News / Asia

Sri Lankan President Woos Tamils

The Sri Lankan president is promising to speed up reconstruction of Tamil-dominated areas of the country, which have been devastated by civil war. The pledge comes as the country heads into the January 26 presidential election, in which the minority Tamil community could play a key role in deciding the winner.

Multimedia

Audio
Anjana Pasricha

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Tuesday that the government will spend billions of dollars this year to rebuild infrastructure in the war-shattered north and east.

He also is offering to consider political demands of the minority Tamil community, such as power sharing-arrangements in parliament and greater autonomy in Tamil dominated areas.   

The promise comes just days after the president visited Jaffna in the north -- the heartland of the Tamils. 

The government has taken other steps, in recent weeks, to improve conditions for Tamil civilians, who were affected by the military campaign which ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers last May.  Tens of thousands of Tamils have been released from detention camps and restrictions on travel in Tamil-dominated areas have been eased.

Political analysts say President Rajapakse is wooing Tamils, to get their support in the presidential elections being held in two weeks. 

The president called the elections two years ahead of schedule, confident of winning them with the support of the majority Sinhalese community, which widely supported the war against the rebels.

But the unexpected entry of former General Sarath Fonseka, who crafted the military victory against the rebels, into the election fray is expected to split the Sinhalese vote.

As a result, all eyes are on the Tamil community, according to Jehan Perera, the head of Colombo's National Peace Council.

"Because the general who led the army is opposing the president, he cannot any longer monopolize the war victory, the credit for it, and this has meant that the Sinhalese vote has split on traditional party lines," he explained.  "And, since that is a somewhat even split, it makes the ethnic minority vote very important. That is why the Tamil vote comes into play, because the Sri Lanka Tamils are the largest single minority group."

General Fonseka, who is the president's main opponent, is also actively courting the Tamil community.  He has succeeded in getting the backing of the dominant Tamil political party in the country, the Tamil National Alliance. 

On the other hand, analysts say that President Rajapakse is struggling to win strong support from Tamils.

The attention on Tamils, who make up 12.5 percent of the country's 20 million people, marks a key departure from previous elections. It is also the first time in nearly three decades that the Tamils will be able to vote without the Tamil Tiger guerrillas dictating their choice.

The separatist campaign waged by the Tamil Tigers was triggered by complaints of discrimination against the Tamil community by the majority Sinhalese.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid