Colombo: The first local elections in 25 years began in the Sri Lanka’s northern province Saturday under tight security, officials said.
Voting at some 800 stations began on schedule to elect the first post-war provincial administration in the region dominated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam until their defeat in 2009.
Soldiers were patrolling the streets withn police, election monitors in the area said.
More than 2,000 local and foreign observers were deployed in the province where more than 700,000 people, mostly ethnic Tamils, were eligible to vote.
CV Vigneswaran is the candidate for chief minister from the Tamil National Alliance, a former political affiliate of the rebels.
He rejected allegations from the nation’s Sinhalese majority, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, that his party advocated separatism.
“We are willing to work in a unitary state without asking to divide the country,” he said. “A federal state is something which could prevent a campaign for a separate state.”
Voting booths were scheduled to close at 4 pm, with the final results expected Sunday.
Elections are also being held in the north-western and central provinces for provincial administrations.