Political parties urged not to exploit papal visit

Presidential poll 2015


Rev. Fr. Fernando

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Catholic Church has again strongly opposed attempts by the SLFP-led ruling coalition and the Opposition alliance to use the forthcoming papal visit to the advantage of their respective presidential election campaigns.

The Church has intervened in the wake of several Catholic politicians launching poster and billboard campaigns.

Director, Media Information Centre for the Papal visit, Rev. Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando said that political posters and cut-outs with the images of the Holy Father had been displayed in some parts of the country. Rev. Fr. Fernando requested respective political parties to remove them immediately, while urging them not to exploit the papal visit to their political advantage.

Before the confirmation of the Pope’s visit last week, Rev. Fr. Fernando said that the Church had told the government not to hold any national level election immediately after the papal visit.

Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya will receive nominations on December 8 for the January 8, 2015 presidential election. Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on the morning of January 13, 2015. Pope Francis is scheduled to leave on January 15th.

Before the launch of the recent propaganda campaign, the Church urged those in the fray not to seek any political gain from the papal visit. Rev. Fr. Fernando said that their request applied to all.

Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga, MP, who had accompanied President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he called on Pope Francis, told The Island that the ruling party was using the papal visit to the advantage of incumbent President Rajapaksa. When pointed out that he had displayed a large billboard of his visit to Vatican at his Kandana residence, the MP said that wasn’t in the fray.

The Gampaha District MP on more than one occasion urged the government in parliament to put off the papal visit. Amaratunga said that the visit should take place after January.

Pope Francis is scheduled to leave Sri Lanka for the Philippines.

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