ASIA/SRI LANKA - “The new government must focus on peace, freedom and national prosperity Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo told Fides after general elections

Monday, 5 April 2004

Colombo (Fides Service) - “We hope the peace process will continue and this is the responsibility of the new government whatever it is. We and all the people of Sri Lanka, Sinhalese and Tamils, want an era of peace, freedom and prosperity. These must be the commitments of the new government”. Archbishop. Oswald Gomis, Archbishop of Colombo and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, told Fides commenting the results of the general election on 2 April.
With the vote Sri Lanka turned a page in its history. The Freedom Alliance coalition led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga won 46% of the votes and 105 seats in Parliament. The party led by the Premier Ranil Wickramasinghe United National Party, won 38% of the votes and obtained 82 seats in parliament.
Other parties include the Tamil National Alliance, obtained 7% and 22 seats; the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), Buddhist party with 6% and 9 seats and a series of smaller parties.
The President will now have talks with the minor parties to form a new executive. Observers say she will try to make an alliance with the Buddhist party and other minor groups to obtain a majority in parliament necessary for government. The vote was peaceful and regular and some 75% of about 13 million eligible voters went to the polls.
The political in Sri Lanka situation precipitated when, following an institutional dispute between Premier Ranil Wickremasinghe and President Chandrika Kumaratunga, on 7 February the President dismissed parliament and called early elections. The crisis arose from a difference of opinions on how to handle Tamil rebels with which the government signed a peace agreement in 2002, putting an end to twenty years of civil war.
The Tamil minority demands greater self rule in the north and east of the country. The premier is in favour of a federal system but the President says he conceded too much to the rebels..
In the electoral campaign both said they were ready to resume dialogue with the Tamils to avoid more conflict which would do no good to the country. The local Catholic Church is committed to promoting reconciliation and harmony among the Sinhalese and Tamil communities. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 5/4/2004 lines 39 words 428)