Lee Blackmore @ Tsunami Hotel says ….

PASIKUDAH, Sri Lanka, Dec 26 (Reuters) – A year after the tsunami swept away his house, building materials for fisherman R. AlagoduraiA?a??E?s new home have finally arrived. But he fears escalating violence could reignite Sri LankaA?a??E?s two-decade civil war and he might never live there.

Many coastal communities have been moved a few miles inland in case of another tsunami. But residents are now closer to ceasefire lines that will become battlefields if a 2002 truce fails amid a string of attacks on government forces blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels.

“For now, we are going good,” says Alagodurai, who lost 17 family members as the giant waves killed 35,000 across Sri Lanka.

“If war comes, it will be like another tsunami. There are too many soldiers here. If it comes there will be fighting and we will move back to our old village,” said Alagodurai, 41.

After the tsunami, no-one predicted a return to war, but many people have been panicked by the gunning down of a pro-rebel politician in a cathedral at midnight mass on Christmas day. The shooting followed a rebel ambush that killed 13 sailors and the first naval clash since the ceasefire.

Sporadic attacks continued before dawn on Monday, with three civilians shot dead in separate incidents in the northern Jaffna peninsula and a policeman killed in Batticaloa.

While tsunami aid helped cement a peace deal in IndonesiaA?a??E?s Aceh, in Sri Lanka the courts blocked an aid-sharing deal with the rebels and many minority Tamils in the north and east feel sidelined in favour of the Sinhalese southern majority.

The United Nations says inequalities must be addressed.

The rebels have threatened a return to war if they do not win concessions from the government — which has already rejected their demands for a minority Tamil homeland in the north and east.

The two sides cannot even agree on a venue for emergency talks aimed at averting a return to a war that killed more than 64,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.


On Sri LankaA?a??E?s east coast, the tsunami was so violent that even the foundations of buildings were pounded into rubble. Many new homes being built inland are close to the ruins of houses destroyed in decades of fighting, and some fear they will not be able to stay.

“If the war begins, we will have to leave here,” says 22-year-old Kandisamy Mohana Rasu in Paddiyadichenai, where the German government is building 130 houses a few miles from Tiger territory. “We canA?a??E?t go back to our old village. We lost too many people there. We do not know where we will go.”

Aid workers say reconstruction has been delayed by bureaucracy and a coastal buffer zone. But if people displaced by the tsunami begin fleeing because of war fears, they say it may be impossible to keep rebuilding except in the Sinhalese south.

In Jaffna, where some of the worst clashes have taken place, local government officials closed their offices after a suspected rebel front warned them to stop working. Some residents are already moving their businesses south to perceived safer areas.

Many say they are putting off or limiting rebuilding until they see how the next few months pan out.

A British former investment banker, Lee Blackmore, said he was worried while rebuilding his hotel in Arugam Bay, an eastern surf resort, although tourists have never been directly targeted.

“Since the ceasefire, weA?a??E?d probably doubled our tourist numbers every year,” Blackmore told Reuters by telephone.

“Since the tsunami, IA?a??E?d say tourism has definitely dropped. We will wait and see how things turn out before we put a lot of money in and go crazy.” (Additional reporting by Joe Ariyaratnam in Jaffna)

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