COLOMBO, September 14, 2013 (AFP) – A train linking the political home of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels with the rest of the island rolled into service on Saturday after a 23-year interruption, officials said. The Sinhalese-dominated government is under international pressure to promote ethnic reconciliation and investigate allegations of war crimes by its forces in the final stages of the war.
Railways were established in Sri Lanka by its British colonial-era rulers in 1864 for the transport of coffee and tea from the central region of the island to the main sea port of Colombo. The train, carrying President Mahinda Rajapakse, arrived in the town of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (200 miles) north of the capital Colombo, four years after the end of a nearly four-decade civil war.
The project is part of efforts to promote reconciliation with the Tamil minority and heal the scars of the long-running separatist conflict.
A new track had to be laid along a 63-kilometre stretch of the line inside the former war zone because the rebels had removed rails and used sleepers to build bunkers during the war, officials said.
Rajapakse was carrying “a message of friendship” from the Sinhalese people in th