Sri Lanka’s Tamils vote after decades of war

JAFFNA, September 21, 2013 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils began voting Saturday to elect what they hope will give them a shot at self-rule after decades of ethnic bloodshed that claimed over 100,000 lives. Tamils in the country’s battle-scarred northern province are voting for the first time to elect a semi-autonomous council, in an election called amid international pressure on the Sinhalese-dominated government to share power with the main ethnic minority.

“Even though this is a local election, there is more interest in it locally and internationally,” S. Arumainayaham, the top civil administrator in the provincial capital of Jaffna, told reporters at his office.

Retired Supreme Court judge K. Wigneswaran, who is expected to be elected the region’s chief minister, said he wants to work with Colombo on pushing his party’s manifesto, which calls for “self-government” for Tamils.

Wigneswaran’s priority is war reparations, securing an army pull-out from the former zone, and taking back land the military still occupies four years after defeating Tamil Tiger rebels who fought for outright independence.

“I will try to work with the (Colombo) government,” Wigneswaran told AFP in an interview a