Irish News Service Unison

Peter Apps

in Colombo

MANY residents of Sri Lankan fishing communities have had to start rebuilding inland in case of further tsunamis, but a threatened return to civil war could yet again displace them. Some residents are now closer to ceasefire lines that will become battlefields if the 2002 truce fails, amid a string of attacks on government forces blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels.

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 yesterday, when the military shot dead two suspected rebels in restive Batticaloa and a policeman and three civilians were shot dead in separate incidents.

The courts blocked an aid-sharing deal with the rebels after the tsunami, and many minority Tamils in the north and east feel sidelined in favour of the Sinhalese southern majority. The UN 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.


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 resort, though tourists have never been directly targeted.

“Since the ceasefire, weA?a??E?d probably doubled our tourist numbers every year,” Mr Blackmore said. “We will wait and see how things turn out before we put a lot of money in and go crazy.”

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