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US urges Sri Lankan parties to refrain from violence

Expressing deep concern over reports of unrest ahead of historic polls in Sri Lanka`s Tamil majority Northern Province, the US Friday called on all parties to refrain from violence and observe a peaceful, open and transparent electoral process.



Washington: Expressing deep concern over reports of unrest ahead of historic polls in Sri Lanka`s Tamil majority Northern Province, the US Friday called on all parties to refrain from violence and observe a peaceful, open and transparent electoral process.

"We call on all parties in Sri Lanka to refrain from violence and observe a peaceful, open and transparent electoral process - one that is free, fair, and credible, and allows for the full expression of the voters to democratically select the representatives of their choice," Mark Thornburg, Spokesperson for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in the State Department said.

"The United States is deeply concerned about reports of violence ahead of tomorrow`s historic Northern Provincial Council elections. We call for these incidents to be transparently and independently investigated, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice swiftly," Thornburgh told a news agency.

Nearly 715,000 people will today exercise their franchise for the first time in 25 years to elect a council to govern the former war zone, four years after the military defeated LTTE.

"Democracy is not simply about elections, however, and more must be done to ensure that Sri Lankans of all communities can live in the peace and dignity that they deserve," Thornburgh said.

Meanwhile, an eminent American expert on South Asia said that the elections is a step that could facilitate reconciliation between the country`s majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil populations.

"The election, if deemed free and fair, will mark the most significant step the Sri Lankan government has taken since the end of the civil war four years ago to address grievances of the Tamil community," said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, an eminent American think tank.

"While there are still concerns about the government’s handling of the final days of the civil war and other steps it has taken to stifle democracy in the country, the US should use the elections to increase engagement with the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse and put the US-Sri Lanka relationship on more solid footing," she said.

Relations between the US and Sri Lanka have been severely strained over the last four-and-a-half years mainly because of concerns about massive civilian casualties in 2009 resulting from clashes between government forces and the LTTE, she said.

"There are increasing geostrategic reasons to care about Sri Lanka, particularly because the island nation is strategically located in the Indian Ocean and is increasingly being wooed by China. The US should use the occasion of the historic elections in the Northern Province to foster goodwill with the government and encourage it to build a national consensus on reconciliation," Curtis added.

PTI

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