The Bishop of Colombo has lauded Sri Lanka’s general election, saying it was the most free and fair held on the island since independence. On 17 August 2015 the country went to the polls to elect a new parliament. The election pitted former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party against current President Maithripala Sirisena’s United National Party. In January Sirisena beat Rajapaksa in presidential elections, prompting him to call parliamentary elections to secure a stronger mandate for reforms. A total of 196 seats were contested with a further 29 to be allocated by proportional representation. Initial returns show the UNP winning 106 seats to the SLFP’s 95, with smaller parties allied to the UNP winning the balance. after the results were posted the Bishop of Colombo the Rt. Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey (pictured) released a statement saying “for the first time in the country’s history the church experienced a very peaceful election.” In contrast to the “decades-old destructive culture of hate speech, violence, anger, murder and revenge” last week’s elections were peaceful, free and fair. The bishop wrote: “In the past, politicians have spoken, media has spoken, religious leaders have spoken but today the citizens of this country spoke their mind through the ballot.” He added: “The citizen’s voice needs to be heard loud and clear and taken very seriously by the new government. The just and righteous aspirations of the people, whatever their political preferences may have been, for a clean, honest, corruption free administration, sensitive especially to the needs of the weak and powerless should be met.” The bishop urged the government and opposition to set aside their differences and work together to build a better Sri Lanka.