The head of Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church accused the government on Wednesday of stalling inquiries into the Easter Sunday bombings that killed 279 people two years ago.
Almost 200 people were arrested within days of the hotel and church assaults, but no one has been charged.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, led commemorations on the second anniversary on Wednesday, saying he was “deeply saddened” by the lack of progress in the inquiry.
“We have to stress that what is happening at the moment is an attitude of ‘no care’ where all factors are not properly investigated,” the cardinal said at a commemorative service in Colombo.
According to Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Negombo, Sri Lanka, Ranjith accused the government of political posturing and said the need to safeguard alliances hampered the investigation.
“He went as far a few days ago as saying that the bombings had nothing to do with religious extremism, but rather were about politics and people who wanted to ensure essentially grabbing power,” she added.
Former President Maithripala Sirisena, according to the cardinal, should be punished for failing to deter the attacks despite advance warnings.
An inquiry launched by Sirisena shortly after the bombings discovered that he and his intelligence officials had detailed information from India about the attack 17 days earlier, but did not act.
Sirisena, who did not run for re-election in the November 2019 elections, is now a legislator with the party of his successor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
While none of the 200 people detained have been charged, 16 Muslim men were charged on Tuesday in connection with the desecration of Buddhist statues in December 2018.
Authorities say the destruction of the statues in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka foreshadowed the Easter Sunday attacks four months later.
The multi-faith remembrance service was held at St. Anthony’s Church on Wednesday, where 56 people were killed in the attacks, which occurred 10 years after the end of Sri Lanka’s 37-year Tamil separatist war.
On Wednesday, Cardinal Ranjith urged the country’s Muslims to join Catholics in determining the facts behind the Easter bombings.
The attacks have been blamed on two local groups that have pledged allegiance to the ISIS [ISIL] organization.
Islamic cleric Hassan Moulana, who also spoke at the service, said Muslims worldwide condemn the attacks and that Islam provides no excuse for the crime.
He said that the Muslim community in Sri Lanka has disowned the attackers and has refused to allow their bodies to be buried in its cemeteries to demonstrate that their actions are not consistent with Islam.
Sri Lanka outlawed 11 organizations last week, including the ISIL (ISIS) faction and al-Qaeda.
Anyone associated with the parties – the other nine are local religious and social organizations – faces up to 20 years in prison, according to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a gazette notification.
Following the end of a civil war between Tamil separatists and government forces in 2009, Muslims, who make up nearly 10% of Sri Lanka’s 21 million population, have faced increased attacks from majority Sinhala Buddhist hardliners.