Tamil voters in northern Sri Lanka are set to elect their first ever semi-autonomous council on Saturday, in a post-war power-sharing exercise already marred by allegations of army intimidation and harassment.
The poll is being held with Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse under international pressure to allow a fair vote for the Provincial Council in the once strife-torn region which was a former stronghold for the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels. The Tigers were crushed by a Sri Lankan military onslaught in 2009, which remains dogged by war crimes allegations, and the army maintains a heavy presence throughout the region of about a million people. Many Tamils complain they are treated as second-class citizens and face discrimination and Saturday’s vote is seen as crucial in reducing ethnic tensions.
The 36-member Provincial Council will have no powers to address major local grievances. Any decisions it takes — for example, raising taxes, building new infrastructure — can also be vetoed by the regional governor who is an appointee of the president.AFP