10/08/2019, 17.21
SRI LANKA
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Lawyer priest leads claims for Easter victims who have the right to justice

by Melani Manel Perera

Card Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, backs Fr Ashok Stephen’s action to force the government “to take care of the people and protect the innocent".

 

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The victims of the attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday have the right to justice. Ordinary Sri Lankans also have the right to live in peace in the country. For this reason, Fr Ashok Stephen, a lawyer and former director of the Centre for Religion and Society (CSR), wanted the case to go to court.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that he is not alone in this initiative. " Fr Sarath Iddamalgoda, Fr Sherard Jayawardhana and Saliya Peiris, head of the Office for Missing Persons (OPM), are involved as well, as is the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. Card Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, backs the move.

"We are happy because the court has already heard the parties. We hope it will soon rule. We look forward to hearing the judges’ opinion. Like us, the victims of the tragedy are also anxiously waiting."

For Fr Ashok, the goal "is to force the government, through a ruling, to take care of the people and protect the innocent who do not obtain justice because they do not have the legal means to assert their rights".

The attacks on 21 April "occurred when people were praying in a place of worship. The terrorists violated the right to prayer and to life. Neither the government, nor the opposition, nor the president, nor security officials have assumed their responsibilities."

The right to life, "as established by the Constitution, has not been safeguarded. People live in a terrible state of danger. This has already happened in the past with the two regimes of Premadasa and Rajapaksa”.

As the presidential election on 16 November approaches, "we are at a turning point. Whoever takes over the next government, it must be made up of the right people doing the right thing, people who really care about the country's national security.”

Which is not what “the former secretary to the Defence Ministry and police chief did, who failed in their duty. Both are public officials paid with public money,” and are now under arrest.

For its part, the government set up an Office of Reparation (OR) to provide financial compensation for attack victims and property.

The Treasury has allocated one million rupees (US,500) per death, wounded and property loss. According to the latest figures (June 2019), 283.3 million were paid out for 263 dead and more than 600 wounded.

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