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STATEMENT BY NATIONAL CHRISTIAN COUNCIL HEADS OF CHURCHES ON THE CURRENT CRISIS

We, the Heads of Churches under the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) hereby appeal to His Excellency Gotabhaya Rajapakse to revoke the order dissolving parliament, thereby facilitating the postponement of the parliamentary election until September or October 2020, and to reconvene the existing parliament, thus averting a Constitutional crisis we can ill afford at this juncture.

As a country still recovering from the effects of a 30-year war and with the memories of the attacks of Easter 2019 still fresh in our minds, we feel that a Constitutional crisis would be a tragedy for the Sri Lankan people, when it can easily be avoided. We wish publicly to express the real concerns of our faith community that the crisis created by the Covid19 pandemic may be used and abused to undermine the rule of law, resulting in a Constitutional crisis. Such a constitutional crisis would be a sure way of also exacerbating religious tensions in our country.

The Parliamentary election was called early when the term of the Parliament elected in August 2015 will end on 01 September 2020. We believe that it makes sense to review that decision so that the election is held later this year, when the health crisis is not so severe. We think it is important that there is a consensus among medical specialists in the fields of public health and epidemiology about the safety of our citizens prior to any decision being taken to hold the next Parliamentary election. We welcome the decisions taken by the Elections Commission twice to postpone the election due to the threat of COVID19 virus spreading increasing during electioneering activity. We are also happy that the Election Commission is committed to review of the situation in consultation with health authorities and may further postpone the election.

It is important to bear in mind that the country needs an election that is free and fair. This requires a level playing field for all parties and their candidates to campaign and have equitable access to the media. This is not possible when there is a curfew or a lockdown. Until the election is held the country also needs a legislature (Parliament) to ensure that all three organs of government discharge their duties during the crisis, as required by the Constitution.

Whilst expressing our gratitude to the Government for its handling of the public health crisis, and also saluting the healthcare professionals and the law enforcement officers who have given of themselves selflessly and sacrificially at this difficult time, we have also noted with concern the increased militarisation to be seen all around the civil life of our country.

There is also a danger that relief measures could be politicised, with free relief packages and other privileges being given to some sections of the community by the government in power. Needless to say, uninterrupted freedom for all stakeholders is a sine qua non to a free and fair election. We expect the Government to respond to the public health crisis in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution and the rule of law, thus ensuring that the necessary checks and balances are in effect.

We therefore appeal to you to revoke the order dissolving parliament, and to postpone our parliamentary elections until September or October 2020, reconvene the existing parliament, and avert the dangers of a Constitutional crisis our citizens can ill afford at this time.
25th April 2020

Signed by:

  • Rev. Heshan De Silva – Chairperson National Christian Council of Sri Lanka and President SriLanka Baptist Sangamaya
  • Rt. Rev. D.R. Canagasabey –Bishop of Colombo, Church of Ceylon, Diocese of Colombo
  • Rt. Rev. Keerthisiri Fernando – Bishop of Kurunegala – Church of Ceylon, Diocese of Kurunegala
  • Rt. Rev. Dr. Daniel S. Thiagarajah, Bishop of Jaffna Diocese, Church of South India
  • Rev. Asiri P. Perera – President, The Methodist Church, Sri Lanka
  • Rev. Saman Perera – President, Presbytery of Lanka
  • Rev. Shirley Faber, President, Christian Reformed Church
  • Lt. Colonel Suresh Pawar, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army
  • Rev. Maxwell Doss, General Secretary, The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka

Download the Sinhala Statement here

Download the Tamil Statement here

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