Sri Lankans protest near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office remember more than 260 people killed in Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday three years ago
On Sunday, hundreds of people lit candles and displayed banners and placards during a silent protest in the capital, Colombo, demanding justice for the victims of the attacks.
The protests took place in the central square of Colombo, where thousands of people have been protesting for eight days, demanding the resignation of the president of the island nation of the debt-ridden Indian Ocean, as the anxiety and anger over the shortages subsides.
Protesters, including relatives of the victims, accused the government of not doing justice. They put up a huge banner that read: “3 years have passed, we cry for justice” and placards that read: “Who was behind this attack?”
Siran Anton, 46, said his wife and only daughter were killed in the attack.
“My whole family is gone. Today, I live a very lonely life. “I have no words to explain my anxiety,” Anton said. “I want to know who the real culprits were behind this attack and why they did it.”
He said he was not satisfied with the government’s investigation.
Officials have charged dozens of people who allegedly received weapons training and attended catechism classes by the two local Islamic extremist groups accused of carrying out the attacks.
The groups had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State organization. The friction between the former president and the former prime minister – who belonged to different political parties – has been blamed on the government’s failure to act on intelligence warnings.
The Sri Lankan Catholic Church has also criticized the investigation into the bombings. The church has repeatedly accused President Rajapaksa’s government of failing to take action against former President Maithripala Sirisena and other senior officials for failing to stop the attacks.
The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, said the real conspirators in the attacks could still be free and asked the government for allegations that some members of the State Intelligence Service knew and had met with at least one perpetrator.
The protesters joined other anti-government protesters who had remained in tents around the president’s office and vowed not to leave until Rajapaksa resigned.
For months, Sri Lankans have been queuing up to buy fuel, cooking gas, food and medicine, most of which are foreign-denominated and paid in hard currency. Lack of fuel has caused power outages that last several hours a day.
The country is on the verge of bankruptcy, with $ 25 billion in external debt over the next five years – nearly $ 7 billion of which is being paid this year alone – and foreign exchange reserves are shrinking. Talks with the International Monetary Fund are expected later this month, and the government has turned to China and India for emergency loans to buy food and fuel.
Much of the anger expressed by weeks of growing protests has been directed at Rajapaksa and his older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who have led a powerful tribe that has been in power for more than two decades. Another five members of the family are lawmakers, three of whom resigned as ministers last Sunday.
At the same time, critics accuse Rajapaksa of lending large sums of money to finance nonprofit projects, such as a Chinese-built port facility.
Rajapaksa had earlier proposed the formation of a unity government following the resignations of the cabinet, but the main opposition party rejected the idea. Parliament failed to reach a consensus on how to deal with the crisis as nearly 40 coalition lawmakers said they would no longer vote in line with the coalition, significantly weakening the government.
With the opposition parties divided, they too failed to gain a majority and take control of Parliament.