Murdered, missing, imprisoned in camps…The guns may be silent in Sri Lanka for the first time in 26 years, but the price of peace for the innocent Tamils caught up in the fighting could not be higher … Dan McDougall travels from the Tamils’ UK protest in Parliament Square to the killing fields of Sri Lanka
“A foul-smelling monsoon closes in from the north, carrying dark clouds of ash from the Hindu funeral pyres burning along the “Highway for Peace and Unity”. At the roadside, translucent glasswing butterflies flutter and dance in the charred iron shell of an old British Leyland bus, its undercarriage ripped apart and shredded like paper by a Claymore landmine.
Little more than a cratered strip of asphalt running 100 miles due north from the ancient city of Anuradhapura to Jaffna, the road’s grandiose Marxist title is typically deceptive: today it bisects a dramatically transformed landscape – the broken heart of Sri Lanka’s former Tamil Tiger country, a battle-scarred route lined with thousands of shallow graves, unexploded landmines and the rotting stumps of palmyra trees blackened by the rain.
Here, sheltering from the darkening skies at a remote army checkpoint, a group of weary teenage soldiers gather around an old Russian television impassively watching the capital, Colombo, celebrate the end of the war.
Dressed in messianic white, the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is walking through the streets of the capital as followers shower him with pink flower petals. At each street corner he is offered traditional kiribath (milk rice) and kavung (oil cakes). Crudely dubbed over the footage, hastily assembled songs declare “Our King Rajapaksa”, wishing him “Ayubowewa” – a long life.
“We won the war, we won, OK!” shouts an army NCO in coarse Sinhalese, breaking the silence and ordering the young soldiers on to a personnel carrier heading north. “Now get back to work.” ”
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