India urges Sri Lanka to share power with Tamils after poll

COLOMBO (AFP) - India urged Sri Lanka on Wednesday to share political power with ethnic minority Tamils after their victory in local council elections, in a bid for "genuine reconciliation" after a decades-long war.

The opposition Tamil alliance swept to victory at the weekend in the first regional council elections in the island's battle-scarred north.

The vote was welcomed internationally as an initial step towards reconciliation between majority Sinhalese and Tamils after the war.

But the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse has said it wants to reduce the powers of the council - including over land issues and policing - raising concerns about whether the alliance will have any real control in the region.

India called on Mr Rajapakse's government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to engage "constructively" to address the needs of the region's residents, after the end of the separatist conflict that claimed over 100,000 lives.

"Only such a cooperative approach will pave the way for genuine reconciliation between the communities involved," its government said in a statement released by the high commission.

The TNA has demanded the military pull out of the region, saying there is no need for soldiers on the streets since Mr Rajapakse's military crushed Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 and declared an end to 37 years of war.

Mr Rajapakse's coalition partners have opposed any political concessions to the Tamils and have said their election victory will lead to new unrest.

New Delhi urged Colombo to fully implement a 1987 constitutional amendment which envisaged regional autonomy for Tamils, who dominate the former war zone but are a minority nationally.

It said all communities should "feel that they are equal stakeholders in a united Sri Lanka and can look forward to a future marked by equality, justice, dignity and self-respect".

Sri Lanka's Tamils share close cultural and religious ties with millions of Tamils in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Sri Lanka had been under international pressure to hold the regional elections and share power with Tamils after the war.