President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka has announced the holding of presidential elections on 8 January 2015. This is two years before the scheduled date for presidential elections in that country and is seen as an attempt of the President to win a third term in office in the context of his waning popularity and his failure to give substance to the continuing efforts of the many Sri Lankans who have been working for a ‘reform agenda’.
Belated efforts by the UN to assist in ascertaining the truth about what happened in the last years of the war in Sri Lanka and to ensure accountability have been rejected by the Sri Lankan government. The South African government has been part of efforts to encourage the Sri Lankan government to embark on a transitional justice process in the hope of bringing peace to the troubled nation through the promotion of better governance,the rule of law, media freedom, judicial independence, accountability for serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, reconciliation and a political solution for the continuing ethnic conflict. But killings, disappearances, threats and the intimidation of those working for peace with justice in Sri Lanka have continued along with the forced dispossession of land mainly for military purposes.
The date decided for the presidential election appears to have been carefully chosen to be a few days prior to a long-planned visit of the Pope. Huge billboards have been erected that show President Rajapaksa and his wife meeting with Pope Francis, carrying the slogan “With the blessings of the Your Holiness, you (incumbent President) will be our President Again’’. This is seen as a propaganda campaign on the part of the incumbent President.
We stand in solidarity with those calling on Pope Francis to cancel his visit at this time to avoid the apparent shameless use of His Holiness for the political campaign of the incumbent President.
We join concerned citizens of Sri Lanka in their stands for the truth and justice that has for too long eluded the people of Sri Lanka.