Tamils the kingmakers in Sri Lanka vote

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels are not contesting Thursday’s presidential vote, but they could end up choosing the next head of state, according to political analysts. Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels are not contesting Thursday’s presidential vote, but they could end up choosing the next head of state, according to political analysts. With Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese community divided down the middle between the two main candidates, the minority Tamils who usually vote as one bloc could tip the scales.

“The Tamil vote could be the deciding factor,” said Sunanda Deshapriya, a director at the Centre for Policy Alternatives think-tank. “The question is if they will be able to vote freely.”

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wield considerable influence over Tamils living in territory under their control as well as in neighbouring areas held by government forces.

The Tigers, who have been fighting for a separate state, entered into a truce with government forces in February 2002, temporarily halting a three-decades war that had claimed more than 60,000 lives.

Sri Lanka’s Tamil community is divided into two main groups — “Indian Tami