UN and Commonwealth call for ‘peaceful and credible’ Presidential poll

Wednesday, 31 December 2014 00:51 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

COLOMBO: The UN and the Commonwealth today asked Sri Lanka to ensure peaceful and credible conduct of the presidential elections next week in which incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa is seeking a record third term. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the Government to ensure the presidential elections enable all Sri Lankan voters, including from minority communities, to participate in the election process “without any fear”. In a phone call last week with Minister of External Affairs G.L.Peiris, Ban reaffirmed the UN’s continuous support for reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability as the country heads towards the election on 8 January 2015. The Secretary-General “conveyed his strong expectation” that the Sri Lankan Government will “ensure the peaceful and credible conduct” of the election, according to a readout provided by Ban’s spokesperson. Meanwhile, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has also called for a level playing field during the presidential election in Sri Lanka, and adherence to the laws and norms that govern a credible and peaceful election. Rajapaksa is the current chair of the Commonwealth. Sharma has announced that Dr.BharratJagdeo, former President of Guyana, will lead a Commonwealth observer group to Sri Lanka for the election. “Sri Lanka has among the oldest democratic traditions in the Commonwealth. The people of Sri Lanka should be able to freely exercise their franchise, in an enabling environment marked by transparency, a level playing field, and adherence to the laws and norms that govern a credible and peaceful election,” Sharma said. The nine Observers will be in Sri Lanka from 2 to 14 January next year. Rajapaksa, who was elected in 2005 and in 2010, called the election two years ahead of schedule in an apparent attempt to seek a fresh mandate before his party’s popularity tumbles further, after dropping over 21% in September’s local elections. Rajapaksa seeks a third term based on his leadership during the defeat of the LTTE, who ran a violent separatist campaign for over 30 years. Sri Lanka has experienced a spate of ethnic and sectarian attacks since its 26-year civil conflict, which pitted the Government against LTTE, ended in 2009. Most recently, a tide of violence and recrimination against Sri Lanka’s Muslim and Christian communities by Buddhist groups with extremist views has threatened to divide the country once again. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), over 350 violent attacks against Muslims and over 150 attacks against Christians have been reported in Sri Lanka in the last two years. (PTI)