Lanka parties’ call for fair, peaceful polls

Colombo, August 27:

Sri Lanka’s media and political parties today called for fair and peaceful elections in the conflict-torn island after a court ordered President Chandrika Kumaratunga to step down this year. Kumaratunga had wanted to stay on an extra year — which she argued she had left over from a first term cut short by snap polls — but the Supreme Court ruled against her yesterday, and polls must now be held before November 21. Sri Lanka’s usually divided media

and political parties today hailed the court’s decision and urged all sides to ensure fair and peaceful campaigning and balloting, after elections in recent years led to scores of deaths. The privately-run The Island daily greeted the court ruling with a headline of “three hearty cheers”.

The state-run Daily News called for a peaceful campaign and urged candidates to tone down their rhetoric and ensure violence-free polls. “It is also equally important to ensure that the campaign is free of racist hate talk and religious bigotry,” the Daily News said in an editorial headlined: “Let’s have civilised restraint.” Several opposition parties, including the largest among them, the United National Party, also called for the elections to go smoothly. “We have to now ensure there are free and fair elections,” said opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe,

who is running for president. Meanwhile, a report from New Delhi said the Sri Lankan government wants Western diplomats based in Colombo to stop interacting with Tamil Tiger guerrillas in protest against the assassination of foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. “This is the least we expect from the West if it sincerely believes that Kadirgamar’s killing was an act of terrorism,” a source close to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Anura Bandaranaike said in New Delhi. “Barring Norway, we don’t want any other diplomat going and meeting the LTTE,” the source said.