Sri Lankans vote for rural rebuilding: president

March 19, 2011 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s president said Saturday his party’s landslide victory in local elections was an endorsement of the government’s focus on rebuilding rural areas after decades of civil war. The Tamil National Alliance, a party of minority Tamils, won 12 councils after fielding candidates in the island’s former war zones.

The main minority Muslim party won four councils while the balance went to small regional groups.

Since government troops defeated the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels, Rajapakse has tightened his grip on power by securing a second presidential term and winning parliamentary polls last year.

Thursday’s vote was held mainly in rural areas. Polls in urban areas were put off until after the cricket World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Sri Lanka along with Bangladesh and India, ends in April.

Rajapakse has vowed to speed up post-war infrastructure development across the island, but minority Tamils accuse him of ignoring their needs. Results showed that Rajapakse’s United People’s Freedom Alliance swept 205 of the 234 councils that went to the polls Thursday, the first local election since the island’s 37-year-long ethnic war ended in May 2009.

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