Sri Lankan Tamils pray for post-election peace

VAVUNIYA, January 26, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils, for decades in the crossfire between rebels and government forces, hope their potentially decisive role in Tuesday’s election will finally bring them peace. The two main candidates, President Mahinda Rajapakse and former general Sarath Fonseka, were the architects of a final assault on Tamil Tiger separatists last year that the UN says killed 7,000 civilians in Tamil areas.

After the end of the conflict, which has been clouded by allegations of war crimes, an estimated 300,000 displaced Tamils were locked up until December in closed camps to which media and humanitarian groups were denied access.

In a twist of fate, they might now emerge as kingmakers according to some political analysts, if Rajapakse and Fonseka split the vote of the majority Sinhalese ethnic group to which they both belong.

Tamils interviewed by AFP in Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka, located near some of the camps, appeared to be strongly leaning towards Fonseka, seeing him as the better of two imperfect options.

“They (Tamils) feel General Fonseka might treat them better, like equal citizens,” said T. Jathukulatharam, who lives and teaches in one of the camps.

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