Foreigners monitor Sri Lanka’s ex-war zone vote

JAFFNA, September 18, 2013 (AFP) – Foreign observers held talks with officials and candidates in Sri Lanka’s former war zone Wednesday to ensure the region’s first elections to choose a semi-autonomous council pass off peacefully, officials said.

Some 906 candidates are contesting the 36 seats in the Northern council which is going to the polls for the first time since Sri Lanka adopted a de facto federal form of government in 1987.

A total of 714,000 people are eligible to vote in the northern province where thousands of people are still missing four years the ethnic war. Many more have also lost their homes damaged or destroyed during fighting.

The guerrillas had fought for outright independence for Tamils, but the TNA has said it will lead a political campaign for greater autonomy within a united Sri Lanka. Kenya’s former vice president Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, who is heading a four-member Commonwealth mission, urged all sides to ensure the landmark elections take place without incident as his delegation entered a series of meetings in the town of Jaffna, the Commonwealth secretariat said.

“I call on all stakeholders to play their part to ensure that the remaining days of the electoral process promote confidence in voters to