Sri Lankan rift over tsunami aid

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The Independent Online

"The war was our first tsunami, then we got another," said Philip Paya, a 72-year-old fisherman, as he swept the sand from the 12ft by 15ft wooden shelter he shares with seven family members. "Now we're being told it could be three years before we get permanent shelter."

Mr Paya is among 850 Tamils in Manarkadu, a remote refugee camp at the northernmost point of Sri Lanka. When the Indian Ocean tsunami hit his village nearly six months ago, 75 people were killed and more than 300 were injured. Little remains apart from the church and a few buildings pitted with bullet holes - a reminder of the "first tsunami".

This is the region in which the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) fought a 20-year civil war with the government in their pursuit of an autonomous Tamil state.

Manarkadu is one of 18 camps in Jaffna run by the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation - the Tigers' humanitarian arm. The question for Tamils here, and all along the northern coast, is when they will receive their portion of the $3bn (£1.7bn) pledged by international donors.

The issue of the Tigers' rolecould bring down President Chandrika Kumaratunga's government. She is under pressure from international donors to sign a "joint mechanism" with the Tigers, but this has outraged the majority Sinhalese community. Two parties are threatening to pull out of her coalition, which would wipe out her majority.

The President is expected to announce this week whether she will sign up to the "joint mechanism". Commentators expect that if she does, elections will follow.