Sri Lanka Readies for Major National Celebration Following Rebel Defeat

Sri Lanka is preparing for a major celebration following the battlefield defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, ending a quarter-century civil war.  Joyous outbursts that are mixed with some lingering anxiety, especially among the minority Tamils who wonder what the new era will bring for them.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped off his aircraft, on his return from Jordan, to the cheers of supporters who hailed him as a national hero.

On the streets of Colombo, some people hoisted the Sri Lankan flag and set off firecrackers in celebration.

After word came that the rebels had announced their guns would finally gone silent in the northeast, young people celebrated in the backs of slowly moving vehicles along the famous Galle Face seaside boulevard.

But there are no signs, yet, of any mass celebration.  A national victory speech by the president is anticipated Monday with a declaration of a national holiday.

The capital, the sight of many suicide bombings and political assassinations over the years by the Tamil Tigers, still has its typically heavy security presence with numerous roadblocks in some sensitive areas.  There motorists and pedestrians are asked to produce ID cards by armed soldiers.  Those who are ethnic Tamils can be expected to come under further scrutiny in high security zones.

It is symbolic of the ethnic and linguistic divide affecting the Tamil minority, treatment they say over the decades and even centuries, that led to the violent uprising.

Many here express hope the defeat of the armed rebels will usher in a new era.  But for that to happen civil activists say the government must make good on promises to rehabilitate Tamil society and foster equal rights.  Others say the burden also lies with Tamil politicians and activists to pursue a peaceful path for addressing their long-standing grievances.


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