Sri Lanka’s bloody 25-year conflict with the Tamil Tigers ended in May but commentators reflecting on the country’s first post-war elections last weekend expressed little optimism about a peaceful future for the Indian Ocean island.
The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance swept to victory in Sinhalese-dominated Uva province and scraped a win in Jaffna, while the Tamil National Alliance — political allies of the defeated rebels — won control of Vavuniya. Both Jaffna and Vavuniya are just outside the shadow state which the Tigers controlled for decades.
“The victory in Jaffna, the heartland of the country’s ethnic minority Tamils and birthplace of militancy, will give the government a chance to claim it as an endorsement of its handling of ethnic relations, postwar rehabilitation and a rejection of separatism,” Krishan Francis of the Associated Press wrote in the Washington Post.
But the results do not fully reflect public opinion in these war-battered regions, with more than 77 percent of the Jaffna voters staying away and only half of the Vavuniya voters casting ballots.
The London-based Financial Times pointed out that it was hard to know what really happened in the elections – foreign journalists were banned from the north, just as all journalists were during the final stages of the war.