ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Notes on the Military Presence in Sri Lanka's Northern Province

The Sri Lankan government may have won the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north-east of the country, but another protracted struggle is looming on the horizon, that of winning democracy and development back from the clutches of militarisation. In the meantime, for those in the north (and the east) struggling to recover socially, economically and psychologically from the war, the message for the moment at least is clear: reconcile, by keeping your head down, give way to the army, be patient and hope for the best. In other words – “do pretty much what you did to survive the reign of the LTTE ”.



The bumpy road descended sharply onto a little bridge, which straddled a lazy stream under the welcoming shade of palu trees and the watchful eyes of a Sri Lanka Army post. They are ubiquitous in the Vanni; the palu trees and the army, wood and iron everywhere. Three years after the end of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Sri Lanka Army is no longer digging in but building up. Makeshift camps have steadily transformed into signs of a more permanent nature, neatly landscaped areas, flashy new gates and imposing entrances, w­ell-cut playgrounds, communications towers, barracks – the works. It appears that they are here to stay.

The Vanni, the area of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province south of the Jaffna peninsula, is believed to get its name from the Tamil Vanniar feudal chieftains of a distant past. Its present-day chieftains, however, are smart and a­rti­culate divisional and brigade commanders of the Sri Lanka Army who preside over inaugurations and interrogations alike.

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