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Cardinal calls for justice and change in Lanka



Demonstrators in Galle Face light candles during a silent protest to pay respect to the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings

Vatican News: Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, is in Rome to mark the anniversary of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka.

Pope Francis is meeting participants in St. Peter’s Basilica after a Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica. The event comes a few days after a Mass celebrated by the Sri Lankan Cardinal on 21 April, during which the prelate delivered a hard-hitting speech blaming the country’s President and his government for failing to keep their pledge to grant justice to the victims and cleanse the country of “all elements of terror”.

Three years from the coordinated bombings that wrought death, injury and destruction, mostly amongst the Christian community, investigations have proved insufficient and recommendations issued by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry have not been implemented. Furthermore, the government, it is alleged, is covering up the truth in order to hide its own involvement.

The country’s top Catholic leader has tirelessly pushed for truth, calling for accountability and transparency. Together with other faith leaders of the island nation, he has given voice to the people’s growing anger and dissent as they suffer one of the worst economic crises the country has ever seen.

Speaking to Vatican Radio just before the Mass in the Vatican on 25 April, he explained that the country’s current rulers are accused of corruption and mismanagement that have brought about the spiralling crisis, and are facing serious accusations they not only have not sought justice for the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings in which 269 people were killed and more than 500 were injured, but have sought to bury evidence the attacks may have been carried out for political aims to favour their own re-election.

Cardinal Ranjith explained that the prevailing narrative led most people to believe that those attacks were carried out in an atmosphere of Islamic fanaticism, but, he said “elements of testimony emerged that these attacks had something more than just an Islamic connotation.”

The Cardinal went on to say that there is emerging evidence to the effect that the government, and especially the intelligence wing of the military, had contacts with the terrorists who carried out the attacks.

Notwithstanding insistent requests that those contacts be investigated, he added, nothing has happened.

He listed a number of reasons that point to the involvement of the government and to something more than “simply an Islamic attack” that have raised suspicions.

Cardinal Ranjith added that “after the Presidential Commission of Inquiry issued its report, the present government hesitated to carry out the recommendations or chose to carry out only those recommendations that refer to the Islamic community and tried to hide some of the recommendations, which would, if they are further investigated, reveal other angles of these attacks.”

Therefore, Cardinal Ranjith continued, “we are highly suspicious of these things and we want further investigations to be done.” Until then, the people who are injured and who have lost their loved ones, will not get justice.

This serious situation of suspicion and lack of trust in the government is currently compounded by the socio-economic crisis that is triggering protests and even violence.

The Cardinal looked back at years of “inefficient management of the country, of its economy, and wrong policy decisions that have led to a total collapse of the national economy.”

“Right now in Sri Lanka,” he said, “people are not able to make ends meet (…) because of lack of employment, a lack of income, the rising prices of items and sometimes scarcity of items, like the difficulty in obtaining fuel for the maintenance of life, as well as the lack of electricity, lack of gas, various other items for daily sustenance.”

All this, he said, has led to a general feeling of total dissatisfaction and the realisation that the country has collapsed and it is a failed state.

Cardinal Ranjith went on to illustrate a desperate situation caused by the total breakdown of trust in the entire political system, including the Opposition.

The country’s main religious leaders have sought to into this vacuum.

“We hope,” he continued, ” that we will be able to sustain this country and make it work once again. So it has become the role of the religious leaders to assist the people to get out of this situation.”

“Along with the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, we Christians can work together and thinking about the country as a whole, not just only our people. We can try to work out a solution to this present crisis,” he said.

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Dhammika asks Ranil to resign as FM



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Investment Promotion, Dhammika Perera, yesterday told the media, in Colombo, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had to resign from his post as Finance Minister.

Minister Perera said that the Prime Minister was blocking all dollar earnings, borrowings, bridging finance, available essential food credit lines and other credit lines.

“I am joining the Aragalaya from today. I have been in the government for seven days. I have seen what happens. The Prime Minister must stop his political game as the Minister of Finance,” he said.

Perera added that Wickremesinghe had no plan to boost the cash flow, about feeding people, or bringing in dollars.

The Minister of Investment Promotion said that instead of describing the people’s economic woes, the Finance Ministry had to find solutions.

“For example, the proposal to give investors 10-year multiple visas was finalised some time ago. One month has since elapsed, but the Treasury is sitting on it. This is because Ranil is in the habit of stopping projects if they bring in dollars. More than 50 people have come to get the visa by paying 100,000 USD.

About 300 more are on the list. We can bring in 30 million dollars to Sri Lanka, this month, with the help of this visa scheme. Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister is inviting disaster,” Minister Perera said.

Perera added that while Wickremesinghe could continue as the Prime Minister, but as the Finance Minister, the latter had no desire to resolve the foreign currency crisis. All of Sri Lanka’s economic woes are linked to the dollar shortage, he said.

“I challenge Ranil and his economic experts to an open media debate. Maybe he can answer my questions. I challenged him to a debate in 2019, and he ran away. I am challenging him again,” Minister Perera said.

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JVP Leader accuses govt. of hatching plot against his party



By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday said that the government was planning to suppress his party by levelling false allegations against the latter.

Addressing the media at the party headquarters, Pelawatte, Dissanayake said that the plot hatched by the government could lead to bloodshed.

“A video has been released, on social media, instructing how to make Molotov Cocktails. The voice, in the footage, instructs the viewer to make bombs in a similar manner, and tie them to their bodies and explode themselves at the President’s House. The video says that after the explosion I would be appointed the President. Anyone would know that the JVP would not do anything stupid like that. This video is another attempt by the government to justify the use of violence against its critics. There have been similar instances in the past and this country has suffered heavily as a result,” Dissanayake said.

He said that his party lawyers would submit the video to the CID and demand an investigation from the police on who had created and uploaded it to social media. “There is a massive protest to be held in Colombo centering the Galle Face Aragalaya.

“We, too, will participate in it. The government’s response to the protests is to use the police and the army. In addition there are several other developments, including the creation of a para-military force against us. Each SLPP MP is given a chance to recruit five persons, loyal to him or her, as home guards to provide security to the MP. There was a letter from the IGP to Defence Secretary warning of possible bomb attacks. Our party’s name is there in that warning. I have queried this letter in Parliament, too, yet there is no explanation yet. It is in the same context some MPs have requested for personal firearms from the Defence Ministry. Taken together, these developments could indicate the plans of government suppression and what is there in store for us. We do not think that they could fool the people with these tricks. The CID is capable of investigating and finding the sources of any video against the President, in social media, within 24 hours. So we expect the same expedient action would be taken with regard to our complaint, too,” Dissanayake said.

He said that the JVP was prepared to stabilize the country and help bring it out of the current crisis in a short period of time.

Dissanayake said the JVP does not intend to do it alone and was confident that the citizens of the country, and Lankans overseas, would extend their support to the party for this purpose.

“This crisis cannot be resolved by changing posts or individuals, and especially not through a government that has lost the trust of the people,” he added.

When inquired about Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement in Parliament on his willingness to step down to allow Dissanayake to implement his economic plans, the MP said he was prepared to take up the task.

He said, however, that the President and Prime Minister must resign if he were to take up the challenge and implement JVP’s programme to save the country from the crisis.

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Move to set-up smoke-free zones: PHI union says member engaged in project harassed; Ministry says action in line with establishment code



by Ifham Nizam

Public Health Inspectors’ Union has accused a section of the Health Ministry officials of working against a project to establish smoke-free zones in Sri Lanka.

The union alleged that a PHI who served the anti-tobacco campaign and went to the extent of sacrificing his personal leave for the same had been denied annual increments.

It said that the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) organised a project, under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), to set up at least one smoke-free zone in each Medical Officer of Health Division countrywide. The union said that it played a significant role in the project.

The union alleged that PHI T. G. S. L. Prakash, of the Principal Public Health Inspectors’ Unit of the Ministry of Health, had been invited as a resource person as he innovated a 10-step process for establishing smoke-free zones for combatting second hand smoke.

However, the Deputy Director General (Public Health Services) of the Ministry of Health Dr. S. M. Arnold had obstructed the project by blocking Prakash’s participation, the union alleged.

Responding to The Island queries, Dr. S. M. Arnold said that he acted in terms of the Establishment Code and recommendations made by the relevant committee. Dr. Arnold said that the PHI concerned applied for leave for his PhD on Elephant Ecology study overseas, and work-related to NATA did not come under their purview. Dr. Arnold pointed out that the PHI Union President was also working for NATA.

Public Health Inspectors’ Union, President. Upul Rohana has previously asked the Health Secretary to conduct an investigation into the conduct of Dr. S. M. Arnold. According to the union for more than five years, PHI Prakash has conducted various research on the establishment of smoke-free zones in collaboration with NATA and the WHO and published and presented the research results at local and international fora.

The union said that the Chairman of NATA had requested that PHI Prakash to participate in the project as the outfit could benefit from his experience and expertise he had gained overseas in tobacco prevention.

The union claimed that the PHI concerned had participated in the project utilising his personal leave. The union alleged that Dr. Arnold had said that he wouldn’t recommend the annual salary increment for the particular PHI Prakash as his attendance was unsatisfactory.

PHI Chief Rohana emphasised that the concerned Deputy Director General continued to harass the officers who volunteered for their duties, abusing the power of his positio. He said although the union had complained to the health authorities, no action has been taken in that regard so far and their union would not hesitate to resort to trade union action seeking justice.

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