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Page last updated at 06:10 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 07:10 UK

Poll pledge for Sri Lanka Tamils

Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan (C)
Mr Muralitharan wants a future for Tamils in the political process

Sri Lanka's reconciliation minister says elections will be held in areas affected by recent fighting once displaced people have been resettled.

Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, a former rebel commander who was known as Col Karuna, said the polls would address the grievances of the Tamil minority.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced by months of fighting in the north and east of the island.

Meanwhile two Indian envoys have arrived to discuss the Tamil situation.

'Very good'

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Muralitharan, who defected from the Tamil Tigers in 2004, said he hoped the Tamil people would be involved in the future political process.

"Our government tried to solve this problem through the political system. After resettlement in the north we are going to do the election."

There are no enemies to continue the guerrilla warfare or any warfare here
Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan

The minister of national integration and reconciliation said he wanted Tamils to have a greater role in parliament.

"If we sit on the opposition side we will never get any benefits for the minority community," he said.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says the president and defence secretary have also spoken of elections but have not given a consistent timescale.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

Our correspondent says much of the north-eastern area is now depopulated and with the problems of minefields and other land development issues, a huge rehabilitation process will be needed before elections can take place.

Last year, Mr Muralitharan's party won a landslide victory in local elections in and around Batticaloa, south of the recent conflict zone, the first polls to be held there in 10 years.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa won the presidency in 2005, there were virtually no votes cast in the Tamil areas in the north-east - turnout in Jaffna was put at 0.014%.

The Tamil Tigers denied disrupting elections but officials complained of heavy intimidation.

Envoys arrive

Mr Muralitharan said he believed the Tamil Tiger rebel movement was finished because all of the senior figures had been killed.

"This war is over, I think. This 30-year-war is over here because the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] is dependent on one person, that was [Velupillai] Prabhakaran.

"The LTTE [was] controlled by him. He never built a secondary role, never a secondary leader, he never built it. He concentrated all the leaders with him. Now all the leaders have died with him," he said.

A man reads a newspaper announcing the death of Tamil Tiger leader Prabhakaran in Colombo on May 20, 2009
The authorities believe they have wiped out the rebel leadership

"That is very good for the government because there are no enemies to continue the guerrilla warfare or any warfare here," Mr Muralitharan said.

Separately, India's National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon have arrived for talks on the Tamils' future.

They are meeting President Rajapaksa and are expected to discuss possible devolution of powers to the Tamils in the north-east.

On Tuesday, the president declared the country "liberated" from Tamil Tiger rebels after the last pocket of territory held by them was taken.

The government released pictures of the body of the man believed to be the rebel leader.

Authorities said Mr Muralitharan had positively identified Prabhakaran's body.

The Tigers had been fighting for a separate state for Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka since the 1970s.

About 80,000 people have been killed in the conflict and thousands displaced.



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