Sri Lanka presidential poll must be peaceful to be credible: EU

eu-flag_1EconomyNext – The European Union has called on Sri Lanka’s government to ensure a peaceful presidential election next week, saying the result would be credible only if citizens are free to choose their leaders without violence or fear.

The call comes amid growing concern by opposition parties and election monitors over intimidation of and violence against opposition supporters and abuse of government workers and machinery to support the candidacy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The elections commissioner himself has warned he would cancel the poll in areas where people are not allowed to vote freely.

A “Joint Local Statement” on Sri Lanka’s presidential election process issued by European Union Heads of Mission in Colombo noted the importance of Sri Lanka’s presidential election process being “peaceful, credible and transparent”.

It said: “Heads of Mission recall the EU’s longstanding conviction that a peaceful environment is essential for credible elections.

“Sri Lankan citizens must be free to choose their leaders without violence or fear. All parties have a role in upholding Sri Lanka’s strong democratic tradition.”

On Thursday, Maithripala Sirisena, Rajapaksa’s main challenger in the January 8 contest, and opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, one of Sirisena’s main backers, told the Colombo diplomatic corps they fear the army would be used to scare off Tamil voters.

The Tamils’ largest political party has endorsed Sirisena, accusing Rajapaksa of failing to pursue reconciliation after the end of the 30-year ethnic conflict.

Wickremesinghe said the sending of reinforcements to Tamil-majority areas was part of a strategy to intimidate voters against backing Sirisena.