Shooting Stars

JAFFNA – The city of Jaffna was the epicentre of some of the bloodiest battles in Sri Lanka’s drawn out ethnic conflict, but the bombs have given way to a new explosion in trade after a truce. JAFFNA – The city of Jaffna was the epicentre of some of the bloodiest battles in Sri Lanka’s drawn out ethnic conflict, but the bombs have given way to a new explosion in trade after a truce. The bullet-holed buildings and bombed out offices have disappeared and have been replaced by air-conditioned shops that offer mobile phones and broadband internet in an area that had no electricity a decade ago.

“I have just spent a lot of money to do up this place,” says N. Balendran, the owner of the plush Atlas Telecom centre which holds a franchise for Mobitel cellular phones.

“There is a lot of demand, but we can sell more if we have better network coverage.”

Before the ceasefire between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels in February 2002, it was an offence even for journalists to use a satellite phone here without prior approval from the defence ministry.

Balendran says competition is stiff with another cellular operator who made it to Jaffna shortly after the ceasefire. The netw