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Sri Lankan President vows action against perpetrators of 2019 Easter attacks

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. File   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has vowed to take action against the perpetrators of the deadly Easter attacks in 2019 that claimed 270 lives, as the minority Christian community members celebrated Easter Sunday across the island nation amid tight security.

Nine suicide bombers, belonging to local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS, carried out coordinated blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on the Easter Sunday in 2019, killing 270 people, including 11 Indians.

"The sorrowful memory of pain and loss caused by this tragic incident had not faded away from the broken hearts of the suffering people even today," the President said in his Easter Sunday message.

President Rajapaksa vowed to take action against the perpetrators of the attacks. He said the government is determined to ensure national security in order to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.

He called on the people to unite to overcome various conflicts and calamities in today’s world.

Security at churches across Sri Lanka was beefed in view of the Easter Sunday. Over 12,000 security personnel were deployed for the security of churches. The security personnel include 9,350 police officials and 2,542 troops from the tri forces (Army, Navy and Air Force).

Meanwhile, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the head of the local Catholic church, said on Sunday that action should be taken against former President Maithirpala Sirisena without delay as he has been held responsible for the Easter attacks in 2019.

"I asked the President (Rajapaksa) to implement the recommendations of the presidential commission," Cardinal Ranjith said while addressing the Easter Sunday gathering here.

He said a question arises whether some politicians who are held responsible are shameless to go before the people once again.

"Why wait for months to take action against the former President as he has been clearly held responsible for negligence when it comes to preventing the Easter Sunday attacks despite receiving prior warning," he questioned.

The previous government headed by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was blamed for its inability to prevent the deadly attacks despite the prior intelligence made available on the impending terror strikes.

The Buddhist-majority nation was about to mark a decade since ending a 37-year-long Tamil separatist war in May 2009 when the suicide bombings in 2019 rocked the country.

The presidential panel report found that former president Sirisena and a host of other top defence officials including, former defence secretaries, former IGPs and intelligence chiefs, were guilty of ignoring prior intelligence. The report recommended criminal action against the officials.

Addressing the Parliament last month, Mr Sirisena had denied any prior knowledge personally but said intelligence information had been received by the authorities before the attacks.

"If I knew about the intelligence information, I would have enforced a curfew, protected the churches and taken appropriate action to arrest them and prevent the attacks," he had said.

Cardinal Ranjith, however, said Mr Sirisena knew about the murderous attack and still he chose to go abroad. Sirisena was in Singapore when terrorists attacked churches on April 21, 2019.

"There need not be any hesitation to take legal action against him," the Cardinal said.

The Colombo Church has been holding a 'Black Sunday' congregation every week, demanding justice for the victims.

President Gotabaya has appointed a ministerial panel to look at the presidential panel’s recommendations. He will receive its report on Monday.

Mr Sirisena himself had appointed the presidential probe panel which found him and the top police intelligence brass culpable.

The panel had recommended that Attorney General be moved to take legal action against them.

Mr Sirisena, who did not run for a second term of presidency, is currently a member of parliament.

The ruling Sri Lanka People's Front alliance, which was then in Opposition, had blamed the attacks on the failure of the security apparatus affected by the political tug of war between Mr Sirisena as the president and his prime minister Wickremesinghe.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 5:50:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lankan-president-vows-action-against-perpetrators-of-easter-attacks/article34238205.ece

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