Easter Attacks: Two years on | Daily News

Easter Attacks: Two years on

Today marks the second anniversary of the Easter Sunday bombings – a monumental tragedy that will forever be etched in the minds of all Sri Lankans, Catholics in particular, not just for the horrendous nature of the carnage but also the unpardonable security blunders of the rulers at the time if not for whose criminal negligence and indifference the tragedy could have well been averted.

The bombings at two Catholic Churches, a denominational Church and three Five-Star hotels claimed the lives of 270 persons chiefly comprising worshippers at the Easter Sunday services and tourists and locals partaking of the Easter Sunday breakfast at the Five Star hotels, with over 500 injured, most of them maimed for life. Entire families were wiped out in the worst scene of the tragedy at St Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya while at the Zion Church in Batticaloa, a whole choir of little children was blown to bits by the mindless criminal act of the Islamist extremists.

Several events centred on the Churches are planned for today in memory of those departed and the injured, with the participation of family members. A call has also gone out from His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith to all Buddhist Temples and places of worship of other religions to join them in the symbolic marking of the event. No doubt His Eminence will have a special message to deliver on behalf of the families, centred on the topic of ensuring justice for his flock which has been a recurring theme since that tragic day. His Eminence certainly appears to be disillusioned going by the periodical reminders he has been giving the authorities to speed up investigations and bring to book all those responsible – not just the local planners but also the masterminds and those who sat by and allowed the tragedy to take place. One can certainly empathize with the frustration of His Eminence at the slow turn of the investigations and by the fact that we are no closer to getting to the bottom of the affair two years after the tragedy even though the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday carnage has shed light on the possible guilty parties.

The Cardinal who at first was cynical about the findings of the Commission now wants the authorities to act on its findings as a means of ensuring that the wheels of justice start moving. However understandable the frustration of His Eminence, it also has to be borne in mind that investigations are a painstaking affair and all loopholes in the law should be covered for a successful prosecution to stand. There are 357 suspects charged in connection with the Easter Sunday bombings by the Attorney General who will have to ensure watertight cases, which involves going through all the material with a fine-tooth comb.

However, His Eminence wants the authorities to extend the scope of the investigations to get at the real masterminds, including foreign involvement if any, which may complicate things and delay matters further. From the point of view of His Eminence, the coordinated attacks on the Churches, carried out with precision, could not have been conjured by run-of-the-mill terrorists but could be a calculated operation of a more sophisticated mind working behind the scenes.

How long is this stalemate going to continue – the Government insisting they have found the mastermind while the Cardinal is having other ideas? How will this state of affairs ensure justice to the aggrieved who have been crying out for justice for two years only to be confronted with hairsplitting by the two sides about the real culprits?

There would be many who would sympathize with His Eminence, who has taken upon the responsibility of bringing solace to the families of the victims. In this exercise the Cardinal has gone to great lengths even pitting himself against the authorities. In his quest for justice he has not only the Catholic community behind him but also the entire membership of the Maha Sangha who rallied to his support at the darkest hour to befall the local Catholic church assisting in rebuilding the devastated Churches and helping in numerous other ways at a time the country’s political leadership was groping in the dark.

Besides, it was through His Eminence’s singular efforts that religious clashes and a certain bloodbath was averted and he is obliged to his flock to have the true perpetrators of the crime identified and paraded before their own eyes .

Two years after the Easter Sunday carnage very little is known about the plight of the families of the victims. In most cases the breadwinners perished leaving their children orphaned and in other instances only the parents were left behind with the children gone. In the immediate heat of the moment much was done to provide succor to the remaining members of families such as schooling for the children and provision of monthly incomes with the intervention of the Church and voluntary organizations. Are these charitable acts still being continued two years on? This too needs an answer.