[A polling area in the the north of Sri Lanka when local elections were held in July 2010. Photo: IRIN]
29 December 2014 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has conveyed his “strong expectation” that the Government of Sri Lanka will ensure “the peaceful and credible conduct” of its upcoming Presidential election, scheduled for the beginning of the New Year.
In a phone call last week with G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Ban reaffirmed the UN’s continuous support for reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability as the country heads towards the election on 8 January 2015.
Sri Lanka has experienced a spate of ethnic and sectarian attacks since its 26-year civil conflict, which pitted the Government against Tamil insurgents, ended in 2009.
Most recently, a tide of violence and recrimination against Sri Lanka’s Muslim and Christian communities by Buddhist groups with extremist views has threatened to divide the country once again.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), more than 350 violent attacks against Muslims and over 150 attacks against Christians have been reported in Sri Lanka in the last two years. Muslim and Christian communities are reportedly subjected to hate speech, discrimination, attacks and acts of violence throughout Sri Lanka frequently.
On 15 June, a local group promoting extremist Sinhalese nationalist views, Bodu Bala Sena (The Buddhist Power Force, or “BBS”), staged a large protest rally in Aluthgama that resulted in inter-communal violence, during which four people died and about 80 were injured. Homes and shops owned by Muslims, as well as mosques, were vandalized and some set ablaze.
In his conversation with Mr. Peiris, the Secretary-General noted the importance of inclusive participation of all Sri Lankan voters, including minority communities, in the election process without any fear.