MUMBAI – Sri Lankan Catholics are objecting to reports that a senior law enforcement official culpable for failing to stop an anti-Christian terrorist attack in 2019 that left 270 people dead is set to be appointed as the country’s most senior law enforcement officer.
On April 21, 2019, which was Easter Sunday, three churches and three luxury hotels were bombed in a series of coordinated attacks. ISIS spokespersons would later take credit for the bombings, saying the targets had been Christians and citizens of countries involved in the anti-ISIS coalition.
A Presidential Commission of Inquiry after the bombings concluded that there had been intelligence warnings from both local and foreign sources of an impending attack which had been ignored by key officials, including Nilantha Jayawardena, who at the time served as the Senior Deputy Inspector General of the Sri Lankan police and also head of the State Intelligence Service.
Reports suggested that Jayawardena had received a warning from Indian intelligence officials of a possible attack three weeks in advance, but failed to act.
According to the probe’s conclusions, Jayawardena also erased data regarding the bombings from police computers. The commission recommended action against Jayawardena under the provisions of Sri Lanka’s Penal Code.
Last April, a senior Sri Lankan attorney named Mohan Weerakoon charged that Jayawardena had received an initial indication of danger on April 4, 2019, but did not act on the information until April 20, just 24 hours before the attack.
In the aftermath of the bombings, Jayawardena was assigned to a different position and later called as a witness in legal proceedings against other officials. According to media reports, Jayawardena is now set to be appointed to the position of the Inspector General of Police, which would make him the most senior law enforcement officer in the country and second only to the Minister of Law and Order.
Father Cyril Gamini, a spokesman for Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, the national capital, objected to the appointment, insisting that Jayawardena should be held accountable for the failures in 2019 and that promoting him instead may be part of an effort to cover up the truth about the Easter bombings.
“We condemn the move to appoint him the Inspector General of Police despite his dereliction of duties,” Gamini said. He made the comments during a Jan. 9 news conference held at Ranjith’s residence.
“This is a betrayal of all Sri Lankans seeking justice. This is an act of treachery against those who perished in the carnage and their relatives. This is an insult to Catholics and Christians,” he said.
“It is also clear that It is also clear that the incumbent government, led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, is working according to a sinister plan to protect those responsible for the carnage and to hide the truth,” Gamini said.
At the time of the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019, Wickremesinghe was Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister under then-President Maithripala Sirisena.
“Appointments of this nature only make a mockery of the rule of law … This appointment would further tarnish the country’s image and would further isolate us internationally,” Gamini said.
“We demand justice. We call on people to join us, condemning this sinister move. We abhor this move to hide the truth. We vehemently oppose this act of insult against Catholics and Christians,” Gamini said.