Colombo, Sep 21 (IANS) Men wearing army uniforms and carrying guns are visiting houses in Sri Lanka's Tamil-majority Northern Province to tell people not to vote for a Tamil alliance, the New York Times reported.
Ananthi Sasitharan, a Tamil candidate in the first provincial elections to be held in 25 years in the former insurgent stronghold, said a dozen or so men have been lurking outside her house in Jaffna for the past few days.
Earlier this week, four trucks pulled up outside and more than 100 men came out. Most of them were wearing army uniforms, several witnesses told the daily.
"The military has been visiting houses all over the area and telling people not to vote for the Tamil National Alliance," said Mavai S. Senathirajah, deputy leader of the Tamil alliance. "We will not be intimidated."
Four years after the civil war came to an end, the first provincial council elections since 1988 were held Saturday in the Tamil-dominated north.
There are many Tamil parties vying for seats under the Tamil National Alliance. They are competing with candidates from the governing coalition, the United People's Freedom Alliance, which controls more than two-thirds of parliament.
The daily said the council was "fairly toothless", because President Mahinda Rajapaksa has centralised much of the government's powers.
Rohana Hettiarachchie of the People's Action for Free and Fair Elections, a domestic independent monitoring group, also said that those who went to Sasitharan's house were wearing uniforms "similar to those worn by the army".
But military spokesman Brig. Ruwan Wanigasooriya told the NYT that "there was no involvement on the part of the army", and that the military was cooperating in an investigation on the matter.
Sasitharan is contesting the elections in part to pressure the government to release her husband, a political officer for the Tamil Tigers who she believes has been in government custody for four years, a charge the government denied.
The UN Human Rights Council has voted repeatedly to condemn the government's failure to investigate potential war crimes.