Prez meets chief of Catholic Bishops’ Conference
By Shamindra Ferdinando
President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Rt. Rev. Harold Anthony Perera, who is also the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kurunegala has told President Ranil Wickremesinghe that the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage had been denied justice.
Rt. Rev. Perera has stressed the responsibility on the part of the government to bring the perpetrators of the Easter massacre to justice.
The Bishop of Kurunegala said so in response to The Island query whether he raised the issues pertaining to the Easter Sunday massacre when President Wickremesinghe, accompanied by former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, paid a courtesy call on him on Sunday (02) at the Bishop’s House.
UNP leader Wickremesinghe served as the Prime Minister of the then Yahapalana government (2015-2019) blamed for failing to thwart multiple terror attacks.
Attacks on churches at Katuwapitiya, Colomba Kochchikade and Batticaloa and three hotels, namely Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury claimed the lives of nearly 270 and wounded over 400.
Declaring that there hasn’t been any change in their stance, Rt. Rev Perera disclosed that he also raised how some of the key suspects ended up as state witnesses. The Bishop of Kurunegala reminded the President of the failure on the part of the state intelligence apparatus to alert the Catholic Church of the impending suicide attacks.
The Bishop of Kurunegala quoted President Wickremesinghe as having said that he was exploring the possibility of securing the assistance of Scotland Yard to investigate the Easter attacks.
The Bishop of Kurunegala succeeded as the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference from the Bishop of Badulla, Winston Fernando, nearly two months ago.
Rt. Rev. Perera has also pointed out the continuing difficulties experienced by the people as the country struggled to cope up with the economic fallout.
Top spokesperson for the Church, Rev. Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, yesterday said that their struggle for justice would continue. Rev Father Fernando emphasized the responsibility of the government of the day to implement the recommendations made by Presidential Commission, appointed by the then President Maitripala Sirisena. Pointing out that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who succeeded Sirisena, too, endorsed the same Commission, Rev Father Fernando said that the perpetrators of this heinous crime couldn’t getaway through political jugglery.
The Commission made recommendations in respect of the then President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Since then Sirisena has entered Parliament, on the SLPP ticket, whereas Wickremesinghe secured the presidency, with the backing of the SLPP.
The meeting between the Bishop of Kurunegala and President Wickremesinghe took place in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that proceedings in respect of 12 fundamental rights cases filed in terms of the Article 35(1) couldn’t be continued against the latter since he now enjoyed the presidential immunity.
The ruling was delivered by a seven-judge-bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya. However, proceedings would continue in respect of Polonnaruwa District MP Sirisena.
Rev. Fernando said that they weren’t satisfied at all with the way law enforcement and judicial authorities handled the high profile investigations. Successive administrations had conveniently forgotten their own Presidential Commission report, Rev Fernando said, pointing out that none of the recommendations had been implemented.
Rev Fernando noted that the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), too, addressed the issue at hand.
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