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Monday’s vote is seen as a test run for eventual provincial elections in the north and east, which the government regards as the basis for devolution it hopes will go hand in hand with its push to win the war militarily. Former Tigers who split from the mainstream group, and regarded as allied to the government, have formed a political party and are seen as the poll front-runners.They are accused of abuses such as child soldier recruitment, abductions and extrajudicial killings and have yet to lay down their weapons. If peace prevails, life will be better for us,” Devika said, cradling her 8-month-old daughter in front of the breeze block and corrugated metal shelter she, her husband and in-laws have built since resettling in the area.

“If they come again with a gun culture, that will be a problem for us.” Like thousands who fled to camps because of the fighting, she and her family are rebuilding their lives from scratch. Two sleeping mats are spread out on the bare concrete floor.

“It won’t be a genuine election.” “The TMVP in particular have been carrying guns until now.

They are stealing children from people and demanding things,” he added.

The government has deployed thousands of troops in Batticaloa which, like much of Sri Lanka’s eastern seaboard, is still striving to recover from the devastation of the 2004 tsunami.

Armored personnel carriers patrol the streets, and soldiers with assault rifles man razor wire checkpoints across the district.

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