Crime & Justice

Sri Lanka marks terror attacks anniversary with anti-government protests

Colombo, Apr 21 (EFE).- Cutting across religious lines, Sri Lankans assembled at a protest Thursday to mark the third anniversary of the Easter carnage amid ongoing demonstrations against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for allegedly failing to address the economic woes of the island nation.

Religious leaders expressed their solidarity in demanding justice for the Easter attack victims of the six attacks in April 2019 on three churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.

Catholic nuns and Muslim clerics offered meals to Buddhist monks in a tent in front of the protest site at the Galle Face Green park, outside the presidential office that has become the epicenter of anti-government protests in Colombo.

Two children who lost their parents in the carnage held the pictures of their loved ones in front of a vehicle carrying the statue of Jesus.

“The message we want to send from this event is to ask the government and Rajapaksa not to divide the religions,” Anston Colin, one of the organizers, told EFE.

“Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians have gathered to give this strong message. This government has played with our emotions and sentiments.”

Christians, who make up six percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population, have called for a deeper investigation into the attacks that left 269 dead and more than 400 injured.

The Islamic State terror network claimed responsibility for the attacks perpetrated by its local franchise National Thowheed Jamaat.

The massacre became a central part of Rajapaksa’s election campaign, promising peace and security on the island.

Catholic church leader Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith again criticized the government during a mass in the church of San Antonio de Colombo, where one of the attacks took place.

“The incumbent president who campaigned on a promise to investigate the attack has forgotten all those promises, brushed commission findings under the rug, attempted to hide some facts,” Ranjith said.

A Sri Lankan court acquitted former police chief Pujitha Jayasundara and former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, accused of inaction to prevent the terrorist attacks.

The court freed them in February due to lack of evidence, while the trial of 25 defendants began in November.

“I believe everyone responsible this will suffer the consequences of their actions soon,” the cardinal said.

The third anniversary of the attacks coincided with protests against the economic crisis that has caused shortages of essential products and fuel and led to power cuts of up to 13 hours a day.

For the 13th consecutive day, thousands of protesters gathered near the presidential office to protest against the government. One person died on Tuesday during clashes with the police.

“This president and government should step down,” Anju Perera, a young protester, told EFE.

“They are trying to make some superficial changes to manage the pressure. We need a complete change to make sure the same mistakes are not repeated.”

The opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) presented a draft constitutional amendment to clip the powers of Rajapaksa, which many believe was the reason for his economic mismanagement.

If passed with a two-thirds majority in the 225-member parliament, the amendment will abolish the executive presidential system and make the government accountable to the parliament. EFE

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