Sri Lanka scales back army presence in former rebel stronghold

July 24, 2013 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military said Wednesday it will dismantle over a dozen army camps in the former rebel stronghold of Jaffna, weeks ahead of key council elections in the embattled region. Sri Lanka adopted a de facto federal system in 1987 but never held elections in the Tamil-dominated north, which continued to be ruled directly by the president. Councils have, however, been functioning in Sinhalese-majority areas that Rajapakse’s party controls.

The councils were established in line with an agreement with neighbouring India, which promised to rein in Tamil separatists on its soil provided Colombo shared political power with the Tamil minority.

Sri Lanka is under international pressure to promote ethnic reconciliation and investigate allegations of war crimes by its forces in the final stages of crushing Tamil Tiger rebels.

It has denied allegations that up to 40,000 civilians were killed during the bloody finale to the conflict. Military spokesman brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said 13 camps in Jaffna will relocate to the sprawling Palaly cantonment on the northern edge of the peninsula next month.

“This is yet another step in the ongoing process of relocating the mil