May 14, 2008 (AFP) – The Sri Lankan government may be celebrating a key election victory in the ethnically-mixed east but it is still a long way from winning over the island’s Tamil minority, analysts and observers say. The polls on Saturday saw voters in the east give President Mahinda Rajapakse’s ruling coalition control over a new provincial council designed to give more autonomy to the area and address the root cause of civil war.
To win the polls, the president allied himself with the Tamil People’s Liberation Tigers (TMVP), a controversial grouping of defectors from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — the main rebel group.
Unlike the LTTE, which is fighting for a separate homeland, the TMVP says it trusts the government to devolve more power to Tamils, many of whom complain of discrimination by the island’s majority Sinhalese community.
“The challenge now for the government is to show the Tamils that it is sincere with mass development,” said Dharmalingam Sithadthan, who leads a Colombo-based Tamil party.
But he said the catch was that the TMVP remained very much a militia — albeit a pro-government one — and the government needed to accept that many Tamils in the east supported it o