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Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Sri Lanka: Views from the conflict

KilinochchiTrincomaleeColomboMoratuwa

The Sri Lankan military has secured a string of military successes over the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] in recent months.

As the army announces it has seized full control of the Jaffna peninsula in the north, people across the country give their views and experiences of the latest phase in the conflict.


KILINOCHCHI

Muttiah Mahalingam, 29, Vatakachchi

I was living in Vatakachchi and I was displaced because of a shell attack. The conflict spread to my village east of Kilinochchi town and I was displaced along with my family; my parents, wife and a one-month-old baby.

People in an IDP camp in Vavuniya

We all went to Dharmapuram. Last Monday I left Dharmapuram and went back to my house to pick up some things. I went in a small group and when I went there, some soldiers suddenly came and they took me.

I was taken to Kilinochchi hospital and from there I was taken to the Vavuniya camp for internally displaced people (IDPs).

But my family is still in Dharmapuram.

They don't know what has happened to me. I am very worried because I have no contact with my family. The officials will not allow anybody to leave the camp. Life has been very difficult for us. The cost of living has been going up, there have been no jobs.

I just want to go back to my house and family. I just don't know what has happened to them.



Kantharubi Sivanathan, 28, mother-of-two, Paranthan

On the night of 9 January my family was among a group of 58 people trying to cross over to army-controlled area.

We came into army-controlled areas for safety but I have lost my husband
It was night-time when we were going and I think that we ran into some army people who were lying there. Suddenly there were reports of gun fire and suddenly we all fell down.

A bullet hit my husband and he was instantly killed.

Everyone was crying and shouting. After half an hour, the soldiers came to help us and they took us and the injured and the dead bodies to Kilinochchi hospital and from there we were taken to the IDP camp.

I escaped without any injuries but I lost my husband. We came into army-controlled areas for safety but I have lost my husband. I don't know what I am going to do with my two small children.

I don't know what is going to happen to my family in the future. I am all alone without my husband. As it was too dark I don't know who fired the shots but the army helped us.


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Anura Shaminda Kumarasingham, shipping worker

Anura Kumarasingham
I am a patriotic person but I come from both sides of the conflict. My father is Tamil and my mother is Sinhalese. I was brought up in the south but we went on holidays to Jaffna.

Most Sinhalese people worship Tamil Gods. Even the military, before they go to the north to fight, worship in Hindu temples in Kataragama. I am a Buddhist. But in this one country people are fighting each other. Both sides are killing innocent people.

I feel caught by the conflict. Even when the military operation is over, there will still be hardship. I can't support the killing of innocent people - Tamil or Sinhalese. So many people are going through hardship in the [northern] Wanni [region].

I am totally against a separate state but Tamils must have a chance to get some recognition, to show their identity.

All places captured are part of Sri Lanka. Why is it such a big thing? If the government captured Tamil Nadu, then I could see why they might celebrate. Not for Kilinochchi.



Azam Bakeer Markar, corporate executive

Azam Bakeer Markar
There is a strong feeling that the war is finally being fought professionally. Previous governments meddled with the military, they have not been able to do their job properly. Now, the war is being fought well.

It is natural, when your team wins, to keep supporting it. I think there is broad-based support for defeating the LTTE - because the LTTE has a serious track record of brutality.

Winning the war is a victory, but the greater victory cannot be won by soldiers alone. It has to be won by all citizens of Sri Lanka. This is about ensuring all people are given respect, justice and prosperity. Making sure all Sri Lankans believe they are equal.

Devolution may be part of the solution. We need to get into the hearts and minds of Tamil people and see what the problems are. LTTE and government propaganda politicise everything.

There are ministers who believe that the only real race are the Sinhalese and the Muslims and Tamils are visitors. Extremists must not sabotage the majority view.



Asoka Jayasinha, business consultant

Sri Lankan troops
Sri Lankan troops are close to capturing all rebel-held territory
The government's credibility is very high. The feeling here is that the war is almost going to end. I believe the majority of Tamils are also against the LTTE - they are with us.

The LTTE want civilians as a shield so they can say civilians are being bombed and killed.

Some Western governments are asking for a political solution - they are asking the wrong people. They need to ask the opposition who are backing out of all solutions.

No political solution is possible with LTTE holding guns. Only when they are destroyed will Tamils come forward as they are scared of the LTTE.

The government has avoided bombarding civilian areas. But air strikes are necessary when LTTE leaders move around the place.


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Anonymous Tamil man, office worker, 50s

This is the time for the government to come with a proposal. A lot of people are suffering. But we can't believe the government. They say they are fighting for the liberation of the Tamil people.

After the LTTE are destroyed, we don't know how the government will really act. Most Tamil people want a a settlement to this ethnic problem.

A lot of people are suffering. But we can't believe the government
The government are celebrating in a big way. They have captured the same land they have had before. But it's as if they have captured a different country. They are killing people of the same nationality. We are all Sri Lankan. Because of the way they are celebrating here, I don't think most Tamils are comfortable.

What we want is peace. And after the assassination of the editor, [Lasantha Wickramatunga] everybody is scared to talk. Even this phone may be tapped.

In Sri Lanka it is now difficult to express alternative views and to do anything against the government. I keep my political views to myself.


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Dinushka Kalutota, student

When it comes to military advances, we can all be happy because we are all Sri Lankan: Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim.
Even though you finish the war, the conflict may never end. Weapons can't talk

The LTTE wants conflict here in Sri Lanka. It was fine to communicate their problem to the world. But to get weapons and start military activity is another matter.

In the university I attend, there are many Tamils who support the LTTE. Everybody knows that but we don't go and beat them up. In 1983 it happened, innocent Tamils were hammered and it worsened the conflict.

I am satisfied with how the army has progressed. The president has done a good job with the army and air force. Now we must think of human lives, a political solution.

But we have been in this situation before where we have had territory and lost it. We don't know what the Tigers are going to do. There are rumours that Black Tiger suicide bombers have come down south.

Even though you finish the war, the conflict may never end. Weapons can't talk.


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