Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka has appealed to all political parties and government officials to strive to hold a free and peaceful poll in the island. It issued the following statement:
‘ It has been officially announced that there will be a Presidential Elections on the eighth January 2015. As the election approaches, what seems to be needed is to focus on the major issues facing the nation as a whole which require urgent solutions to be sought with genuine political will and determination. Therefore, at every level, violence must be eschewed both before and after the elections.
“A mature debate to educate the people on each one’s policies should be carried out instead of casting aspersions on candidates as well as their political parties: Given the fact that the visit of the Holy Father Pope Francis is to take place soon after the elections, we urge those responsible to ensure a peaceful atmosphere for the Papal Visit so that the spiritual programme which has been planned could be carried our undisturbed. We strongly request the candidates to ensure that any sort of politicisation of the Papal Visit does not take place.
“The CBCSL wishes to appeal to all those concerned to maintain the principles of democracy and absolute transparency which are necessary to conduct a free and fair election. It is extremely important that there be an atmosphere of freedom to express differing views on matters of policy regarding issues confronting the country, if there is to be a free and fair election. Whoever is elected should ensure that the rule of law is maintained in the country and the necessary constitutional and legal changes are made in order to ensure that Sri Lanka becomes a true participatory democracy. We also expect a stronger commitment towards establishing peace and reconciliation in the country so that all citizens of the land could live with dignity and equality.
“We wish to reiterate that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to cast his/her vote without fear or favour, respecting the right of every citizen to do so. Every assistance must be rendered to all those responsible for the conducting of the election to maintain the highest levels of justice in this endeavour. Absolute transparency should be observed with regard to the electoral process respecting all the laws governing the same.
“The church has always upheld the need to respect the right and the duty to use each one’s vote to further the common good. That is why the important document of Vatican Council II Pastoral Constitution “Gaudier et Sees” (Church in the Modern World) explicitly states “All citizens should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their vote freely to further the common good. The church praises and esteems those who work for the good of others and devote themselves to the service of the State and take on the burdens of the office”
Accordingly the CBCSL urges all Catholics and citizens to exercise their sacred and democratic right to cast their vote at the forthcoming election.”