Sri Lanka’s leading Muslim party, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), a key ally of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has decided to contest the northern provincial council elections alone.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem is the Minister of Justice at the centre and a key ally of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) coalition led by Mr. Rajapaksa.

“We will contest the northern election under our own party symbol of ‘tree’,” Shafik Rajabdeen, SLMC national organiser told reporters.

He said that the party’s supreme council after long deliberations taken the decision which will apply for the other two provincial councils - the north western and central for which elections have been called alongside the north.

The SLMC, however, does not see eye to eye with UPFA on the latter’s move to tinker with the powers of the provinces.

They have publicly vowed to vote against the government move despite being in the ruling coalition.

The SLMC decision on the northern polls came as the main Tamil party TNA on Monday named retired Supreme Court judge C. V. Wigneswaran as its chief ministerial aspirant ahead of the veteran Mavai Senathirajah.

The SLMC sources, however, said the party would not leave the ruling coalition and continue to be in the government despite the decision to go it alone in the north.

The northern provincial council scheduled to take place late September is being viewed with close interest by the international community who regard it as a major reconciliation step with the Tamil minority in the post-LTTE conflict phase.