Two years on, justice remains elusive to victims of 2019 Easter bombings in Sri Lanka

On 21 April 2019, Sri Lanka faced one of its worst terror attacks in decades

Oct 22, 2021
2019 Easter bombings in Sri Lanka

On 21 April 2019, Sri Lanka faced one of its worst terror attacks in decades. The Easter Sunday bombings--where a series of suicide bombers blew themselves--killed 259 people, mostly Christians. The attacks, executed by a local radical Islamist terror group, had not come without warning. However, over two and half years after the attacks, accountability and justice both remain elusive.  

From the political leadership at the time to security and intelligence heads, all who failed at their jobs faced public wrath. There were enough prior inputs, including from at least two foreign intelligence agencies-- including Indian--about potential terror attacks. Sri Lanka agencies failed to act in time. 

In the aftermath of the attack, Sri Lanka was a devastated nation. The government--then headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, which faced one of the most serious credibility crises, hurriedly announced, forming a presidential inquiry commission to investigate the lapses.  

The final report submitted to parliament this February recommended criminal charges against key officials, including former president Maithripala Sirisena and prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who failed to prevent the attacks, despite the early warnings. There were several other recommendations.

Since the attack involved high-profile leaders of the country’s political spectrum, things have not moved much since then. President Goatabaya Rajapaksa-led government--which came to power with a brute majority months after the attack, promising justice in the case--formed another commission to study the recommendations of the report. 

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic church, who has been a consistent and the most vocal voice seeking justice in the case, has on Thursday expressed doubt that if they would get justice under the present administration headed by the strongman of Sri Lankan politics, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, also known as a "terminator". 

“Anyone who comes to power through the blood of innocents will earn God’s wrath and will not enjoy that power for long,” Cardinal Ranjith was quoted as saying by The Economy Next at a commemoration event on Thursday, marking 30 months since the 2019 Easter bombings.

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the whole episode has been politicized since the start. There was an unwillingness among the political brass to fix the accountability. Now, there is an unwillingness to pursue actions and measures in the attack that virtually halted its tourism industry months before the Covid-16 did that. 

In economical terms alone, Sri Lanka lost over $2 billion annually--a huge account for a small island nation of around 20 million people.  

“When friends are accused, they are acquitted; opponents are punished even where no wrong has been done. In this context, it is clear we will not be able to get the recommendations of the [presidential commission of inquiry on the attack] implemented in the present administrative structure,” said the Cardinal, describing the chaotic political situation.