Portraits from Kalmunai

Kalmunai, is a municipality within the Ampara District of Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. It is bounded on the east by the Indian Ocean on the north by the Maruthamunai village and on the south by Sainthamarathu village which is considered to be a suburb of the town.

All of Sri Lanka’s ethnicities – Muslims, Tamils, Sinhalese, and Burghers live in Kalmunai, with the Muslims forming a majority.

The area is adversely affected over the past two decades, with a number of massacres, forced disappearances and civil unrest targeting the civilians.

It was directly impacted by the 2004 Tsunami as well, leading to number of deaths and destruction of property.

The following portraits featuring Kalmunai residents – captured by Markus Spring, resonate the plight they face:

In Kalmunai

This man has lost 3 family members in the tsunami. He again works only 50m away from the beach, but despite of his friendliness his face remained close and his eyes were far away

The owner of a hardware shop. in the background tsunami ruins

Tsunami victims, still living in temporary shelters.

Markus Spring: “When foreigners on an official mission become visible, now there are sounds of protests. and it hurts me that we could not offer some more houses to be constructed from our funds, as apparently their own state prefers to spend the money on a war they cannot win: sri lanka spends 2.4% of their gdp (est. 2004, compare with 1.5% in germany) for their army, plus the (unknown to me) amount the need for police and special task forces, let alone their losses of the agonizing economy due to the civil war of more than 25 years.

oh, and did i tell you that this country could be a paradise on earth?”

Tsunami victims, still living in temporary shelters.

Markus Spring: “Since the tsunami of december 2004 those women live with their families in temporary shelters: that means huts with corrugated tin sheets as roof, maybe one and a half rooms, cooking outside, toilets and washing facilites shared with a big number of other families. while this may look bearable under warm and sunny conditions, in the 4+ months of monsoon it becomes a total mess – a deep swamp everywhere, seasoned with the threats of cyclones.”

Fisherman in a tea stall

Fishermen having a break

The proud owner

Kalmunai Fishermen

Fishermen at the shore

Fishermen at the shore

Markus Spring: “….Sri lanka could be heaven on earth without that bloody war (pun intended) and not enough that Singhalese and Tamils fight since 25 years, now also the Muslims and the Tamils use kalashnikov bullets as arguments. it makes a difference reading about this in the newspaper or walking into a 16 year old chap without uniform but with a gun. ok, he was friendly “what’s your name, where do you come from…” but probably due to my white skin, which is giving me an edge down there. in the 11 days I spent in Batticaloa, probably 10 people were killed in the neighbouring towns, for political reasons.” …………you see from this burst of words how upset and fed up i am.”

Markus Spring is running international projects in Sri Lanka, on the fields of rebuilding of infrastructure in the context of post-tsunami-help and capacity building for municipal council administrations in the field of environment planning]

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