Sri Lanka’s Tamils trudge to polls in post-war vote – Scene

VAVUNIYA, January 26, 2010 (AFP) – Kandaswamy Wellarayanam, 73, walked six kilometres to vote in Sri Lanka’s election from a state camp where displaced Tamils were locked up after the country’s war last year. Now able to move freely, he said he and his wife, daughter and two grandchildren were eager to take part, even though buses that were meant to transport them never turned up.

“We walked to vote because we felt it was important after the war,” he told AFP. “I was keen to have a say in who should be our next president… We’ve not had free food and rations for two months and depend on odd jobs to survive.”

He, like many other Tamils that AFP spoke to in the highly militarised Tamil-dominated town of Vavuniya, 250 kilometres (160 miles) north of the capital Colombo, said he would vote for former army chief Sarath Fonseka.

Fonseka and President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is seeking re-election, 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 mired in allegations of war crimes, an estimated 300,000 displaced Tamils were locked up until December in camps that were clo