Sri Lankan Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy said he is hopeful that “a new era of prosperity and peace” will begin following the outcome of yesterday’s presidential election.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat to former Sri Lankan Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena. Several groups were concerned regarding the timeliness of the elections given the close proximity to Pope Francis’ visit to the nation next week.
In an interview with Fides, Bishop Fernando welcomed the results, as well as expressing his confidence in the new president-elect.
“With a delegation of Bishops, we had met the President-elect before the vote,” he said. “He had shown his program of good governance, with the fight against corruption and commitment to development and reconciliation. He said he will work for a better division of powers, reducing even those regarding the President himself, appointing independent commissions for justice, for public services, for financial controls. Surely he will have a lot to do to form a government, having to give account to a heterogeneous coalition, but has the necessary political experience to do it.”
Among the issues that Bishop Fernando hopes President-elect Sirisena will tackle is peace in the country, which is still reeling from the effects of a 30 year civil war.
“A solution must be based on the principle of decentralization of power, unity and reconciliation,” the Bishop said. “For me there is a good chance that this can happen. Outgoing President Rajapaksa should be ascribed the credit for having put an end to a bloody civil conflict. Now we need a political solution.”
“Peace based on justice is needed,” he continued. “With regards to these points the newly-elected President has promised to form an independent commission to ascertain possible crimes and I think this approach can be helpful.”
The Bishop of Kandy also expressed his confidence that the Pope’s upcoming visit to Sri Lanka will have a positive effect on both Christians and non-Christians alike. Christianity is the minority religion with 7% of the population.
“The Pope understands our sufferings and difficulties,” Bishop Fernando explained. “Buddhists await him as a messenger of peace. His presence at the Shrine of Madhu will have great significance of solidarity with the victims of the war, and it will be like a strong message of national reconciliation.”