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Karuna’s rebellion dramatized the threat that peace poses to Prabhakaran’s authority, and a month before the tsunami struck, when Prabhakaran delivered his annual Hero’s Day speech, he declared himself fed up with the stalemate.

The prevailing sentiment in Batticaloa, he said, was “We are victims again.

Yet this devastation was perfectly arbitrary, and it is a measure of the depth of Sri Lanka’s troubles that for this reason the tsunami was widely regarded there not only as a disaster but also as an occasion for hope.

The President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, articulated this unlikely optimism when she addressed the nation two days after the tsunami.

Until the early nineteen-eighties, most Tamils favored the establishment of a federal system that would grant them substantial local autonomy within a unified state; and, even as hope for a political solution gave way to Tamil militancy, armed struggle was widely seen as a means to force such an outcome.

Prabhakaran, however, has always been hostile to the idea of power-sharing.

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