in a set-back for Sri Lanka's ruling party, the Tamil National Alliance has won a landslide victory in local elections, capturing 20 out of 25 seats it contested in areas formerly held by rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Tamil politicians in the north and east of the country said yesterday that the results had delivered them a mandate to pursue change, adding that the Government in Colombo should work towards delivering a genuine political settlement.
Speaking last night from Sri Lanka, Suresh Premachandran, a TNA member of parliament, claimed the elections had seen incidents of intimidation and yet his coalition had been successful.
"The majority of the people support the TNA," he said. "This shows the Government of Sri Lanka that they must work with the TNA to solve the problems amicably. This means not just [bringing] development – people voted for a political settlement."
In an attempt to boost support for a pro-government Tamil party, President Mahinda Rajapksa had campaigned aggressively in the north and had promised he would deliver on development promises.
Yet in the aftermath of the 2009 military operation to crush the Tamil Tigers which saw thousands of civilians also killed, many Tamils remain deeply sceptical of the government and rejected his overtures. Tamils have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the country's Sinhala majority.
The TNA has called for greater political devolution for the north and east. Mr Rajapaksa has already rejected demands for greater autonomy over issues such as the police and land management.