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AHRC’s Letter to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith on Sri Lanka Easter Sunday Attacks on Churches and Hotels
Dear Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith,
On behalf of the Asian Human Rights Commission, we are writing to express our solidarity with the catholic community in Sri Lanka, as well as the entire Sri Lankan people, who have experienced fear and trauma as a result of the brutal and horrendous terrorist attacks that killed more than 359 persons, and injured many more, as well as damaging three churches and some tourist hotels. At this painful time, we wish to share through you our concern and support for the families of those who have suffered, and for all the members of the Catholic community, who have been shaken by these attacks, and for all persons in Sri Lanka who feel threatened by these brutal, careless and inhuman activities.
We also want to express our appreciation for the manner in which you have exercised your leadership to communicate to the government and to all politicians the need to act together to improve the security situation for everyone in the country. The efforts taken by the Catholic leadership to try to prevent a backlash that might have victimized ordinary people in the Muslim community is an example for everyone to follow. The steps taken by you and others in the Catholic community to console the victimized families and the people as a whole, speaks loudly about charity and non-violence and love for the neighbor, all of which are deeply embedded values in the Catholic faith.
In our view, in your public speeches, you have correctly pointed out the failure of the government. This regards official information provided by the Indian authorities about the planned attack which was particularly aimed at the Catholic Churches. Such failures are horrendous in nature, and would in fact constitute a criminal neglect of duties.
We note that you have called on both the government and opposition to act firmly and to do so in a unified manner, with a sense of urgency and efficiency, in order to guarantee the security situation of all people.
We wish to share with you a great concern that the Asian Human Rights Commission has consistently expressed for almost two decades. It is about the serious collapse of public institutions, which our view is at the root of the government’s incapacity and/or unwillingness to provide security and protection for the people of Sri Lanka. There appears to be an alarming level of disintegration of those institutions that are meant to protect people, mostly due to the Executive’s interference with the independent functioning of those institutions, namely the policing/security service, the prosecutorial service under the Attorney General’s department, and the Judiciary itself. In any country where these institutions function with an adequate degree of accountability, they would prevent the possibilities of large-scale violence. They take precautionary action to monitor those who engage in illegal activities, using law enforcement powers to stop such endeavors.
When the legal system becomes dysfunctional, the law itself is regarded as an obstacle to the arbitrary actions of the executive and unscrupulous. They want utilize a catholic situation to make illegal profits. There is nobody to whom people can turn when they face threats to their live and dangers to their properties.
The tremendous loss of lives and the attacks on holy places suffered in these recent attacks in an indication of the catastrophic level to which the protective arm of the state has been allowed to degenerate.
Under these circumstances, we presume that you must realize the future of all those living in Sri Lanka is threatened by even greater calamities.
Given the apparent impotency of politicians, it is our opinion that civil society leadership, including that of the Churches and other religions, should take a more proactive role. They should demand the restoration of the rule of law and the provision of guarantees for the protection of the lives of all people. If such a proactive stance does not emerge, we fear that more vicious attacks will occur in Sri Lanka, committed either by terrorists or by underworld gangsters.
We are writing to urge that you and your fellow leaders in the Catholic Church make this an occasion to reflect upon the gravity of the overall situation faced by Sri Lanka. By inviting reflection among the experts who may be advising you and also discussion among all members of the Catholic community, perhaps strategies can be developed for a quick recovery of these public institutions so that they will again serve the public interest that they are meant to serve.
We hope and pray that efforts by yourself and other religious leaders who rise to the occasion will bring about sober reflection and help create social pressure to redeem Sri Lanka from the present pathetic situation.
Please be assured of our support, our prayers and our concern as you work with others to try to create a secure nation where peace, love, truth, and mutual support for one another will become a reality.
John Joseph Clancey