ASIA/SRI LANKA - A priest: "The nation needs a strong and stable democracy"

Monday, 12 November 2018 politics   democracy   civil society   area crisis   human rights   reconciliation  

Colombo (Agenzia Fides) - "The people of Sri Lanka need a strong and stable democracy": says Father Shankar Pereira, a Catholic priest and human rights activist, to Agenzia Fides, while in the country there is a political crisis. The decision of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to dissolve Parliament "is a serious step, given that constitutional and liberal democracy is the right of citizens in our nation", he points out.
Sirisena dissolved parliament on 9 November and announced general elections for 5 January. The president triggered a power struggle when he dismissed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinge at the end of last month and appointed the former leader of the island, Mahinda Rajapaksa, a candidate defeated by Sirisena himself in the 2015 vote.
Opposition parties in Sirisena are ready to challenge his decision, which they describe as "illegal and unconstitutional", in an appeal before the Supreme Court on 12 November.
"All political parties, civil society groups and citizens must protect the Constitution. If this scenario persists, the trust of the population in its institutions and democratic processes is undermined as well as the political and economic crisis", says Fr. Pereira.
Many fear that the return of Rajapaksa may derail the progress made towards national reconciliation, initiated after the war with Tamil ethnic minorities that caused about 40 thousand victims during the final stages of the conflict, under his presidency.
Rajapaksa ended the civil war in 2009, but faced many criticisms due to the means with which he achieved victory: thousands of Tamil civilians are believed to have been killed by government forces in the last months of combat. During the 26 years of conflict, it is estimated that, on the whole, between 80,000 and 100,000 people died, while both sides are accused of committing war crimes.
"All of us, as responsible citizens of the country, must work to support the Constitution and respect democratic institutions", says Asheni Fernando, teacher of a Catholic school. "We, common people, are deeply concerned about the decision and we believe there is a risk of calling into question the delicate process of reconciliation that began after the civil war", he added. "By dissolving Parliament, Sirisena undermines the long democratic tradition of Sri Lanka and this poses a risk to stability and prosperity", he notes.
The Catholic Bishops of Sri Lanka have asked the government to respect and preserve the democratic processes of the country and to work for "a strong and stable democracy in the country" (see Fides 31/10/2018). (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 12/11/2018)