The police have been on high alert at Catholic and Christian churches leading up to Easter Sunday celebrations today. Under a special security programme instructed by the Inspector-General of Police, churches around the country are being guarded by the police and army. “The government has a duty to look after its citizens. We have nothing [...]

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Govt. guards churches as Cardinal demands an answer

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Guard at St. Mary's Church Puttalam. Pic by Hiran Priyankara

The police have been on high alert at Catholic and Christian churches leading up to Easter Sunday celebrations today.

Under a special security programme instructed by the Inspector-General of Police, churches around the country are being guarded by the police and army.

“The government has a duty to look after its citizens. We have nothing to do with it,” Rev. Deninton Subasinghe, Secretary to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said, explaining that Archbishop’s House had not been consulted on the security measures. “Nothing verbally or in writing was discussed,” he said.

He said the government had not responded yet to the ultimatum issued by Cardinal Ranjith two weeks ago over the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

“If the government continues to ignore the ultimatum, the church would be driven to intensify the protest campaign demanding justice for the victims,” Rev. Subasinghe said.

Archbishop’s house last week demanded justice for the victims who died in the Easter Sunday chain bomb blasts, a deeper investigation into the bombings and for those responsible for the bombings to be punished.

Around 260 people were killed in six bomb blasts in 2019 that shook the nation, damaging three churches and three prominent hotels.

The church has warned a massive protest would be carried out on April 21, the anniversary of the bombings.

Rev. Subasinghe said the protests would intensify if the government continued to ignore the Church’s demands. “Our future course of action will be taken after discussion with the Council of Priests,” he said.

The church in the past several weeks has been agitating over the delay in investigating and bringing perpetrators of the bomb blasts to justice.

Cardinal Ranjith has several times voiced frustration over the inaction of the government.

A copy of the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) appointed by the then government of Ranil Wickramasinghe, nearly two years ago, was handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa only two weeks ago.

The report blames key officials and then president Maithripala Sirisena for the disaster but stopped short of naming those responsible for the blasts.

The Catholic Church said the recommendations only point fingers at the inaction of officials but fail to investigate the extremist movement and the bombers.

To mark its displeasure at the inordinate delay in giving justice to the blast victims, the church declared March 7 as Black Sunday, with all congregration members marching into churches in solidarity, wearing black as a show of mourning for the victims.

Church bells tolled at 8.45am, the time the bombs went off that day.

“April 21 is a deadline and we are awaiting a response from the government,” Rev. Subasinghe said.

The threat was resounding this week with banners on church premises calling for justice for the bombing victims and details of the perpetrators of the heinous crimes.

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