Bunkers and barriers on Sri Lanka’s front line

From left: Dr. Fernando Im, Senior Country Economist for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, The World Bank, Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, State Minister, Ministry of Finance and Mass Media, Dr. W A Wijewardana, Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Prof. Indralal de Silva, Former (Chair) of Demography, University of Colombo, Prof. Amala de Silva, Department of Economics, University of Colombo at the panel discussion on "Demographic Change in Sri Lanka" moderated by Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka, International Centre for Ethnic Studies.

SAMPUR, Sri Lanka, May 9 (AFP) – A smiling Sri Lankan army soldier lifts a thin metal barrier and you head toward Tamil Tiger rebel territory. Troops from the two sides are surprisingly close, about the length of a football pitch, on this edgy ceasefire line in northeastern Sri Lanka.

Violence between government and rebel forces has worsened this year and threatens a four-year-old ceasefire.

More than 200 people — most of them civilians — have died over the last month in tit-for-tat attacks by government and rebel forces around the country.

But, for the moment, all seems calm and there is no noticeable tension at this crossing point on a potholed road linking the government-held town of Muttur and rebel-controlled Sampur town.

Vehicles are searched and registered at a small army post before they can pass through a red-and-white striped barrier, navigate a short stretch of road flanked by barbed wire, and then reach the second barrier marking the end of government territory.

It is one of several similar front lines in other parts of Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern regions.

Perhaps 50 to 100 metres (yards) from that fina