Former guerrillas sweep polls in eastern Sri Lanka

BATTICALOA, Sri Lanka, March 11, 2008 (AFP) – A pro-government Tamil rebel group won a majority in almost all the local councils that went to the polls in Sri Lanka’s volatile east, officials results showed Tuesday. The armed Tamil People’s Liberation Party (TMVP) secured 72 out of the 101 seats in Monday’s vote to elect officials to run local administrations in Batticaloa district, the elections department said.

The TMVP, which enjoys support of the ruling People’s Alliance of President Mahinda Rajapakse, took complete control of eight out of nine councils that went to the polls peacefully on Monday.

The vote had been a one-horse race for the TMVP, a breakaway militia whose defection helped government forces push the leading separatist outfit, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), out of the east.

The Colombo government touted the first vote in the area in 14 years as a chance to win the hearts and minds of ethnic Tamils and Muslims, after security forces wrested control of the region from the LTTE eight months ago.

But UN and human rights groups have accused the TMVP of imposing gun law in the eastern district amid reports of murder and intimidation, which the group denied. The government

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