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Where and how will Tamils vote?

As the January 26 Presidential election date approaches, the question of how and where the lakhs of displaced Tamils would vote remains to be answered, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Jan 22, 2010 23:54 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

As the January 26 Presidential election date approaches, the question of how and where the lakhs of displaced Tamils would vote remains to be answered.

While the election department says that arrangements are in place, independent election monitors maintain that thousands of eligible refugee voters may not be able to exercise their franchise.

At the end of the ethnic war in May, nearly 293,000 internally displaced persons, overwhelmingly Tamils, moved out of former areas controlled by the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

According to a UN report, 28,973 people have been released from temporary camps into host families and elders’ homes as of January 14, 2010. The majority of these people are elders, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.

For a large percentage of refugees, their original homes were destroyed in the war. Many were displaced from their original places of registration had to apply for voting at their present locations.

Election Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake claimed arrangements were done to help the displaced vote. “It is not necessary that they have to go their places of origin to vote. Booths will be put up in the camps. Returning officers have been asked to arrange transport,’’ he said.