Statue of Jesus, TobyEditor, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

A Statement by a Group of Bishops – Post Presidential Election Realities

February 9, 2010 Sri Lanka Campaign Comments Off

Regardless of how they voted, many Sri Lankans strongly disapproved of three trends during the campaigning.

These were:

— continuous personal slander, provoked by undue media publicity. As the norms of vigorous and healthy democratic debate were disregarded this way, the people were denied an objective understanding of the real issues.

— The wilful violation of electoral laws which sadly demonstrated that might is right. The Election Commissioner’s public confession amply endorsed this.

— The unprecedented amount of money spent on the campaigning. This raises ethical questions of leadership qualities in a country striving to eliminate poverty and bring justice to the IDPs.

Our political leaders can still rectify these trends by setting self-imposed codes of conduct, especially as we approach a general election. A voter preference for those who demonstrate this change will result in a welcome transformation of our political culture. Such a change will endorse the sovereignty of the people.

Promotions, transfers, termination of services and the resignations of some Military, Police and Public Services personnel send worrying messages about rewards and punishments for certain styles of political behaviour. Competency in public officials is to be appreciated and those who have done their duty well, need to be commended. But administrative changes, immediately after a public event that requires the impartiality of all officials, undermines good governance.

We should take serious note of the majority who did not vote in some Tamils areas. The lack of transport deprived thousands of IDPs from voting. The behaviour of those who could but did not vote may indicate a lack of confidence in an electoral contest between two primary candidates, which offered little in terms of the problems faced by Tamils. Their silence may be seen as a clear message that their expectations were not being addressed.

It is bad practice when elections are followed with the intimidation and harassment of candidates, their supporters and those in the media who have freely expressed their views. The total lack of information regarding journalist, Mr. Eknaligoda, missing since two days before the election, is a most disturbing case in point. The Police have an immediate responsibility to investigate and prevent such happenings. The President, and all political, civil society and religious leaders are called to set the standards in healing tensions and ensuring justice and protection for all.

From here we need to collectively address the pressing priorities of; political devolution, good governance, media freedom, economic development, the application of equal rights for the vulnerable, the total independence of the judiciary and poverty alleviation, faced by our country. We urge the President, the Cabinet, and the Opposition to work towards these goals with purpose and commitment. The test of a campaign is the urgency and priority given to the needs of all the people by all candidates when the campaigning ends. None who contests has the right or the luxury to continue with personal hurts, personal glory, or personal agendas.

With the assurance of our prayers for all.

The Most Revd Dr Thomas Savundaranayagam, Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaffna
The Most Revd Dr Kingsley Swampillai, Roman Catholic Bishop of Trinco/Batticaloa
The Most Revd Dr Rayappu Joseph, Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar
The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe, Anglican Vicar General of Kurunegala
The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Anglican Bishop of Colombo
The Most Revd Dr Norbert Andradi, Roman Catholic Bishop of Anuradhapura