Leaders try to defuse tension in northeastern Sri Lanka

TRINCOMALEE, Apr. 29 (AFP) – Community leaders met in this northeastern Sri Lankan port town Saturday in a bid to defuse tension and suspicion between Sinhalese and Tamils following the bombing of a busy market that killed 17 people. “Trincomalee has always been a power-game area,” he said. “Various groups play their power games here. But it is always the ordinary people who get lost along the way.” The bombing, which the government and many Sinhalese locals blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels, set off a chain of tit-for-tat killings across the entire district, dividing the two communities who had lived in relative peace since a ceasefire between government and rebels in 2002.

Saturday’s meeting of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA), formed several years ago to try to iron out differences as they arise, ended positively, said meeting coordinator Niroshu, who uses one name.

“We discussed the main issue occupying everyone right now — that of security,” Niroshu, a Tamil, told AFP. He added senior police and army officers were also present.

The parties also discussed rebuilding houses destroyed in the violence and encouraging about 3,000 people displaced in the unrest to return to homes they fled.

A similar get-togeth