Sri Lanka warns EU not to intervene in polls

election monitors euSri Lanka Friday warned the European Union not to be “prescriptive” about next week’s presidential elections after Colombo-based ambassadors urged the government to ensure a peaceful election.

The Ministry of External affairs took objection to a statement issued earlier Friday by Colombo-based European ambassadors that Sri Lankans should be “free to choose their leaders without violence or fear”.

“Domestic elections are not for foreign government representatives to be prescriptive about, that too, a few days ahead of the polls,” the ministry said in a terse statement.

It accused the diplomats of commenting “on an issue of a strictly domestic nature” and added that Sri Lanka was capable of holding free and fair elections.

Almost all recent elections have been marred by allegations of voter intimidation, abuse of state resources and other electoral malpractice.

The EU statement came a day after the opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena told foreign envoys that he feared the government may deploy troops to block minority Tamils voting against President Mahinda Rajapakse, who came to power in 2005 and is South Asia’s longest-ruling leader.

Rajapakse is despised by many Tamils after overseeing the crushing end to a 37-year separatist rebellion in 2009 which sparked accusations of rights abuses.

The Tamils’ largest political party has endorsed the main opposition candidate Sirisena, accusing the incumbent of failing to pursue reconciliation in the wake of the conflict against the Tamil Tiger rebels which left some 100,000 dead.

The second largest religious minority, the Muslims, have also pledged support to Sirisena, mounting a serious challenge to Rajapakse who called the election two years ahead of schedule.

Four days ago, UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged the Sri Lankan government to ensure the elections are peaceful and that minorities, including Tamils and Muslims, are able to vote without fear.

Ban spoke by phone with Colombo’s foreign minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris to convey “his strong expectation that the government of Sri Lanka will ensure the peaceful and credible conduct” of the January 8 presidential vote, according to the UN.

The ruling party’s vote declined 21 points at a local election in September suggesting that the president’s own popularity may be waning five years after he was credited with ending the long and bloody separatist war. (EU Business)

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