News / Asia

Sri Lanka's Tamils Vote on Greater Autonomy

A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil couple leaves after casting their vote as others line up to vote at a polling station during the northern provincial council election in Jaffna, Sept. 21, 2013.A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil couple leaves after casting their vote as others line up to vote at a polling station during the northern provincial council election in Jaffna, Sept. 21, 2013.
x
A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil couple leaves after casting their vote as others line up to vote at a polling station during the northern provincial council election in Jaffna, Sept. 21, 2013.
A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil couple leaves after casting their vote as others line up to vote at a polling station during the northern provincial council election in Jaffna, Sept. 21, 2013.
Reuters
Voters in Sri Lanka thronged polling stations on Saturday in an election that threatens to rekindle animosity between the government and ethnic minority Tamils, four years after the military crushed separatists and ended a 26-year war.

The provincial council election is the first in 25 years in the north, once the heartland of Tamil Tiger separatists.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government held the poll after facing international pressure to restore democracy. Defeat for the government would be largely symbolic. But victory for the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), could reignite calls for autonomy.

Long queues of patient voters formed at polling stations, most with a holy ash mark on their foreheads, a sign they had attended prayers at Hindu temples.

Many voters called for restitution of land, the departure of the national army, accused of human rights abuses in the final stages of the war, and some even for a separate state.

Many were clearly keen to elect their own local leaders - 38 provincial councilors - for the first time in three decades. But some candidates complained of intimidation and irregularities.

"Tamils need independence. We need our lands back. We need the right to move freely," said Gopalasuthanthiran Pushpavathi, a 51-year mother of four, after voting at a polling station behind the imposing Nallur Temple.

"I am happy that we have six votes in my family and we cast the votes with the hope of getting a separate province that is ruled by ourselves," said Kandiah Thiyagarajah, 63.

Polling closed at 1030 GMT and local election monitors said a vehicle of a TNA candidate was reported to have been shot at in Kodikamam, 25 km from Jaffna town.

Plenty of complaints

Election officials said they received "plenty of complaints", including intimidation of voters.

N. Achchuthan, the deputy election high commissioner for the northern province, told Reuters voter turnout was estimated at above 60 percent, or more than double the 23.3 percent of the last parliamentary election, held in April 2010.

Turnout in the other four districts including the Tamil Tiger rebels' de facto capital, Kilinochchi, has been more than 60 percent.

The Center for Monitoring Election Violations (CMEV) said the house of a TNA polling agent was burnt and some voters were intimidated in Mullaitivu district, where thousands of Tamil people were said to have killed in May 2009.

"Specific incidents where voters have been intimidated, allegedly by ruling party politicians and the military, have resulted in fear among voters in these locations," the Center said.

The military rejects any suggestion of involvement by the security forces in violence of any sort.

A foreign observer said polling went off well in polling centers in Jaffna.

"But there have been many cases of intimidation reported outside the polling centers," the observer told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Many expect an overwhelming victory for the TNA, the former political proxy of the defeated rebels, who launched the war for a separate state to end what Tamil activists saw as systematic discrimination by Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority.

Rajapaksa has a majority of more than two-thirds in parliament and controls the eight other provinces. He appears determined to win in the north, where campaign posters for the ruling coalition plastered the walls.

The president has faced international pressure to bring to book those accused of war crimes committed at the end of the war, and to boost reconciliation efforts.

His government has rejected accusations of rights abuses and Rajapaksa in July ordered an inquiry into mass disappearances, mostly of Tamils, at the end of the war.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid