A Crucial Week Ahead – A Statement by the Bishops of the Church of Ceylon

The People’s Movement/Aragalaya has achieved its primary objective, after a long period of struggle-the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapakse as the President of Sri Lanka. We welcome this significant milestone in the campaign for democracy, accountability and justice. This was achieved despite setbacks and the cynical political maneuvering of President Rajapakse when he appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as his Prime Minister.

The next phase of the struggle is extremely important if the campaign for democracy, accountability and justice is to continue. Parliament has to elect a person from among its members to serve the remainder of the presidential term. The present Parliament, also discredited in the eyes of the People for its inability to check the corruption and mismanagement of the executive and ensure public accountability, has the constitutional obligation to elect a President who will commence the challenging task of restoring constitutionalism and accountability, repairing the collapsed economy and restoring a semblance of normalcy in the lives of the citizens of the country.

Will Parliament be able to redeem itself, at least somewhat, next week? Will Parliament heed the voices of the People clearly articulated through the Aragalaya and the numerous statements made in recent weeks by civil society? A rejection of politics as usual; a demand for radical political change where partisan politics that places individual and party interests above the national interest is repudiated; a new beginning, even in an old discredited Parliament, that promises further change ahead. The signs of the past couple of days has been disappointing with each party and its leaders demonstrating deafness to the voices of the People and making claims for the presidency based on the old discredited politics as usual.

Sri Lanka needs an inclusive, interim government with a respected and unifying person as the new President so that genuine constitutional reform and the challenging task of restoring the economy can begin forthwith. We call upon every Member of Parliament to remember that she/he is primarily a representative of the People, rather than a party or a party leader, and in electing a new President and Government next week, is performing a special constitutional function in extraordinary circumstances. Those who have in the past few months led the struggle for change, the people of Sri Lanka and the international community will watch to see whether members of the Parliament of Sri Lanka have the capacity, courage and wisdom to perform this extraordinary responsibility. The future of constitutionalism, democracy and the Sri Lankan economy could very well depend on it.     

The Rt Rev Keerthisiri Fernando                            The Rt Rev Dushantha Rodrigo
The Presiding Bishop of the Church of Ceylon                    Bishop of Colombo

& Bishop of Kurunagala

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