JAFFNA, Sri Lanka, Dec 2, 2007 (AFP) – The air force pilot takes no chances landing on the Jaffna peninsula, the northern tip of Sri Lanka held by the government but cut off from the south by Tamil Tiger rebel territory. . Descending fast from over the Indian Ocean, the Russian-made transport plane banks hard, its wing almost clipping the jungle canopy below. Flares pump out the back to fool any heat-seeking missile.
Upon landing, it is the army’s turn to take no chances — this time with foreign journalists flown in to be shown how the government is winning both the war and the hearts and minds of Jaffna’s “liberated” Tamils.
To keep the press on-message, private conversation with the locals was strictly prohibited.
But what the army did deliver was a slick slideshows and sweet tea and biscuits, stomach-turning photos of alleged victims of the Tamil Tigers and heart-warming video clips of delighted and supposedly local school children.
“As you can see, these children are very happy, because they have been liberated from terrorism,” an officer said, reading from a script within a bunker complex.
An easy-listening piano score provided the soundtrack to today’s Jaffna peninsula, home to around 600,