Sun, Aug 09, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Voting begins in Sri Lanka without independent media


Voting for two local councils began yesterday near Sri Lanka’s former war zone, officials said, but denied independent media access to the area.

Election officials said voting for the Jaffna and Vavuniya municipal councils would last nine hours till yesterday evening, with nearly 125,000 eligible voters.

The two councils are located just outside the Wanni war zone where security forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May.

Media rights groups have slammed authorities for not allowing independent media into the region.

“It is unacceptable that the government should impose such a ban [based] on nothing more than the vaguest security grounds,” Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.

“As well as violating the population’s fundamental rights by preventing them from circulating freely, this measure dashes any hope of a transparent election,” it said.

Yesterday’s vote does not cover areas recently captured from the Tiger rebels but travelling to both areas requires permission from defense authorities.

Meanwhile, senior Tiger cadres in military custody feared for their lives after the new head of the defeated guerrilla group was arrested in Malaysia, a pro-rebel Web site said yesterday.

The site said Wednesday’s dramatic capture of Selvarasa Pathmanathan, better known as K.P., in Kuala Lumpur raised “serious concerns about the world outlook to political justice.”

Pathmanathan, who took over after the Tigers’ military leadership was killed in the final stages of fighting in May, had chosen to reorganize the rebel group as a non-violent movement.

“Mr Pathmanathan, who denounced violence, was engaged in reorganising” the Tigers and was involved in “the formation of a trans-national body for the Eelam Tamils,” the site said.

Tamilnet said Pathmanathan’s “kidnapping” had raised fears for the safety of hundreds of Tiger leaders in military custody.

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