Letter from Jaffna: War has been hell in Sri Lanka, but peace may fall far short of heaven.
It’s only an hour’s airtime from Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo, to the Jaffna peninsula at the northern tip of the island, but getting there is a miserable ordeal that can kill nearly half a day. Suitcases in hand, heaving and sweating for hours under the blazing sun, passengers endure a gauntlet of checkpoints, where they are repeatedly stopped, questioned, frisked and hassled. Most of the travelers are ethnic Tamils, a minority on the island, although they’re the overwhelming majority in the battle-scarred north. Some, without the necessary paperwork, are turned back. No one dares to protest. The slightest disruption can halt air service at any time. After five sweltering hours of queuing up, a Tamil passenger elbows me in the ribs and mutters: “This is how you’re treated when you’re taken to a prison camp.”