A total of 42 people have been charged in the 2019 Easter bombings cases, the Sri Lankan police have said, dismissing Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s allegations that the attack was a ”conspiracy” by the current ruling party led by the powerful Rajapaksas, then in opposition, to gain power.
Nine suicide bombers belonging to local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three Catholic churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, 2019, killing nearly 270 people, including 11 Indians, and injuring over 500.
In a statement on Monday, the police noted that Cardinal Ranjith on Sunday expressed his views to suggest that the ”attacks were allowed to be carried out, despite having prior information about them, solely to obtain votes”. He also suggested that the bombings ”were a conspiracy by the present government (then in opposition)” and ”the detectives are not keen on revealing details regarding the investigations on the attacks”.
Police said all allegations labelled by the Archbishop are rejected as its investigation into the blasts so far has led to the filing of 12 cases in the High Court and 42 people being indicted. The attack stirred a political storm as the then government headed by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was blamed for its inability to prevent the attacks despite prior intelligence being made available. During his tenure, Sirisena formed a presidential panel to probe the attacks.
The special presidential probe found Sirisena himself along with a host of other top defence officials, including Fernando and Jayasundera, guilty of ignoring prior intelligence. The panel report had recommended criminal action against them.
Archbishop Ranjith has been regularly expressing disappointment over the police investigation and its slow nature. He claimed that police were acting to help a political cover up and demanded action against those found the probe panel to have been responsible for ignoring prior intelligence warnings on the attack.
The current ruling party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which was then in opposition, blamed Sirisena’s estranged relationship with Wickremesinghe as the cause for ignoring the warnings. The panel report has accused Wickremesinghe of appeasement of minority Muslim political allies for his inaction to tackle the rising Muslim extremism in the majority Buddhist island nation.
In November last, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked his detractors to be careful while demanding quick action against the perpetrators of the deadly Easter terror attacks, warning that his government can ”act tough” on the critics if the need arises. If they want rapid action, we could move Parliament to take away the civic rights of those responsible, he said, while addressing a public gathering in Colombo and alleging that his predecessor Sirisena neglected national security matters.
Rajapaksa had said the judicial proceedings were underway and his government will not interfere in them. President Rajapaksa is the younger brother of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The two brothers led a decisive campaign that helped end the island nation’s three decade long civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for two decades. Basil Rajapaksa, the youngest of Rajapaksa brothers, was in July sworn in as Sri Lanka’s Minister of Finance, becoming the fourth Rajapaksa brother and fifth member of the first family to enter the Cabinet. The eldest of the brothers, Chamal Rajapaksa, is a Cabinet Minister, as is Namal Rajapaksa, son of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Chamal’s son Shasheendra Rajapaksa is a non-cabinet minister.
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