After three decades of protracted conflict and four years of relative peace, a recent event has emerged as a sign that democracy, albeit ailing, is still alive in the island-nation of Sri Lanka. On Sept. 21, 2013, for the first time in 25 years, provincial council elections were held in the war-ravaged Northern Province, offering the country’s ethnic Tamil minority, largely present in the region, the opportunity to choose its own political destiny.
Sri Lanka established provincial councils in 1987 as a result of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement that called for the devolution of power to the provinces in a bid to end the country’s ethnic conflict. Today, Sri Lanka has nine provincial councils, all of which have held regular elections—with the exception of the Northern Province, which was the scene of bloody conflict until the majority Sinhalese government’s victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2010.
Since then, national and international actors have called for an accelerated process of reconciliation, epitomized for many by the hosting of provincial council elections. Long promised yet long overdue, the elections finally took place in an atmosphere of relative calm and high expectations.