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Sri Lankan cardinal meets politician accuser

Former opposition leader says issues over presidential election claims have been resolved

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Published: June 30, 2020 08:38 AM GMT
Sri Lankan cardinal meets politician accuser

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has been defended over accusations that he influenced the result of last year's presidential election. (Photo: AFP)

A Catholic politician who accused Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of “playing politics” during last year's presidential election has met the cardinal to discuss his comments.

Former United National Party member of parliament Harin Fernando and former opposition leader Sajith Premadasa met Cardinal Ranjith at the residence of the archbishop of Colombo on June 27.

Fernando had said he was deeply disappointed with the cardinal’s politics in the election and claimed that his intervention affected the outcome.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the election with 52 percent of the vote, while rival Premadasa got 42 percent. Rajapaksa was the clear victor in Sinhalese-majority areas but Premadasa scored better in the Tamil-majority north.

Fernando told a general election rally in Polonnaruwa that the cardinal’s partisan actions caused the Catholic vote to go to Rajapaksa.

In his latest comments, Fernando said his heart knows that what he has said about the cardinal is a fact.

However, Premadasa tendered an apology to Cardinal Ranjith on behalf of Fernando for the accusation.

“We had a cordial exchange and the issues that were there have been resolved,” Premadasa told reporters outside the archbishop’s house.

Sri Lanka is due to hold a parliamentary election on Aug. 5.

Bishop Winston Fernando, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, said that as the election platform is heating up contenders should not sling mud at others.

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"One should not cover his own nakedness by stripping off someone else's clothes," said Blessed Sacrament Bishop Fernando in a statement.

Bishop Harold Anthony of Kurunegala said it is no secret that Cardinal Ranjith played a vital role in the aftermath of the Easter 2019 terror attacks by preventing racial and religious clashes in the country.

"He acted as a true religious leader with patience and responsibility and called on people to avoid further damage to the country," said Bishop Anthony.

Oblate Father Lal Pushpadeva, national director of social communications, said the Catholic Church does not play any role in forming governments.

"We appeal to those who try to drag the Church and cardinal into their political game to avoid slinging mud to gain their own political agendas," he said.

Auxiliary bishops and priests of Colombo Archdiocese condemned Fernando’s comments in a press release.

"It is emphasized that the archbishop or the Sri Lanka Catholic Church has never directly or indirectly worked to overthrow any existing government or to form a new government in the past or in the future," they said.

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