Democracy for Tamils in northern Sri Lanka

The predominantly Tamil residents of Sri Lanka's northern province will finally get the chance to vote.

The Sri Lankan government is attempting to restore political administration after the fall of the Tamil Tigers, giving Tamils in the province a chance to vote after a gap of 11 years.

Elections will be held for the municipal council in Jaffna and the urban council in Vavuniya.

Tamils in these districts were previously not allowed to vote under the orders of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

Inter Press Service

Under the Tamil Tigers, who were averse to any political settlement with the government on power sharing, the Tamil community in the war-torn north was bereft of any alternate political leadership. These elections, some observers say, are an opportunity to restore democratic pluralism in the region.

Speaking to IPS, the leader of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), Dharmalingam Sidarthan, said that this election would be a "test" for the Tamil residents of the North.

"This is the first time in many years that they are taking part in the polls without the LTTE. The interference of the LTTE has been there during elections for many years," he added.

Yet, there are critics of these elections who say the elections are being held to soon.

V Anandasangaree, the leader of the Tamil Liberation Front, told IPS that these elections carried no significance to the people when every household is mourning the loss of a missing relative, or knows someone who was either injured or killed due to the war.

"How can they think of anything else when they do not know the whereabouts of their kith and kin? They are not at all interested in the elections. This is not the right time," said Anandasangaree.

Suresh Premachandran from the Tamil National Alliance was equally distraught about the timing of the elections.

"There is a fear psychosis among the people. They are scared to go out for any meetings. Many of them fear for their lives, thinking that something might happen to them if they go for political meetings. They do not want to be identified with any political party due to fear."

TNA has the largest Tamil representation in parliament with 22 out of 225 members. This party has decided to field candidates in the election even though they think it is ill-timed.

These elections, however, are local council elections. They should be considered as a stepping stone towards restoring democracy before we become overly critical by pondering on it's timing.

In the same IPS article titled ' Island Faces Key Test in Upcoming Elections,' the leader of Eelam People’s Democratic Party, Douglas Devananda, remained optimistic. Saying steps had to be taken in the right direction even when problems prevail.

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