Sri Lankan cardinal condemns premier’s Vatican visit

Sri Lankan cardinal condemns premier’s Vatican visit

Cardinal Ranjith alleges the prime minister will attempt to mislead the pope over the Easter attacks probe

UCA News reporter, Colombo  Published: September 09, 2021 07:17 AM GMT
Sri Lankan cardinal condemns premier's Vatican visit
The congregation of St. Sebastian’s Church, which was targeted in the Easter bombings of 2019, hold a protest on the second anniversary of the attack on April 21 demanding justice for those who lost their lives. (Photo: AFP)

An outspoken Sri Lankan cardinal has criticized the prime minister and foreign affairs minister for their visit to the Vatican and their attempt to meet with Pope Francis and brief him on the progress of investigations into the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith alleged that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris will try to mislead the pope and the international community over the investigations during their trip to Italy, which began on Sept. 9.

“It is another government campaign to cover up the truth over the Easter Sunday investigations,” the cardinal said on Sept. 8.

The prelate condemned the government’s move and said the Church had already apprised Pope Francis of the situation.

“The Vatican is to refer the issue to the UN’s Human Rights Commission shortly. We have already informed the international community that this government is trying to cover up the investigation and that we do not see justice being done to the victims,” said Cardinal Ranjith.

Cardinal Ranjith last week imposed conditions to meet Peiris to discuss the progress of the investigations. He insisted that the government take action to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry before any meeting.

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

Rights activist Shehan Malaka Gamage has been questioned for several days for a statement he made to the media regarding the Easter attacks.

Peter Fernando, a victim from Negombo, said that although the commission had recommended that legal action be taken against former president Maithripala Sirisena, they suspect that the government is trying to protect some of the accused.

Fernando said the victims disapproved of a group of police officers who allegedly met with senior Buddhist monks and requested the monks intervene to rectify the unjust verdict given by the commission, claiming they were victims of ethnic prejudice.

“If they have any charges, they should go to the court,” said Fernando.

The foreign affairs minister said in a statement that the prime minister and foreign minister will not be meeting Pope Francis.

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