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The President of Sri Lanka vows to take action against the perpetrators of the Easter 2019 attacks

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Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, head of the local Catholic church, said action must be taken against former President Maithirpala Sirisena without delay

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has vowed to take action against the perpetrators of the deadly Easter attacks in 2019 that claimed 270 lives as members of the Christian minority community celebrated Easter Sunday across the island nation amid tight security.

Nine suicide bombers, belonging to the ISIS-linked local local Islamic extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ), carried out coordinated bombings that ripped through three churches and as many luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019, killing 270 people , including 11 Indians.

“The sad memory of the pain and loss caused by this tragic incident had not faded from the broken hearts of people suffering even today,” the President said in his Easter Sunday message.

President Rajapaksa vowed to take action against the perpetrators of the attacks. He said the government is determined to ensure national security in order to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.

He called on people to unite to overcome the various conflicts and disasters in today’s world.

Security in churches across Sri Lanka was strengthened in the run-up to Easter Sunday. Over 12,000 security personnel were deployed for church security. Security personnel include 9,350 police officers and 2,542 troops from the three forces (Army, Navy and Air Force).

Meanwhile, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, head of the local Catholic church, said on Sunday that action must be taken against former President Maithirpala Sirisena without delay as he has been responsible for the 2019 Easter attacks.

“I asked the President (Rajapaksa) to implement the recommendations of the presidential commission,” Cardinal Ranjith said as he addressed the Easter Sunday meeting.

He said a question arises as to whether some politicians held accountable are shameless in going before the people once again.

“Why wait for months to take action against the former president as he has been clearly held responsible for negligence when it comes to preventing Easter Sunday attacks despite receiving prior warning,” he asked.

The previous government headed by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was blamed for its inability to prevent deadly attacks despite previous intelligence information made available about impending terrorist attacks.

The Buddhist-majority nation was about to mark a decade since the end of a 37-year-old Tamil separatist war in May 2009 when suicide bombings in 2019 rocked the country.

The presidential panel report found that former President Sirisena and a host of other senior defense officials, including former defense secretaries, former IGPs and intelligence chiefs, were guilty of ignoring prior intelligence. The report recommended criminal action against officials.

Addressing Parliament last month, Mr Sirisena had denied any prior knowledge personally, but said intelligence information had been obtained from authorities prior to the attacks.

“If I had known about the intelligence information, I would have implemented a curfew, protected the churches and taken the necessary measures to arrest them and prevent attacks,” he had said.

Cardinal Ranjith, however, said Sirisena knew about the killer attack and that he still chose to go abroad. Sirisena was in Singapore when terrorists attacked churches on April 21, 2019.

“There is no need for any hesitation to take legal action against him,” the Cardinal said.

The Colombo Church has held a ‘Black Sunday’ congregation each week, seeking justice for the victims.

President Gotabaya has appointed a ministerial panel to look at the recommendations of the presidential panels. He will receive his report on Monday.

Mr Sirisena himself had appointed the presidential inquiry panel which saw him and the high fault of police intelligence.

The trial panel recommended that the Attorney General be relocated to take legal action against them.

Mr Sirisena, who did not run for a second term, is currently a member of parliament.

The Popular Front Alliance in Sri Lanka, which was then in opposition, had blamed the attacks on the failure of the security apparatus affected by the political withdrawal of the war between Mr Sirisena as president and his prime minister Wickremesinghe.

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