Sri Lanka opposition parties to contest Eastern provincial polls

March 25, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s main opposition United National Party (UNP) and the minority Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) have decided to contest the upcoming elections in the eastern province, party officials said. The UNP boycotted local government elections in the area earlier this month, in a move that proved controversial with some sections of the party.

Some political analysts charged the party of deserting ethnic Tamil and other voters in the region who defied a Tamil Tiger ban to vote for UNP candidates during the last presidential elections.

The UNP decided to contest the poll at a meeting of its central committee Tuesday morning, UNP general secretary Tissa Attanayake said.

But he said the party was demanding that the government disarm armed political groups operating in the eastern region and bring foreign monitors to monitor the conduct of the election.

The UNP also wants the government not to transfer the special task force (STF), an elite police para-military unit, from the east until the poll is over.

The proposed redeployment of the STF to other parts of the island to fight Tamil Tiger rebels had generated controversy with the opposition claiming it was done to influence the