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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 August 2005, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Security fears plague Sri Lanka

By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Colombo

In the well-secured home of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, politicians of the ruling alliance have gathered.

Newspaper stand, Colombo
There has been general dismay at the killing

They are hosting a press conference that is in reality a 90-minute condolence meeting for the assassinated Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, punctuated with condemnation of the Tamil Tigers.

There is a serious sense of concern for the leaders' safety in the wake of Friday's killing.

Douglas Devananda, Tamil politician and minister for Hindu Cultural Affairs, says he has been a Tiger target in the past.

"The Tigers have not changed, I have not changed. They are trying to kill me because I am trying to expose them."

A woman suicide bomber who came to Mr Devananda's office last July and was taken to the police station blew herself up there and killed four policemen. The Tigers denied involvement.

"I live in a bunker, you know," he says.

Douglas Devananda
I have already banned the Tigers. Now the government has to decide
Douglas Devananda,
Tamil politician

Journalists ask whether the government will ban the Tigers.

"I have already banned the Tigers," says Mr Devananda. "Now the government has to decide."

Constitutional affairs minister DEW Gunasekera says Mr Kadirgamar had a premonition of death.

"They will get me. How can I go on hiding myself?" Mr Kadirgamar asked Mr Gunasekera recently.

Mangala Samaraweera, minister of ports and aviation, is concerned for the premier, Mr Rajapakse.

"His safety is very much at stake as he is a frontrunner in the next presidential election."

And one harried National Unity Alliance leader simply says: "The [Tigers] should stop killing our leaders. What is the use of these agreements when they keep killing?"

Security failure

Outside in the streets, soldiers and policemen politely flag down the occasional car or bus and check passengers.

 Kumburugamue Dhamasiri
I feel the war might begin again. We must stand together
Kumburugamue Dhamasiri

At the city's stately Independence Square, workers are quietly erecting scaffolding and fumigating lawns ahead of the funeral.

One police officer carries out a check, saying politely "please don't mind".

He bemoans that the killing is being put down as a security failure.

"The problem in this country is that nobody listens to anybody. The police had warned the minister not to go and stay at his own residence in a residential neighbourhood. He ignored our warnings."

Many citizens fear for the already stagnant peace process.

"I feel the war might begin again. We must stand together," says Buddhist monk, Kumburugamue Dhamasiri.

Gihan Kumara, a grocer and newspaper vendor in the "little Jaffna" district, says the Oxford-educated foreign minister's death was a "big set back to the peace process and Sri Lanka's international profile".

"He was the only man who could communicate our stand and situation well with the outside world. It will take another 10 years to build on Mr Kadirgamar's efforts to unite the country," he says.

On the beach, 20-year-old Chandima Piyadharshini says: "All I know about Mr Kadirgamar was that he was killed yesterday. But there are killings every other day in Colombo and all over the country," she says.

Ms Piyadharshini is right. On the day of the assassination, a prominent television news presenter and her husband were gunned down in Colombo, possibly the outcome of a political feud.

"Who is safe in this country? I don't know," says Ms Piyadharshini.


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