Caritas yesterday dismissed allegations from a senior cabinet minister accusing the Church’s social arm of involvement in a major conspiracy to create anarchy within the country.
Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena said Caritas members had organized recent farmers’ protests and had gone to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva to speak against the government ahead of the war crimes resolution made last week.
“Caritas provided buses for the farmers to go to the protests and gave them food as well,” said Sirisena, who is also the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s general secretary.
“Trade union leaders do not know who is running these protests. It is Caritas Sri Lanka, who also went to Geneva to speak against the country,” the minister said at a public meeting at the weekend in Colombo.
Farmers groups and Caritas said the allegations are completely groundless.
The protests were organized by the Joint National Program for farmers, fisheries and labor organizations, said Nihal Winadhipathi, a farmer’s representative.
“Farmers and workers made several demands including an increase in the price of paddy rice because of diesel and kerosene oil price hikes, not to overthrow the government,” Winadhipathi said.
“It is our fundamental right” to protest, he said.
“Caritas or any other organization did not provide buses or meals. Many priests and Buddhist monks came to offer moral support,” he said.
Church officials called Sirisena’s UNHRC allegation an “absolute lie.”
“We did not send anybody to the UNHRC meeting in Geneva … it is an absolute lie. Instead, the Church worked closely with the government to support the cause of the country,” said Bishop Harold Anthony Perera, Chairman of the Catholic National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development.