The head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, condemned the arrest of an activist and the attack on a journalist, who were vocal critics of the government’s investigation into the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.
“All citizens have the right to know the truth, and they get to know the truth through media,” the cardinal was quoted as saying by his spokesman, Father Cyril Gamini Fernando. “Therefore, an attack on media personnel is an effort to hide the truth,” he added.
Authorities on Monday, February 14, arrested activist Shehan Malaka Gamage over a statement he made last year on the government’s investigation into the attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo.
Also on Monday, at least three unidentified armed men shot at the residence of televisions journalist Chamuditha Samarawickrama.
Father Fernando noted that the incidents have taken place ahead of the UN Human Rights Council session later this month that “might adversely affect Sri Lanka internationally.”
“If Shehan Malaka did not go live on social media, the country would have never known that he was being forcefully taken away by a group in a white van,” Cardinal Ranjith said. “He had the courage to reveal this to the country,” said the prelate.
“Police officers must read the charges against any accused when making an arrest,” he said adding that Shehan Malaka was not arrested, but abducted in broad daylight. The cardinal said what the police did was “uncivilized and immoral.”
Shehan Malak was granted bail by the Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Cardinal Ranjith has repeatedly expressed his dismay over the delay in serving justice to families and victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.
“The recommendations of the Presidential Commission should be implemented and if they cannot do that, this task must be handed over to someone who can do it,” said the prelate in previous pronouncements.
“We have no politics, in this case, we only want justice to be done and the truth behind the attacks,” he said, as he appealed to authorities not to attempt to hide the truth.
Cardinal Ranjith noted that those in power are living as if nothing has happened, adding that it is not acceptable.
In November, Sri Lanka’s High Court began the trial of 25 men accused of plotting the Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 260 people and injured over 500 others.
Police have filed over 23,000 charges against the suspects, including conspiring to murder, aiding and abetting the attacks, and collecting arms and ammunition.
The coordinated suicide bombings on three churches, four hotels, and one housing complex on Easter Sunday in April 2019 took place amid Masses and religious services.
In various pronouncements, Cardinal Ranjith said he was not satisfied with the legal action currently being taken by the authorities against those suspected to be responsible for the bombings.