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Public rift among Sri Lanka’s bishops over presidential election

Catholic World News - February 15, 2010

Distancing himself from four of his brother bishops who questioned the nation’s recent presidential election, the president of the Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka has expressed confidence in the legitimacy of the regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“The situation we are experiencing is not as alarming as some press reports say,” said Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando of Kandy. “It is mainly about respect for the law and democratic rules, which all citizens are required to follow. We believe that the President has been duly elected and is entitled to govern. The majority of citizens have cast a vote in his favor and, once the correctness of procedures and transparency of the electoral process are verified, everyone must accept the verdict of the elections.”

“Some Catholic and Protestant bishops, engaged in ecumenical dialogue, issued a public appeal which emphasizes their fears and expresses their wishes,” the archbishop added. “For our part, as the Bishops' Conference, we express our concern to President Rajapaksa, reiterating the urgent need to work for reconciliation and unity of the nation, for progress, peace, and prosperity in Sri Lanka which, after the painful years of civil war, is so in need. … As the Bishops' Conference, it is essential that we maintain good relations with the democratically constituted authorities, at all levels, by promoting the values of peace and justice.”

According to the official results of the January 26 election, President Rajapaksa won reelection by a 58-40% margin. In the weeks following the election, the nation’s parliament has been dissolved, and the runner-up, General Sarath Fonseka, was arrested on February 8 for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

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