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  • » 02/10/2010, 00.00


    Political tensions rise, bishops appeal for peace

    Melani Manel Perera

    Rajapaksa dissolves parliament, calls for a general election on 8 April. He wants a two-third majority to control the country. Pro- and anti-government supporters clash in the capital. Christian leaders protest against vote rigging in the recent presidential election. Bishops call on politicians and ordinary citizens to “stop the violence”.
    Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankan Christians have demonstrated against vote rigging in the recent presidential election, which ended in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory. A group of Catholic and Protestant bishops have urged the country’s leaders to “stop the violence” and work together to “preserve peace”. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s political crisis appears to be worsening. Clashes have occurred between opposition and government supporters. The anti-Rajapaksa camp has pledged to pursue all legal means against the “arbitrary arrest” of General Sarath Fonseka who is now refusing food out of fear that he might be poisoned. For his part, the president has dissolved parliament and called for elections on 8 April.

    Opposition parties have brought General Fonseka’s case to the courts after he was arrested on Monday. In a press release, they said they intend to put the matter before the court, the people and the international community. Opposition leaders said they have good reason to believe that the arrest of the former chief of the Defence Staff could end with his murder in prison.

    General Fonseka’s wife, Anoma, visited her husband in prison. She said that he does not trust anyone and refuses any food that is brought to him.

    In the capital supporters from the two sides battled it out in the streets today. Thousands of anti-government demonstrators burnt President Rajapaksa in effigy, and called for General Fonseka’s release. Government supporters attacked them, pelting them with rocks and stones.

    The president in the meantime has dissolved parliament and called for fresh elections on 8 April. His goal is to secure a two-third majority to gain absolute control over the island-nation.

    Also today, Catholic and Protestant bishops made an appeal, which appears to have fallen on deaf years. In it, they called for peace and an end to the violence, after 30 years of fighting in northern Sri Lanka against Tamil Tiger rebels.

    In a joint press release, the prelates said that people are denied an objective understanding of the real issues, whilst democratic principles are being trampled without any qualms.

    Furthermore, they said that the high levels of campaign spending raises ethical issues concerning the leadership qualities of politicians, who ought to fight against poverty and guarantee justice to internally displaced people.

    As a general election approaches, the bishops said that the country’s political culture should change so that sovereignty is vested again in the people.

    The fate of war refugees and the Tamil minority also remains a priority. Likewise, they note that Tamils could not vote for lack of adequate transportation and roads.

    Lastly, Catholic and Protestant bishops slammed the violence and intimidation forced on government opponents and independent journalists.

    “The president as well as political, religious and civil society leaders must set standards to reduce tensions and ensure justice and protection for all,” they said.

    Last Saturday, Christian leaders and believers in Negombo, a district in the Western Province, also organised a protest rally (pictured) against alleged vote rigging, which helped Rajapaksa’s re-election bid.

    They handed out about 5,000 leaflets, urging everyone to “unite against the election violation”.

    Mgr Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, has been informed of accusations of corruption and vote rigging in a letter sent on 2 February.

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    See also

    28/01/2010 SRI LANKA
    Presidential election: Rajapaksa’s landslide victory splits the country
    The President’s Office describes the outcome as an “historic and resounding” victory, which shows the “vitality of our democracy”. Opposition parties complain about vote rigging and fraud. Catholic priest laments that “corruption and nepotism” rule the country. Rajapaksa plans to dissolve parliament and call a new general elections.

    28/08/2012 SRI LANKA
    First Mass for Mullikulam refugees after five years
    In the Queen of Heaven Church, the bishop of Mannar called on those present to pray for the community that it may go back to its village. Almost a thousand people took part in the event. Two months ago, the government resettled the refugees in a jungle. For about 150 Catholics from southern Sri Lanka who attended the ceremony, "This is an insult to every human being."

    29/12/2015 SRI LANKA
    Tamil Catholics celebrate Christmas in the jungle amid mosquitoes and elephants (Photos)
    For the past 25 years, residents from the village of Mullikulam have lived as IDPs in the jungle of Marichchikattu without proper housing, sanitation, running water, and electricity. They were also unable to attend Midnight Mass because it was “too dangerous, owing to the presence of elephants on the road." The military drove them from the refugee camp to the church, but soldiers “cannot do anything to improve the situation because everything depends on orders by senior officers.

    23/05/2013 SRI LANKA - INDIA
    Sri Lanka to build new homes for war refugees with Indian support
    With the help of the Indian High Commission, the Sri Lankan government continues its three-year plan to re-house IDPs. The Indian High Commissioner and Sri Lanka's Economic Development Minister launch the project, "an unprecedented humanitarian action," in the east of the island.

    27/11/2009 SRI LANKA
    Freedom of movement for Tamil refugees, real or election promise?
    Humanitarian organisations have doubts over the government’s decision to let out 130,000 refugees still in camps. According to Oxfam, their release will be conditional and limited in time. For Anglican clergyman, Rev M Sathivel, it is all part of a political game. Meanwhile, the presidential campaign scheduled for January heats as opposition runs ex General Fonseka against Rajapaksa.

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