By Kelum Bandara
Saturday’s local council elections saw the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) winning the local councils in the south while the main Tamil party the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won nearly all the local councils in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
With the conclusion of Saturday’s election the local councils in the North can now be made functional for the first time after more than a decade.
The election was held in 65 local council areas, with the ruling UPFA winning 45 local councils while the TNA won 18 of the 19 councils in the North and the East. The United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Perumuna (JVP) were unable to secure even a single local council.
In the Jaffna district – except in the Jaffna Municipal Council area – the local council election was held for the first time after 1998 with the TNA winning 13 local councils with five local councils in the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu in the North, and Digamadulla and Trincomalee in the Eastern Province.
The Tamil United Left Front (TULF) led by V. Anandasangari won two local councils in Poonekery and Pachchilepalai (Palai) in the Kilinochchi district. In these areas, the TULF was backed by the TNA whose nomination papers were rejected.
The UPFA, backed by the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), won three local councils — Kayts Pradeshiya Sabha, Delft Pradeshiya Sabha and Velanai Pradeshiya Sabha.
However, the UPFA lost the Karainagar Pradeshiya Sabha to the TNA by a narrow margin of less than 100 votes.
TNA MP Suresh Premachandran said the Tamil people had voted for a dignified political settlement at this election despite intimidations and threats by the ruling UPFA.
“The entire government machinery was used against us. There were various inducements given to the people during election time. Senior government ministers and even President Mahinda Rajapaksa participated in the election campaign against us. Yet, people have voted for us overwhelmingly,” he said.
“We campaigned for a dignified political settlement. We asked for a mandate to fight for some sort of regional autonomy for us. People have endorsed it,”Mr. Premachandran said.
Minister Douglas Devananda who is also the EPDP leader accused the TNA of using inflammatory language during the campaign. He said the TNA even referred to the incidents such as the burning down of the Jaffna library in 1987 and the communal riots in 1983, to gain political mileage at this election.
“They aroused racial sentiments among people saying the Sinhala people are going to be settled in the entire North. Also, they accused that Sinhala election officials had been brought from the South to do various election malpractices. They talked about a plan to demolish the statue of ancient Tamil King ‘Sangiliyan’, and erect the statue of a Sinhala Buddhist monk instead,” the minister said.
He said the TNA was able to win the poll through the use of such tactics and before long, it would feel the pinch.
Meanwhile election monitors said though polling day was relatively peaceful, incidents of election law violations and incidents of violence were reported during the pre election period.
The People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) said a person was killed prior to the start of voting in the Anuradhapura district.
It said the situation was not conducive for a free and fair election in the North, and at most polling stations, the opposition parties did not have their polling agents either.
PAFFREL had received complaints of armed masked men snatching away polling cards from voters in the Karachchi area of Kilinochchi while election officials had been intimidated by armed men in the Valikamam West Division.