Election should focus on future coexistence and cooperation - NPC
[TamilNet, Friday, 13 February 2004, 08:37 GMT]
Noting that Sri Lanka is facing its third general election in less than four years and the country is plunged into an election when it is faced with acute financial difficulties, the National Peace Council (NPC), a Colombo based Sri Lankan peace group, in a media release issued in Colombo today said that it is "disturbed by the early emergence of negative campaigning by political parties that aim at fanning fears and apprehensions of the people regarding the breakdown of the ceasefire, the division of the country and the threat posed by one community to the other."
Full text of the media release follows:
ELECTION SHOULD FOCUS ON FUTURE COEXISTENCE AND COOPERATION
The President's decision to dissolve Parliament has come after a political crisis that pitted the President against the Prime Minister and his government. With the dissolution of Parliament the country faces its third general election in less than four years. The National Peace Council is disappointed that the country is plunged into an election when it is faced with acute financial difficulties that have made life a bleak prospect for most of its people. This is also an election that the vast majority of people had not asked for or desired.
What most people wanted, as their first choice, was for the President and Prime Minister to work together in a manner of mutual coexistence even though they came from two rival political parties. Unfortunately the countryís political leaders failed to make sufficient effort to reach an agreement to work together. There was no dearth of such potential agreements, including those proposed by the committee of high officials they themselves had appointed, apart from civil society proposals.
Despite the premature election the country now faces, the National Peace Council continues to believe that the best answer to Sri Lankaís problems of ethnic conflict and economic and democratic development would come through bipartisan policies and actions. The alternative would be further division, polarisation and impoverishment.
We are disturbed by the early emergence of negative campaigning by political parties that aim at fanning fears and apprehensions of the people regarding the breakdown of the ceasefire, the division of the country and the threat posed by one community to the other. We call on all parties not to incite ethnic or religious antagonisms but instead use the election as an opportunity to create greater understanding and interaction between the different communities.
Whatever the specific outcome of the forthcoming general election, the need for a bipartisan approach to resolve the ethnic conflict and develop the country will remain undiminished in post-election Sri Lanka. This requires that both sides should keep in mind that their conduct in the election campaign should not further rupture their relationships or alienate sections of the polity.