Sri Lanka approves new voters` bill
Colombo: The Sri Lankan Parliament on Tuesday approved without a vote, a key voter registration bill which will allow some 20,000 people to vote in the upcoming provincial council elections in the Tamil-dominated north.
The Registration of Electors (Special Provisions) Bill permits internally displaced citizens in the island`s north and east to vote at an election.
The bill, which was approved with amendments, permits people who had lived in the north and east provinces between May 1983 and May 2009 to vote.
This is if a voter`s name appeared in the register of electors for any electoral district in the north and east.
Such names should not have been entered in any register in operation after 2009.
The Minister of Justice Rauff Hakeem who is also the leader of the main Muslim minority party, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) was the main promoter of the bill.
The SLMC, analysts said would be the biggest beneficiary from the move.
A large number of Muslims were chased out by the LTTE in their ethnic cleansing of the former battle zones during the height of the civil war.
The Jaffna Muslims evicted by the LTTE were settled mainly in the north-western district of Puttalam.
Election observer groups said some 20,000 voters are expected to be enrolled into the voter register as a result of the bill.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to make the proclamation on the northern provincial council elections next week.
The election may take place in early September.
However, a government move to water down the powers of the provincial councils ahead of the elections has irked Tamil and opposition parties and the government of India.
Concerned over reports of Sri Lanka considering removal of land and police powers prior to the elections in the Northern Province, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had spoken to his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris last month and underlined the need to leave the contentious 13A amendment untinkered.
The 13A amendment of 1987 devolved powers to the island`s provinces in an effort to resolve the Sri Lankan Tamil ethnic conflict.
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