Tamils Fear Bloody Return Of Sri Lanka's 'Lord Of The Rings'

On Galle Road, just a stone’s throw from the Indian Ocean, the smell of burning incense and sound of chanting drift on to the street from the Kathiresan Temple, a rising structure adorned with Hindu iconography and lotus flowers.

Located in the Colombo district of Bambalapitiya, the holy site is devoted to Murugan, the ancient Hindu god of war who grew up to destroy evil spirits.

For the members of the Tamil minority who predominate in this area of the Sri Lankan capital, they fear another old demon of war who has returned to haunt them: Mahindra Rajapaksa.

Mr Rajapaksa is the nationalist strongman who crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist group that sought a federal state for Tamils, ending the civil war in 2009 in a brutal campaign aided by his brother, Gotabhaya, then defence minister. The United Nations says it left tens of thousands dead, wounded and missing.

The military under Mr Rajapaksa seized Tamil land in northern and eastern areas, which corrupt officers commandeered for personal gain, building hotels, shops and other enterprises.

Ousted as president in 2015, the 72-year-old Rajapaksa is now back as prime minister on the authority of his successor President Maithripala Sirisena, in what many call an illegal and undemocratic changing of the guard. Under pressure, the president will reconvene parliament on November 14 for a vote on his decision to sack incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Until then, apprehension and suspicion permeate Sri Lanka’s Tamil communities. Anxiously awaiting the outcome of this political crisis, Tamils are self-censoring and turning inwards.

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