Military to conduct Jaffna elections
[TamilNet, Saturday, 11 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Local government elections will be held in the Jaffna peninsula in January next year said Sri Lanka's deputy minister for defense, Gen.Anuruddha Ratwatte. He stated that the PA government is making arrangements for the elections with a view to creating a leadership for development work in the peninsula.
Tamil parties in Colombo were concerned upon hearing the Government's position today.
Nominations were called for elections to local government bodies in the peninsula in December last year. The election was postponed after all Tamil parties in Colombo made strong representations to the SriLankan president that it be postponed in view of the situation in Jaffna.
'Gen'.Ratwatte pointed out that more than one year has been granted for the Tamil parties. Therefore the Tamil parties cannot request the postponement of the election again , he said.
"The Tamil parties have opened offices in Jaffna and are functioning there. There are five hundred thousand people in the peninsula. We are holding the election at their request. No development work has taken place in Jaffna for the last seventeen years. We can develop the region by holding local government elections there" said the 'general'.
All the Colombo based Tamil groups are publicly against holding the local government elections in Jaffna right now.
Some of them, however, are privately confident that with some backing from the army and Police they could rig their way to power in the main local government bodies in the peninsula. The prize catch is, of course, the Jaffna Municipality.
The PLOTE's 'military wing' leader Manikkam Dasan is widely expected to stake his claim for the position of Jaffna mayor. He hails from Martin Road in Jaffna town and continues to be the ex-Tamil militant most favoured by the Sri Lankan army.
The local press and human rights groups have held him responsible for extortion and murder in Vavuniya and Colombo. Sections of the PLOTE have accused him of murdering a central committee member named Arjuna and Mr.Karavai Kandasamy, the vice president of the group's political wing.
The PLOTE under Manikkam Dasan became quite active in Jaffna town politically since the elections were announced last year. The group has engaged in social work and shramadna work.
But the leader of the PLOTE, Mr.Dharmalingam Sidtharthan is yet to go to Jaffna. He has generally dissociated himself from Manikkam Dasan's activities in the peninsula.
The TULF is also toying with the idea of contesting the local government elections in Jaffna. Some leaders of the party have said that TULF supporters had been critical of its decision in early 1994 not to contest the local government polls in the eastern province.
This has been seen as a lame excuse by the party to gain a foothold in Jaffna.
However the TULF is yet to test the waters on this question. Some old Federal Party activists are not happy with the TULF's current leadership. They say that the party is now in the hands of the Tamil Congress - a reference to Mr.M Sivasithamparam and Mr.Anandasangari.
The EPDP and EPRLF are also gearing for the LG polls mainly with an eye on the general elections which are expected in 1999. Suresh Premachandran, the EPRLF leader announced this week, that his group was planning demonstrations against the Sinhala Commission in the army controlled areas of the northeast.
"This is a popularity gimmick which may never translate into any action. The EPRLF hammered in the last nail on its coffin many years ago" said the leader of another Tamil group in Colombo.
"He who has the full support of the army will win the elections in Jaffna" he added.