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Sri Lanka war anniversary

reopens trauma
N E W S 2 4
LAST UPDATED: 2014-05-17, 20:19
Mullivaikkal - Sri Lanka's government plans military parades this weekend to celebrate
five years since its civil war victory. But the anniversary will go largely unmarked in
Mullivaikkal village, where many are too scared to speak of what happened.
he northern village was where amil iger rebels fought their last stand after !" years
of war, and residents live in fear of the hundreds of soldiers still stationed in the
district.
#his is the area where the most number of people were killed,# said fisherman
$nthony %irmalakanthan, aged !&, who returned two years ago to the hamlet on a
narrow strip of sand which was shelled in '(() as government forces moved in.
#he war has ended, but we don't have peace of mind... the talk of the anniversary is
only bringing back the horrible memories,# he said.
he military declared an end to bloodshed when it finally killed iger supremo
*elupillai +rabhakaran at a lagoon on the edge of the village on &, May '((), ending
his long campaign for a separate homeland for ethnic minority amils.
he -nited %ations estimates that some .( ((( amil civilians were killed in the
district that includes Mullivaikkal where they had fled after the government declared it
a safe area. he government strongly denies civilians were killed.
Tourist hotspot
Since the war's end, development has boomed in impoverished Mullaittivu district,
!!(km northeast of /olombo, as well as other war-ravaged areas.
+resident Mahinda 0a1apakse's government has built roads and bridges and restored
electricity. Banks have opened and broadband 2nternet is freely available.
he district has also become a popular tourist spot for the ma1ority Sinhalese
population. he government has erected memorials dedicated to the military along
with a museum with memorabilia sei3ed from the igers, who at the height of their
power controlled a third of the island's territory.
4ne such monument pays tribute to &, senior army commanders #at the time of
con5uest#. $t the nearby museum, all of the signs and e6planations are in Sinhalese,
which is not spoken by the mostly amil population in the region.
Memorials to the rebels, prevalent during the conflict in amil-controlled areas, have
been removed.
he Liberation igers of amil 7elam 8L79 remains a banned terror organisation, the
government said, and public commemorations to them on Sunday are outlawed.
#his victory :in May '((); belongs to each and every citi3en of this country
irrespective of any perceived differences,# military spokesperson 0uwan
<anigasooriya said in /olombo last week, announcing the ban.
=indu priest Sanathana Sharma, aged '!, said amils in the district, still traumatised
by the loss of loved ones, would be holding prayers and other vigils behind closed
doors in the days ahead.
#2t is essentially private mourning, private prayers,# Sharma told $>+ at his temple in
4ddusuddan, a town in Mullaittivu.
Corpses left behind
$lmost every family in this district of &&' ((( lost relatives in the terrifying final days of
the war and most homes were destroyed by the fighting and shelling.
*athana Baaskari, aged ?&, said she relived the trauma of those last days every time
she stepped out of her partly built new home.
#Lots of people died here. he dead would be buried only if there was a close
surviving family member. $ shallow grave was a lu6ury,# Baaskari told $>+ at her
home this week. #4therwise, the corpses were left behind as people fled.#
Baaskari's .,-year-old husband was hit by shrapnel and died &( days before the end
of the war. #Shells were falling everywhere and we were in make-shift bunkers,# she
recalled.
<ho fired what and at whom is a long-running dispute in Sri Lanka, but even sketchy
official government surveys have found that thousands of civilians remain
unaccounted for.
Shyamala @amalanath, aged '", remembered taking her wounded mother-in-law to a
medical centre only to be told she was already dead. @amalanath, whose husband
was killed in the conflict, said she was lucky to be alive.
#2 didn't realise that 2 also had been hit by shrapnel,# said @amalanath, who has a
seven-year-old daughter and who now works with a child welfare charity.
#>ive of my close family were killed during the final months and at least '? were
wounded,# she told $>+.
0esidents who survived the final battle are still angry at iger rebels who stopped
them from escaping and who used many as human shields. But they are e5ually angry
at the ongoing military presence.
Soldiers in plain clothes tried to block an $>+ photographer taking pictures of the
village where some homes still have bullet-marked walls and collapsed roofs.
#$fter you leave, intelligence officers will visit us and want to know what we told you,# a
resident told $>+, asking not to be named. #<e are always being watched.#
- AFP