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

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week 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.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid