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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 01:26 GMT 02:26 UK
Terror on Sri Lankan faultline
Sri Lankan government troops
Government troops have failed to provide security
By David Shukman in Ampara

An early morning patrol by the Sri Lankan forces guards the fault line on this troubled island. They are defending land that is only just under Government control.

If the fighters of the Tamil minority get their way, it will be part of an independent Tamil country.

The police took us into the heart of this contested territory. They wanted to show us what's been done in the name of a Tamil homeland. The terror they face every day.

They took us to what they said is the site of a mass grave. The officers explained to me that over 50 villages were massacred several months ago by guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Sinhalese mother who lost three of her children
"The people who did this must be destroyed"
The victims lay buried in the soil. They were farming folk. And the same tools they lived by were used to slaughter them.

The survivors are traumatised. They are from the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese, but found themselves on land claimed by the Tamil guerrillas and have now paid the price.

Tee Manike lost three of her four children.

"They were cut up," she said, "and the men who did this must be destroyed."

Failing to provide security

The security forces have been trying for 17 years to beat the Tamil guerrillas. But the killings that took place inside these houses show how far the Government is from winning.

Tamil refugees
Tamil refugees resent government rule
The Sinhalese look to the authorities for protection. But, in this village, and many other places, they can not provide it.

Even with all this security, these villages are still too scared to stay here at night. This is the reality of life on the frontline in this conflict.

The problem is that the harder the security forces try to clamp down on the Tamil Tigers and their terrorism the more many ordinary Tamils say they feel harassed and resentful.

Hated Sri Lankan rule

Sri Lankan rule is hated in a Tamil refugee camp I visited.

Tamil water carriers
Water has to be carried from a Kilometre away
The drinking water has to be carried in from a kilometre away. Although this place was set up 10 years ago, it still has no power either.

These Tamil children are growing up poor and disillusioned. Many are malnourished and suffer the diseases of life in a camp.

Their parents believe the authorities are against them. They say that because they are Tamils they have trouble finding work. They are picked on by the police.

These Tamils feel unwanted in Sri Lanka and want their own country instead. There is a Tamil dream in this impoverished land of creating a new nation.

But, in the attempt to fulfil it, thousands more lives will be destroyed.

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See also:

16 May 00 | South Asia
Trapped by the fighting
15 May 00 | South Asia
Civilians killed in Jaffna shelling
13 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The war destroying Sri Lanka
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