Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Thursday, 2 February 2006

Tales from Sri Lanka's front line

A soldier on guard in Jaffna
More than 60,000 died during two decades of conflict in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka appears to be teetering on the brink of a return to civil war, despite a truce which the government and Tamil Tiger rebels say they both still respect.

Recent violence in the north and east has made life for many there virtually intolerable.

The BBC News website spoke to a Tamil and a Sinhala man in the disputed areas about the fear and tension surrounding them.

Ramesh lives in a village in the Jaffna peninsula. He returned home following the 2002 ceasefire after years as a refugee in territory controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Unpredictable events unfold with every dawn and it scares people to death. Extra-judicial killings occur under the very noses of the security forces.

I am seriously considering moving out of fear for my life
My family has had to endure multiple displacements because of the civil war. In 1990 we moved from our home because of heavy shelling from a nearby naval base. We later moved to the Tiger-controlled Vanni territory. Now we have returned to our native village.

But the violence has also returned. Recently, three members of the same family were killed by unknown gunmen. This sent ripples of panic across the region.

Many people are moving to LTTE-controlled areas. Others are preparing for a major displacement.

There are rumours about a possible return to total war. Just a few weeks ago one of my students was abducted on his way home. Two days later he was found unconscious in an abandoned building with severe injuries.

His family have now gone to Vanni as they think he was targeted because their elder son was involved in a protest.

Families deemed to have connections with the rebels have already moved out. People involved with public activities in the past perceived to have been in support of the rebels, are packing up as I write.

I have taken part in such public events. Now I am not sure if my name is on a list somewhere. I am seriously considering moving to Vanni out of fear for my life.

Tamil Tigers at a ceremony in Kilinochchi
The LTTE control the Vanni territory

But if I suddenly disappear suspicion may be cast upon my family. If we all vacate our home, we will lose our income altogether. We cannot return to refugee camps because my mother is too ill.

I feel like a prisoner. But I have to make up my mind.

Some youngsters have been operating secretly and calling themselves the "people's force". They claim to operate independently but many suspect they have strong connections with the LTTE.

Members of this group suddenly pop up, carry out attacks on security forces and dissolve into the local population. This endangers the public because we bear the full brunt of any retaliation.

I am relieved to hear about peace talks. But it is not unusual in Sri Lankan politics to sign a peace deal on the one hand and authorise military activities on the other.

I don't know what to think or do. I'm fed up with the situation, not seeing any hope in my or my people's future.

I hate myself for having been born in this part of the world.

Manjula has always lived in the disputed eastern town of Trincomalee. But he believes the future for Sinhalese people here is dark.

Blasts and shootings in Trincomalee cannot turn our lives upside down. They are nothing new.

Of course I feel under threat. We have lived in the midst of combat after all
I have lived in Trincomalee all my life in a Sinhala village on the city limits. People here live in "community clusters" separated on the basis of the race. We don't really experience problems but it would be dangerous for us to go through the Tamil clusters.

It's difficult to think about a future in Trincomalee, especially being Sinhalese.

Sinhalese and Muslims are generally safe as long as they obey the LTTE and stay away from the security forces.

But of course I feel under threat. We have lived in the midst of combat after all. I am afraid of bombs, because they do not choose people.

When I was younger we had many pleasant interactions with other communities. We joined up with Tamil schools for cultural events. Most of our friends were Tamils.

There is no longer any co-existence. Many of the Sinhalese in Trincomalee town are from down south, which means they are very aggressive. They will die for the flag on the clock tower, the symbol of Sinhala domination here.

Everyone views each other with suspicion. Now, for Tamils, there is no space for any opinion but LTTE dogma. In my view those who suffer the most in Trincomalee are the Tamil people. They are targeted by both the LTTE and security forces.

I feel very sad about the situation.

Security forces in Trincomalee
Manjula says security forces in Trincomalee keep law and order

The LTTE rules by terror. There's no doubt about that. Their main objective seems to be to provoke the security forces so they will react and harass ordinary Tamil people

It is impossible for the forces to distinguish a civilian from a terrorist. They have to take strict measures to maintain law and order.

So everyone has to suffer.

I don't think this crisis will end as a fairy tale. That's why I am planning to move out of the city. Any solution which disregards the Sinhalese and the Muslims of the north-east will lead to disaster.

I don't want to witness that.

Names have been changed to protect identities.

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