Cardinal Ranjith says has no faith in commissions
Posted on August 3rd, 2019

By Gagani Weerakoon Courtesy Ceylon Today


While urging the political leadership to come together to appoint an independent commission to investigate the Easter Sunday attacks, to ensure justice for the victims, Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith insisted that he will not have an audience with any future Presidential candidate until justice is meted out for the victims. In an interview with Ceylon Today, Cardinal Ranjith explains as to why he has no faith in the appointed commissions that are claiming to investigate the Easter Sunday attacks.Excerpts:


Some religious leaders seem to be much involved in politics and act according to political needs rather than their respective religious affairs. What is your take on this?


A. We can’t definitely say so. As religious leaders, we believe the teachings of religions should influence what is happening in the society. Within the teaching of our religions, the religious leaders should criticise or admire happenings in the society. They should challenge the conscience of people, if it is wrong and should take action to right that wrong. This is not politics. Politics is a party.

 A party believes in a certain philosophy or a theory to be true and works slave-like to promote that theory or philosophy. A party is a weapon used to promote a certain theory. Religious leaders don’t have to join a party to correct the wrong. We are above party politics.


Going by recent remarks, it appears that you are not convinced with the investigations or  the measures taken by authorities to mete out justice to the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks. On what ground do you suggest that things are not on track?


A. The justice we talk about is not repairing their broken houses or treating the injured or giving scholarships to some students. Lots of people who led ordinary and peaceful lives had their lives shattered by this attack. This creates a lot of stress in the minds of the victims. It cannot be cured by just money.


The suffering can be cured by answering some questions the victims have in their hearts. For example, some have lost their entire families. They say that they spend the whole day staring blankly at four walls of an empty house. They ask why such a thing happened. It is hard for us to answer such questions. A deep analysis is needed to answer these questions. That’s why I was adamant that an impartial investigation is much needed.


But there are two committees appointed. One by the President and the other by Parliament…


A. Members of some committees include party leaders. So definitely, the findings of those committees are heavily influenced by those parties.

 We want an unbiased, independent committee. A committee that wouldn’t bow down to the politicians in the Government or in the Opposition, a committee that can take actions independently and possesses the knowledge to answer the particular questions we have.  We can see that there are efforts to hide facts, and we find fault in both the Government and the Opposition for this state of affairs.

 What is happening is that the Opposition and the Government are merely trying to score points off this tragedy. They are all covering up for each other.

 Politics is preventing our people from getting justice


Are you referring to the Parliamentary Select Committee here?


A. I don’t like to dishonour them because it is Parliament. It may be a committee made out of selected Parliamentarians but I see it as something temporary. We don’t know yet whether we can agree 100 per cent with the findings and conclusions.


Why do you say so?


A. The members of that committee are representatives of political parties, actually from the same camp. They will always be biased. It should have been made up with the representation of all parties in Parliament.


That is how it was meant to be. But the Opposition evaded the opportunity?


A. That is true. I believe it was a mistake from their side. They should have participated in the PSC rather than washing their hands off it.


What kind of people should be appointed in an independent committee to be formed?


A. Experienced people from the fields of legal, medical and defence. People who are able to analyse these matters and can reach a conclusion, which can be made available to the people. All three (President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa) must come together and appoint the independent commission and should make sure that nothing is swept under the carpet and that the findings are made public.


Government officials who testified before the PSC have proved that the stakeholders in the Government are responsible for the attack. Don’t you think this is some kind of a progress?


A. Proceedings of the committee are published in newspapers. When reading those, it is clear that the whole mechanism operated in a thoroughly disorganised manner. It is clear that they were bothered about personal disputes rather than addressing the big picture, creating a constrained background where proceedings could not go independently.


You repeatedly say that this attack could well have been avoided. On what basis you make such claims?


A. Definitely, this could have been avoided. The main factor is the intelligence information we received from Indian intelligence services. Officials at the Indian High Commission told me multiple times that they have informed the Government about the possibility of an attack. 

The Government could and should have analysed that information. Security could have been tightened on the day. Religious leaders like us should have been informed. But, the Government did none of that. They just swept the whole thing under the rug.  


In your opinion, what could have gone wrong?


A. Maybe the Government thought that this is a joke and not a real threat. But as a responsible party, they can’t really excuse themselves saying that. They can’t point a finger at someone else and pass the blame. When Buddha statues were destroyed in Mawanella, the investigations subsequently led to the revelation of training camp and a massive ammunition dump in Wanathawillu. 

The Government should have been alarmed after finding explosives and detonators in Wanathawillu. That was how parties who are responsible for national security should have acted.


The Government claims they have arrested the whole network of groups who carried out this attack. Don’t you see this as progress made by the Government?


A. One person says so. Another says only 90 per cent is arrested. Some who testify… even the Army Commander says there still are some such members roaming. A few who had received that training were arrested recently. When Sarath Fonseka asked the Army Commander, he clearly said the danger is not yet over. So we can’t really say that this is now over or it is 99 per cent over or it is 95 per cent over. That type of talk is only good for kids.


So you admit the country is still in danger?


A. The issue is not yet over. Therefore, it is justified probing further into the matter and arresting personnel who had received the extremist training in order to prevent another bomb going off in the country. I heard the Prime Minister saying that this month of August is somewhat of a troublesome month.

 He said that we should tighten the security because in this month there is Kandy Perahera, Vel ceremonies in Kovils, and feasts are happening in the Madhu and Thalawila churches. Even the Prime Minister is admitting the danger is not yet over. Therefore, the intelligence sector should be strengthened more, do background checks more and should continue to ensure maximum security.


Some of your statements suggest that some politicians let these devastating incidents to take place for their political gains


A. I don’t think anyone who loves this country or with a conscience can cause such devastation to other people. I don’t think that they have planned this. This is a part of an international organisation. We know such type of bombings took place in multiple locations in Europe. But there are genuine concerns.

 It was revealed that IGP Pujith Jayasundara was not allowed to be present at the National Security Council. If so, it must be made clear who gave the orders. 

National security is not something that should be handled according to the whims and fancies of one individual or a group of people.


Head of CID SDIG Ravi Seneviratne came before the PSC and said there is no concrete evidence to prove the attacks were carried out by the IS. Do you share same sentiments or do you have a different take on this?


A. I was convinced this type of coordinated attack cannot be carried out by a random Muslim boy. There had been ammunition found. It proved to be suicide bombs. So who was behind it? The IS Leader in a video admitted to having carrying out these attacks. A random youth may carry out an isolated incident of stabbing, but not an attack of this scale. Even a juvenile can understand this and I don’t understand what these people say.


If there is a request for you to appear before the PSC to record a statement will you go?


A. No. I will not.


Why?


A. As I mentioned before, I have no faith in the independency of that committee. They are biased. I don’t think I should commit myself to something that does not appear convincing as providing concrete results.


You, in a recent press conference clarified that it was not the President that you implied when you spoke about ‘spineless leaders’. But as it is, it is evident even to a nursery kid that you were referring to President Sirisena?


A. As I said, during that media briefing, I did not direct that remark at the President. I did not say who I was referring to. I was talking about all 225 in the Parliament. If President felt that I was targeting him and he admits to it, I can’t help it.


Easter Sunday attacks clearly disturbed whatever little reconciliation the society had so far. In your opinion what should be the role of the political, civil and religious leaders in neutralising this situation?


A. Political leaders should make sure that truth behind this attack is brought out and measures taken to prevent future catastrophes. Civil and religious leaders should do their part by making sure that people do not take law into their hands and stay within what religion teaches them about peace.


What do you think the role of the Catholic community should be in the forthcoming presidential election?


A. I can’t advocate anything to them. But I can assure one thing. Catholic community in this country is not stupid.


(Pix by Udesh Ranasingha)

 CT Web 02:00 AM Aug 04 2019

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