those who demand justice for the Easter Sunday attacks,” said Father Silva before going to the CID with Gamage on Aug. 30 morning.

“We must protect freedom of speech. The opposition parliamentarians, legal scholars, human rights defenders and the archbishop have stated that there are suspicions about the ongoing investigations.”

Father Silva and several other priests have accompanied Gamage to the CID on all five days.

“Gamage has done a survey on the information published in the media and is asking to find the mastermind behind the attacks,” Father Silva told UCA News.

“We see that senior police officers have met religious leaders asking them to protect their jobs from the investigations. It seems that they try to create unnecessary problems among religions.”

The senior police officers, who met chief Buddhist monks recently, requested the monks intervene to rectify the “unjust verdict” given by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the attacks.

The officers said the commission had done an injustice to many police officers who made sacrifices to end Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war.

Interfaith leaders also condemned a statement by senior police officers named by the commission that investigations and legal work connected to the probe had a racist and religious dimension.

A group of suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath attacked three churches and three luxury hotels in 2019, killing at least 269 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and injuring at least 500.

Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, a member of the archbishop’s Committee Seeking Justice for the April 21 Attacks, said the CID summoned Gamage because of his statement but some individuals have more information.

“This kind of questioning shows that we should not talk about the Easter attacks,” said Father Fernando.

“In such a repressive situation, it is clear to us that justice will not be served and we can’t keep trust to find those who are behind the conspiracy and the root cause.”

Saman Kapila Wijesuriya, a prominent journalist and editor of Vatican Winds, said there should be an international investigation.

He urged Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith to take bold and decisive steps to go to the international stage without further delay and before evidence is destroyed.

“Why not investigate the revelation by former IGP [inspector general of police] Pujith Jayasundara that there were links between the suicide bombers and several members of the military intelligence? Could the relationship between the intelligence services and the attackers not be a major obstacle to solving this mystery?” asked Wijesuriya.

“Why did then president Maithripala Sirisena go abroad without even appointing an acting defense minister despite receiving information about the Easter attack? Why did he turn off his phone when he was abroad despite such a catastrophe in the motherland?

“The Church must come forward to protect rights activists who raise their voices for justice.”

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