Harin’s Cardinal error | Daily News


Harin’s Cardinal error

All Catholics of Sri Lanka, no doubt, would unreservedly condemn the remark made by former MP Harin Fernando targeting His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith to which the Archdiocese of Colombo had given a fitting reply.

It is unclear why Fernando, a Catholic himself, chose to resurrect a comment attributed to His Eminence some 15 months ago except that it is now election season and anything is fair game for politicians of Fernando’s calibre.

Harin has taken exception to an alleged comment made by His Eminence in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday carnage that he (Fernando) chose to remain silent about information pointing to an imminent attack on Churches, in the former MP’s possession. His Eminence, according to Harin, had stated at the time that the Ex-MP had kept this information to himself and kept it away from the Church letting hundreds of devotees perish in the bombings.

Addressing a meeting in Medirigiriya, Fernando stated that the Cardinal’s remarks reflected badly on himself and thus alienated the Catholic vote that would have definitely gone to Sajith Premadasa at the last Presidential Election. He (Fernando) obviously based his theory on his own self assessment that Catholics voted en bloc for the UNP at all past elections hinting that the Cardinal’s remarks about him (Fernando) not divulging this information, lost for Premadasa 80% of the Catholic vote.

This statement that Harin’s father was in possession of information about the Church bombings originated from the ex-MP himself well before the Cardinal allegedly made mention of this and it defies logic how it was His Eminence’s remark could have made a difference to the UNP vote since Fernando had already exposed himself to the Catholic community in this regard.

Hence, any loss in the Catholic vote for Premadasa should be squarely blamed on Fernando himself and not Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. In any event it is not clear on what basis Harin Fernando figured out that 80% of the Catholic vote invariably went to the UNP, since results of all recent elections hardly bears this out. At the Local Government elections in 2018, held one year before the Easter Sunday bombings, the SLPP romped home in all the Catholic electorates barring Negombo, with huge majorities. It was the same at the 2005 and 2010 Presidential elections as well when Mahinda Rajapaksa won handsomely against Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sarath Fonseka respectively in the Roman Catholic electorates.

Hence, although Catholics used to favour the UNP in the past this trend no longer holds true. The Easter Sunday blasts, no doubt went a long way in changing the equation as seen by the overwhelming victories notched by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the Catholic belt last November.

Hence, rather than blame His Eminence, the likes of Harin Fernando should turn the searchlight inwards and try to ascertain the true cause of the UNP losing the Catholic vote which hitherto it had taken for granted.

On the contrary, it was His Eminence who earned the respect and reverence of the Catholic community at a time of grave provocation in calming tempers and emotions and preventing a retaliatory bloodbath for which he also earned the esteem and admiration of all members of other faiths particularly the Buddhist clergy who rallied en masse behind him showering their assistance and commiserating with the Cardinal at the tragedy that befell his flock.

This, at a time when the country’s leadership was woefully found wanting and groping in the dark with the then President and the Prime Minister pointing the accusing finger at each other and the country’s security in a shambles with the people bracing themselves for further attacks.

Hence, instead of appreciating the leadership provided by the Cardinal to the Catholics and the role played by His Eminence in averting a calamity, when there was a glaring paucity of leadership in the country, it is unbecoming of Harin Fernando and Co. to look for a scapegoat in the Cardinal for his party losing the Catholic vote instead of trying to ascertain where things went wrong.

It is also unbecoming of him to give a political colouring to the statements made by His Eminence since the Catholic clergy and the Church hierarchy had always remained apolitical in this country and above siding with any political party or group.

Whatever remarks that may have been made by the Cardinal was therefore made in the backdrop of a grave tragedy that beset the Catholic community and with great pain of mind at the loss of valuable lives which could have been prevented if Harin Fernando had shared the information in his possession with the Church authorities, which would have definitely led to all Easter Sunday services being called off.

Even at this late stage it behoves on the Government to get to the bottom of what went wrong and find out the real masterminds behind the carnage as His Eminence has been repeatedly urging the authorities to do.

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