The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Church delivers poll sermon

Shillong, Nov. 28: In an extension of its role as the moral guardian of the pre-dominantly Christian state of Meghalaya, the Church has begun framing a set of electoral guidelines that voters are expected to follow while exercising their franchise in the Assembly elections.

The Archbishop of Shillong, Dominic Jala, told The Telegraph that the objective of coming out with a set of guidelines was to inform the people to vote for politicians who would work for them, practise value-based politics and “clean up the mess”.

He said it was not mandatory for the electorate to adhere to the guidelines — to be released next month — but the Church certainly expected everyone in Meghalaya to play a part in purging the political system of undesirable elements.

If the guidelines are actually published and distributed, it will be the first instance of the Church playing such a big role in the electoral process. A resident said there was nothing wrong in the clergy sermonising on political morals. “The Church has taken the correct decision. I believe the guidelines should be religiously adhered to by each voter.”

Meghalaya is the hotbed of political turbulence, with power changing hands several times in the past five years. The present government, led by Flinder Anderson Khonglam, has never been on firm ground because of friction between the main coalition partners.

Archbishop Jala said the guidelines would help not just the electorate, but also the politicians in whose hands lies their future. “The Catholic Church expects each faithful, whether he is a politician or the man on the street, to lead a disciplined life. So, the guidelines are for everybody.”

On whether the proposed set of directives would cover each aspect of polling, he said, “It will be a thought-provoking set of instructions on morals and governance. Our objective is to encourage introspection by the masses as well as the politicians who represent their hopes and aspirations.”

Questioning the rationale behind “so many changes in government” over the past few years, the Church leader said the credibility of politicians had taken a beating. “That so many governments have come and gone is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in Meghalaya. The public has to realise that it must play the major role in the cleansing process.”

On corruption, he said it was intriguing why no corrupt leader had been penalised.

“We often hear about politicians being corrupt. But we are still in the dark about who is guilty and who is not.”

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