EU presses for free and fair north Lanka polls
Colombo: The European Union on Friday asked Sri Lanka to ensure free and fair provincial council election in the Tamil-dominated north in an environment free of intimidation.
A delegation of the European Parliament, the legislative arm of the EU, which visited Sri Lanka expressed hope that the election to be held in late September would take place in a civilian environment free from any type of pressure or intimidation.
"The success of these elections should be an important step in the process of bringing together and empowering in the same democratic framework all Sri Lankan citizens who have been separated by three decades of conflict," Jean Lambert, a British member of the EP who chaired the delegation told reporters.
The call for a civilian environment assumes much importance in the background of demands by the main opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Tamil National Alliance to replace the northern governor, who is a retired Major General, with a civilian.
"We raised concerns that military is becoming a part of every day life in society," Lambert said.
The delegation had also stressed the need for the full implementation of Sri Lanka`s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommendations - for the steps to be taken for reconciliation with the island`s Tamil minority.
They asked Colombo to ensure accountability in light of what the UN has called "credible allegations" of nearly 40,000 civilians killed in the final phase of the three-decade-long Sri Lankan Civil War that ended in 2009 when state forces finally crushed LTTE rebels.
"On issues around accountability, we need to see more progress," Lambert said.
She said the six-member delegation had appreciated the role of military in the reconstruction of the former war-torn regions.
The delegation visited the north where the people have benefited from EU-supported projects.
The northern election, the first since the province came to be de-merged from the east in 2006, is seen as crucial for reconciliation with the Tamil minority after the end of the ethnic conflict.
There have been concerns over reports of Sri Lankan government considering removal of land and police powers in the northern province prior to the elections.
India has called for an early political settlement and national reconciliation through the meaningful devolution of powers in Sri Lanka and asked it to adhere to the commitments made to the international community including India, during National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon`s visit here earlier this month.
But, the government`s Buddhist nationalist allies have warned that ethnic Tamil TNA party coming to power in the north with control over police and land matters would again lead to rise of separatism in the province.
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