Ex-LTTE men lay down arms to join poll battle

JAFFNA (TIP): Ananthi Sasitharan, a candidate in the September 21 elections to the Northern Province council in Sri Lanka, is a teacher by profession. She is also the wife of an LTTE militant – one of those officially “missing” after the end of the conflict in 2009. A mother of three, Ananthi has been fielded by the Tamil National Alliance, widely tipped to win the first provincial elections in 25 years in the war-torn region. Among those contesting the polls are former LTTE members who have laid down arms and relatives of tigers killed in the ethnic war. Their participation in the electoral process signals a sense of reconciliation among sections of the Tamil population and a willingness to engage with the Rajapaksa regime in its bid to usher in democracy in warravaged areas. Ananthi, who is contesting from Jaffna district, said she represents the war widows and the families of those who have gone missing. “We are contesting the election to prove to the international community that the Tamils are with us. We may have been defeated in our armed struggle. We will not be defeated in this political struggle,” she told TOI.

Ananthi claimed she was targeted twice in the past few days during the election campaign. She claims to have personally seen Sri Lankan armymen taking away her husband, Ezhilan alias Sasitharan, a leader of the LTTE’s political wing, at the end of the war in May 2009. Mukilan Pushparajah, a former LTTE cadre who is contesting from Kilinochchi district, said former members of the militant organization are not ready for another armed struggle. “We have been struggling in our day-to-day life. No one is ready for any other struggle now. Meeting our daily expenses is a big issue for many of the people here. We need political strength,” he told TOI over phone from Kilinochchi. He said his father Pushparajah was with LTTE for more than two decades. Mukilan said seven former LTTE members have been fielded in Kilinochchi district alone by his party Democratic United Alliance (DUA). “For getting benefits for our people we have to negotiate with the government. We need political power for that,” he said. Interestingly, his party is contesting on AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ symbol. They have been using AIADMK founder and former chief minister M G Ramachandran’s photo in their campaign. Another DUA candidate in Kilinochchi, Balachandran Balaramanan, said he was with the LTTE for more than 10 years. He said his party has fielded candidates in all five districts in Northern Province. But TNA sees a government conspiracy in fielding of candidates by DUA, which it says is being funded by the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “No DUA candidate was with the LTTE. The government funded them and fielded them against TNA candidates to split our votes,” said TNA spokesperson and MP Suresh Premachandran

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