President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBC) Most Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony Perera said there was absolutely no difference of opinion between the CBC and Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm
Cardinal Ranjith on the responsibility on the part of the government to punish those who planned suicide attacks or neglected public security.
Bishop Perera reiterated their longstanding demand for the implementation of the recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) in its final report handed over to former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 01 February, 2021.
Pointing out that incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe took over the Office of the President 14 months ago, Bishop Perera stressed the inordinate delay in addressing the issue.
Bishop Perera said so in response to The Island query whether the Catholic Bishops’ Conference differed from the Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s stand on the Easter Sunday culpability. Bishop Perera received the appointment as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in June last year.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, during an interview with Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international news broadcaster, recently in Berlin, asked whether DW had raised the issue at hand with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
When the interviewer acknowledged DW hadn’t done so, President Wickremesinghe declared that a particular question shouldn’t be posed to him.
President Wickremesinghe categorically stated that no international investigation would be held into the Easter Sunday carnage.
Bishop Perera said that the President had visited him in early October last year, in Kurunegala, and he had on behalf of the Catholic Church emphasised the need to bring the investigations into a successful conclusion.
The Bishop said that there couldn’t be any issue whatsoever regarding the Cardinal’s stand and that of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference as the former represented the body consisting of 15. One position remained vacant.
Responding to another query, Bishop Perera acknowledged that the appointment of a six-member ministerial team to examine the PCoI report on 20 February, 2021 caused suspicions not only among the Catholic community but all other concerned parties as well.
The Bishop said that he was surprised by the controversy over the calls for an international inquiry as President Wickremesinghe himself declared his intention to seek the assistance of Scotland Yard over a year ago.
The Bishop stressed that the urgent need was to implement the PCoI recommendations.
The Bishop said that the government couldn’t, under any circumstances, absolve itself of the responsibility for implementing recommendations made by its own inquiring authority.
Top spokesperson for the Catholic Church Rev Father Cyril Gamini Fernando said that President Wickremesinghe’s dismissal of international inquiry during an interview with German broadcaster was quite surprising as the government repeatedly declared direct involvement of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US, Australian Federal Police as well as the Maldivian Intelligence Services in the Easter Sunday investigations.
The priest said that President Wickremesinghe actually owed an explanation why the PCoI recommendations couldn’t be implemented. In fact, the ruling SLPP, too, couldn’t remain silent, especially against the backdrop of accusations that the Easter Sunday carnage facilitated their 2019 presidential polls campaign.
Rev. Father Fernando said that the US and Australian investigators were here in April/May 2019 and the government continued to receive international assistance at different levels. The crux of the matter is the government’s refusal so far to implement PCoI recommendations, the priest said. Had the government done so, the continuing hostile public view would change, the priest said.
The government recently proved its insensitivity in this regard again when Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena, who had been named by the PCoI and against whom recommendation to the Attorney General to the effect that he (AG) consider criminal proceedings against the Director, State Intelligence Service (SIS) under any suitable provision in the Penal Code was asked to brief parliamentarians as regards the status of the inquiry, the Church’s spokesperson said.
Rev. Fernando said that they were aware the US pointed out to Sri Lanka in April last year there wouldn’t be any purpose in an additional US investigation as they have completed a comprehensive inquiry into the attacks and criminal complaint filed against those responsible for the deaths of US citizens. Forty-five foreigners also perished in those multiple blasts.