11/04/2019, 13.09
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Sri Lankan bishops appeal to voters to pick good leaders

by Melani Manel Perera

The presidential election is set for 16 November. The Bishops' Conference calls for upstanding candidates to safeguard freedom and rights, support democratic principles and eliminate religious extremism and racism.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s Catholic bishops have launched an appeal that includes the characteristics the country’s next president must have. For them, a real leader should be committed to eradicating religious extremism and racism and work for peaceful coexistence among the country's ethnic and religious groups.

Mgr Winston S. Fernando and Mgr Justin Gnanaprgasam, respectively president and vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL), as well as all other bishops signed the appeal, which was released last Thursday.

In it, they urge Sri Lankans, Catholics and others, to vote in the election on 16 November, exercising their sacred and democratic right to vote. They call on “the citizens of the country to discern wisely and courageously”.

For the prelates, a presidential candidate “should be a person of integrity to work in close collaboration with all to safeguard the freedom and rights of the people, uphold the democratic principles and work for the sustainable development of the country. The President of the country should rise above party politics.”

In light of the Easter Sunday attacks in three churches and three luxury hotels, the CBCSL urges leaders to ensure that religious extremism and racism are eradicated.

The next president must “formulate national policies regarding religious freedom, national security, health, education, economy and responsible management of natural resources” and “serve succeeding generations, to ensure the sustainable development of the country".

For the CBCSL, “it is incumbent upon the future President and leaders to take drastic measures to eradicate corruption at all levels” as well as guarantee justice for all citizens who are equal before the law irrespective of their status or position.

The two main candidates in the race are Sajith Premadasa, vice president of the United National Party of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, brother of former president and strongman Mahinda, leader of Sri Lanka People's Front.

Outgoing President Maithripala Sirisena, head of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, is not seeking re-election.

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