The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Ex-Tamil Tigers win polls in Sri Lanka's tense east

A pro-government militia of Tamil Tiger defectors has swept to victory in the first local elections in Sri Lanka's restive east in 14 years, official results showed Tuesday.

The armed Tamil People's Liberation Party (TMVP), which broke away from the main separatist movement, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, won 72 of the 101 council seats in Monday's vote in the district of Batticaloa.

The government-backed TMVP had been widely expected to win the vote as it had been calling the shots in the troubled region since security forces drove out the main Tamil Tiger rebels eight months ago.

Colombo plans to use Monday's polls here as a curtain-raiser for a larger provincial council election later in the year to allow Tamils, who are in the minority nationally but a majority in Batticaloa, to have greater autonomy.

"This peaceful election underlines the aim of the government to create an environment in which all our people could live in freedom and harmony," Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said in a statement.

The United Nations has accused police and security forces in Sri Lanka of colluding with the TMVP, led by V. Muralitharan, to recruit child soldiers to fight the Tigers.

Muralitharan, better known as Colonel Karuna, defected in March 2004.

The government has angrily denied such charges and accused UN diplomats of being "terrorists," but local and international rights groups have documented alleged excesses of the TMVP with the tacit support of the security forces.

The TMVP took complete control of eight out of nine councils, with a ninth going to its proxies under the president's People's Alliance.

The results showed about 51 percent of the 290,000 electorate turned out to cast their ballots.

Poll monitors said some people had been forced to vote, but there were no major incidents of violence.

The government poured an additional 6,500 police and security forces into the region to secure the election. In some areas, they were deployed to drive away wild elephants blocking polling booths.

Although the vote was conducted in relative calm, fighting raged elsewhere in the island's embattled north where the military reported killing 10 rebels for the loss of three government soldiers on Monday.

After taking the east of the island from the Tigers in July, the military has turned its attention to the Tigers' mini state in the north, and appears confident of victory.

In the east, the election campaign was marred by allegations that the TMVP was imposing gun law amid reports of murder and intimidation, which the group has denied.

The TMVP founder, Karuna, is now in a British jail after being convicted of entering London with a fake "official" passport.

He says Sri Lanka's government arranged his clandestine passage to Britain to escape him being targeted by Tamil Tiger rebels, but Colombo has denied any involvement.

Source: AFP

LTTE lashes out at India for hosting Lankan army chief

The LTTE has criticised India for hosting the Sri Lankan army chief despite the scrapping of a 2002 ceasefire by Colombo, saying such moves will "reinvigorate" the island's military which was carrying out "ethnic genocide" against Tamils.

In a statement circulated here, LTTE said it "strongly condemns" India extending a "state welcome" to the military chief Maj Gen Sarath Fonseka of the "Sinhala State" which has "unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire agreement and has launched widespread military offensives in Tamil homeland."

Despite condemnation of its attempt to seek a military solution, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam alleged that Sri Lanka is continuing its "enormous human rights violations".

Many of the European countries now understand its "hidden motive" and have halted all assistance, it added.

"The Indian State also knows this truth. Yet, while pronouncing that a solution to the Tamil problem must be found through peaceful means, it is giving encouragement to the military approach of the Sinhala State. This can only lead to the intensification of the genocide of the Tamils," it said.

India's move of "propping up the politically- militarily-economically weakened Sri Lankan State has upset Eelam Tamils," it said.

India must take the "responsibility for the ethnic genocide of the Tamils that will be carried out by the Sinhala military re-invigorated by such moves of the Indian State."

LTTE said it "wishes to point to the Indian State that this historic blunder by it will continue to subject the Eelam Tamils to misery."

"We still have not abandoned the Norway sponsored peace efforts and we are ready to take part in such efforts."

Fonseka undertook a week-long visit to India this month. Fighting has intensified in the island country after Sri Lanka scrapped the tattered ceasefire in January.

Source: Hindu