Democracy & Human Rights | Speeches

Free and Fair Elections

Address to the Nation

Colombo, Sri Lanka

September 29, 2000

Ven. Members of the Maha Sangha

Rev. Sirs of other faiths

Dear mothers and fathers

Dear brothers and sisters

I am addressing you, as the leader of a political party, with only 10 days more to go for another general election.

At this time when the whole country is preparing for an election, there is an important matter to which I, as the Head of State, should draw the attention of my countrymen and solicit their co-operation. The general election on October 10 will be held to elect my next government. The government elected by this election should be a very clean one. It should not be a government stained with allegations of violence, corruption and fraud. It is to this matter that I primarily draw your attention today.

It is evident that there is a section making arrangements to commit violence in this country or to create such a situation during the period of the general election. On one hand, I agree, that there is a handful of people who engage in acts of election violence, but similarly on the other hand, we should not also forget that there is another group who are prepared to create an artificial situation of election violence.

I have information that some people are getting ready to win the election by thuggery and intimidation. Indeed, I am aggrieved that there have been two or three unfortunate incidents during the last few days. I take this opportunity to express my sympathies to the members of the families of the victims of such violence and to the political parties to which they belong.

It is my sole intention to see that this election is held extremely freely and fairly. I assure you all, as the Head of State, that I will take every step, and shall not hesitate to enforce all legal measures necessary to achieve this objective. Instructions have already been issued to the relevant authorities in this connection.

However, the holding of a free and fair election cannot be ensured by the Head of State alone. Nor it can also be ensured by the law alone. If we are to succeed in holding a free and fair election, which we expect, the co-operation and dedication of all political parties, political leaders and activists is necessary. First of all, I would kindly request all election candidates, supporters and activists of the People's Alliance under my leadership to desist from any kind of violence during this election. It is natural that the provocation of opponents have to be faced in an election. But it is very essential for all, including candidates, not to be provoked as far as possible. It can be the strategy of opponents to provoke supporters of the People’s Alliance and instigate them to violence. Therefore, I would very earnestly appeal to PA supporters not to be caught in their traps.

I would also like to remind of another matter to all members of our party. It is that I will not hesitate to take stringent disciplinary action against any one of any status in our party, if I hear that they have engaged in any acts of violence. I would state very clearly that, even if they win the election by acts of violence, they will not be given any position in my government.

No one who had involved in political violence, whoever it may be, will be given a position in my cabinet. There is no need for me, even for a moment, to desecrate the reputation of the government that I am going to establish next.

I have no doubt whatsoever about the victory of the PA. It is obvious that our party will achieve a resounding victory. Therefore, I would appeal to all of the PA not to impair the fame and value of this victory.

I kindly request the leaders of all other political parties also to issue an appeal, similar to the one that I am making as the leader of the People’s Alliance, to their party members and supporters. I think that acts of violence could be reduced to a great extent if the leaders of all political parties make a sincere request to their supporters to desist from violence. Therefore, I request all political leaders to cooperate with me in this endeavour.

The police is entrusted with a special responsibility during the period of election. I, emphatically state that it should be carried out with impartiality. The police need not bow down to the existing government. They should also not become the tools of other political parties. I only expect complete impartiality from the police.

At the same time, the attempt of some people to show that there is unprecedented violence in this country today, is very dangerous. It is an attempt to create a misunderstanding in the minds of the people about the government and other political parties. Actually it is destroying the true atmosphere required for a free and fair election. To indulge in acts of election violence and to create and set forth a non-existent terror, are both equally bad.

Permit me to draw your attention to one more important matter also on this occasion. Election violence is not only conflicts, based on politics, between political parties and candidates in the South. Some who call for free and fair elections today talk about some of those incidents in the South only. I am sorry to say that they are completely silent hypocritically in the face of incidents, many more times dangerous than these, taking place in other parts of the country during this election time. You know that LTTE terrorism has been activated recently and they have already murdered two candidates.

Just as much as we should .prevent election violence in this country, we should also ensure that post election violence is also ended. Our government has conducted six elections which were conducted in a very fair manner except the Wayamba Provincial Council election. When compared to the acts of violence prior to the 1994 election, it is a pleasure to note that the number of acts of violence committed so far is less. But we cannot be satisfied at that. During that time there were 45 election complaints for a day, but during this election there are only 24 complaints for a day.

We should also take steps from now itself to prevent the occurrence of post election violence. You would remember that we converted our every election committee into a peace committee after the 1994 general election. You would remember how I repeatedly appealed to all our supporters not to harass any political opponent. It was my government that prevented those who had been subjected to political victimisation during the horrendous period of terror of the previous administration from taking revenge in return when they were waiting for it impatiently.

In the electoral history of this country, it was at the 1994 election that election violence almost completely ceased. A full stop was placed to such election violence on the night of August 16,1994. We would never allow the terror that was ended on that day to raise its head again. But if the ghosts of that terror are haunting again and again we should prevent that also.

I request all of you to complain direct to the Presidential Secretariat with regard to acts of violence that take place during election time. I would like to state on this occasion that I will personally go into such complaints. I have detailed officers to entertain your complaints. I have taken this course of action with the sole objective of carrying forward the new political culture we then started, during and after this election also We should be determined to make this a success.

It is the first general election of this millennium that we are holding now. We are now entering a new world, a world of globalisation where there is a great transformation in the fields of science and technology. We should change our concepts and attitudes within such a great transformation. If not we will not be able to reap the fruits of this great revolution of awakening. Peace is our sole target as well as of the entire world today. Peace could only be achieved by eschewing violence. We are approaching an era of passing 17 years better experiences of election violence to the antiquity. Let us turn down violence and terrorism and join hands to build up a new political culture. Let us be dedicated to hold the next general election freely and fairly.

Complaints could be made to the following telephone numbers at the Presidential Secretariat - 381182-381183-381184-380480 -380904