For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Monday, November 23, 2009
(November 23, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The UNP today called the government to ensure that free and fair elections are held without using its what it called “its now usual tactics of winning at any cost”.UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya in a statement said the party was compelled to demand free and fair elections and wants the government to keep the high standards expected of a democratic nation.
The full statement follows;
At this crucial juncture in our country’s history, the United National Party implores the Government to respect that most fundamental of citizens rights in a democracy; the franchise. Considering the ugly track record of this administration to manipulate the will of the people, we are compelled to demand that the Government conduct a free and fair election, be it a presidential or general election keeping to the high standards expected of a democratic nation.
Holding of seven staggered Provincial Council Elections clearly indicate governments craze for power at any cost. Without disrupting the economy and the population at large there should have been only two elections, one for the Eastern Province and another for the rest of the Provinces.
Usually an election in a democratic country is a celebration of the citizens’ freedom of choice to elect their own representatives. Tragically in Sri Lanka elections have become a source of death and destruction. The callous use of state property, intimidation of opponents, violence unleashed by government hooligans, blatantly biased use of state media have now become norms under the present administration as seen in the recently concluded provincial council elections.
The underhand deal that was made with the LTTE to ensure a polls boycott in the 2005 presidential election is now public knowledge. Such actions not only changed the outcome of the last presidential election but also eroded the credibility of the democratic process in Sri Lanka and warped the mandate of the people. From that point onwards until the recently concluded Southern Provincial Council election in October the actions of the Government have continued to undermine democracy in our country and made elections a dreaded prospect for its citizens.
The erosion of democracy in addition to the violation of human rights is one of the fundamental reasons why the international community has been increasingly critical of our country and in some cases bracketed us with the undemocratic states of the world.
Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in Asia. She boasts of one of the highest percentages of literacy in the developing world and more importantly is blessed with intelligent and politically astute citizens who are fully capable of making their own decisions when it comes to electing their representatives.
However due to the undemocratic and often blatant misrepresentation of the peoples’ will in the recent elections by the mostly violent actions of the Government many in Sri Lanka have become disillusioned with the election process.
As elected representatives of the people it is our sacred duty to preserve the franchise of the people and uphold the will of the citizens. We as the custodians of the United National Party whose forefathers ushered in independence to our nation over 60 years ago are well aware of our duty to undertake every democratic effort to safeguard the peoples’ franchise.
We continuously lobbied for the full implementation of the 17th Amendment, which would ensure the establishment of independent police, public service and elections commissions to oversee electoral seasons. The UNP has maintained that the non-implementation of the 17th amendment seriously jeopardizes every poll held in Sri Lanka because of the inherent ability of the incumbent party to manipulate the media and the police to their own advantage.
With a presidential poll in the air, we have already witnessed the hasty transfers of several high ranking policemen which can only be a harbinger to the violence and abuse of state property that is to surely follow once the polls are announced. We appeal to police officials to stay the course and enforce the laws of this land to the best of their ability.
We urge you to heed your personal consciences when carrying out orders even though they may come from a superior officer – if those orders are at odds with justice and morality, refrain from carrying them out. It is your bounden duty to act according to your conscience at this critical poll, to ensure that democracy and the rule of law prevails.
The UNP has always bowed to the will of the people. We request that the Government do the same. We demand that the Government hold free and fair elections and not resort to its now usual tactics of winning at any cost, as witnessed during the last few days by the disrupting of several opposition meetings by government politicians.