The Forgotten

Place: Jaffna | Courtesy: Asia Week
| Date: 20000602

Left behind from years of civil strife in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, issued a Churchillian call on national television as rebel troops closed in on Jaffna:

"People of Sri Lanka in their entirety are today facing a most decisive moment in their history." The Indian navy mobilized for possible duty evacuating government troops and civilians from Jaffna. But it was all distant thunder to the thousands of Tamil refugees in the dozen or so camps scattered around the northern city of Vavuniya. A news blackout is in force throughout the country, but even without it little real information filters into the camps. There are few if any TV sets, or much of anything else for that matter, save a simple tent or hut to keep the rain out. "Most refugees don't care who wins the war," says S. Paliniswami, whose home 12 km to the north was razed by gunfire. "All we want is peace."

In any case, they've heard it before. Many of the refugees have been living in camps there since 1996. Some were displaced from homes in southern Sri Lanka during an uprising by the socialist JVP a decade ago and resettled in the north. Then they found themselves forced to flee again - from fighting between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels. At least they have a roof over their heads and some support (roughly 45 cents a day per person) from the government. But the new fighting will bring even more refugees to the camps around Vavuniya - a never-ending cycle of violence and despair.