02/16/2022, 18.11
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Card Ranjith slams the authorities for arresting those seeking justice for the Easter Sunday attacks

by Melani Manel Perera

The archbishop of Colombo renews his criticism of the government, especially the Attorney General, as the work of the presidential commission collects dust. He critcises law enforcement for taking into custody activist Shehan Malaka Gamage. After hours of questioning, the young man was released on bail. For the cardinal, citizens’ fundamental rights are at risk.

Colombo (AsiaNews) –  Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo launched a scathing attack on the current government and the Attorney General who, instead of seeking justice, are going after those who are trying to uncover the truth about the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks

The people named by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry have not yet been prosecuted and the commission’s report has so far collected dust.

What especially angered the prelate was the arrest of Shehan Malaka Gamage, a young activist, who had been looking into the attacks.

At a press conference yesterday at the Bishop’s Residence, Card Ranjith accused the government of being "part of a conspiracy” linked to the attacks, while the fundamental rights of people in Sri Lanka are at risk.

“We are disappointed about the government’s oppressive actions against those who are seeking justice,” the cardinal said. In this regard, he urged “the public” to take the appropriate action in light of the situation, not least against what the cardinal calls the activist’s “abduction”.

Shehan Malaka Gamage was seized late Monday by agents of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and taken into custody. After being questioned for hours about the material he gathered about the attacks, he was released yesterday on bail.

The head of the Sri Lankan Church notes that were it not for the activist taping and posting the video of his arrest on social media, his fate would be unknown.

The prelate slams the police for what is tantamount to kidnapping. In the video, the young man can be heard saying: “I will face what comes, we are not afraid”.

For the archbishop of Colombo, the police and the Attorney General’s Office should act in the interest of the public, and this is not happening. Rather than justice, other objectives are being pursued.

“Activists demanding justice for the victims of the attacks are being arrested. Public servants are supposed to serve society and not act according to the whims and fancies of politicians.”

This attitude is even more ridiculous when the government is briefing the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) about the country’s human rights situation.

The video of the arrest and the cardinal’s reaction were shared online, and most people reacted positively to his frank and courageous stance, especially against a government that is increasingly perceived as corrupt.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Nandana Manatung, director of the Human Rights Commission of the Diocese of Kandy, described the news of the activist’s arrest, seizing him in a street like a thief or someone guilty of who knows what crimes, as “shocking”.

This is not a first time that Shehan finds himself in CID’s custody. Six months ago, he was questioned, an experience that was repeated only eight days ago.

“We know that he stands for justice on behalf of victims,” Fr Manatung explained. “We stand with him. When we got the news, we were involved in a human rights session. That evening we remembered him in our Mass and prayer.”

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