Sri Lankans overwhelmingly elected local officials from the country’s ruling party today signaling a thumbs up to President Mahinda Rajapake for his handling of peace talks with rebel Tamil Tigers. The opposition party, which is opposed to offering any consessions to the rebel group — and had previously controlled most councils — garnered just 12% of local seats on the 264 councils where results were declared. President Rajapake is eager to move ahead with peace talks and reach a settlement.
Terrorism experts say the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have staged two-thirds of all the world’s suicide bombings in its quest to gain a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka. But in February 2002, the LTTE signed a permanent cease-fire with the government and in the following months decommissioning of weapons took place. In December 2002 the government and the rebels agreed to share power.
The Council on Foreign Relations website says "Negotiations were hampered by several violent instances in 2004, but after the earthquake and tsunami which killed more than 30,000 people, there was a relative state of calm between the rebels and the government."
The Tamils are an ethnic group who speak their own language and live in southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu and on Sri Lanka, an island country of 19 million people off the southern tip of India. Tamils are mostily Hindu and comprise about 18% of the island’s population, and most live in northern and eastern areas. Three-quarters of Sri Lankans are Sinhalese, members of a largely Buddhist, Sinhala-speaking ethnic group. Since Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948, the Sinhalese majority has dominated the country.