Sun, Oct 13, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Sri Lanka booming, but pain of war lives on

Despite the economic boom, Colombo’s hopes of buying off the Tamil ‘separatist struggle’ through development efforts may prove to be short-sighted

By Jason Burke  /  The Guardian, KILINOCHCHI, Sri Lanka

Tamil politicians admit their position is weak. The newly elected provincial council has few powers and the government has shown little sensitivity toward Tamil demands that their cultural identity should be respected.

The military presence is heavy and the large war memorials trumpeting the victory of “hero soldiers” over the “terrorists” make few concessions to local sentiment. Much land remains under military control.

In Kilinochchi, a water tower felled by the Tamil Tigers as they fled the town has been turned into a neat tourist site, with a souvenir shop, postcards, orange ice lollipops and a plaque commemorating its opening by Sri Lankan Minister for Youth Namal Rajapaksa, the president’s 27-year-old son. Sinhalese tourists take photographs and pose with an army patrol. Many still see the Tamils as a threat.

“Terrorism is very bad. At any time it could come back again,” said a government worker from Kandy, 280km to the south.

Waiting for the train at Kilinochchi station, Nirosha Inderavasan, 39, a Sinhalese bank manager married to a Tamil, stressed how grateful she is to Rajapaksa for ending the conflict, though she “would not like to comment” on exactly what happened in its final days.

Jaffna was developing fast and the hospitality made up for the lack of nightlife, Inderavasan said.

However, Sasitharan said the sight of the tourists made her very angry.

“They destroyed our beautiful country. They eliminated our society and erected victory monuments and now they are coming to enjoy our destruction,” she said. “We are a people changed by war. There is no healing.”

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