Toasting peace will be the theme of UB40's concert in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo on Saturday (Dec. 14). The U.K.-based reggae band, the biggest act to come to the island since a peace bid start

Toasting peace will be the theme of UB40's concert in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo on Saturday (Dec. 14). The U.K.-based reggae band, the biggest act to come to the island since a peace bid started one year ago, hopes its presence will signal to the world the changes in Sri Lanka since the government and Tamil Tiger rebels signed a cease-fire in February.

"We took time out to do this concert especially because it is a peace concert," singer Ali Campbell told a news conference today. He said the heavily Jamaica-influenced band, which scored a worldwide hit in the 1980s with "Red, Red Wine," broke a vow not to tour again in 2002 when it was invited to perform in Colombo.

"We are ambassadors for reggae music and reggae music is all about peace and love," Campbell said.

The concert has been heavily promoted by the government, which will hold a fourth round of peace talks with the Tigers next month in neutral Thailand to end the war that has killed 64,000 people in the last two decades.

"Two years ago Colombo was known as a place where bombs were going off... this is a complete confirmation [of the changes]," Commerce Minister Ravi Karunanayake told the band at the news conference. "Your coming will show the rest of the world Sri Lanka is back again in a peaceful environment."

The concert at a cricket stadium in Colombo will also be shown live on giant television screens at six locations around the island, including in Jaffna peninsula, the site of some of the worst fighting during the war.

The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state in the north and east for Tamils, who they say are discriminated against by the island's majority Sinhalese.


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