Voting has concluded in Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council election, where initial estimates say voter turnout in the historic election for the country’s Tamil population would be about 68 percent province wide.
Voting was slow in the Jaffna District in the early morning hours but picked up significantly by mid-morning and slowed again by afternoon.
In the Northern Capital of Jaffna, the elderly, the displaced, former combatants and young people arrived at polling stations to cast their votes creating long lines at selected polling stations.
Polling commenced at 7 a.m. with election monitors recording about 20 incidents of violence and intimidation while voting was underway.
PAFFREL, a local monitoring agency confirmed that 30 soldiers had visited the Mathagal village in Jaffna and told people to refrain from casting their ballots. The local monitors said the entire village had not voted in today’s election.
The Tamil National Alliance the main opposition party in this election that is widely expected to win the poll says voters have been prevented from reaching polling stations by soldiers in civilian clothing. Many of the soldiers were from nearby army camps, the TNA says, and voters were able to recognise them on sight.
In Pali Nagar in the Mullaitivu District, the home of a TNA polling agent was burned down, local election monitors said.
One TNA candidate was shot at outside a polling station that was next to a military camp, local monitors CaFFE confirmed. The incident took place at around 2 p.m.
The Northern Province is electing its provincial representatives for the first time in 25 years. The Provincial Council system set up under the terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord was the 1987 attempt to resolve Sri Lanka’s ethnic struggle that had erupted into an armed insurgency by the 80s. The last time Northern Tamils voted to elect a Provincial Council the provinces of the North and East were still one administrative unit. In 2006, by Supreme Court order, the East was officially demerged from the North, with its own Council.