By Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe –
We believe that the Presidential Election in January 2015 is an opportunity given to all people in Sri Lanka to make an important, significant and a creative decision, in respect of the future of their own country and her people. The run up to the election thus far has not been satisfactory or acceptable at all, from the point of view of the people of the country. It appears that the people have been taken for granted and are being treated as objects with no sense of intelligence or ability to understand the reality. Deception, dishonesty and disbelief are all around them.
Therefore we believe that there is an urgent need for a creative code of conduct on the part of all engaged in the election, to be followed at least during the very short time before the election, on the day of the election and in the post- election period.
The violations of the laws of the country in general and especially in respect of the election is unprecedented, than ever before. Violations are done openly and shamelessly with full awareness. It is difficult to believe that any person contesting an election is not aware of the law of the country pertaining to elections. That means that such violations are done consciously and purposely. It is the responsibility of all political parties to ensure that such violations by their own candidates and their supporters are prevented. The voters should be respected and trusted. Opportunity and the environment should be created for them to use their franchise without any force or pressure. Their fundamental right to use and exercise the freedom granted to them by the constitution, should be ensured.
The violation of the laws and especially rigging of elections has not been strange in Sri Lanka. We appeal specially to those in authority to facilitate the environment so that such rigging in all forms is prevented. We have observed in the past that all sorts of excuses have been given by the department of elections and other state departments and institutions, for not being able to prevent such action. Without negatively saying that steps cannot be taken and are not within one’s purview, it is the responsibility of all in authority to positively look for means and avenues within the authority vested in them, to curtail ill-practices. If not the so-called impossibility will remain forever and probably will become part of the accepted norms. The people of the country expect them to refrain from giving excuses and fulfil their responsibility fully, so that the will and the desire of the people will prevail. The voter is aware that the Commissioner of Elections is vested with all authority and power during an election, to ensure freedom and fairness. It is in that confidence that we appeal to the Commissioner of Elections to use all state machinery to prevent any breaking of laws. We also appeal to all candidates and their supporters to honour the laws of the country pertaining to the elections and refrain from any violation, by use of force.
Post-election violence and intimidation are nothing new in our country. The violence, intimidation and force used already during this election, are sufficient for us to call for an assurance from the candidates. True democracy does not accommodate violence. Violence and use of public resources do not speak for free and fair elections. Those who continue to vouch for ‘no violence’ are not only appearing to be, but are definitely blind, deaf, dumb and are dishonest. Such persons should not be entrusted with the governance of our country. Victory should be achieved by playing the game within the accepted rules and norms. No intimidation of one’s opponents should be permitted under any circumstances. Their security has to be ensured. This can only happen if the candidates and their supporters are able to accept with humility, the decision of the people. On the other hand the civil society, the religious groups and other community groups need to come out to prevent such cruelty and viciousness. Whoever is elected will be the President of all Sri Lankans. We are all called to gather together and build our country and the nation.
It is a known fact that undue pressure is brought upon voters by using psychological as well as modern techniques of communication. Spread of fear among ordinary people is a common practice. We have observed with much pain and distress the pollution of the environment, with posters, banners, hoardings, excessively. It is more than what is necessary to communicate a message, there-by again bringing undue pressure on people’s minds. Exhibition of all religious signs, pictures of religious places and personalities for campaign purposes is contrary to decent publicity in a civilized society. I do believe that such action depicts one’s bankruptcy. Does this mean that such persons have already run short of issues and policies to speak about?
The state machinery is entrusted with the task of maintaining law and order and ensuring a peaceful poll. The Police has a special role in this task and the state officers in charge need the corporation of the ordinary people as well as those closely engaged in the polls, to fulfill their duty. It goes without saying that political interference has been increasingly spreading with impunity in the recent past. This is a threat to democratic values and structures that we in Sri Lanka have so sacredly safe guarded over many decades. Our appeal is that all concerned will extend their fullest corporation to the Commissioner of Elections and his team, together with the staff of the Elections Secretariat to conduct a free and a fair Presidential Election without any interference or intimidation.
We look forward to a post-election Sri Lanka with Democracy, Good Governance, Rule of Law, concern for Social Justice and the long awaited Reconciliation and Healing of Memories and the Healing of the History of our nation. It is only then, the people of our country will reap the full benefit of the peace dividend.
May God Bless us all, in the New Year.