In the morning of January 2nd Colombo greeted the New Year with a bombing in Slave Island, a busy business district. The roadside bomb targeted a military bus transporting wounded soldiers from the army hospital to the General Hospital.
Targeted bus
Four people were killed, seven were sent to the hospital in critical condition and 22 others were injured. Thankfully all of my friends and their families were uninjured, but my heart goes out to all those killed and their families who have to start 2008 in such a horrible manner.

A view of the street
The bombing follows two other bombs in November which killed over 18 people and injured over 37 more. In the wake of the November bombings the police arrested over 2,553 ethnic Tamils in the Colombo area. Most were released a few days later but over 100 were kept in custody. After the current bombing the police arrested 50 Tamils in a mass sweep of the area.

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On January 1st a former Minister and Tamil opposition leader was assassinated by unknown attackers in a Hindu temple in Colombo. The opposition party claims that the government had reduced his security leaving him at risk.

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To add to an already eventful beginning of the year, the Sri Lankan Government announced its formal withdrawal from the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA). While arguably the CFA has been ignored for the past 1 1/2 years as the Government and LTTE forces have engaged in heavy fighting, it still had a constraining effect. The Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM), set up under the CFA, arguably limited both sides from committing to full blown war and blatant human rights abused due to its reporting activities. With the SLMM finishing on the 16th with the end of the CFA, there will be no impartial monitoring and the Government will be free to launch major offenses, as most analysts predict they will once the rainy season ends in the North.

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Taken all together, 2008 has already started out bloody and I am afraid this is only the beginning. Most of you are probably wondering what I am still doing in the country, thinking that I am crazy, or wondering what is going through my mind. To be honest you can become used to almost anything.

I still view Colombo as a safe place, although there are some moments of insecurity. I will, as most others will, assess the security situation as the year moves forward. Colombo is still quite safe with the North being the worst hit by the war. But I will continue to be careful of my surroundings and will continue to make (what I hope are) smart choices.

I have painted a pretty bleak picture of Sri Lanka’s prospects for the new year. However, I will be posting points of beauty in my next few posts as I recap my trip to Switzerland, Christmas in the Cultural Triangle and New Years on the beach, and of course my upcoming birthday BBQ at my home.

Happy New Year and please comment freely!

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