Attempt to disfranchise Hill country Tamils?

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 10 June 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Voters in Sri Lanka's hill country, home to a large Tamil population working in the tea industry, will be asked to produce their national identity cards to qualify for voting at the forthcoming provincial council elections, said sources in Colombo. Sri Lanka's Commissioner of Elections Mr.Dayananda Dissanayaka, who will be meeting the secretaries of political parties on Wednesday, is expected to advise them to pass a bill in Parliament to enable the elections department to demand national identity cards from hill country voters.

Tamil political party sources based in the hill country said that the move is aimed at undermining the political clout of the Tamils in the central and Uva provinces.

Although the large majority of the hill country Tamils have been registered as voters many face inordinate delays in obtaining their national identity cards due to open and covert stalling by the Sri Lankan bureaucracy and Sinhala politicians over the years. A leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress said that the Sri Lankan government has ignored pleas by his party to expedite the process of granting national identity cards to Tamils in the hill country.

The CWC is one of the largest trade unions in the island and the support of its nine members of Parliament is critical for the PA's survival.

Mr. P.P Devaraj of the CWC has sent a letter to the Sri Lankan President strongly protesting against the move to pass legislation enabling the elections commissioner to demand national identity cards from hill country voters.

The leader of the Ceylon National Workers's Congress Mr. M.S Sellasamy also wrote a letter of protest to the President stating, among other things, "It is wrong to bring legislation to demand national identity cards from people who have been registered as voters."

Trade union leaders in the hill country see the move as the latest in attempts by Sinhala political parties since Sri Lanka's independence to disfranchise the Tamils in the hill country.


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