Police and electoral officials collect ballot papers and boxes from a distribution center for their respective polling stations on the eve of the parliamentary elections in Colombo on Aug. 4. (Photo: Lakruwan Wanniarachichi/AFP)
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has urged all citizens to fulfill their duty during Sri Lanka's parliamentary election and not shirk their responsibility to exercise their franchise.
The prelate said all voters have a responsibility to participate in the Aug. 5 election as it is an important event that will determine the future.
"This decision you make will be important for the future of this country and to take the country towards progress. I urge all of you to come forward to fulfill your duties as you are also a partner in the event of any harm to our country due to that omission," the cardinal said in a special statement.
More than 16 million voters are eligible to go to the polls being contested by 7,452 candidates representing 70 political parties.
Christians shared a special prayer among voters to choose the best candidate from their respective parties.
Father Reid Shelton Fernando, a prominent human rights defender who wrote the prayer, said voters have a great responsibility to do their part in voting for a person who possesses the qualities that will keep the nation united and free.
"As we are to elect our rulers to the task of governing, grant all the citizens of this country the guidance of Your Holy Spirit, no matter whether they are Christians or not, but grant all of them the wisdom to choose the best candidate from their respective parties who will not follow the path of selfishness and of corruption," said Father Fernando.
Cardinal Ranjith recently noticed that certain candidates contesting the election had used photographs taken with him earlier for propaganda purposes.
The cardinal clarified that neither he nor the Archdiocese of Colombo were aligned with any political party or connected groups or persons seeking electoral gain.
Rohana Hettiarachchi, executive director of People's Action for Free and Fair Elections, said it had received 940 complaints about propaganda on social media after election campaigning ended at midnight on Aug. 2.
Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, leads the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party.
Former wartime defense chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidential election with 52.25 percent of the vote last November. He was the clear victor in Sinhalese-majority areas but his rival Sajith Premadasa scored better in the Tamil-majority north.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009, ending three decades of civil war in which at least 100,000 people died.
The general election was initially slated to be held on April 25 but had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak which led to a nationwide lockdown from March. The Election Commission shifted the date to June 20 but it was changed again to Aug. 5.
Sri Lanka's new parliament is due to meet on Aug. 20 following the election.