Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa promises justice to Easter Sunday attack victims

PTI, Apr 21, 2022, 6:35 PM IST

The Sri Lankan government will not rest until justice has been served to the guilty behind the 2019 Easter terror attacks, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed on Thursday as the island nation marked the third anniversary of the worst terror incident that killed 270 people, including 11 Indians.

”Today we remember with grief, the tragic events that transpired 3 years ago on that fateful #Easter morning. We mourn the loss of innocent lives and the lives that were impacted. #GoSL has since made every attempt, to bring those responsible to justice,” Rajapaksa tweeted.

Nine suicide bombers belonging to local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three Catholic churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, 2019, killing nearly 270 people, including 11 Indians, and injuring over 500.

The attack stirred a political storm as the then government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were blamed for their inability to prevent the attacks despite prior intelligence being made available.

”Thus far 735 persons have been taken into custody, 27 cases against 79 persons have been filed under 25,653 charges. The govt. will not rest until justice has been served to the guilty with strict adherence to rule of law and due process,” Rajapaksa said in another tweet.

The victims’ families led by the head of the local church, Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, have been critical of the slow pace of the investigations which they claim is a political ploy for cover up.

On Sunday, hundreds of people staged a silent protest in Sri Lanka’s capital, demanding justice for the victims of the Easter terror attacks.

The protesters joined hundreds of people camping near the President’s Office in Colombo seeking resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and all members of his family from the government over the worst economic crisis that has caused critical shortages of fuel, food and medicines in the country.

Displaying banners and placards, protesters called for justice for the victims of the Easter attacks.

”3 years and still no justice,” read a banner carried by protesters who walked a 5-mile stretch to the site to be joined by thousands who have been carrying out the protest since April 9 demanding President Gotabaya’s resignation over the unprecedented economic crisis – the worst-ever in the country’s history.

A special presidential probe found then president Sirisena himself along with a host of other top defence officials guilty of ignoring prior intelligence.

The panel report had recommended criminal action against them.

Archbishop Ranjith has been regularly expressing disappointment over the police investigation and its slow nature.

In November last, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked his detractors to be careful while demanding quick action against the perpetrators of the deadly Easter terror attacks, warning that his government can ”act tough” on the critics if the need arises.

He had said the judicial proceedings were underway and his government will not interfere in them.

President Rajapaksa is the younger brother of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The two brothers led a decisive campaign that helped end the island nation’s three decade long civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

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