COLOMBO: A Tamil candidate for landmark polls in Sri Lanka’s former warzone fled a mob attack yesterday as the man tipped to become the region’s chief minister accused the army of intimidating voters.
Many Tamils complain they are treated as second-class citizens and face discrimination, and Saturday’s vote is seen as crucial in reducing ethnic tensions. Anandi Saseedaran, 42, told how dozens of armed men surrounded her house on the eve of the Jaffna region’s first ballot for a semi-autonomous council, forcing her to flee with the help of supporters.
One of the leaders of her party, retired Supreme Court judge K. Wigneswaran who is expected to be elected the region’s chief minister, said security forces were trying to scare voters away from the ballot box.
“The army is going brazenly in uniform attacking people and saying they must not go to vote,” Wigneswaran, 74, said at the modest office of his Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the heart of Jaffna.
Jaffna is the capital of the battle-scarred northern province, home to over a million Tamils and also the Hindu cultural centre of Sri Lanka’s second-largest ethnic group. Tamils say the poll is being held under international pressure on Colombo to share power with Tamils.
The United States, which has been pressing Sri Lanka over alleged human rights abuses during the island’s ethnic civil war that ended in 2009, was swift to condemn the attack.
“The attack should be transparently and independently investigated and the perpetrators should be brought to justice swiftly,” the US embassy in Colombo, 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Jaffna, said in a statement.