A backward slide

The weakness of the February 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebels is currently most obvious in the country's northeast. Recently, a group of journalists from the south was denied permission by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) from entering the areas of Trincomalee Province under their control. The group was on an exposure visit, to meet with civic organisations and distribute tsunami relief goods. A year ago, a similar group of journalists had not only been allowed to visit, but were actually hosted by the LTTE in both Kilinochchi and Jaffna to the north. What had changed? Perhaps the instability of the northeast, which left the rebel leadership feeling more vulnerable, or perhaps it was the continuous killing of civilians and affiliated members of various Tamil groups. Either way, this marked a rapid deterioration in human security.

Today, the town of Trincomalee (pictured above) stands as particular witness to the inability of the ceasefire to restore normalcy. Although Trincomalee possesses golden beaches and a magnificent harbour, it has become severely run down, with extensive squalor and little modern development. In addition, the tension in the town is today palpable, particularly after dark. Travelling through Trincomalee is now a frustrating throwback to the pre-ceasefire years, with heavily armed soldiers at every street corner, increasingly anxious as night approaches. One soldier even accused the LTTE of paying people to harass the armed forces. Meanwhile, the Tamil inhabitants are now reluctant to venture out at night.

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Himal Southasian