Jaffna itself, in the island's war-torn north, is regarded as the Tamil cultural capital. Troops wrestled the town from the Tigers in 1995, but residents there still face severe travel restrictions.
Civilians died like flies
Wellawatte, where shops sell traditional Jaffna sweets, has narrow lanes crammed with high rise apartments and cheap hotels popular with Tamils fleeing the fighting or seeking shelter before heading abroad.
Businessman L Satheeshnathan urged President Rajapakse not to use the rebel rout to "settle scores" with the wider Tamil community.
"Otherwise the ethnic pot will continue to boil," he warned. For lawyer Kanthi Vijayakumar, any victory celebrations were "tasteless" after so much bloodshed and with so many people driven from their homes.
"My two sisters and their families are at one camp, my mother in another camp," she said. "They have no money, no jobs, no land and no hope for the future. The war has torn our family apart."
Image: Pro Tamil Tiger demonstrators protest with a flag in front of the Brandenburg Gate, next to the US embassy, in Berlin on Monday, May 18, 2009.