19 August 2012
Last updated at 01:08
The BBC has gained rare access to the north-eastern tip of Sri Lanka where the final bloody stage of the war was fought in 2009. Destruction abounds.
The devastation is greatest here around Putumattalan and Mullivaikkal.
In Puthukudiyiruppu, Mr Thanabalasingham, visiting from a camp, finds his home in ruins. This is the only piece of furniture not looted. “You can’t repair this house – we’ll need to destroy it.”
Almost every building in Puthukudiyiruppu is destroyed. But its people are now returning from displacement camps far away beyond Vavuniya.
Many trees were damaged in shelling and firing.
The landscape is littered with vast numbers of landmines and other unexploded remnants of war.
The Sri Lankan army’s Humanitarian Demining Unit is involved in intensive work.
Non-governmental organisations such as the UK-based Mines Advisory Group are also demining - many have trained local women in this expert work.
Standing in a ruined Roman Catholic church, this Sinhalese soldier told the BBC that he, like many local Tamils, is a Catholic.
This is the long bund or sand rampart built by the LTTE (Tamil Tigers), including one of their bunkers, at Putumattalan. This line of defence failed and they were overrun in May 2009.
Sri Lankan tourists, mostly Sinhalese, now flock to war sites such as this Jordanian ship impounded by the LTTE in 2006 and broken up by them for its metal.
An undamaged or repaired Hindu temple (kovil) near Mullivaikkal. Like many local signs this is in Sinhala although there are English and Tamil signboards too.
With destruction like this it will still take years more to complete mine clearance.
Fishing boats not far away at Mullaitivu beach – a sign of how things once were and will, perhaps, one day be again all along the coast. (Photos/captions by Charles Haviland)