First Election in 25 Years : Sri Lanka

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In Sri Lanka covering the provincial elections which took place two days ago. This time the elections have been held in three provinces – north, central and northwest – out of nine and it’s the first election in the north province in nearly 25 years.

The north province was under the control of the Tamil Tigers, a separatist military organization which demanded an independent state for Tamil people, for more than 20 years until the end of the civil war in 2009 when the group was defeated by the Sri Lankan military. Although Tamils are a minority in Sri Lanka, they make up more than 90% of the population in the north.

Leading to voting day, there was constant intimidation by the military, which is closely connected to the ruling party, against Tamil candidates and supporters. I heard many stories of Tamil candidates attacked by soldiers and their supporters told not to vote. One of them is candidate Ananthi Sasitharan. Her house was surrounded by men, some of them wearing military uniforms, in the middle of the night just before we arrived Jaffna, the capital city of the northern province. Luckily she was able to flee but her supporters were beaten up with bars and sticks.

Despite the intimidation, Tamil parties marked landslide victories with nearly 80% of votes as expected. The parties will certainly try to push further for their autonomy. But in reality, it would be a very long shot. The president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the central government have so much power and the provincial governments have very little influences.

Many Tamils realize it and they are not overly hopeful about the victory. It’ll be interesting to see how the changes will take place in the next several years if it ever would. At least, I think that the election was significant in the sense that the Tamil people had their voices heard and their will reflected in politics for the first time.








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