Religious leaders push for free and fair poll
By Yohan Perera
Mar 3, 2010
Expressing fears that the upcoming general elections would not be a free and fair one, the Congress of Religions comprising leaders of major religions in the country yesterday called on all political party leaders not to allow its candidates to engage in violence and character assassination.

The Congress stressed on the need to allow Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake to carry out the powers vested in him under the Elections Act to ensure a legitimate poll.

Congress General Secretary Ven. Ittapane Dhammalankara Thera told a news conference yesterday they feared the election would not be a free and fair one considering certain incidents that were taking place today.

The Ven. Thera said the Congress of Religions was not in favour of the clergy coming into politics and using places of religious worship for political purposes. “Do not use religious places for political purposes,” he told all political parties.

Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera said it was essential for the Elections Commissioner to exercise all the powers vested in him under the Elections Act. The Ven Thera expressed his displeasure that the Polls Chief’s order to remove cut outs and posters were not being carried out by the relevant officials during the past elections. He said the polls chief should work independently. “The polls Chief expressed his helplessness during the presidential elections and he should not be harassed,” the Thera said.

Ven Sobitha said the police and the media had to act with responsibility during an election. He said the police did not belong to one party or a community as it is responsible for ensuring law and order in the country and providing security to every citizen of the country.

The Thera also stressed the need for the people to use their votes in a responsible manner and elect only intelligent and able people to the Parliament.

He said the government also had a special responsibility to ensure the people’s right to choose the leaders of their choice. .

Ratnapura Bishop Rev. Cletus Chandasiri who represented the Catholic Church said the free and fairness of the polls should be maintained from the time the polling starts till the results are announced. “Nothing which is harmful for a free and fair poll should happen during this period,” he said.

Colombo’s Anglican Bishop Rt. Rev. Dulip de Chiekera said the party leaders had the responsibility of getting their candidates to engage in the polls in a free and fair manner. He said party leaders should not allow their candidates to engage in violence or character assassination.

He said basic issues such as devolution of power and poverty elevation which are main issues faced by the country should not be swept under the carpet during elections but should be taken as main issues during the polls. “These issues are often forgotten during the elections and this should not happen as the politicians should focus on them,” he pointed out.

Courtesy: Daily Mirror