Late September date for Lanka`s northern polls
Colombo: The long-awaited provincial council election in Sri Lanka`s Tamil-dominated north would be held in late September, the nation`s poll Chief said on Monday.
"Most likely it will be either on September 21 or 28," Election Chief Mahinda Deshapriya told reporters here.
He said the number of nomination papers filed by political parties and interested groups to contest the election would have a bearing on his decision to decide the date.
Deshapriya also said that elections for two other provinces, north western and central, would also be held on the same date.
However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is yet to make the official announcement on holding the northern election.
Presidential sources said the notice would come this week.
The northern provincial council election is seen as crucial by international watchers who consider it a major step towards reconciliation with the island`s Tamil minority since the end of a brutal three-decade-long civil war in 2009 when government troops finally crushed LTTE rebels fighting for a separate Tamil homeland.
However, the government has held back the election as Sinhala nationalists within the ruling coalition have raised fears about Tamils gaining control of the province and pursuing their separatist agenda.
The government has contemplated a move to water down the provincial powers, particularly the right of the provinces to merge with another to form a joint administration and control of the provincial police and land mass.
Rajapaksa has called for setting up a Parliamentary Select Committee to look at changes to the thirteenth amendment (13A) of the Constitution under which the provincial councils entered Sri Lanka`s statutes in 1987.
Concerned over reports of Sri Lanka considering removal of land and police powers prior to the northern elections, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had spoken to his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris last month and underlined the need to leave the 13A unchanged, urging Colombo not to take any step contrary to its own commitments relating to the 13A.
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