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Ensure The People’s Right To Vote Peacefully & Non-Violently

| The following statement issued by the National Peace Council

( January 1, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The closely contested presidential election has come to its last phase. Both major candidates have issued their manifestos and the line-up of parties behind them has finally become clear. Among their main campaign promises are to create a strong country, a stable government, ensure good governance and prosperity and protect human rights. While elections are necessarily divisive as they pit one contestant against the other, the effort to win elections must not lead people to consider it a war where all means fair or foul are to be used. Such is not the spirit of a free democracy. It will also lead to questioning the validity of the result by the International Community with possible adverse repercussions. The world is watching us and the violence and misuse of public resources has already led commentators both here and abroad to question whether it is a free and fair election. The rationale for an election is that it must be free and fair. If not so it means nothing.

The National Peace Council is concerned at the blatant acts of violence taking place in different parts of the country in full view of the general public. There is a manifestation of viciousness that needs to be quelled or it can lead to the perception that victory is sought by any means at all. It is also incumbent on the government and on all stakeholders to ensure that this violence does not grow in the days to come. In particular, it is important that the state machinery should function according to the law and that civil society, inclusive of religious society, should maintain a stance on issues concerning a free and fair election that is non-partisan. After the elections we need to build the country together. Civil society will need to play its role in this process, whichever side wins the election.

It is absolutely important that the government, the state machinery, contesting political parties and civil society act to ensure that the people’s right to vote at these elections and to choose freely is not denied to them. The people must be facilitated to participate in the elections. It is through participation that people obtain a sense of ownership of the outcome and become empowered to continue to work for their rights. It also creates an obligation on the part of those elected to power to meet the concerns of those who trusted and voted for them to govern the country according to the Constitution which calls for free and fair elections. After the election it will be necessary that the views of all sections of the polity, including those who are defeated, be taken into consideration and their interests be accommodated. This can best happen if the elections are conducted non-violently, peacefully, freely, fairly and on a level playing field. Failure to do so will vitiate the result and lead to a questioning of the outcome both by citizens as well as the International Community.

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