Gotabaya Rajapaksa often wonders why Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo suddenly started speaking against him with such wicked innuendo.

Malcolm already had a long standing friendship with Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was introduced to Gotabaya who was the then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development

Upon his appointment in 2010, Cardinal Malcolm was trying to get the Pope to visit Sri Lanka. His first attempt was declined by the Vatican saying that it was too early for such a visit given that the war against the terrorists had ended so recently.

The earlier Pope (Benedict XVI) had given a grant to set up a higher educational institute in Sri Lanka. Determined in his way, Malcolm invited the new Pope (Francis) to open this institute. And this time the Vatican accepted the invitation. The only issue was Malcolm was struggling to build the proposed institute.

Malcolm knew that there was only one man who could build the facility to the best of standards, and in time for the Pope's visit. Malcolm went to Gotabaya asking for his help. When Gotabaya visited the site in Bolawalana, it was in an appalling condition. Being a man of city planning and architecture, Gotabaya agreed to help the Cardinal.

Gotabaya got his teams to redesign the whole facility and build it with all the necessary infrastructure; well in time before the Pope’s visit. Not only that, Gotabaya helped rebuild many old churches that were falling apart due to the 30 years of terrorist activity in the northern regions.

Malcolm was head over heels with Gotabaya. They became good friends. Malcolm was highly impressed by Gotabaya’s visionary leadership and generosity. Pope Francis visited Sri Lanka and opened the institute which is now a UGC approved campus called the BCI Campus. BCI stands for “Benedict XVI Catholic Institute”.

Even during the five years of “Yahapalana” Government Cardinal Malcolm didn’t miss a single month without hosting Gotabaya for dinner at his official residence. We remember how the Cardinal was frequently seen in the media criticising the then government for their numerous failures. Then an Islamist terrorist group attacked several churches and hotels on the Easter of 2019 by carrying out coordinated suicide bomb explosions.

Cardinal must have been devastated. For something disastrous like that to happen to his followers under his watch must have caused him great pain and shame. But we remember he rose to the occasion and acted responsibly to calm down his people before it leads to a far greater religious war between the Catholics and the Muslims. But the appalling behaviour of the UNP MPs downplaying and laughing at the gruesome crime in public must have angered the Cardinal.

This must have caused Malcolm to see Gotabaya as the most capable man to lead the country. Malcolm has seen Gotabaya’s visionary leadership and generosity with his own experience while working with him. Besides, the man needs no introduction to state security. Afterall it was he who ended the 30 year war. Cardinal was clearly rooting for Gotabaya in the runup to the 2019 elections. And yet another one of his prayers was granted when Gotabaya was elected president with probably the highest ever votes that a single man would ever get in this country.

Gotabaya wonders if it is the swearing in at the Swarnamali Stupa that may have upset the Cardinal. Or could it be his inaugural speech where he claims that he was elected largely by the Sinhala Bauddha people. But it is indeed a fact. Although the Cardinal may have rooted for Gotabaya, the vast majority of Catholic constituencies voted against Gotabaya. Even the very locations that were attacked by the Islamist terrorist bombers were won by Sajith Premadasa. Therefore Gotabaya Rajapaksa “in fact” is a Sinhala Bauddha leader.

But when President Gotabaya met with Cardinal Malcolm after the election, Gotabaya asked the Cardinal whether he was happy with the ongoing investigations on the Easter Attack, and if there is anything else that the President could do within his powers. Cardinal said he was pleased with the way the investigations are moving, and that his lawyers who are deeply involved in it are keeping him well informed. So even at that point, Malcolm didn’t have any issues with Gotabaya. Then the pandemic hits the country.

Malcolm had invited President Gotabaya to visit a vineyard spread across some 10 acres in Puttalam run by the Archdiocese of Colombo. Gotabaya could not accommodate the visit due to the chaos in the early days of Covid-19. But he remembered Cardinal’s invitation and somehow made that visit in September 2020.

The Cardinal welcomed the President and spent several hours together including having lunch hosted at one of the Church properties. But at no point, did the Cardinal show any sign of discontent with the Easter Attack investigations or any other matter. In fact, the Cardinal was pleased with the President's way of handling the matters thus far.

But then we saw the Cardinal changing his tune. He started talking about an illusive “mastermind” (mahamolakaru) behind the attacks. The narrative was soon turning against the man who once helped the Cardinal. Gotabaya was surprised by this sudden change of behaviour. He still didn’t believe that his friend who knew him for many years would even think that he had any role in the atrocious crime.

The pandemic became Gotabaya’s priority. He thought that without getting the people vaccinated he cannot revive the economy nor any aspect of the country. So he focused on that. Perhaps a little too much. Because all the while his former close friends like the Cardinal were drifting away from him. Perhaps the loss of frequent communications would have caused this.

And then the Cardinal was seen leading the catholics against his old friend, Gotabaya. The man who he knew so well for so long was demonised at the so-called Aragalaya. Gotabaya still struggled to understand this unreasonable twist in his old friend’s behaviour. He didn’t believe that the Cardinal whom he so respected would betray him in such a callous and cruel manner.

Yet, Gotabaya Rajapaksa never spoke a single word against the Cardinal, nor against any of his enemies. Instead, he silently absorbed all the vicious and false claims against him and even against others of his government, and left his office. A deed that only reminds us of Christ himself on a day like today.

May the Dharma Guide Our Way!


eranda g12







*The writer is a social entrepreneur and former presidential advisor. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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