Protesters have criticized the lack of progress in finding those responsible for the deaths of more than 260 people in bombings three years ago.

Sri Lankans protested for days near the president’s office, criticizing a lack of progress in finding the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 260 people three years ago, putting pressure on a government already embroiled in a deep economic crisis.

Protesters are demanding that the government uncover the real conspirators behind what they say are attacks on three churches (two Catholic and one Protestant), including a simultaneous suicide bombing during Easter celebrations on April 21, 2019. Three tourist hotels were also targeted, killing 42 foreigners. 14 countries.

Hundreds of people lit candles and displayed banners and placards in a silent protest in the capital Colombo on Sunday calling for justice for the victims of the attack.

Demonstrations took place on Colombo’s main Corniche, where thousands protested for eight days demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the worst debt crisis that has fueled the Indian Ocean island nation , severe shortages of food and medicines.

Sri Lankans hold signs outside the President’s office in Colombo demanding justice for the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks [AP Photo]

Protesters, including relatives of the victims, accused the government of failing to bring justice to the bombings. They displayed a huge banner that read: “It’s been 3 years, we cry for justice” and a placard that read: “Who is behind this attack?”

“My whole family is gone. Today, I live a very lonely life. I can’t explain my pain in words,” said Shiran Anton, whose wife and only daughter were killed in the attack.

“I want to find out who is the real culprit in this attack and why they did it,” he said, adding that he was not satisfied with the investigation.

Officials have charged dozens of people who allegedly received weapons training and attended indoctrination courses from two local Muslim groups accused of carrying out the attacks.

The groups are said to have pledged allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group. Friction between the country’s former president and former prime minister – who belong to different parties – has been blamed for failing to act on intelligence warnings.

Catholic priests and nuns hold silent protest outside Supreme Court building in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Catholic nuns protest outside Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court in Colombo on November 8, 2021, denouncing police attempts to arrest a senior priest seeking justice for those responsible for the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019 [File: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP]

The Sri Lankan Catholic Church has also been critical of the bombing investigation. Church leaders have repeatedly accused the Rajapaksa government of not taking action against former President Maithripala Sirisena and other senior officials for failing to stop the bombing.

Cardinal Malcolm Rangis, Archbishop of Colombo, said the true conspirators of the attack may still be at large, challenging the government over allegations that some national intelligence agents knew about and met with at least one attacker.

Just a year before the pandemic hit the economy hard, the attacks devastated the country’s tourism industry – a major source of hard currency. Protesters also accused the government of mismanaging the country’s debt payments, including lending for questionable investments.

The country is on the brink of bankruptcy, saddled with $25 billion in foreign debt over the next five years — nearly $7 billion due this year alone — and dwindling foreign reserves.

Talks with the International Monetary Fund are expected this week, and the government has sought emergency loans from China and India to buy food and fuel.

Much of the anger has been directed at Rajapaksa and his older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who lead an influential clan that has held power for most of the past two decades.