Cardinal in search of justice | Daily FT

The Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm, Cardinal Ranjith, this week met with Pope Francis and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in Rome and Geneva respectively. According to reports citing the Catholic Church, the subject of those discussions was the lack of progress in national legal processes to deliver justice for the Easter Sunday attacks that hit the Christian community the hardest in Sri Lanka, when three churches became the target of suicide bombers.

With his moves this week, the cardinal crossed the proverbial Rubicon on international justice, finally accepting that the local criminal justice system failed to hold the perpetrators accountable. His pleas to the international community echo the calls for justice made by thousands of Sri Lankan victims of atrocities and human rights abuses since the end of the civil war as, time and time again, the processes the island’s judiciaries simply fail.

After being elected on a national security and public order list following the 2019 bombings, after two years in office, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivered neither. Despite numerous Boards of Inquiry, law enforcement investigations, and a few indictments, no one directly responsible for the crime or guilty of criminal negligence has yet been held accountable in court for the Easter terrorist attacks. The whole process was also undermined by negotiations and political interference. For example, former President Maithripala Sirisena, who at the time was also Minister of Defense and Minister in charge of Police and all State Intelligence, received a free pass after returning to the perch in the bosom of the Rajapaksa regime.

That the Cardinal has now resorted to international legal and advocacy options is an indictment in the local justice system which for many years has failed the victims, whether it be the 100,000 people or disappeared or extrajudicially killed or those who are routinely murdered in state custody. The Easter terrorist attacks are just another reminder of this broken justice system. The failings are even more concerning after SSP (Rtd.) Shani Abeysekera’s latest claims that state intelligence agencies had repeatedly interfered in CID’s investigations into the terrorist cell and its networks before and after. attacks.

Abeysekera’s petition to the Supreme Court detailing these links has yet to be challenged or at least rejected by the government. The former CID leader made the allegations at risk of perjury and contempt of court and could be jailed if he lied in his Supreme Court petition. The fact that no denial, even symbolic, has been issued by the government regarding these serious allegations is astonishing.

Instead of seeking the truth and offering some semblance of justice to the victims, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration has been involved in a systematic effort to silence those who demand judgment. Shehan Malaka Gamage, an activist demanding justice for the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings, was arrested by the CID on February 14 in connection with a mafia kidnapping. Earlier, the CID questioned the Reverend Cyril Gamini Fernando, a Catholic priest, at length about a statement he allegedly made during a webinar. Such intimidation and harassment of individuals demanding the truth and seeking justice for the victims will only cement the idea that the current government and its military and security apparatus are involved in a grand conspiracy to cover up the true motives of the incident.

The cardinal has not always been a champion of human rights or efforts to seek justice for victims of state crimes internationally. Shortly before the Easter Sunday attacks, he proclaimed that human rights were “the religion of the West”. But there is no joy in this reversal of opinion by the head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, for it is the pain and denial of closure for his flock that the cardinal takes with him to Rome and in Geneva.

In his quest for justice for the victims of the heinous Easter bombings, it is hoped that Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith will also carry the prayers and appeals of thousands of Sri Lankans across the island who are still crying out for justice 10, 20 and 40 years on the road. God’s speed, Your Eminence.


Comments are closed.