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Lankan Tamils want army be confined to barracks before poll

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Sri Lanka's main Tamil party TNA today demanded limiting the military to barracks in the run-up to the key elections in Northern Province - former stronghold of the LTTE - as it accused the army of threatening its candidates and campaigning for the ruling party.

In a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R Sampanthan said, "You are aware that we and many others have consistently raised the issue of the heavily militarised atmosphere in the Northern Province, which is not at all conducive to the holding of a free and fair election"

The province's first ever council is scheduled to be held on September 21.

Sampanthan said it has been noted that soldiers were pasting posters promoting ruling party (United People's Freedom Alliance) candidates and the military is now engaged in the election campaign for the government.

"It is also a matter of record that at least three of our candidates were threatened by the army on the day we submitted our nominations," he said.

Sampanthan said it was clear that there cannot be a free and fair election if the military continues its interfering presence in the Northern Province.

"It has thus become imperative for me to ask you to relegate the army and the other security forces to the barracks immediately and leave the maintenance of law and order in the hands of the Police.

The TNA leader's letter to Rajapaksa has come in the wake of accusations faced by the Tamil party for reiterating its demand for Tamil self autonomy in the province.

The 714,000-strong mainly Tamil electorate will exercise their franchise in the poll that is being held after the army defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.

In the nearly three-decade long ethnic war up to 40,000 civilians were killed, according to the UN.

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