In March 2010, almost twelve months after the hostilities in northern Sri Lanka that had caught the world’s attention had finished, I drove up the road from the town of Vavuniya to Kilinochchi, the former headquarters of the Tamil Tigers. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the violent and dictatorial leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was dead; he had been shot in the last days of the civil war waged for nearly three decades between the Tamil separatists and the Sri Lankan government, which he bore at least some of the blame for perpetuating. The LTTE had been dispersed and, though an army officer told me that some of their fighters still remained at liberty, most had been killed or interned. The conflict was clearly over.
It had taken some time to get permission for the drive – my dispatch from Kilinochchi for The Guardian ended up being the first published from the town – and the actual journey from Vavuniya was almost disappointingly straightforward. The road had been resurfaced and was in excellent