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Justice for Easter Sunday Victims: Will Opposition Act on Their Promises?

Updated: Apr 25

Election fever is hotting up in Sri Lanka, and this time around the most coveted by Opposition parties are those affected by the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

It's been a long five years of waiting for the masterminds to be publicly named and brought to justice. Yet, incumbent governments choose to ignore the plight of the injured, and surving family members and their cries for accountability. The governments of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe have studiously ignored the evidence placed before them. Instead, they've appointed those named and even fined by the courts for dereliction of duty to positions of command and power.

For five years the governments have thumbed their noses at the Catholic church leading the call for accountability and justice for the Easter Sunday bombings.

To fill that void, stride in the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB)and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) led National People's Power (NPP). Both parties are promising decisive action against the perpetrators whenever they win power.

In parliament ;ast year, SJB leader Sajith Premadasa revealed their plan of action. The proposal, which has been presented to Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, includes the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and prosecuting those found guilty. While the Commission of Inquiry would include foreign members, the investigating arm will be assisted by Scotland Yard and the FBI. Both the Attorney General and a Public Prosecutor would handle the prosecutions, and the SJB will set up a 'Special Court' also referred to as a Permanent High Court at Bar. Participating in yet another debate on this matter in Parliament on April 24th, Premadasa reiterated his government would launch a full investigation and charge the guilty.

The JVP/NPP meanwhile handed their proposal to the Cardinal to coincide with the 5th anniversary of the bombings, which fell on April 21st. While their proposal is silent on the inclusion of foriegners in any investigations, they promise to prosecute the conspirators and those who planned the attack. They also tell the masses that all those in government when the bombings occurred will be held accountable. While they will expedite the cases based on evidence from investigations already concluded they plan on paying compensation to victims and provide mental health care. Perhaps they aren't aware that the Church set up pscyhological services for the victims days after bombings.

Its seven point plan however, does not state who or where the guilty will be prosecuted. Nor is international involvement at any state of the investigations on the cards, under their proposal.

On Sunday April 21st, on the 5th anniversary of the bombings, some JVP members, known as Aluth Piyapath, stood in protest near the Viharamahadevi Park, calling for justice for Easter victims. The SJB leader and his wife, meanwhile participated in a memorial service of prayer and remembrance at St Mary's Home for the Elderly.

In the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings, the Cardinal indicated at every fora, that the Yahapalanaya government must be booted out. He has been heard making similar utterances about the current regime. And now, finally, he confesses that Gotabaya lied to him, when he promised to bring the guilty to book.

The Cardinal and his spokesmen have so far not let on which of the proposals they favour.

Making that public would be as good as signalling to the faithful who they should vote for.

In 2019 Gotabaya Rajapaksa won, with a majority of the population trusting his promise of enhanced security for the country, and to protect the Sinhala Buddhist identity. Sadly, he did not follow through on his promises.

In the run up to that election we saw an influx of voters looking favourably on GRs party. A deeply wounded catholic congregation jumped on that bandwagon.

Will they do the same this time around and vote overwhelmingly for the SJB or the JVP/NPP solely based on this emotionally charged Easter bombings issue?

Or would reviving the economy, fighting corruption and fixing the troubling law and order situaion be of more importance to the electorate:?

There is, of course, one good that has emerged from this tragedy; opposition parties are keeping the issue alive. And that gives those who have been fighting for justice these past five years some hope.

Lets pray the survivors and their families, and indeed the Catholic church will not be hoodwinked again!

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