x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tamil party wins overwhelming majority in Sri Lanka provincial vote

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s alliance wins just seven seats in a humiliating defeat for the president, who has won almost every major election since he led the campaign that crushed Tamil Tigers in 2009.

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka // Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party won a landslide victory on Sunday in elections, raising hopes of some degree of self-rule for the ethnic minority after decades of war.

The opposition Tamil National Alliance won 30 out of 38 seats in the first elections for a provincial council in the former war zone in the north of the country.

The alliance leader CV Wigneswaran said the results were an overwhelming vote for self-rule for Tamils. He repeated his demand for the military to withdraw from the Tamil-dominated north, saying there was no reason for its presence since the end of the war in 2009.

The military presence “is the primary problem the Tamils of the northern province are having today”, Mr Wigneswaran said.

“You have to get rid of the army. They must be put in barracks somewhere else,” said Mr Wigneswaran, who is set to become the region’s chief minister.

Saturday’s vote in the former rebel stronghold has been promoted by the UN Human Rights Council as a step towards ethnic reconciliation following the 26-year war that killed more than 100,000 lives.

The national government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been under pressure to share power with Tamils who are a minority nationally but a majority in the north.

The Tamil National Alliance swept all five districts in the election for the semi-autonomous Northern Provincial Council. The poll for the council was held amid claims the military tried to intimidate and harass voters and a Tamil candidate.

Mr Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance won just seven seats in a humiliating defeat for the president, who has won almost every major election since he led the campaign that crushed Tamil Tigers in 2009.

A Muslim party won one seat on the council.

* Agence France-Presse