Shooting incidents reported as polling ends in Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sep 21 (IANS) Several incidents of violence were reported as Sri Lanka's Tamil-majority Northern Province and two other regions Saturday voted to elect three provincial councils, four years after the Tamil Tiger rebels were vanquished. The government put the turnout at 68 percent, but international monitors pegged it at around 55 percent.

The largest share of election violence was reported from the northern province where elections were being held for the first time in 25 years after a brutal three-decade war ended in 2009, Xinhua reported.

At least seven people were also injured when an unidentified group fired into the air causing a stampede at a polling booth in the island's central province.

The north-western province was the third region selecting a new council.

The elections were being intensely fought in the northern province with the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), pushing for a chance to move ahead with power devolution since the end of the war.

Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) have highlighted serious concerns regarding the credibility of the elections, pointing out that one of their observers was attacked while engaging in his work in the northern town of Kilinochchi.

"There are also concerns that the vote counting will not be trustworthy and we have already received five complaints regarding this. Given the high level of violence, this election cannot be considered as free and fair," CaFFE executive director Keerthi Tennakoon told Xinhua.

However, the Government Information Department (GID) in a public notice insisted that the elections were conducted smoothly with 68 percent voter turnout recorded in the north.

Election monitors believe the number is far less, with initial numbers indicating only 55 percent of eligible voters actually used their franchise.

International attention on the northern provincial council election was intense with Commonwealth and South Asian observers flocking to the region.

India, Canada, the US and Britain were among countries that have sent contingents of diplomats to observe the polls.


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