Sri Lanka war wounded face long fight to recovery

RAGAMA, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s leaders have hailed the end of the island’s long civil war as the start of a new era, but for soldiers injured in battle, the future is far from rosy. In a hospital outside the capital Colombo, Manju Lakshman, 32, lies on a bed staring at the ceiling.

He was shot in the spine by Tamil Tiger rebels one year ago in the last weeks of fighting in the northeast of Sri Lanka as the military offensive reached its climax along the coastal Mullaittivu district.

His wounds have left him a paraplegic, unable to move his legs or the lower part of his body.

“Sometimes, the day never ends. It’s very frustrating to keep the mind occupied lying still,” he told AFP.

Nearly 30,000 government troops were injured and 6,200 killed during the last three years of Sri Lanka’s decades-long war with the separatist Tamil Tigers.

Among of those injured, many lost limbs, eyes or their hearing, and more than 300 troops were left with severe paralysis.

Surrounded by paddy fields and jungle, the army rehabilitation hospital in Ragama cares for 172 soldiers trying to overcome their disabilities and to re-build their shattered lives.

Those fitted wit