Tamil Eelam - a De
Very little of Sri Lanka in Kilinochchi
Raju Gopalakrishnan reporting from Killinochchi
(Reuters) 2 February 2006
There's very little of Sri Lanka in Kilinochchi. At first glance,
the dusty town of about 150,000 looks like most others on the Indian
Ocean island, with shops, small houses and government buildings
lining the main street. But buses and trucks maintain a steady, slow
pace through Kilinochchi, instead of tearing down the highway and
changing lanes at will. Young policewomen who stand by the road are
notorious for handing out heavy fines on the spot. And there's no
arguing or a quick bribe.
This is the headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) rebels, one of the most disciplined and ruthless guerrilla
armies in the world, and the capital of their de facto state
covering a large swathe of northern Sri Lanka.
The heavily armed guerrillas and their police don't like talking to
outsiders. One woman constable, offered water on a sweltering hot
day, briefly smiled but then said in English: "No, thank you. Move
Coming in from Colombo in the South, visitors to the area need to
pass customs and get an entry pass, in effect a visa. Kilinochchi
has the LTTE's own bank, court, hospital and taxi service and is in
a separate time zone -- half an hour off Sri Lanka time.
The town is linked to Sri Lanka's electricity grid, which the Tigers
pay for, and to its landline telephones. There is no mobile
coverage. Computers are becoming a craze, although the Tigers ban
homes from having Internet connections. Only offices and Internet
cafes are permitted. "There are more than 1,000 computers in the
area," said Nishanthan Aloysius, who has been running a computer
shop and an adjacent Internet cafe in the town for more than two
years. "Everybody has electricity now, so there is good demand."
His display counter has USB hubs, DVD disc drives, motherboards and
other hardware. Sales, he says, are brisk, amounting to 300,000
rupees (about $3,000) a month.
Asked why the Tigers banned private Internet use, Aloysius said:
"The LTTE wants to protect moral standards, so they do not allow
homes to have connections. We can monitor traffic here through our
Indeed, the Tigers and their writ seem all pervasive in the town.
Not too many people smoke here, although cigarettes are sold freely,
probably because Tiger cadres are forbidden to smoke or drink. One
or two bars selling mostly beer and the local arrack are popular
with outsiders, but few locals frequent them.
There are some small hotels around town with pretty basic
facilities, but the Tigers reserve the top-notch Tankview Hotel,
facing the Akkaraian irrigation dam, for important guests. Despite
all the trappings of normality, the prospect of a resumption of war
with the government is never far from the surface.
Kilinochchi was badly shelled during the two-decade civil war,
especially in the 1990s when the military pushed toward the nearby
Wanni jungles where the Tigers have their main base.The town didn't
fall, but many buildings by the main street are soot-stained and
abandoned. One wing of the Kilinochchi College is ruined, and
several thatched-roof huts serve as classrooms. On the playground,
teenagers perform military-style PT drills in the midday sun as
others jog around the perimeter.
Down in the main bazaar, all the talk is of war as the four-year
ceasefire lies in tatters. Housewife Theivannai Mahendran said the
years of fighting had been very difficult for families. "But we
didn't fear war then," she said. "Things are much better now, but we
still have no fear of war. God will look after us."
Rajakumar, a 25-year-old vegetable seller, said there was great fear
in the town that the government would launch an attack again."We are
not coming to a solution," he said, although the Tigrs and the
government agreed last week to hold fresh peace talks in Switzerland
in February."The ceasefire was going well, but there have been all
these murders and killings recently. Things have really worsened."
Asked what he would do, he seemed surprised. "I will fight," he
said. "I've been with the Tigers for four years. I fought in the
last war." Asked how many soldiers he had killed, he laughed and
said: "That I cannot say."