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Sri Lankan bishops want tainted politicians away from power

Leaders already rejected cannot navigate the country in the present crisis, says Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan demonstrators joined by young people shout slogans even as the parliament of the island nation prepares to elect a new president on July 20

Sri Lankan demonstrators joined by young people shout slogans even as the parliament of the island nation prepares to elect a new president on July 20. (Photo: Quintus Colombage)

Published: July 18, 2022 10:25 AM GMT

Updated: July 19, 2022 03:39 AM GMT

Sri Lankan bishops have urged politicians to not entrust the reins of the crisis-ridden nation into the hands of leaders already rejected by the people.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) in a statement on July 17 said rejected leaders should not be entrusted with governance as the country is in an unstable situation politically, economically and socially.

The parliament of the island nation will be voting on July 20 to elect a new president.

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"The need of the hour is to form a consensual government for a specific interim period to navigate the country forward in the present crisis," said the statement from Bishop Harold Anthony Perera and Bishop J.D. Anthony Jayakody, president and secretary general respectively of the conference.

Sri Lanka has for months been in an unprecedented economic crisis that sparked huge protests causing its president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to quit after fleeing the country.

"This crisis has crippled our motherland totally. What the country needs instantly is to remedy this situation, and to work on short term and long term solutions to put it back on track towards peace and prosperity,” the prelates stated.

The island nation is struggling to pay for crucial imports like food, medicine, and fuel for its 22 million people. Inflation has soared and food prices have skyrocketed putting them beyond ordinary people’s reach.

 “Since political instability is at the center of this crisis, the immediate step most suitable at present is to form a new interim leadership to bring about that political and economic stability,” the statement said.

Many blame Rajapaksa and his family for mishandling the economy and destabilizing the polity. Over the years, Sri Lanka built up a huge amount of debt and last month defaulted on its foreign debt.

The former president was replaced by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as acting president and is the favorite to win the vote in parliament. Wickremesinghe has declared a state of emergency until the election is held.

The bishops have urged all the parliamentarians to set aside their political differences and agendas and reach a consensus on a candidate who is honest and able to muster people's confidence.

“If not, the situation will be aggravated and the people will lose confidence in the elected members of the parliament," the bishops warned.

Meanwhile, Lahiru Wirasekera, the national organizer of the Youth Organization for Change, said that the nation’s ongoing struggle would not end until Wickremesinghe quits.

The National Peace Council (NPC), a prominent civil rights group, said: “The president needs to sustain the confidence of all citizens, especially the youth whose future has been undermined.”

The NPC said the immediate duty of the president would be to enact an amendment, which was passed last June, aimed at empowering parliament over the president.

The NPC also wanted to schedule the dates of parliamentary and provincial elections as early as possible.

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