Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday attacks have been completed four years but the perpetrators are still at large.
Since successive governments in the Indian Ocean nation have preferred blame game than proper probe while victims and their families are waiting for justice.
The bomb blasts on churches in Colombo and Batticaloa, and three hotels On 21 April 2019 (Easter Sunday) in the island nation claimed the lives of more than 270 and injured more than 500.
Though the Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility, no direct links are found to the attacks, attributed to a local Islamist group, National Thowheed Jamath, that killed 47 foreigners from 14 countries, three police officers, and the eight bombers.
The Church in Sri Lanka has been making efforts and putting pressure on governments to bring the perpetrators of the carnage to justice. However, the mission led by Cardinal Ranjit Malcom of Colombo has not reached anywhere so far.
In a meeting with UN Human Rights Council members in March last year, the 75-year-old cardinal said the attacks, carried out by Sri Lankan nationals associated with a homegrown extremist group, were a “grand political plot.”
Six months after the bloody attacks in the South Asian nation where close to 70 percent of population are Buddhists, with Muslims, Hindus and Catholics making up nearly 7 percent, former president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, faced the polls with the promise of justice to the victims and won with a thumping majority.
Initially, Church officials, including Cardinal Ranjith, backed Rajapaksa, but later voiced concern over the tardy progress in the probe. The Church later came to the conclusion that the attacks had a political or electoral motive.
The bombings could have been averted had the government of the day, headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, acted on prior intelligence inputs.
In February 2021, a Presidential Commission of Inquiry noted that Sirisena and former intelligence chiefs should be implicated for their failure to prevent the bombings.
If prior intelligence output of the impending attacks was available to the government, why wasn't the information passed on to the Catholic Church? Asked Bishop Harold Anthony Perera of Kurunegal, the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCS), during a meeting with Wickremesinghe, who now serves as president of the country, last year.
Already, Wickremesinghe is on a safe wicket as the country’s top court has decided not to proceed with a petition because of the constitutional immunity given to presidents.
But former president Sirisena was not that lucky.
On Sept 16, 2022, a Sri Lankan court named him a suspect in the bombings. The magistrate's court in Colombo’s Fort area issued the order on a petition filed by Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, a member of the National Catholic Committee for Justice for Easter Sunday attack victims.
The supreme court in Sri Lanka has asked Sirisena to pay 100 million rupees ($273,300) from his personal savings in compensation to the victims and their families.
In August last year, Pope Francis gave about €100,000 (about 36 million rupees) to the victims of the attack while urging the authorities to reveal the names of persons responsible for the bombings on the churches and hotels.
The Church in Sri Lanka is skeptical about the political hierarchy in the country that failed to prevent the attack and some of them who benefitted from the deadly carnage.