Colombo: Sri Lanka is set to hold local body polls in Jaffna and Vavuniya in the war-torn north next month enabling Tamil civilians to enjoy full democratic rights after three decades under the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rule, an exercise also being seen as a test case for handing over power to Tamils in Wanni.
The stage is set for the people of the north to enjoy their full democratic freedom after 30 long years, a senior leader of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and transport minister Dullas Alahapperuma said.
“It is not important to know who will win these (8 August) elections,” Alahapperuma told a poll meeting in Jaffna on Monday.
“The government and the President (Mahinda Rajapaksa) believe that the biggest victory is to provide the Tamil- speaking people in Jaffna an opportunity to cast their votes independently,” he said.
The local elections would give the representatives of the Tamil culture a chance to take responsibility for the Tamil people in Jaffna, Alahapperuma said. “The election process will be centered around this.”
Elections to Vavuniya urban council and Jaffna municipal council in northern province are scheduled for 8 August. Although the polls are taking place just for local councils, they are considered significant as they are being seen as a test case for handing over power to Tamils in the Wanni region and expected to be closely-watched.
The next goal of the President in the post-LTTE era is to allow free expression of the people’s will which was suppressed for three decades, the minister said, adding this would be done through the popular vote.
“The number of candidates who win is not important. What is important is the President has paved the way for the people of Jaffna to express their will freely and according to their choice,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) leader and social service and social welfare ,minister Douglas Devananda said people are expected to vote in large numbers in the local elections.
Devananda has escaped several assassination attempts by the LTTE in the past.
Besides the EPDP, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) and Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) are among 25 political parties contesting the Jaffna municipal council election.
Sporting the traditional Tamil ‘tilak´ on his forehead, Alahapperuma said the youths of the north were compelled to take the path of bullets rather than the ballots.
Recalling that the Jaffna library was torched, he said the UFPA has promised to restore it to its original glory if the coalition is voted to power in the Municipal council elections.
Sri Lankan government had expressed its commitment to holding provincial council polls in the North after resettling the displaced Tamils in the region.