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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs