Friday, March 30, 2007

Mannar villagers seek safety from SLA deep penetration unit

Fear of armed members of Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) are forcing residents of Silavthurai, Arippu and Mullikulam in the Mannar district to leave their houses by dusk and return after dawn, civil society sources in Mannar said. Residents are alarmed at the grenade attack on a house at Savariarpuram in Silavthurai on Tuesday night by a group of armed persons believed to be belonging to the DPU, sources in Mannar said.

Mannar residents say that they have witnessed movement of strangers armed with weapons and fear that members of the DPU are on the prowl during nights in their villages in the Liberation Tigers held area in the Mannar district, civil sources said.

Mullikulam residents are spending their night at St.Mary's Church, Silavthurai residents in St.Francis Xavier Church and Arippu families in a common ground in the middle of the village, sources said.

Villagers have complained to Mannar Bishop and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in Mannar, sources said.


Kilinochchi residents condemn DPU attacks on civilians

Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) demonstrated in Kilinochchi Thursday condemning the indiscriminate penetrative attacks on humanitarian organizations working in the Liberation Tigers (LTTE) of Tamil Eelam administrated areas by the Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) of Sri Lankan armed forces, and demanding the international community take steps to stop the attacks. civil society sources in Kilinochchi said. The demonstration, presided by the President of TRO, M. Sivanadiyan, started around 10:30 a.m. in front of the TRO Head Office in Kilinochchi and ended around 12:00 noon at the Office of the Kilinochchi Government Agent.

Hundreds of people including NGO representatives and workers gathered and marched along the A-9 road chanting slogans condemning the attacks against the humanitarian NGOs and their employees by the Sri Lankan armed forces and DPUs.

The demonstrators urged the international community and the humanitarian agencies to pressure the Sri Lankan Government to give up its anti human activities in the Tamil Homeland against the innocent civilians. They also sought the intervention of the international community against the gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Sri Lankan armed forces and paramilitary groups.

In an attack on a TRO vehicle by the DPU on 24 March, the Director of the Disaster Management was killed and other passengers were seriously injured.


Mannar Education Officer succumbs to injuries

Divisional Education Officer in Mannar, Christian Rajakone, 47, succumbed to injuries early morning Thursday at the Kilinochchi hospital, hospital sources said. Rajakone sustained in the claymore mine attack by the Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) on Tuesday in the LTTE held area in Mannar district.

The motorbike he and Silvairasa Amalanesan, Principal of Vilathikulam School, were traveling hit a claymore mine placed by the DPU of SLA Tuesday morning.

At that time both were proceeding from Madhu to attend the sports meet of Vilathikulam School Principal died on the spot and Christian Rajakone was admitted to the Killinochchi hospital in critical condition, sources said.

Mr. Christian Rajakone was a graduate of Peradeniya University. He later joined the teaching profession. He served Vidathaltivu St.Joseph Vas Maha Vidiyalayam, Kakaiyankulam Muslim Maha Vidiyalayam and Anadankulam Roman Catholic Tamil Maha Vidiyalayam. Later he was appointed as acting Principal of Vilathikulam School. At that time of death he was the Divisional Educational Officer for the Madhu division in Madhu education zone, sources said.

The funeral of Mr. Amalanesan was held at Vidathaltivu Wednesday.


DPU ambush kills School Principal in LTTE territory

A newly appointed principal who was on his way to Vilathikulam from the Zonal Education Office in Madhu was killed, and an Divisional Education Officer was wounded and rushed to Kilinochchi hospital for treatment Tuesday morning following a Claymore ambush by the Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) of the Sri Lanka Army, said N. Selvy, Liberation Tigers Human Rights Spokesperson.

The victim, identified as Siluvairasa Amalanesan, 33, was killed on the spot.

An education official, identified as Christian Rajakone, 47, was rushed to Kilinochchi hospital.

Both were traveling in a motorbike, driven by the deceased, to attend an event at the school.

The ambush was reported around 10:30 a.m. at Sinnavalayan Kaddu in Madhu division in the LTTE controlled area in Mannar district.

Sinnavalayan Kaddu is located in Madhu education zone.

Thamileelam Police rushed to the site and launched a search operation.

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LTTE complains to SLMM of SLA's deep penetration attack

Mr.S.Iniyavan, Mannar District Political Head of the LTTE complained to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) at a discussion held at LTTE district political secretariat located in Karukkaikulam Wednesday of escaling attacks by the deep penetration unit (DPU) of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) in the LTTE held territory in Mannar district, sources said.

Mr.S.Punithan, Madhu division political head also participated in the discussion with members of the SLMM in Mannar district, sources said.

The discussion which was to commence at about 9.30 a.m. Wednesday at Karukkaikulam located was delayed more than an hour as the soldiers of the SLA manning the sentry point at Uyilankulam did not allow the SLMM delegation to enter the LTTE area. They were allowed at around 10.30 a.m. to meet the LTTE at Karukkaikulam, sources said.

LTTE delegation brought to the notice of the SLMM the attack made DPU of the SLA on Tuesday evening in which a woman was killed, sources said.

LTTE Mannar leaders pointed out to the SLMM that the SLA is conducting clandestine attacks even in sacred areas such as Madhu, sources said.


Humanitarian worker killed, three more wounded

Muthuraja Aruleswaran, 30, an aid worker attached to the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) was killed and three more workers were injured when Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers exploded a claymore mine targeting a vehicle belonging to the aid agency in Mannar at around 12.30pm on Saturday.

TRO, the largest non-governmental organisation working in the Tamil Homeland, is catering for the basic needs of thousands of civilians displaced due to recent military offensives by the Sri Lankan military in the Mannar-Vavuniya border regions.

'A high level team visited the displaced people to carry out needs assessment and monitor current relief efforts,' TRO sources in Kilinochchi said.

They came under claymore mine attack while travelling in Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) administered areas.

Tamil Eelam Police says that the attack was carried out by the Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) of the SLA. 'Sri Lanka is taking advantage of low presence of LTTE cadres in vicinity surrounding the Holy Madhu Church,' police sources added.


Two civilians narrowly escaped with injuries in a claymore attack by the SLA in Mannar

Two civilians were injured in a claymore attack by the Sri Lankan military’s Deep Penetration Unit near Andankulam in Mannar at 12.30 pm today, 22 March 2007.

Navarathinam Santhirakanthan aged 27, father of two children and Palichchami Jeyapalan aged 31 were injured. They were going to Andankulam from Thachchanamadu, Mannar.

Injured Santhirakanthan and Jeyapalan were admitted in Pallamadu hospital in Mannar.


TRO condemns the killing of TRO staff by SL DPU attack in Mannar

Tamils Rehabilitation Organization has condemned the attack by Deep Penetration Unit of Sri Lankan Army on their vehicle, killing and injuring TRO staff belong to Disaster Management Unit today, 24th March 2007.

Full text of the TRO Statement as fallows

"Tamils Rehabilitation Organization condemns vehemently the dastardly act of attacking the TRO vehicle and killing and injuring TRO staff belong to Disaster Management Unit who were engaged in humanitarian activities by Deep Penetration Unit of Sri Lankan Army at Periyamadu in Mannar today (24th March, 2007) at 11.30 AM. In this murderous attack one TRO staff was killed and 4 senior staff were seriously injured."

"TRO staff and volunteers were providing immediate relief assistance - transport, food and water to the people who were displaced by heavy shelling and troop movements of the Sri Lankan army for the last 2days in the boarder areas of Mannar. Over 2000 families are displaced and have become refugees from boarder villages such as Periya Thampana, Periya Pandivirichan and Sinna Pandivirichan and moved to Periya Madu and Madu areas."

"TRO Disaster Management Unit driver Mr. Muthurasa Aruleswaran died on the way to hospital. TRO Deputy Executive Director Mr.Vadivel Ravichandran, International Coordination Unit Director Mr.Seenithambi Parameswaran and Mannar Deputy Director Mr. Thevasakampillai Maththiyas and Mullikulam Divisional Director Mr.Selvaratnam Nixon were seriously injured and admitted in intensive care unit in Kilinochchi."

"We call upon the International Community to prevail upon the Sri Lankan government to stop the attacks on NGO staff who are doing humanitarian activities to the benefit of the affected people."


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Thousands flee as Sri Lanka fighting worsens by Amal Jayasinghe

Thousands of Tamil civilians were on the run in northern Sri Lanka Sunday as troops and Tiger rebels traded artillery fire across a de facto border, with both sides claiming heavy casualties.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said about 2,000 men, women and children fled their homes in the district of Mannar, where heavy fighting has raged since Thursday.

Unidentified gunmen shot dead five civilians -- three in the north and two in the east -- on Sunday afternoon, police said, adding the victims were villagers who had supported the ruling party government.

One government soldier was killed and three more wounded in Mannar district in the latest shelling, the defence ministry said Sunday. It said troops retaliated in kind and inflicted unspecified casualties on the guerrillas.

The ministry estimated that at least 49 Tiger rebels were killed in the latest fighting. The military placed its own losses at 10 dead and 46 seriously wounded, with another 45 listed as minor casualties.

The LTTE said it lost 13 combatants and claimed to have killed 60 government troops. Both sides are known to overestimate losses suffered by the other.

Thousands of civilians living along the de facto border separating Tamil Tiger territory from the rest of the island fled to the safety of public buildings to avoid shelling by both sides, local officials said.

They said about 300 civilians had crossed the front lines Saturday and entered government-held areas, where they were provided with food by government troops.

The Tigers said the refugee crisis in Mannar had compounded problems for relief workers already grappling to feed nearly 300,000 internally displaced people in the island's embattled regions.

The rebels on Sunday accused the army of planting a roadside bomb that killed a local aid worker and wounded three others when it exploded near their vehicle in Mannar on Saturday.

"This is the work of the Sri Lankan army's deep penetration unit," LTTE spokeswoman Navaruban Selvy said by telephone from her office in the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi, about 300 kilometres (200 miles) north of the capital.

"The victims were trying to arrange relief for civilians displaced as a result of the latest fighting."

The worker was a volunteer with the Tamils' Rehabilitation Organisation, a local charity that operates refugee centres and distributes aid in rebel territory.

Sri Lanka's military denies carrying out bomb attacks inside rebel-held territory, but military sources have acknowledged that small groups of troops are operating behind rebel lines.

The report of the blast came as the defence ministry said it had killed two suspected Tamil Tiger rebels in the northern peninsula of Jaffna, to the north of Mannar, on Saturday.

In the east of the island, police recovered the bodies of six suspected Tiger rebels killed by troops in a confrontation over the weekend and a magisterial inquiry was held on Saturday, police said.

More than 4,000 people have been killed in a wave of fighting in Sri Lanka since December 2005. The violence comes despite a truce in place since February 2002.

The LTTE has been waging a 35-year campaign for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority in this majority Sinhalese nation.

aj/jc AFP 251302 GMT 03 07

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

LRRP infiltrates Mullaithivu

Sri Lanka army's Deep Penetration Unit known as the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol, today assaulted a rebel vehicle movement deep inside rebel held Mullaithivu region.

Rebel vehicle movement from Mallavi to Palappani was interrupted due to the claymore mine explosion set off by the LRRP. The actual target or the result of this DPU attack cannot be revealed for security reasons. LRRP activity in the Mullaithivu region has vastly increased during the recent past. Many unexplained claymore explosions have been occurring in the Mullaithivu in recent past and most of these targeted tiger intelligence wing members.

Mullaithivu is a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) stronghold which is highly fortified and it is guarded by elite tiger infantry units.

Meanwhile, SLAF Kfir bombers today carried out a bombing sorties over Vallipunam (also located in Mullaithivu district). Target of the air raid was an LTTE training base. LTTE casualty details due to this attacks are yet to be known.


LTTE Major killed in LRRP attack

A claymore mine set off by the Sri lanka army's deep penetration unit known as the Long Range Recon Patrol damaged a tractor transporting LTTE cadres in Nandunkerni (Wanni District- rebel held area) on the 10th. The attack killed a senior LTTE leader and wounded 5 others.

The perished LTTE leader is identified as Major Kannan. Kannan was a specialist in advanced weaponry and weapons training. Wounded LTTE cadres are said to be receiving treatment in Mullaithiv hostipal.

This is the third claymore explosion which went of in this area during the last few weeks. LTTE senior leadership has restricted public appearances in the face of increased DPU attacks conducted by the army. They have also deployed special teams to search and destroy DPU members but this has not lead to any success so far.

The army's deep penetration unit (LRRP) is said to be one of the most succesful Long Range Surveillance (LRS) units in the world. LRRP units boast kill ratios as high as 300 LTTE cadres for 1 LRRP member.


This is the third claymore explosion which went of in this area during the last few weeks. LTTE senior leadership has restricted public appearances in the face of increased DPU attacks conducted by the army. They have also deployed special teams to search and destroy DPU members but this has not lead to any success so far.

The army's deep penetration unit (LRRP) is said to be one of the most succesful Long Range Surveillance (LRS) units in the world. LRRP units boast kill ratios as high as 300 LTTE cadres for 1 LRRP member.


Damning report on raid by Poorna Rodrigo

Presidential commission accuses ASP Udugampola of acting like supreme commander in Athurugiriya raid; UNF government and then police chief held responsible for exposing military secrets.

A Presidential Commission which probed the controversial police raid on the Athuruguirya military safe house last year has accused ASP Kulasiri Udugampola of behaving like a "supreme commander" and acting "above the law", thus jeopardising the security and the military strategy of the armed forces.

"If one is to accept the totality of the evidence led before the commission, it seems that ASP Udugampola was immune to any supervisory procedure and he has behaved as a supreme commander who was above the law," Commissioner D. Jayawickreme said in his report.

Mr. Jayawickreme, a retired Court of Appeal judge, in a report handed over to President Chandrika Kamaratunga, said he would hold the Prime Minister and the ministers concerned, the then IGP Lucky Kodithuwakku and his successor T.E. Anandarajah and all other senior police officers, responsible for the illegal act of ASP Udugampola.

"They were simply powerless to prevent the illegal action of ASP Udugampola even after they were apprised of the facts of this safe house and the activities of its personnel."

The report warned that if such "ill conceived police actions" as it happened in the case of the safe house were allowed to continue it would be "suicidal" to the safety of the nation.

It said the Athurugiriya raid had resulted in neutralising the military strategy of the Army in combating terrorism in the North East.

The commission said the unfortunate exposure by the media of highly successful LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) operations undertaken by the Directorate of the Military Intelligence had resulted in the LTTE acquiring the well-guarded secrets and led to a situation where the LTTE was able to liquidate those who had double crossed the group.

Stressing the need to take remedial action forthwith and punish those responsible for what the commission sees as a "great betrayal", the report recommended that steps be taken to de-politicise the Army and the Police and place them in the hands of capable young men to infuse professionalism and prepare the men for battle whenever the government wanted one.

It also recommended that military strategies of the LRRP and similar groups be known only to the Commander-in-Chief, the Commander of the Army and other Commanders and called for more punitive measures to punish people who abuse the system.

According to the report, the saga of the Army's Athurugiriya safe house began two months prior to the raid, when the then UNP Chairman Charitha Ratwatta and Vice Chairman Daya Pelpola, in a letter dated November 10, 2001, complained to the Army Commander Lionel Balagalla regarding the safe house seeing it as a bid to use explosives on meetings of the UNP leadership and the leader's campaign bus.

"The UNP Chairman warned the Army Commander that they would hold him responsible in the event of any such unfortunate incident."

"Mr. Ratwatta also has said to the commission that the information in the letter that the Directorate of the Military Intelligence was coordinating an attempt to use thermobaric explosives on the meetings held by the UNP was divulged by late Gamini Athukorala, the Deputy Leader of the UNP and unfortunately as dead men cannot speak, the Commission had no way of verifying the truth of this statement."

The report said that it was highly probable that certain officers in the Army along with ASP Udugampola, manipulated the story with the expectation that it would affect the results of the elections in favour of the UNP, and that in the event of UNP coming into power they would be adequately compensated.

However, the Army Commander convinced Mr. Ratwatte that there was "no substance in the information set out in the letter and Mr. Ratwatte was satisfied with the reply.

The matter however did not end there.

"If it was so, the matter should have ended then and there, but it did not. After the election results of December 5, 2001, the UNF came into power and within a month the Athurugiriya safe house was raided by ASP Udugampola from the Kandy Kennels Division under the guise of looking for suspects in the Udathalawinna murder case causing the greatest damage to the Army's LRRP operations which were extremely successful in countering and arresting terrorism," the report said.

Condemning the manner in which Mr. Udugampola took into custody several army personnel as illegal, immoral and in violation of all the rules and regulations of the police, the report said that it proved he had acted "arbitrarily and capriciously".

Saying that it is "unfortunate" that the new government could not prevent or control the actions of ASP Udugampola, despite the party chairman being convinced that there was no danger, the commission said that Mr. Udugampola proceeded with his illegal raid and investigations disregarding the orders from his own Inspector General of Police, Senior Police officers and even the advice of the Attorney General.

"The UNF Government's continued silence, in the wake of the obvious embarrassment, made matters worse in the case of the Athurugiriya safe house fiasco."

The report said Interior Minister John Amaratunga had himself admitted that the raid was "ill-conceived and harsh treatment was meted out to the officers. But the belated action by the Minister in refusing to issue Detention Orders on the arrest of armed personnel could by no means "rectify the damage" already caused to the Army's successful covert operations.

Minister Amaratunga had sent his own private secretary to assist ASP Udugampola in respect of the raid on the safe house and to give wide publicity to it, notwithstanding the fact he accepted it was "improper and unethical" for a Minister to interfere in police investigations, it said.

The commission said there was evidence that Lt. Col. Padmasiri Udugampola, SLCMP, brother of ASP Kulasiri Udugampola, Major General Ivan Dassanayake and Colonel K.H.N.S.S. Dharmaratna, Major A.C.A. de Soysa, SLCMP, Major B.M.A.N.S.K. Karunaratne, MIC, Corp, J.H.A.P. de Silva, JHAT-MIC and Corp. M.P.A. Pieris, JHAT-MIC, were all aware of the impending raid and had directly and indirectly assisted ASP Udugampola in raiding the safe house.

The report said that if these officers had any doubts about the safe house they should have brought it to the notice of the Army Commander and moved the military police to investigate.

"But those officers, without doing so, have conspired with Kulasiri Udugampola to raid this safe house for their own personal benefits. Moreover, none of these officers had informed the Army Commander or the Director, DMI, about it before the raid," the report said.



Thanks to the wide publicity given to a clumsy police raid on a safe house of the military intelligence unit of the Sri Lanka Army at Athurugiriya at least one person serving that unit had been killed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Batticaloa, and many more are in mortal danger, army sources revealed.

The same sources said two more spies serving the unit had been also kidnapped by the Tamil Tigers as a result of the exposure of the raid conducted by Police Superintendent Kulasiri Udugampola backed by the Interior Minister John Ameratunga.

The premises in Millennium Park, Athurugiriya, where the raid took place were rented by the Sri Lanka Army, as a safe house for a unit of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) run under the Directorate of Military Intelligence. A police team led by Udugampola raided on the house and arrested the army captain who was in charge of the unit and five soldiers including a former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who had now joined the unit. The unit was part of a highly successful program by the Sri Lanka Army to penetrate deep into the Tiger territory and assassinate LTTE leaders. Many such as the self-styled Colonel Shanker, a confidante of the Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had been killed by the LRRP.

Army commander Lt. General Lionel Balagalle dispatched his Director of Military Intelligence Brigadier Kapila Hendavitharana to avoid the clumsy arrest of the very efficient long-range unit from being taken away to be locked up. Hendavitharana reportedly arranged a telephone conversation between Inspector General of Police Lucky Kodituwakku and Udugampola to stop the embarrassing situation. Kodituwakku requested the SP to consider what the army intelligence man had to say. But the SP with alleged UNP connections instead phoned up Interior Minister John Ameratunga and complained there were pressures on him. To back Udugampola Ameratunga sent a senior officer of his ministry. Udugampola then arrested all men and took all weapons in to his custody. They were arrested on a charge of a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, now found to be baseless. After all the damage done and under growing protests of the army the UNF government released the arrested.

All this talk about a plot to kill Ranil Wickremesinghe was first published in the official organ of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Tamil Guardian during November of last year. It was complained to the army commander more or less the same time by the then UNP chairman Charitha Ratwatte and his deputy Daya Pelpola. Many consider it as a plant by the Tamil Tigers with the help of the UNP to destroy the LRRP unit of the army. Both the CID and the Army have found the assassination story baseless.

After details of the highly secretive unit was divulged to the police the Tamil Tigers killed the civil intelligence unit chief of the army in Batticaloa. The man, an ex-PLOTE member , Vidhyadharan was gunned down by LTTE assassins at Kottiyapula near Batticaloa on January 16. On January 21, the LTTE also kidnapped two more spies working for the same unit.

By January 4, the LTTE intelligence unit, apparently after receiving information from Police or political sources close to the Police had launched a crackdown on Tamil civilians suspected to have helped the LRRP teams in the Eastern province. The Sunday Times, a pro-government weekly in Colombo reported that an unknown number of civilians had been taken into custody for interrogation by LTTE intelligence cadres. Many of them could be dead by now, many feared.

The Lakbima newspaper quoted army commander Lt. General Lionel Balagalle of having said that the killing and the kidnapping took place because this meaningless police raid had exposed details of army intelligence. Lt.General Balagalle reportedly charged that because of a politically motivated police officer the patriotic and brave officers and their secret operations were unceremoniously exposed and now the army was finding it difficult to provide adequate security to army men thus exposed and their families.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times, a pro-government weekly owned by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe' S cousin, Ranjith Wijeyawardene said the arrest of the members of the LRRP unit has turned out to be illegal and all those who were arrested would soon file a fundamental rights case against the government.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Deep penetration hit squads: deep probe essential by D. B. S. Jeyaraj

Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP), also referred to as deep penetration hit squads are very much in the news today. Reputed political commentators are hailing President Kumaratunga for officially sanctioning the LRRP project and giving the green light for hits on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) command structure. The continuing inquiry of the Athurugiriya arsenal regularly throws up fresh yet sordid details of how a deadly 'secret weapon' like the LRRP covert action programme could be subverted for purposes not originally intended. It was the Athurugiriya incident that exposed the LRRP secret to the world at large.

Media reports reveal that persons connected with the LRRP are being systematically hunted down by the Tigers. An elaborate campaign is underfoot to blame conscientious police officers for doing their duty diligently and make them scapegoats for the LRRP fiasco. Efforts are being made to deflect attention away from the frightening ramifications of that episode and propagate a viewpoint that the country's national security has been compromised. Army Commander Lionel Balagalle has appointed a military court of inquiry with a restricted mandate that can only result in that tribunal functioning as a 'kangaroo court' and arrive at an obvious and foregone conclusion.

There is however much obfuscation and distortion of the real facts surrounding the LRRP covert action programme. The trial by media of the persons involved can only disclose partial truths. The loaded probe commissions initiated by Balagalle whose hands are extremely unclean on this matter cannot be informative in an impartial sense either. Persons involved in the Athurugiriya incident have been threatening to seek 'justice' for quite a while now without translating their words into action. Such a course of action should be welcomed as judicial proceedings held in an open court could shed more light on the dark and murky LRRP project.


It is doubtful whether those 'affected' by the Athurugiriya arrest will ever come forward and seek a legal remedy despite the self-righteous howls because of the dictum 'seek justice with clean hands.' Even if such a development occurs, the trial could only elicit part of the truth. What is required therefore in the larger interests of the country is a full-fledged public probe into the whole LRRP project with special emphasis on what transpired at Athurugiriya. Such a probe could de-mystify the LRRP hit squad project for what it is worth and prevent vested interests from misusing such types of covert activity for ulterior purposes.

Engaging in covert action projects to combat the Tamil guerrilla movement was first mooted in the mid-eighties when Lalith Athulathmudali was national security minister and Ravi Jayewardene security advisor under the J.R. Jayewardene government. Various blueprints were formatted by Israeli Shin Beth operatives and ex-SAS British mercenaries The go-ahead was given for some acts. The most notorious of these were some of the massacres of Sinhala civilians in the border areas. Hit squads impersonating Tamil militants executed them. Others involved fomenting friction between Tamils and Muslims in the east.

When the LTTE succeeded along with other groups in confining the army to military camps in the peninsula and creating a semi-liberated state in Jaffna, attempts were made to infiltrate and assassinate top Tiger figures. It is unclear as to how successful these missions were but Lalith Athulathmudali himself boasted to some foreign correspondents that the assassination attempt on former LTTE Jaffna Commander Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias Kittu was a "hit" scored by Sri Lankan intelligence. It was not publicised much in the Colombo based media. Subsequently Athulathmudali's claim was disputed by other observers who felt it was an internal matter. After the fall from grace of Gopalaswamy Mahend-rarajah alias Mahattaya the assassination bid on Kittu was also attributed among many things to his machinations.

The setting up of Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols to infiltrate LTTE controlled territory and assassinate top Tiger leaders was proposed to the Kumaratunga regime in 1996. It was suggested first by 'freelancing' intelligence consultants linked to the state. Plans were formulated in furtherance of this idea by Lionel Balagalle who was then the director of military intelligence. It is an open secret in defence circles that the LRRP project was fathered by Balagalle himself who was very much attached to this pet project.

Covert action

When the LRRP project proposal was submitted to President Kumaratunga for approval she rejected it out of hand. Kumaratunga, to her credit, abhorred such types of covert activity then. With her background of being involved in fiery French student politics of the late sixties, Chandrika hated all types of covert action for which the CIA was blamed then. Kumaratunga's policy as president was to defeat the LTTE militarily and not indulge in low level covert action. The project was shelved temporarily.

It was resurrected in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Kumaratunga in December 1999. Kumaratunga re-elected as president was angry and vulnerable. Shedding her earlier inhibitions she approved two covert action projects. One was the elimination of persons suspected of being LTTE supporters or sympathisers in the south. Intelligence operatives had already monitored activity of some targets and had even established links with some of them.

After getting the go-ahead signal, a high profile Tamil lawyer cum politician was decoyed away from home and gunned down brutally in Colombo. A red herring that a Sinhala fascist outfit was responsible was strewn across the trail. The reaction to the killing was tremendous with a massive public outcry. With the finger of guilt being pointed by many to the then occupant of Temple Trees, the powers that be became worried about continuing with that project and so it was put on hold. Thus many other Tamils on that list are alive today.

The second project of setting up LRRP teams was also approved by Kumaratunga in 2000 but that too was put on the backburner because of the fallout to the first phase of the "elimination of the Tiger network." Also, the Norwegian facilitated peace process had begun and attempting to infiltrate the Wanni and assassinating LTTE leaders in the Wanni would have been problematic then. Subsequently in 2001 the governing elite in Colombo found the ongoing peace process an embarrassment. It was decided to provoke the Tigers into abandoning their unilateral ceasefire and resorting to war again. The LRRP plan of assassinating top LTTE leaders was regarded as suitable to goad the Tigers into war again.


Even as the plan was being put into action the armed forces launched a massive operation code-named 'Agni Kheela' to retake Elephant Pass. It was routed conclusively by the LTTE. This made the defence top brass realise that invading and acquiring Tiger territory through frontal assaults was ruled out for the time being. So insidious LRRP hit squads had to be deployed not only to disrupt the peace process but also as a means to hit back at the enemy. The state had been reduced to the level of 'terrorism.' If the LTTE could infiltrate the concrete jungles of Colombo and wipe out human targets, the LRRP too could do so in the north east jungles was the logic. The successful LTTE attack on Katunayake spurred the deep penetration squads further.

The LRRP was a top secret project launched covertly by military intelligence. But Defence Ministry circles say that Lionel Balagalle was personally supervising the programme from its inception. Specially trained commandos and from the special forces were deployed. Also inducted were Tamil and Muslim ex-militants from the north east. They brought in the intelligence input and knowledge of terrain required. The Muslims were from the home guard units doubling up as groups known as 'Jihad' and 'Hizbullah' etc. The Tamils were ex-LTTE men from the 'Mahathaya' faction, members of the EPRLF's 'Razeek' group and from the PLOTE faction led by Mohan. Some of these were inducted into the army as regulars while others collaborated on an assignment basis. Some Tamil civilians were also paid well to provide information and safe houses.

The LRRP squad made its first big hit by exploding a claymore mine at Kokkavil. LTTE Political Wing Chief, S.P. Thamilchelvan was targeted but the wrong vehicle was blown up and it was only the bodyguard who succumbed. Thamilchelvan was on his way to meet Norwegian Peace Envoy Erik Solheim at Mallavi. The LTTE charged publicly that the "claymore blast was set off by a deep penetration team of the Sri Lanka Army." Defence Ministry Spokesman Sanath Karunaratne denied government forces were responsible. "We have no involvement whatsoever in this," Karunaratne said. "This is an area where we don't have our troops."

Thereafter, several such attacks occurred at regular intervals in the north east. Top LTTE leaders were targeted. Among those killed were Pirapaharan's close friend and confidante, Col. Shankar, the head of the LTTE Air Wing. Lt. Col. Gangai Amaran, the deputy chief of the Sea Tigers was killed. Major Nizam, the eastern regional intelligence head was also killed. Among those who escaped assassination attempts were Thamilchelvan, Deputy Military Chief, Balraja, Wanni Commander, Jeyam, Batticaloa-Amparai Commander, Karuna Amman and Eastern Regional Political Commissar, Karikalan.


The LTTE's accusations that an army deep penetration squad was responsible was denied by the state. Instead counter propaganda that the killings were due to internecine fighting between LTTE cadres was propounded. Ironically the army denials were believed by many in the south because they never thought the armed forces were capable of such successful strikes. On the other hand, the armed forces enjoying some degree of success through the LRRP project could not flaunt it publicly. They were denying the only successful project they had launched in many years.

This was because the LRRP project, though euphemistically termed as covert action, was nothing but an exercise in cold blooded assassination. It was a glaring example of state terrorism. If the LTTE was terrorist because it targeted prominent government figures in Colombo and killed innocent civilians as 'collateral damage,' the LRRP assassinations also could be described as terroristic. It was not top LTTE leaders who alone died, but also civilians. A pathetic example was the blowing up of a tractor with civilians at Vaakharai in the east. Thus, in spite of the high degree of success achieved, neither the government nor the armed forces could take public credit for it. No democratically elected government claiming to fight a just war and dependent on western aid could own up publicly to deploying killer squads deliberately. Likewise no self-respecting army could claim responsibility either.

The LRRP activity however troubled the LTTE greatly. The Tiger reputation of impregnability and invincibility had been eroded greatly. Moreover the LTTE supremo Pirapaharan himself was vulnerable. The Tigers combed the north east jungles and border areas with their leopard commandoes and also the border security forces. The intelligence wing conducted a deep and wide ranging search. Also top LTTE leaders changed their mode of travelling in a bid to avert attention.


The LTTE was successful to some extent initially in identifying civilian accomplices and uncovering safe houses in the east. Five persons including a woman were executed and 29 claymore mines seized. A Tiger suicide bomber exploded himself in Batticaloa town and killed three Tamils working on the deep penetration project as part of military intelligence.

A major windfall for the LTTE was when the Tigers arrested a group of five men in the western regions of Batticaloa in December last year. They were suspected to be LRRP squad members. It was a heterogenous mix of Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala persons. Although some initial publicity was given in LTTE journals, a news blackout set in soon after. Obviously, the Tigers were keeping the matter under wraps for further interrogation and information gathering. Interestingly there was not a whimper in the south regarding this development.

This was understandable because officialdom could not accept openly that the killer squad was theirs. It was thought then that the LTTE would expose the capture of LRRP men at a conveniently time and embarrass the state. It is now believed that upon finding the group had been responsible for some killings the squad had been executed. Also, much information about the inner workings of the LRRP squads was also gleaned. This however was not put to much use as the December 5 elections saw Ranil Wickremesinghe becoming premier, leading to a transformation of the political climate.

The discovery of an arms cache including thermobaric weapons at Athurugiriya along with 66 LTTE uniforms and cyanide capsules was a further revelation and confirmation of the LRRP phenomenon. It proved among other things that the deadly and destructive thermobaric fire bombs were being used by the army. Balagalle had denied such allegations earlier as these weapons are tabooed by most civilised nations. Few governments would use them against their own people.

Dirty tricks

Moreover the discovery of LTTE uniforms, cyanide capsules and the presence of Tamil speaking personnel indicated that the 'dirty tricks department' was capable of conducting terrible acts and pinning the blame on the LTTE.

Interestingly enough and to the eternal shame of any professional army, the arrested persons through media outlets blew their cover wilfully. No covert action group or person would ever own up if captured or arrested but the Athurugiriya crowd did so. They claimed that they had engaged in LRRP work in the east and that they were in Colombo in that respect. In one move, the covert action programme was exposed by persons wanting to be freed from arrest, After an inexplicable initial silence, Balagalle also began to support the group who were later released.

It was widely suspected that there was a plot to assassinate Wickremesinghe and pin the blame on the LTTE. The squad in Athurugiriya was thought to be part of that. The explanation proffered eagerly by the arrested persons that they were part of a LRRP team was seen as an excuse to avoid apprehension. Patriotism and interests of national security inevitably invoked by anyone needing to hide anything sinister were bandied about. What many suspected was that the covert action programme was being abused to wipe out a political rival.

There were also reports that the five arrested at Athurugiriya had nothing to do with the LRRP squads at all. The police officer investigating the case has been pilloried and pressurised but nevertheless continues with his probe in a dogged manner. If Defence Minister Marapone and Internal Security Minister Amaratunga realise the gravity of the situation there is no doubt that the matter would not be treated in this way. But then certain ministers of this government are proving to be great disappointments in political acumen and administrative efficiency.

The Athurugiriya arsenal affair and consequent publicity provided the LTTE and the world with ample proof of deep penetration squads. It was indeed hilarious to see a bunch of 'toughies' claiming to be covert actionists pleading for clemency by admitting they were covert operatives; probing policemen were being accused of compromising national security. Suddenly the LRRP secret became a public achievement. Kumaratunga was praised for sanctioning such state terrorism. It was portrayed as the single biggest military achievement of the armed forces.

Stark reality

In fact the LTTE was perceived as being prepared to talk peace only because the Tigers feared the LRRP teams. It was indeed pathetic to see knowledgeable persons ignoring the stark reality behind the covert action project and proclaiming it to be a 'legitimate' success. It was like the American public lulling itself into a false consciousness about the Vietnam war through Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris movies. The LTTE however obtained the concurrence of the government in tabooing the deployment of LRRP squads in the north east in the ceasefire accord. The Tigers also got the CFA to stipulate that no Tamil paramilitary group would be allowed to function in the north east with arms. The Tigers thought that with these ceasefire agreement provisions, the deep penetration squad problem would go away. But it did not and the next twist was when the LTTE discovered signs of a plot to place explosives at a point close to where LTTE Leader Pirapaharan was staying. It was this that influenced the LTTE into staging massive security arrangements for the LTTE leader's press conference on April 10.

With the rekindling of suspicion that the deep penetration squads were being activated again, the Tigers began a hard response. Without adequate proof, complaining to the monitoring mission was ruled out. Instead a counter strike was planned. Intelligence Wing Chief, Pottu Amman travelled to the Eastern Province on a special mission to strengthen the intelligence network there. An important aspect of that enterprise was to focus on the activity and support structure of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols. Thereafter, reports are emanating about Tamils involved in the covert action project being targeted, one in Colombo too was shot and wounded. As long as state agencies cover up the covert activity and target the LTTE in more ways than one, retaliatory responses will recur.

Total dismantling

What is needed therefore at this juncture is the total dismantling of this covert action project. If LRRP acts continue clandestinely, then the Tigers too are likely to reciprocate. Moreover, the LTTE would eliminate Tamil collaborators as vengeful punishment and also to demolish the LRRP structure. Censuring and compelling the LTTE to desist from such activity can be successful only if the Directorate of Military Intelligence stops its provocative acts. The dogs of war must be called off by both sides.

In order to ensure that the Ranil Wickremesinghe government should know clearly and exactly all the ramifications concerning the LRRP project, it is imperative that the government knows what is happening in order to protect itself. There are many observers who feel that the government has not awoken to the harsh reality behind the Athurugiriya arsenal. It is very necessary that a detailed investigation be launched into the entire covert action project particularly at a time when Kumaratunga and cohorts are planning a prime ministerial 'change.' The deep penetration hit squads need to be probed deeply in the interests of national security and the nation at large.


Friday, March 23, 2007

SLA takes human shields in Vavuniya Mannar border - LTTE

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam officials in Kilinochchi Friday charged that more than 300 Sri Lankan Army (SLA) troopers had breached 2 km into LTTE territory and taken more than 120 villagers of Periyathampanai, around 10 km southeast of Madu, in Vavuniya Mannar border, as human shields Friday morning around 7:30 a.m.

More than 300 SLA troopers were engaged in the ground offensive.

The SLA offensive follows heavy artillery shelling by the SLA and a Deep Penetration Unit Claymore attack wounding 2 civilians in Parappukkandanthan, 18 km northwest of Madu Thursday.

Periya Pandivirichchan is located in Vavuniya district.


DPU ambush kills School Principal in LTTE territory

A newly appointed principal who was on his way to Vilathikulam from the Zonal Education Office in Madhu was killed, and an Divisional Education Officer was wounded and rushed to Kilinochchi hospital for treatment Tuesday morning following a Claymore ambush by the Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) of the Sri Lanka Army, said N. Selvy, Liberation Tigers Human Rights Spokesperson.

The victim, identified as Siluvairasa Amalanesan, 33, was killed on the spot.

An education official, identified as Christian Rajakone, 47, was rushed to Kilinochchi hospital.

Both were traveling in a motorbike, driven by the deceased, to attend an event at the school.

The ambush was reported around 10:30 a.m. at Sinnavalayan Kaddu in Madhu division in the LTTE controlled area in Mannar district.

Sinnavalayan Kaddu is located in Madhu education zone.

Thamileelam Police rushed to the site and launched a search operation.


Christian family wounded in DPU attack in Madu

A 4-year-old girl, 15-year-old boy and their parents riding in a motorbike to Madu church from Andankulam through parappukandanthan road were wounded in a Sri Lanka Army Deep Penetration Unit Claymore attack Wednesday around 10:00 a.m., 6 km away from the church. This is the second DPU attack on civilians inside Liberation Tigers territory within the last 24 hours.

Henry Anthonymuttu, 40, a farmer, his wife Henry Uchrista, 42, and their children Angele Shiami, 04 and Sam Surendran Henry, 15, were wounded and rushed to Adampan District Hospital by the ICRC and later transferred to Mannar General Hospital.

The attack was reported at Periyavil on Parappukadanthan Road.

On Tuesday, a school principal was killed and an education official was wounded in Madu.

The ambush units known as Deep Penetration Units (DPUs) are officially named Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) units, is a borrowed term from the LRRP/Ranger detachments deployed for covert operations by the U.S. military in the Vietnam war.

The Sri Lankan LRRP units are increasingly deployed to attack civilian vehicles in addition to military targets in the LTTE territory.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

The safe house and the enemy within

"All further investigations into the Kandy Police raid on the Military Intelligence Safe House at Athurugiriya have been dropped since the authorities are now convinced it was used for legitimate purposes…"

Minister of Interior, John Amaratunga, in an exclusive interview with Anthony David, Deputy Editor (News) in The Sunday Times of May 26.

All further investigations have indeed been dropped. That is 144 days after then Superintendent of Police, Kulasiri Udugampola, Director (Operations), Kandy Division, raided house No: 844, Millennium Park, Athurugiriya - the Safe House run by Army's Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).

During the 144 days, whilst the United National Front Government maintained a stoic silence, the country's national security interests were compromised, the Sri Lanka Army was grossly humiliated and the nation was made to believe this Safe House was nothing more than a hideout for a gang of marauding murderers in uniform.

The raid on the night of January 2, this year, led to the recovery of - ten (M4) anti tank mines (with two fuses), four light anti tank mines (thermobaric), a pair of goggles, three T-56 assault rifles, 66 sets of camouflage uniforms resembling those used by Tiger guerrillas, two water bottles, eight large claymore mines, eight small claymore mines, 17 exploders, nine rolls of 16 mm wire, eight rolls of 7.022 mm wire, three small antennas, 12 detonators and a cyanide capsule. An officer, four soldiers and a DMI informant (who was later recruited to Army ranks) were arrested.

The moment after the raid was most poignant. Inspector General of Police, Lucky Kodituwakku, who had no prior knowledge, spoke on a mobile phone to Mr. Udugampola at Athurugiriya. He was to assert that Army Commander, (Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle), had assured him the Safe House was used for legitimate purposes and the items found could be accounted for. Later, Lt. Gen. Balagalle himself spoke on a mobile phone to confirm to him the assurance given by his boss, the IGP. They were of no avail. For once, a Police Chief and an Army Commander found themselves hopeless and helpless.

In a lorry hired by the Athurugiriya Police, Mr. Udugampola, now an ASP (after a Supreme Court order invalidating the promotions of some to the rank of SPs) brought the weapons cache to Military Police Headquarters at Narahenpita. The six in custody followed in a Police vehicle. By then, the media had been tipped off. They arrived there but were disallowed entry by the Military Police.

The scene shifted to Cinnamon Gardens Police Station. The cache of weapons and other items were placed on display on tables and even on the floor. The media was allowed to freely photograph or video film them. After the officer protested, he and the men were allowed to remain in their vehicle.

The find and the men arrested, it was claimed, were all part of a sinister plot to assassinate Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe and other United Front Leaders. Lending credence to this claim was an earlier event - a letter then United National Party Chairman, Charitha Ratwatte, wrote to Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Balagalle, during last December's polls campaign. He said thermobaric explosives had been brought from operational areas in the North to the Panaluwa Army Testing Range. Certain persons reportedly attached to a Northern Tamil political party were being trained in its use.

He alleged that Army deserters were flown from the North and training was being co-ordinated by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). Mr. Ratwatte feared there might be an attempt to use these weapons on meetings held by the UNP leadership and the Leader's campaign trail. Lt. Gen. Balagalle replied there was "no substance" in the information.

Mr. Ratwatte cannot be faulted for acting promptly on what appeared then to be credible information about threats against the UNP leadership. A close confidant and loyalist of Premier Wickremesinghe, he took prompt action to avert any harm that might come against the UNP leader or other seniors.

But now, reports of threats to the lives of UNP leaders, like the allegations against the workings of the Safe House, appear to be baseless. Police investigations have revealed there is no shred of evidence. Yet a campaign of disinformation based on half-truths and untruths continued.

It was The Sunday Times (Situation Report - January 6) that exclusively revealed the fact that the Safe House was used by the Directorate of Military Intelligence to conduct counter terrorist operations. It gave details of how the Captain and five others, part of a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) group, infiltrated areas controlled by guerrillas and carried out devastating attacks. Yet, the men were being detained as "terrorist suspects" under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The revelation had its repercussions. IGP Lucky Kodituwakku, summoned Mr. Udugampola to a conference of DIGs at Police Headquarters the very next day -January 7- (Situation Report - January 13) to brief them on events that led him to conduct the raid.

Mr. Udugampola disclosed the tip off came from a "very reliable informant." When Mr. Kodituwakku asked how it had happened, he replied he was in the Magistrate's Court in Teldeniya when he received a call on his cellular phone. The informant said a weapons cache was hidden in a private house at Athurugiriya. He had immediately written the details and obtained a Court Order from the Magistrate that very day.

Senior DIG H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya, raised objections. He said it would be inappropriate to call upon Mr. Udugampola to reveal details at the DIGs conference. But the Police Chief, he explained, was free to privately ask for details if he so wished. The reason - Interior Minister John Amaratunga, had directed Mr. Kotakadeniya to obtain help of CID officers and supervise the inquiry launched by Mr. Udugampola. He flaunted Mr. Amaratunga's letter and argued any statement by Mr. Udugampola could be prejudicial to the probe under his supervision.

If Mr. Udugampola told the DIGs conference the tip off for the raid came "from an informant" who called on his cellullar phone, he was to later declare he received information that Chanuka Ratwatte, (son of former Deputy Defence Minister, Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte), then wanted in connection with the Udatalawinna massacre, was visiting a house in Athurugiriya. Before his briefing ended abruptly in view of objections raised, Mr. Udugampola, admitted he conducted the raid without the knowledge of his own superior officers, SSP Kandy, Ashoka Ratnaweera, then DIG Central Range, Mahinda Balasuriya or the IGP himself.

And now, investigations personally supervised by senior DIG Kotakadeniya are over. He has declared that correct procedures have been used to procure the weapons found in the Safe House. Police have found no evidence of any conspiracy or plot to assassinate any UNF leader - allegations that led to the raid by Mr. Udugampola and the subsequent inquiry under the supervision of Mr. Kotakadeniya assisted by a CID team. Nor was there any shred of evidence, or even a slight hint, that Chanuka Ratwatte had visited the Safe House. First to extracts of a report on the findings of the inquiry supervised by DIG Kotakadeniya, sent to M.N. Junaid, Secretary to the Ministry of Interior, dated January 29, this year:

"On 31.12.2001, Mr. K. Udugampola, SP, Operations Kandy, whilst conducting inquiries into the Udatalawinna Massacre in Kandy, had received information that one of the suspects in that case namely, Chanuka Ratwatte was visiting a house at Athurugiriya. The information further alleged that this house belonged to an Army officer.

"Thereafter Mr. Udugampola had obtained Magistrate's directions to conduct further inquiries and thereafter Mr. Udugampola had informed Major General Ivan Dassanayake (Provost Marshal) and on the instructions of the latter, Major Clifford Soysa had been released to go with the Police to check on the information at the house concerned.

"The Police visited the scene along with the Army personnel….…. arms and explosives were taken into custody by Mr. Udugampola. The following persons who were in that house were also taken into custody. (Note: the names and addresses of the officer, four men and informant are withheld).

Action taken by SP Mr. Udugampola

"The suspects and the productions were taken into custody and were taken to Kandy to facilitate further inquiries. The suspects were detained on a detention order issued by the SP Kandy for 03 days and thereafter an application made to the Ministry of Defence for authority to detain them for a further 90 days under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

"On 5.1.2001 I received instructions from the Hon. Minister of Interior that a team of officers be directed to assist Mr. Udugampola in conducting inquiries under my personal direction. Thereupon a team of officers from the CID headed by SSP D.S.Y. Samaratunga conducted inquiries both in Kandy and in Colombo.

Evidence Available
"Capt. N (Name withheld) is the most senior officer who had been taken into custody by the Police in consequence of the inquiries conducted by Mr. Udugampola. He stated in his statement that he had functioned in the Directorate of Military Intelligence since 1991. From 14th July 2001 up to 19th December, 2001, certain military equipment was procured by him with the approval of the Director/DMI and the Director/Ops. having made applications through proper channels to conduct undercover operations in Batticaloa with the active participation of informants deployed by the DMI.

"On 19.12.2001 he went into occupation of the Athurugiriya Millennium Park house with due permission from the authority concerned. The rent for this house was paid by the Army on a signed agreement. On 21.12.2001 the party went to Batticaloa to conduct their operations and returned to Athurugiriya Safe House on 27.12.2001.

"Their decision to suspend operations was the result of the cease-fire with the LTTE which was announced. The arms and ammunition kept at Millennium house were the weaponry, which were in the possession of this team to conduct these operations. They were to be returned to the respective Armouries and Stores of the Army in due course and in fact preparations were being made on 28.12.2001 to return them to stores. As a matter of fact on 2.1.2002 a part of the stock had been handed over to the Army stores.

"Brigadier Kapila Hendavitharana corroborated the facts contained in the statement given by Captain N….. and stated that the arms referred were issued following procedures laid down by the Army and after having recorded them in the relevant documents. The Safe House at Athurugiriya was established and operated with the express permission of the Army Commander.

"The statements of the suspect Army officers and the Army informant were recorded in detail by Mr. Udugampola and these statements generally corroborate the statement made by Captain N…..

"The inquiries conducted so far have established that the arms and ammunition that were found in the Safe House had been procured by the team of officers concerned by following the correct procedures that are followed by the Army. The statement made by Brigadier Hendavitharana and the documents that were subsequently checked by the inquiring officers confirmed the stance taken by Captain N…. that the stock of weapons were in fact procured after following due process stipulated in the Army rules and regulations

"The investigations conducted so far by the Police have not been able to clearly establish the bona-fides of the alleged claim made by the suspects that the stock was kept in the house to conduct undercover operations in the East. It has to be stated clearly that the Police have no clues to affirm or deny such a claim. But it cannot be gainsaid that this team has in fact in the past been involved in such undercover operations, which has had a positive destabilizing impact on the morale of the LTTE operatives in the East.

"Undercover operations in their very essence are conducted secretively and only those who have to be necessarily kept informed are privy to these secret operations. The Army Commander and the Director of Military Intelligence are two persons who should necessarily and inexorably possess this information and both of them have confirmed that they were kept informed and their specific permission obtained for the operation.

"One necessary area where further probes may be necessary is to elicit from the Army Commander whether it is incumbent on him to keep the political authorities informed of such operations. For instance whether the Army Commander was duty bound to inform the Hon. Minister of Defence that such operations are being conducted. If such a practice had in fact been followed in the past the Army Commander would have kept the Minister of Defence informed of such operations. Conceding that such a procedure had been followed in the past and if it is now admitted that was not followed in the present case, the Army Commander would have to give a reasonable explanation as to why his superiors were not kept informed in relation to this particular operation.

"Another sticking point that may have to be clarified is as to why a Safe House for an operation to be done in the East, be established at such a great distance from the intended theatre of operations. In fact the investigating officers have attempted to elicit a cogent explanation from Brigadier Hendavitharana, but the reply has not been comprehensive and convincing. Perhaps it is believed that the Commander of the Army may be able to provide plausible reasons.

Position vis-à-vis the detention of the suspects

"As mentioned in a foregoing Para the suspects were detained under the 6(1) of the PTA for 03 days and thereafter an application was made to the Hon. Minister of Defence for obtaining a Detention Order under 9 (1) of PTA for further 90 days. On 12.1.2002 orders were received from the Ministry of Defence to hand the suspects over to the Army, which order, was duly complied with. It has been expressly indicated that the Hon. Minister has not agreed to issue this detention order on the suspects.

(Note: Defence Minister Marapana declared that the material the Police submitted to him to justify the Detention Order was "hopelessly inadequate" - See Situation Report - January 27).

Consequently further inquiries into this issue will have to be conducted under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.

"SP Udugampola has now been instructed by me that if the need arises to question Army officers, he should inform me that the officers concerned will be informed through the Army Commander to appear before the Police. This was done in order to minimize any irritant that may arise between the Army and the Police. "

Mr. Kotakadeniya's assertion that "…. this team has in fact in the past been involved in such undercover operations which has had a positive destabilizing impact on the morale of the LTTE operatives in the East" is official confirmation that the DMI did in fact conduct Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP). If there were allegations that the Safe House was used, as a "base for political conspiracies or assassination plots," as claimed, why could not the investigators find any clues at all? Would those suspected of "political conspiracies or assassination plots" follow correct, laid down Army procedures to procure weapons to indulge in something sinister like assassinating UNF leaders?

On the other hand, those making a serious allegation should have had more than a mere claim as to who was hatching a plot to kill whom? If they did, why was such information not given to the Police? Evidently, there was not even a clue in this regard for the Police to chase. That is not all. Those responsible had also launched a nation-wide propaganda campaign, easily convincing gullible sections of the media, and the public, that DMI did not carry out any Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP) in any part of the country!

There were loud claims that LRRP operations were done by only other units of the Security Forces. Since there were no Long Rangers, even an interview with one of them in The Sunday Times (Situation Report - February 10) was debunked. Was this not a feeble attempt to cover up the truth? The report of Senior DIG Kotakadeniya, a veteran Police officer, has now exposed the futility of a campaign of disinformation.

The Sunday Times has learnt some disgruntled sections in the Directorate of Military Intelligence, backed by retired Army officers, some of them high ranking, were behind the campaign. During elections, which leads to a change of Government, the involvement of retired Security Forces and Police officers in campaigns for rival factions is now common practice. Those on the winning side mount pressure on the newly elected leadership to settle scores with their former colleagues, or superiors, over past rivalries. This has become all too common. But the UNF Government's continued silence, in the wake of the obvious embarrassment, made matters worse in the case of the Athurugiriya Safe House fiasco.

The saga has not ended there. Even after Mr. Kotakadeniya's report, ASP Udugampola continued with his own inquiries, ignoring instructions given to him to seek prior permission before interviewing Army personnel. Moreover, this is despite the Army officer and the four soldiers, who were detained, filing a Fundamental Rights application before the Supreme Court where Mr. Udugampola is listed as the First Respondent.

He interviewed other officers in the Army and even recorded a statement last month from Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Balagalle. His visit to Army Headquarters to personally record the statement raised questions of protocol. Police Headquarters has always followed a practice of a DIG being present when a statement of a Security Forces Commander is recorded. Lt. Gen. Balagalle is learnt to have raised issue over the matter with the Ministry of Defence.

The move drew an angry response from Austin Fernando, the outspoken Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. He has been closely monitoring developments over investigations into the Safe House fiasco. In a letter to Interior Ministry Secretary, N.M. Junaid on May 7, Mr. Fernando said:

Magistrate"s Court/Kandy Case No: 12056/2002 Athurugiriya Millennium City
"I attach a letter from Commander/SLA received in my office regarding the above matter.

"As a fundamental point I wish to raise whether a person who has been cited as the first respondent in the Fundamental Rights Application mentioned in Para 03 of the attached letter should investigate into the case pertaining to the same issue. This action of ASP Udugampola adds venom to viciousness and could be considered as unbecoming of a serious public officer.

"It would be appreciated if you could check with Actg. IG or S/DIG Kotakadeniya on this matter and take necessary action to alleviate the injustices and fears that may be in the minds of the Army personnel who seem to be under threat of vicious actions by certain Police Officers.

"I may re-iterate the famous saying that "Justice should not only be done but appear to have been done" and hope that the concerned officer respects such principles as a good public servant. Please look into this matter and do justice by the officers concerned."

Mr. Junaid acted promptly on the Defence Secretary's complaint. He called for a report from Senior DIG Mr. Kotakadeniya. Here are excerpts from a three-page report to the Interior Ministry Secretary, routed through the IGP, by Mr. Kotakadeniya:

"I received instructions from the Hon. minister of Interior to supervise and co-ordinate investigations into the detection of arms etc., by Mr. Udugampola ASP at Athurugiriya.

"In pursuance of the instructions, I sought the assistance from the Director CID to secure the assistance of few experienced Police Officers to conduct investigations into this incident, in view of the importance and other ramifications associated with the decision.

"Only Mr. D.S.Y Samaratunga SSP was released in response of the above request and investigations commenced on 6/1/2002. Mr. Udugampola was also associated in the conduct of this inquiry.

"Mr. Samaratunga conducted inquiries under my specific directions and instructions and a report was submitted to me on conclusion of the inquiries on 25/1/2002. Thereafter on 29/1/2002 I submitted a comprehensive report to the Secretary of the Ministry of Interior with a copy to I.G. Police.

"At the time I submitted this report, the Hon. Minister of Defence had directed that the Army suspects be handed over to the Army. The Hon. Minister had also declined to endorse the recommendations made by Mr. Udugampola to further detain the suspects under the P.T.A.

"These developments made it crystal clear that the Hon. Minister of Defence had arrived at an irrevocable conclusion that there was no element of suspicion entertained by him with regard to the genuineness of the activities of the Safe House established at Athurugiriya. This necessarily implies that the Hon. Minister was of opinion that the business conducted by the Army in this instance was manifestly legitimate. In view of the facts adverted to, I sought to minimize any conflict that may occur with the Army by directing Mr. Udugampola that if he was desirous of conducting any further investigations, by questioning Army Officers, he should obtain my prior approval.

Mr. Udugampola to my mind was not experienced and mature enough and have the correct disposition to conduct a critical investigation of this nature, the outcome of which would necessarily have far-reaching consequences for the defence establishment of the nation. He has sought to circumvent my instructions by obtaining the Magistrate's Order to summon Army Officers for the purpose of questioning, on several occasions. "As I have referred to above, since the Hon. Minister of Defence has by inference, unequivocally concluded that the Army Officers were not at fault in this regard, I told Mr. Udugampola that no purpose would be served by conducting further inquiries.

"The prime function of the Police in this instance was to ascertain whether the Safe House was established to conduct any illegal operations. When the Hon. Minister in charge of the Armed Services had not found anything illegal or questionable surrounding this Safe House, the Police had no other area to probe into. Mr. Udugampola further thinks that the Army has not followed the internal procedures with regard to the issuing of arms and ammunition and other sophisticated weapons, and in the deployment of officers to perform various tasks. I attempted to impress on Mr. Udugampola that in a war situation and in the context of the conduct of undercover operations, such procedures are not adhered to tenaciously and in meticulous detail. But Mr. Udugampola appears to think that by probing into internal procedures of the Army it would help to unravel the "mystery" associated with this Safe House.

"With regard to the issue raised by the Secretary Defence, I fully endorse the sentiments expressed by him that it would be unethical and untenable for Mr. Udugampola to conduct further inquiries into this case, since he has been made a respondent in a fundamental case where the subject matter related to the conduct of Mr. Udugampola during the course of investigations. He appears to have pursued the investigations more strenuously after the case was filed against him."

Also responding to representations made to Mr. Junaid was the acting IGP, T.E. Anandarajah. In a letter to Nimal Mediwaka, DIG (Central Range), on May 22, he said:

"Mr. Kotakadeniya, S/DIG has been directed by the Hon. Minister of Interior to supervise and conduct the investigations into the detection of arms, ammunition etc. by ASP Mr. Udugampola at Millennium City, Athurugiriya.

"After completing investigations, S/DIG Mr. Kotakadeniya has instructed ASP Mr. Udugampola that if the need arise to question any army officer in this connection he should obtain his approval, so that they could be summoned through the Army Commander.

"It has been reported that the above instructions are not being carried on by ASP Mr. Uduga-mpola. Please inform Mr. Udugampola to carry out this instructions in future."

As the Acting IGP notes, it was after "completing investigations" that Senior DIG Kotakadeniya directed Mr. Uduga-mpola to obtain his prior approval, if the need arose, to question any Army officer. Since that order, Mr. Udugampola has not sought to proceed further with the investigations or interview Army officers.

There ends the fairy tale drama of the Safe House at Millennium City.
It lays bare all the mystery except the identities of those who were behind it.

It is for UNF Government now to discern whether they are friend or foe. The unknown enemy within can be more potent than the known enemy outside.

They are accountable for a great betrayal that even a disinformation campaign has failed to hide.


Long Rangers' detention illegal

The long term detention of an officer and four soldiers — all members of the once top-secret Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol — after the Police raid on an Army Safe House at Athurugiriya has turned out to be illegal.

After their arrest on January 2, they had been detained in a remand cell, normally used to house criminals and drug addicts, for three days. This was on a Detention Order for three days issued by the Senior Superintendent of Police of the Kandy Division under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). That is the maximum period an SSP is empowered to issue a Detention Order under the PTA. Thereafter, the detaining authority is required to obtain a Detention Order from the Ministry of Defence.

Mahinda Balasuriya, until last Friday DIG in charge of Central Province West, which covers the Kandy Division, wrote to Defence Minister, Tilak Marapana, that a Detention Order be issued for the period January 5 to 10 to cover the further period of detention. But Mr. Marapana has refused to do so. Hence, the arrest of the Officer and four soldiers and their detention after January 5 have turned out to be illegal.

The officer and the soldiers are to file a fundamental rights violation petition before the Supreme Court, citing their illegal detention and many other reasons. The country's leading lawyers have offered to appear free of charge for them.

A Police party led by Kulasiri Udugampola, Superintendent of Police, (Special Operations), Kandy Division, conducted the raid on the Army Safe House at Millennium Park in Athurugiriya. It transpired at a top level conference at Police Headquarters on January 7 that Mr. Udugampola had neither briefed his immediate superior, DIG Balasuriya nor obtained his clearance to carry out the raid outside his division.

Last Sunday, Mr. Marapana ordered the immediate release of the Officer and soldiers. All of them barring one, a former Tiger guerrilla who surrendered and became an Army soldier, were handed over to Brigadier B.H.M.R. Tammita, General Officer Commanding the Army's Central Command. The former guerrilla was held back for what was described as "further interrogation." Last Tuesday night, Mr. Marapana ordered his release, too, after reports that he was to be moved to another location.

The Sunday Times has learnt that no incriminating evidence whatsoever about any illegal activity or conspiracy was found during investigations into the safe house. All weaponry found inside the safe house has been accounted for. Army authorities have also explained that they had arranged to stitch a set of Tiger guerrilla uniforms. Though Mr. Udugampola had contended the funds used were not approved, they explained that expenses in instances like this were secret and not accounted for. As a result of the raid and a massive propaganda blitz, the LTTE became aware of the operations of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol and the men involved. Intelligence services were not only able to confirm this but also learnt of witch hunts Tiger guerrillas had launched to punish civilians in areas they dominate in the Batticaloa district for helping LRRP teams.


The great betrayal

The saga of the Army's Athurugiriya Safe House, and the humiliating ordeal of an officer and five soldiers-national heroes who were treated as traitors-has at last ended.

But the enormous damage to national security, humiliation to officers and men in the Sri Lanka Army, distress in the minds of conscientious policemen, and above all, colossal embarrassment to the United National Front Government continues.

The anger and bewilderment of the vast majority of Sri Lankans, here and abroad, following this tragi-comedy not only highlighted the disgust it had caused but also underscored the hatred against those who caused it. A host of e-mails to Military Spokesman, veteran infantryman, Brigadier Sanath Karunaratne, summed it up.

If it is ironic that one gazetted officer of the Sri Lanka Police could single handedly cause all this, it is tragic that his conclusions came even before his own inquiries could begin. Superintendent of Police Kulasiri Udugampola, brought the full glare of the media, both print and electronic, to publicise all his actions, just two hours after the raid on the Safe House at Millennium Park on January 2.

To a wholly unsuspecting media, unaware of the realities, what he exhibited as startling finds – a cache of weapons including land mines, light anti-tank weapons (LAW), assault rifles and thermobaric shells, among others – were an arsenal used by the Sri Lanka Army not to kill Tiger guerrillas but to be used in a sinister plot to eliminate leaders of the United National Front. The nation and the outside world were told about the great catastrophe portended by a so called conspiracy.

As the news spread, both in Sri Lanka and abroad, officers and men in the Army writhed in deep anger. That wide publicity, repeated locally on TV many times, seemed the beginning of a pubic trial. Morale reached a low ebb. Conscientious policemen, who were in the know of what was going on, were ashamed at what was happening. "This kind of thing has never happened in Police history," declared a retired Police Chief who wished to remain anonymous.

However, there were also the blind fanatics in the Department who believed whatever the Police did was always right. One of them even thought it fit to say DIG Nimal Gunatilleke, Commandant of the Special Task Force (STF) was not a policemen. All because he had chosen to speak the truth – that men from Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRPs) stayed in STF camps before venturing out to Tiger guerrilla dominated territory to carry out attacks.

Some in the upper echelons of the Army, in the know of what has been going on, lamented they were being made to feel like a bunch of killers. Their predicament, they said, had been made worse by the failure of the high command to quickly resolve matters by raising issue with UNF leaders.

But in a matter of just a week, Mr. Udugampola himself learnt, after his own exhaustive investigations, later supported by men from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the real truth – that the premises he raided at the Millennium City in Athurugiriya, was indeed a Safe House run by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). Every single item he found, and later displayed to the media as a startling discovery, have been accounted for. Statements he recorded from Army officials, backed by supporting documents, were to come as further testimony. Even the little discrepancies that existed were resolved. If there was anything seriously sinister, or a cunning conspiracy, to kill any UNF leader, there was no evidence. Not a shred.

Yet, by last Sunday, the officer and five men were still being holed up in two remand cells at the Katugastota Police Station. They were being held virtually incommunicado. These were cells which usually accommodated common criminals and drug addicts as revealed in these columns last week.

An angry Defence Minister Tilak Marapana, directed DIG Mahinda Balasuriya, to immediately release the Army men. To ensure nothing went wrong, Mr. Marapana told him to hand them over to the Army.

After issuing that directive, Mr. Marapana had other urgent tasks to attend to that Sunday. As the new Minister of Transport, he had to rush to Kiriwalpitiya in Rambukkana, where the intercity train from Kandy to Colombo, had derailed killing 15 passengers and wounding over 200. At the scene, during late afternoon, he ran into Brigadier B.H.M.R. Tammita, General Officer Commanding (GOC) the Central Command.

He asked Brig. Tammita whether he had taken charge of the officer and the soldiers from Police custody. The latter had said Police had not informed him of any release.

Angered by what he learnt, Mr. Marapana, immediately contacted DIG Balasuriya to ask why his instructions were not carried out. The senior Police officer in charge of the Kandy region said he was awaiting Mr. Udugampola's return to the hill capital. The latter had been in Colombo recording statements from Army officers. Mr. Marapana, a veteran lawyer and one time Attorney General, was prompted to ask why he could not, as DIG of the area, carry out his instructions. He asked why the DIG should wait to contact an SP. That saw Mr. Balasuriya ordering the Katugastota Police to release the men in custody. An order made on Sunday morning was executed only that night.

When he returned to Kandy, Mr. Udugampola found that five of the six Army men he had arrested and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act were no longer in custody. The officer and four men had been handed over to Brig. Tammita last Sunday night. The sixth person, a Tiger guerrilla surrendee, who had been recruited to the Army as a soldier, was, however, held back at the Katugastota Police Station reportedly for "further interrogation."

Last Monday, (Thai Pongal Day), he had been escorted to a temple by a Police officer. He had also been given a cash reward on account of the religious festival. The following night (Tuesday), plans were afoot to move out the former guerrilla to another "safe location" for "further interrogation."

It was not clear why more "interrogation" was required when the man had been put through question and answer sessions for a whole week and statements recorded. These developments began to baffle those in the higher echelons of the defence establishment. It was past 8 p.m. last Tuesday night when Mr. Marapana, telephoned Defence Secretary Austin Fernando, and asked him to order the Police to immediately release the remaining soldier held at the Katugastota Police Station. DIG Balasuriya,(who has since been transferred to the Police Transport Division) who gave the order for the release, made one point clear – the one time guerrilla and now Army soldier, should be handed over to Brig. Tammita without any delay. Shortly before 9 p.m., this soldier stood to attention before Brig. Tammita, at the Central Command headquarters and was later re-united with the officer and four colleagues.

In these columns last week (RAID ON ATHURUGIRIYA SAFE HOUSE – THE CONFUSION CONTINUES – Situation Report - January 13), I said "……..Whilst the men who fought terrorism are being held as terrorist suspects in sub human conditions at a Police Station, the dilemma for those who arrested them appears to be increasing. If they are released, how does one justify the arrest….."

This indeed has become a dilemma. When the officer and five soldiers were arrested, the Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of Kandy division, had issued a Detention Order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for three days – the maximum statutory period empowered to the SSP of a division. Thereafter, they are required to obtain a Detention Order from the Ministry of Defence.

DIG Balasuriya had written to Defence Minister Marapana, requesting him to issue a Detention Order to cover the period January 5 to 10. He has flatly refused the request in view of the circumstances. Hence, the arrest and detention of the Army officer and four soldiers (a Detention Order has been issued in respect of the sixth, a one time Tiger guerrilla) after January 5, becomes illegal.

This is one of the many grounds on which the officer and his men are preparing to file a Fundamental Rights petition in the Supreme Court. They are already receiving offers of free legal support from some of the country's leading lawyers.

Dealing with the raid on the Army Safe House last week, I erroneously referred to Kulasiri Udugampola, as a Senior Superintendent of Police.

He is a Superintendent. Hence, he was specifically invited by the Inspector General of Police Lucky Kodituwakku, to a conference of Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs) and Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) at Police Headquarters on January 7 (Monday). The idea was to ask him to explain to the DIGs and SSPs, the top most leaders of the country's Police, the sequence of events leading to the raid on the Athurugiriya Safe House.

Soon after Mr. Udugampola, conducted the raid, Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle, had despatched his Director of Military Intelligence (DMI), Brigadier Kapila Hendavithana, to the scene. He thought the Army's intelligence chief could explain matters. Lt. Gen. Balagalle had also telephoned Police Chief Kodituwakku from the Safe House. Later, when Brig. Hendavithana telephoned Mr. Kodituwakku from the Safe House to say he could account for all the weapons and explain why the Safe House existed, the latter had wanted to speak to Mr. Udugampola on the same telephone. The Police Chief had tried to tell the SP to take into consideration what the Army's intelligence chief was saying.

As he finished the conversation, Mr. Udugampola rang Interior Minister John Amaratunga, to complain of pressures on him. Minister Amaratunga despatched his relative and now a senior official in his Ministry, former DIG Lal Ratnayake, to ensure nothing was done to suppress matters.

Mr. Udugampola took the officer, men into custody, seized the stock of weapons found and drove to the Military Police Headquarters in Narahenpita.

The word soon spread and that was how a top "State secret" became public. Tiger guerrillas became aware that the Safe House was one used by the Army's Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRPs). The men arrested were part of the dare devil group that went deep into guerrilla dominated territory to attack targets.

By January 4 (Friday), Tiger guerrilla teams in the Batticaloa district had launched a crackdown on civilians suspected to have helped the LRRP teams. The Sunday Times learnt that an unknown number of civilians have been "arrested" for interrogation by guerrilla intelligence cadres.

The UNF Government, needless to say, was grossly embarrassed by the manner in which the raid on the Safe House was carried out. Minister Amaratunga requested Senior DIG H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya, to seek the help of some Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers to conduct his own inquiry and ascertain the truth behind the raid. The move saw D.S.Y. Samaratunga, an SSP in the CID, overlooking investigations conducted by Mr. Udugampola. Last Tuesday, both were present at Army Headquarters when the statement of Brig. Hendavithana, DMI, was recorded for over five hours.

At the January 7 conference of DIGs and SSPs, Police Chief Kodituwakku had invited Mr. Udugampola to explain how and why he conducted the raid. However, when he began to explain matters, Senior DIG Kotakadeniya objected on the grounds that it would be prejudicial to inquiries he had been told by Minister Amaratunga to conduct. The Police Chief declared he was completely unaware such an investigation had been ordered. DIG Balasuriya was to intervene to point out that Mr. Udugampola had neither kept him briefed of investigations into the Safe House nor sought his permission to conduct the raid outside his own division.

By the time objections were raised, Mr. Udugampola had already told the most senior men in the Police, DIGs and SSPs, that the information to conduct the raid came from a "very reliable informant" who had given him important tip off in the past. When Mr. Kodituwakku asked how it had happened, Mr. Udugampola had replied that he was at the Magistrate's Court in Teldeniya when he received a call on his mobile phone that a weapons cache was hidden in a private house at Athurugiriya.

He had immediately written the address on a white piece of paper that was in his pocket and obtained a warrant from the Magistrate the same day.

What transpired at the DIGs and SSPs conference revealed how procedural flaws can pose serious threats to national security. In this instance, it became clear that Mr. Udugampola did not reveal to his own superior, DIG Balasuriya, the information he had received from a "reliable informant who had earlier given him valuable tip off. Nor did he obtain his permission to leave Kandy division and proceed to Athurugiriya. Nor did he obtain permission from the next highest authority, the Police Chief himself. Therefore, by his own admission, Mr. Udugampola acted almost entirely on his own and seemed blissfully unaware of the harm he was going to cause to national security interests.

Even if his investigations did not reveal anything incriminating, like a conspiracy to assassinate any UNF leader, Mr. Udugampola was yet keen to find out why a Safe House had to be located, of all places, in Athurugiriya – a question that was in the lips of many. He posed this question to almost every one from whom he recorded a statement.

Mr. Udugampola, who has risen to the ranks of a SP, is no doubt aware of the concept of Safe Houses. A plethora of them existed under the Police and the security forces when they combated the violence of the then outlawed Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in the late 1980s. Suspects were arrested and grilled at these Safe Houses not to mention the complaints it drew from human rights group of torture. In the later years, major state intelligence agencies had their Safe Houses to detain and question Tiger guerrilla suspects.

A Safe House, which functioned elsewhere and used by Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols was shifted to the house in the Millennium Park in Athurugiriya on December 15, last year. The house belonged to an Army officer and had been obtained for a monthly rental of Rs 12,500. An intelligence source explained that the house belonging to an Army officer was picked since movement of soldiers there would not arouse any suspicions in the neighbourhood.

Dismissing arguments that it could have been located somewhere in the east, close to the battle zones, the source said "Tiger guerrilla surrendees, recruited as soldiers would have been found out in no time." Responding to a question on why weapons had to be kept in the Safe House and not drawn from any nearby Army camp, the source said "the practice of retaining weapons in a Safe House is nothing new. It is part of measures to ensure strict confidentiality during top secret operations. Drawing weapons from a camp regularly would draw both suspicion and unwarranted attention."

The full report of Mr. Udugampola's investigation, later backed by the CID, is now being awaited by Interior Minister John Amaratunga. Similarly, Defence Minister Tilak Marapana is awaiting the final report of the Army Court of Inquiry headed by Major General Ivan Dissanayake. In their preliminary report, the Court said no illegal operations have been carried out from the Safe House. The final report, among other, matters, deals with measures to be adopted in determining Safe Houses and other related procedures.

The final report of the Court has already been handed over to Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle, who himself has come under strong criticism for his inability to secure the release of his own men and also for being completely slow in reacting to the raid on the Safe House.

Nor has he been successful in preventing degrading treatment being meted out to the officer and five soldiers when they were in a remand cell.

There was also no visit by him, although he has once been the Director of Military Intelligence. It is extremely unlikely the Police would have rejected if a request was in fact made at the highest levels. After all they were not ordinary officers and men. They were extraordinary in every sense in view of the heroic role they played. (See box story on this page)

The Sunday Times learns that President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who is Commander-in-Chief, was also displeased the way Lt. Gen. Balagalle handled matters. She is learnt to have told him that he should have kept UNF leaders briefed on the existence of the Safe House and its activities. This was particularly in view of some doubts that arose during the general election campaign.

In November last year, then UNP Chairman, Charitha Ratwatte, alleged that thermobaric explosives had been brought from the operational areas in the North to the Panaluwa Army Testing Range and that certain persons alleged to be attached to a northern Tamil political party were being trained in its use. The training, he alleged, was being co-ordinated by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) together with Army instructors from the north. He said there may be an attempt to use these weapons on the meetings held by the UNP leadership and the leader's campaign bus. Lt. Gen. Balagalle, however, denied the allegations.

During the period when the raid was conducted on the Safe House, Lt. Gen. Balagalle, was otherwise busy. He was locked in a strong move to retire his deputy, Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Neil Dias, by using the very Regulations which President Kumaratunga promulgated to keep him in office when he was due to retire at 55 years on June 14, 2001. President Kumaratunga rejected his recommendation that Maj. Gen. Dias should step down on December 31, last year, and extended his term until April 12, 2002. She pointed out that the services of experienced officers like Maj. Gen. Dias should be retained. (Situation Report – January 6)

The UNF Government last week accepted President Kumaratunga's recommendation. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, requested Defence Minister Tilak Marapana, to request Maj. Gen. Dias to resume work. He had been out of office since December 31 but reported to work, in accordance with this directive, on January 15.

The absence deprived him from taking part in a seminar in Washington for Chiefs of Staff. Lt. Gen. Balagalle had nominated Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Lohan Gunawardena. He is already away and is not due in Sri Lanka until next month.

Now comes the news of a failed attempt during the tenure of the last Government to have Maj. Gen. Dias investigated. It was on purported grounds that he was a staunch UNP supporter and had indulged in extra legal activity.

A high ranking intelligence official, to whom a three page document was handed over, not only laughed at the request made by a top man in uniform but also briefed a PA leader about the sinister attempt. No probe was conducted but PA leaders took note that a plot was afoot to malign the senior officer in a campaign riddled with intrigue, power politics and devious manipulations.

In this backdrop, internal Army investigations have brought out some startling revelations. Some disgruntled officers, in the Directorate of Military Intelligence it has now come to light, had leaked information about the Safe House and other matters – a case of traitors within the system causing more damage to national security than the enemy itself. They are likely to face a Court Martial after the inquiries are completed. How others twisted the information and passed it down to interested parties is also now being probed.

The saga of the Safe House and the arrest of six Army men, all heroes in the ongoing separatist war, has set a number of posers to the United National Front Government.

It has not only embarrassed the Government but has come at a time when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has called a halt to the war and embarked on peace initiatives with the LTTE. It has demoralised the rank and file of the Army. It has brought out serious lapses that endanger national security.

Since the Government was in no way associated with the raid on the Safe House, a full public statement of the events leading to the raid would become imperative.

And punishing those responsible for the great betrayal will not only inspire confidence in the Army but the public at large too. And an equally important job that has to be done immediately is to depoliticise the Army and place it in the hands of capable young men. They can not only infuse professionalism but also prepare the men for battle whenever the Government wants one. To neglect this aspect would be suicidal.

How they were treated in the remand cell

Accounts of the drama that followed the raid on the Army's Safe House at Athurugiriya by a Police team led by Kulasiri Udugampola, SP (Special Operations) Kandy Division, has been pieced together after an investigation by The Sunday Times. Here are excerpts:

With the raid over, Mr. Udugampola and party bring the officer, five soldiers and weapons seized to the Military Police Headquarters at Narahenpita. It was around 11.30 p.m. on the night of Wednesday, January 2. The media, both print and electronic, were already waiting for them. Someone had tipped off the unsuspecting media but Military Police prevent them from entering their headquarters.

Later, Mr. Udugampola and party escort those arrested and the seized weapons to the Cinnamon Gardens Police Station. There was a power failure when they arrived. Video and still cameras are aimed when the officer and five men get down from their vehicle. The officer shouts out loud not to take their pictures. But some had already taken shots. The men are taken inside the Police Station and ordered to remain there.

In the meanwhile, the Police team that raided spread out all the weapons seized at the Safe House on the floor of the Police Station . Media is allowed to film and photograph what was found.

The five Army men and the weapons are taken to Asgiriya Police Kennels/Quarters. A while later they are taken to the Kandy Police Station. A Sub Inspector asks the officer and five men to alight from the vehicle and makes an entry in the Information Book.

The officer and men are told to remove their belts and shoes. They are told they would have to be inside a remand cell. The time is around 5.30 a.m. on Thursday.

There are two cells – one with smelling toilets occupied by three suspected criminals. The other, which is neat and clean, is occupied by only one crime suspect. The six are told to enter the latter. But the man inside says they cannot sit with him on a concrete bench. So the six of them sit huddled together in the other remaining concrete bench. The man screams mawa maranawo (I am being murdered) and accuses the soldiers of assaulting him. Soldiers deny the charge and say he is trying to get rid of them.

A Police Assistant (PA) comes in and shouts at the officer and soldiers in indecent language. They are all pulled out and put into the remand cell where there are three criminals. Nine of them occupy the remand cell for a night. After they go inside, the PA shouts in Sinhala that the Army Commander too would be arrested soon and put in the same cell.

On Friday, the three suspected criminals are taken out. The officer gives money to a helper to bring a brush, disinfectant and detergent. The men wash and clean the remand cell and the toilet. They spend the night in the cell together. Attempts to obtain foam mattresses are refused by the Police. They are told to sleep on the floor. They hear occasional vulgar abuse hurled by a sergeant.

The next day (Saturday), the remand cell is open and the officer and the five men are handcuffed. An Inspector pushes them by their neck and tells them to walk out of the cell to a waiting vehicle. After they board the vehicle, Police motor cycles with sirens wailing, escort their vehicle from Kandy to the Katugastota Police Station.

There, the six men are put into two remand cells – also once used to detain common criminals and drug addicts. Some policemen who had served in operational areas recognise the officer and men. Evidently, they are aware of their role and try to console them. They even offer to help in any way possible and confess some of their "senior bosses have gone mad." That included offers of plain tea and buns. The Policemen are soon ordered not to speak to the Army men.

All three meals for them were arranged by the Second Volunteer Battalion of the Sinha Regiment in Kandy. But visitors, including a large number of relatives who had turned up, are not allowed. Only the wives were permitted entry.

On Sunday night they are released after an order from Defence Minister Tilak Marapana. Only the one time guerrilla who has now become a soldier is detained. He is also released on Tuesday night following an order from Mr. Marapana.