Sri Lanka Tamils pick judge for election in north

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s leading ethnic Tamil party on Monday picked a retired judge critical of the government as its chief candidate for the first elections to be held in the north of the country since a civil war ended four years ago.

The Tamil National Alliance said in a statement it has named retired Supreme Court Judge C.V. Wigneswaran to run for chief minister in the Tamil-majority northern province, once the theatre of a fierce separatist war between government soldiers and ethnic Tamil rebels.

Wigneswaran has been an outspoken critic of the government over alleged human rights violations and anti-democratic moves, and is respected by both minority Tamils and majority Sinhalese.

His selection, despite having no previous political experience and ahead of a senior rival, signals the party’s intention to form a strong provincial government to withstand moves by the central government to dilute powers devolved to the provinces.

Sri Lanka’s government plans to withdraw land and police powers given to the provinces, saying that could lead to separatism.

The civil war ended in 2009 when government forces defeated the rebels who had battled for a quarter century to create an independent Tamil state. Since then, the government has been under intense international pressure to keep its promise to politically empower the Tamils by strengthening powers of the provinces.

Nominations for the elections close later this month. A date for the vote has not been set, but it is likely to be in September.

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