Tuesday, July 24, 2007

'Nine soldiers, 4 village guards in LTTE attack'

Army soldiers stand guard on a road in Vavuniya, July 24, 2007. Tamil Tiger rebels ambushed and killed four village policemen in the restive northern district of Vavuniya before dawn on Tuesday, the military said, the latest in a spree of deadly attacks on security forces in the area.

Separatist Tamil militants launched a pair of attacks against government troops in northern Sri Lanka on Tuesday, killing nine soldiers in a roadside bombing and four village guards in a raid on their bunker, the military said.

The violence came just days after the government held a lavish ceremony celebrating its recapture of eastern Sri Lanka after 13 years of rebel control there. Military officials have said the Tamil Tigers, which still control parts of northern Sri Lanka, have been trying to launch new attacks in retaliation.

In the deadliest attack, assailants detonated an bomb or land mine along a road Tuesday as a bus carrying soldiers passed by in northern Vavuniya district, bordering rebel-controlled territory, military officials said.

The blast tore through the bus, killing nine soldiers and injuring eight others, said Lt. Col. Upali Rajapakse, a military spokesman.

Hours earlier, a group of Tamil fighters armed with hand grenades attacked a bunker in the Vavuniya area, killing four village guards, said military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe.

Village guards are recruited from ethnic Sinhalese villages bordering rebel areas in northern Sri Lanka to protect their homes against attack.

Two soldiers were wounded in the early morning confrontation, and troops launched an operation to hunt down the attackers, he said.

Tamil Tiger officials did not answer repeated phone calls from The Associated Press.

The attacks came a day after the military said it had killed four guerrillas trying to infiltrate government-controlled Jaffna peninsula in northern Sri Lanka at the Muhamalai border post, the military said.

Tamil Tiger rebels have waged a separatist war against the state since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the country's ethnic minority Tamils who have suffered decades of discrimination from majority Sinhalese-controlled governments.

More than 70,000 people have died in the more than two decades of fighting.

The violence has worsened in the last 20 months, with over 5,000 fighters and civilians killed in clashes, assassinations and air strikes, despite a 2002 Norway-brokered cease-fire.

Neither side has withdrawn from the agreement fearing international isolation, but both have publicly declared the truce meaningless.


Muslims in the East cry foul of Karuna group

Muslims in the east have begun to cry loudly of the persecutions, threats and intimidations they daily undergo in the hands of the uncontrollable and ruthless armed cadres of the Karuna Group.

Reports reveal that the Muslims in the East are not yet allowed to walk independently, even after the liberation of the east.

In its latest report, ‘Muslim Guardian’ a news portal claiming to be the ‘Voice of the Sri Lanka Muslims,’ was highly critical of the atrocities of the Karuna Group in one of its news report with a headline "Karuna forcibly s(h)ells his newspapers to Muslims in the liberated East!"

The full text of the news report appeared in the Muslim Guardian ids given below:

(MIC – Sri Lanka) "Eastern Sunrise" was celebrated on 19th July 2007 in the Independence Square to mark the liberation of the Eastern Sri Lanka. However it seems that Muslims in the east are not yet allowed to walk independently, even after the liberation of the east.

It is reported to Muslim Guardian that Karuna group forcibly sells its propaganda newspapers to Muslims in the east especially in the Batticaloa district.

It has become a normal scenario for the innocent Muslims who travel from Batticaloa to Colombo. The armed Karuna group members stop busses along the roadside of the Batticaloa – Colombo road.

Normally the group waits in a white van to stop busses in a jungle area of the road. Once busses are stopped the armed group gets into the bus and forcibly sells its newspaper and collects Rs. 25 for each paper, which is a heavy burden to the passengers.

It is also reported that the under-aged cadres use indecent language even to elders and women to force and threat them to buy a newspaper. If any one travels through the road twice a day he has to buy the newspaper twice, a passenger told Muslim Guardian.

Passengers request the authorities and leaders to intervene in this matter immediately and to stop these kinds of harassments.


LTTE sea tiger leader critically wounded

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)'s sea going arm suffered a major setback on the 18th when a boat explosion critically wounded their leader, Soosei (codename Oska-Sera). The explosion occurred in Nanthikadal lagoon when a sea tiger training exercise was in progress.

Soosei received serious injuries when an explosive laden boat near his command vessel suddenly exploded. Soosei's son (Shankar) and his bodyguard are reported to have been killed in the explosion. Unconfirmed reports from the Mullaithiv LTTE controlled territory suggest that a Sri Lanka Army (SLA)'s special Deep Striking squad (not part of 3SF) was behind the incident.

Meanwhile, army's limited offensive to neutralize LTTE mortars near Mannar FDL has been met with severe resistance. However 4 and 8 man specialized infantry squads have been able to destroy at least 2 LTTE heavy mortar positions in the region. A 4 man Special Forces team who went MIA few days ago have also reported to base on Saturday (21st). Much of the army casualties in these offensives have been caused by Artillery strikes (LTTE is known to have placed a 122mm artillery gun in close proximity to Madhu shrine) and land mines.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Sri Lanka rebels kill 4 village policemen - military

Relatives cry at the location where four policemen were killed in Vavuniya, July 24, 2007. Tamil Tiger rebels ambushed and killed four village policemen in the restive northern district of Vavuniya before dawn on Tuesday, the military said, the latest in a spree of deadly attacks on security forces in the area.

Sri Lankan policemen and army soldiers inspect the location where four policemen were killed in Vavuniya, July 24, 2007. Tamil Tiger rebels ambushed and killed four village policemen in the restive northern district of Vavuniya before dawn on Tuesday, the military said, the latest in a spree of deadly attacks on security forces in the area.

Tamil Tiger rebels ambushed and killed four village policemen in the restive northern district of Vavuniya before dawn on Tuesday, the military said, the latest in a spree of deadly attacks on security forces in the area.

The fatal shootings come after a rash of land and sea clashes, ambushes and air raids that have killed an estimated 4,500 people since last year alone.

"The terrorists attacked a homeguard post near Vavuniya town, killing four of them" a spokesman for the Media Centre for National Security said, declining to be named in line with policy.

Homeguards are a force of police recruited and armed to guard their own villages and wear a distinct light purple uniform. The town of Vavuniya is the last major staging post before the southern front line that separates government from rebel-held territory in the north.

Fighting has now shifted to the far north, where the Tigers run a diminished de facto state after losing vast swathes of territory in the east in the face of military advances in recent months.

There are now daily clashes of killings amid a new chapter of a two-decade civil war that has killed nearly 70,000 people since 1983, and analysts see no clear winner on the horizon and fear the conflict will grind on for years.


Danish aid group says staffer killed in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, July 23 (Reuters) - A gunman shot dead a Sri Lankan staff member of the Danish Refugee Council in the island's army-held far northern Jaffna peninsula, the aid group said on Monday, the latest in a series of killings of humanitarian staff.

"One of our national staff in Jaffna was murdered this morning," said Charles Macfadden, head of the group's Sri Lanka mission.

"We know nothing. He was on his way to work, we understand he dropped (off) his wife, stopped and had a chat with someone and someone came behind him," he added. "We have no information as to why or wherefore."

The killing comes weeks after two Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers were found murdered after they were abducted from the capital by men in plain clothes who identified themselves as policemen. Police denied any involvement.

The military had no immediate details on the killing, which took place on a peninsula where an estimated 50,000 troops are stationed and where Tamil Tiger rebels continue to mount sporadic attacks amid a new chapter in a two-decade civil war.

The international community has repeatedly voiced concerns about rights abuses blamed on the Tigers as well as elements of the Sri Lankan military.

Nordic truce monitors suspect elements of the military were behind the execution-style murder of 17 local staff of aid agency Action Contre la Faim in the island's east last year, the worst attack against humanitarian workers since the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Iraq.


S.Lanka Tigers run multi-million dollar empire-report

LONDON, July 23 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels run a worldwide legal and illegal business empire generating revenue of $200 to $300 million a year to put towards guns, planes and attack boats, according to an analyst's report.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been fighting for a separate homeland for minority ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka's north and east for more than two decades, building a reputation as one of the world's most fearsome guerrilla groups.

The Tigers deny any criminal activity.

The report in the August edition of Jane's Intelligence Review paints a picture of a powerful global network of professional managers -- both Tamils and others -- across a string of countries with operations perhaps from shipping to drugs and extortion.

"Some of the money will go on arms, some of it on administrating areas controlled by the LTTE," Christian LeMiere, managing editor of Jane's Country Risk, told Reuters on Monday. "Shoulder launched surface to air missiles are almost certainly the most probable item on the wish list but there will also be small arms and other weapons."

The Tigers would not comment on the report, but have always denied involvement in criminality. They say their funds come from taxes in their territory and voluntary contributions from the wealthy Tamil diaspora, many of whom fled during the war.

The world's wealthiest guerrilla group remained Colombia's FARC rebels because of their vast drugs revenues, he said, but the LTTE was quite possibly second. Weapons were smuggled in from southeast Asia and nearby parts of India, he said.

"But the progress of the war since 2006 has been against the LTTE, so it hasn't done them very much good," LeMiere said. There have also been a string of arrests of alleged Tiger weapons buyers in North America, Europe and Thailand.

The report said a network of Tamil charities proved an effective way of moving money. The Sri Lankan government says large amounts of money raised after the 2004 tsunami found their way to the rebels -- a charge they deny.

Possessors of the world's only rebel air force and a navy of fast attack boats, the LTTE were able to bomb the capital and airport this year with light aircraft probably smuggled into the country in pieces.


But the rebels have lost large amounts of territory in the island's east to the army since late 2002 ceasefire collapsed last year and government jets have been able to raid their bases with impunity -- hence their perceived desire for anti-aircraft missiles.

Analysts and diplomats blame both the Tigers and government for the renewed war and the roughly 4,000 deaths. Western donors have cut aid to Sri Lanka over widely reported rights abuses.

The Tigers, who still control a de facto state in the north, have been widely condemned for their use of suicide bombing and are listed in the United States, European Union and elsewhere as terrorists.

Jane's says their freedom to operate overseas was reduced by a global crackdown on militant groups after the September 11, 2001 attacks -- although the LTTE themselves have always steered clear of attacking Western targets.


Sri Lanka Tamil Tigers say 5 rebels killed in clash

Five Tamil Tiger fighters were killed in a clash with army troops in the island's restive northwest overnight, the rebels said on Monday, claiming to have inflicted heavy casualties on the military.

The incident in the northwestern district of Mannar came hours after Sri Lankan police found and defused a powerful bomb at a fair just 3 miles (5 km) from a rally attended by President Mahinda Rajapaksa near the capital Colombo.

It also comes after a rash of land and sea clashes, ambushes and air raids that have killed an estimated 4,500 people since last year alone.

"The two-pronged attempt of the SLAF (Sri Lankan armed forces) ... was thwarted by the LTTE frontliners. The SLAF formation fell back with heavy casualties and material loss," rebel military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan said in a statement.

The military said it retaliated to a rebel mortar bomb attack and said it had no immediate details of any casualties.

Analysts say the foes tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own in a war that has killed nearly 70,000 people since 1983. There was no independent confirmation of what had happened or how many people were killed.

The Tigers have lost vast swathes of territory in the island's east in recent months in the face of army advances, and the focus of fighting has now shifted to the north, where the Tigers run a de facto state they want recognised as independent.

But while losing their foothold in the east was a significant military defeat, the Tigers have vowed to switch to guerrilla warfare tactics in a bid to cripple the economy with attacks on major military and economic targets and analysts see no clear winner on the horizon.


Four terrorists killed; Troops consolidate defences in Northern FDLs- Jaffna

affna military troops claimed that four LTTE terrorists were killed in clashes along the northern FDLs at Muhamalai today (July 23) morning at 09.00a.m.

Troops said that LTTE elements attempting to infiltrate the army forward defences drew fire initially, and further added that bodies of the slain cadres were observed lying ahead of the FDLs.

Media Center for National Security officials, citing Jaffna field Commanders said that, the LTTE attempt to breach the Muhamali FDLs was totally revolted by the army soldiers. It was also reported that two army soldiers have sustained injuries, MCNS cited.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thoppigala: A lesson from Second World War

Jubilant Sri Lankan soldiers hoisting the national flag and their regiment flag after the Toppigala victory last week.

American soldiers celebrating their victory at Iwo Jima during World War II by hoisting the US flag

Looking at the flag-raising pictures of Toppigala, I was reminded of similar photographs of another 'Toppigala', that appear in a book by James Bradley, whose father had fought, raised the flag and survived in the battle for the Pacific island of Iwo Jima in the Second World War. Those photographs depict the flag-raising after the capture of this island by the Americans.

Incidentally, there is some idle talk that Toppigala is just a rocky outcrop in the middle of a jungle sparsely populated, implying that its capture was not worth the effort. Well, the other 'Toppigala' – Iwo Jima – was a 'trivial scab' of eight square miles whose 'population' at that time comprised entirely of Japanese soldiers, 'hidden in a sophisticated tunnel system'. But for this 'scab', 80,000 Americans fought against 12,000 Japanese.

Further for the Americans, this was a place thousands of miles away from their homeland, important only for strategic reasons. (It was handed back to Japan after the war). But Toppigala is part of our motherland, wrested by a group of marauding terrorists, now liberated by our brave soldiers. Let us all salute them.


East - the aftermath

Hard on the heels of the victory at Toppigala followed the national celebrations in Colombo last Thursday. Even if the victory by the Security Forces and the Police (mostly their Special Task Force) earned plaudits from the public, the highly publicized event at Independence Square, in marked contrast, was different. Despite a strong campaign to whip up euphoria, only some Sri Lankans showed interest in the event. They hoisted national flags in their homes, offices, shops and motor vehicles. The fact that most others did not, like during Independence Day celebrations, was clearly apparent. There was no countrywide national enthusiasm over the Government sponsored ceremonies.

It was being held to pay tribute to the men and women who laid down their lives, lost their limbs, were wounded and others who succeeded in re-capturing Toppigala. More importantly, as President Mahinda Rajapaksa, declared in his address to the nation, "the demonic forces of terror who for several decades had robbed the freedom of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people who lived in the fertile lands of the East of our motherland, have been completely driven away." In other words, the East, the Government declared earlier last week, was now free of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

With last Thursday's events over, Security Forces and Police top brass in the Western Province breathed a sigh of relief. Their great ease is understandable. There were intelligence warnings of at least six different guerrilla groups planning to wreak havoc. The idea, like other planned attacks on VIPs and vital targets, it was claimed, was to mar last Thursday's events.

The Army is placed in overall charge of security in the Western province. All other state security agencies are under their operational command. Army Headquarters have debarred senior officers from dealing with the media. Hence, one of them spoke on grounds of anonymity to The Sunday Times to explain their role in preventing any incidents last Thursday. His remarks not only underscored their difficult role but also the dangers that lay ahead.

He said, "There is a migrant population of nearly a million people entering or leaving the greater Colombo metropolitan area. There are 300,000 vehicles that enter or leave daily. A majority of them cross the Kelani bridge. Of this, the number of buses and coaches average between 10,000 and 15,000."

He said conducting thorough checks on all of them was humanly impossible. On the other hand, he said, several vital installations had to be protected in the light of the LTTE threat (after the re-capture of Toppigala) that economic and military targets would be attacked. This included security installations, the Colombo Port, the Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, Oil installations at Kolonnawa, Muthurajawela, the Kelanitissa Power Station and the Railway. "You have to remember that we have to maintain the peak levels of alert. With limited resources and strength that is a gigantic task," he said.

The Army officer's remarks underscored two important ground realities - Heightened Tiger guerrilla threats in the City and suburbs were very much a likelihood. Though the East was cleared, precautions had to be taken round the clock to prevent any devastating attack. Secondly, the threats to targets in the City require the continuation of troops and police strength now deployed. The preventive measures they adopt, among others, checks on vehicles and persons will thus continue. These factors no doubt leave or even enhance the impression that Colombo is a capital under siege. That is not good news to the commerce and industrial sectors.

Added to that is the warnings already issued to star class hotels and operators of high rise buildings not to switch on their auxiliary power supply when there is a blackout. This is due to fear of air attacks by the guerrillas. In a note to their guests, one leading hotel has advised that when there are blackouts, they should shut any window that is open and draw the curtains. They have been advised to use candles placed in the toilet together with a box of matches. Needless to say, these precautionary measures will continue for some more time. It would be difficult to imagine how an investor wanting to plough in millions of dollars in a project in Sri Lanka would react to these security procedures. These are preliminaries they would have to go through before talking formalities with the local counterparts or Government officials.

Those are the threat perceptions that portend the City of Colombo and suburbs. What about the East, particularly in the aftermath of Government claims that Tiger guerrillas have been completely driven away? Interesting enough, an indication of how things could manifest emerged at the weekly meeting of service chiefs last Tuesday at the Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH). Intelligence officials pointed out that a group of some 50 Tiger guerrilla cadres had infiltrated the East and were poised to carry out attacks. Other intelligence reports had earlier spoken of some 200 cadres moving around in the East. Other sources, however, claimed the numbers were much higher. The revelation at the JOH meeting was about an infiltration after the July 11 re-capture of Toppigala.

The meeting is chaired by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera. It is attended by the Commander of the Army, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Roshan Goonetileke, Police Chief Victor Perera, Commandant of the Police Special Task Force (STF) DIG Nimal Lewke, Chief of Staff of the Army and head of Overall Operations Command (OOC) Major General Lawrence Fernando and senior intelligence officials. The Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, though required to attend, does not participate. Navy sources said this was due to personal reasons. He is represented by a senior Navy officer. The JOH is located in a building inside Army Headquarters.

The fact that a group of 50 guerrilla cadres had infiltrated the east, in an apparent bid to join some 200 which intelligence agencies know are present there, assumes some significance. It is in the light of claims that the guerrillas have been completely driven away from the East. Firstly, evidence that groups were still present in the East was confirmed last Monday.

Suspected Tiger guerrillas shot dead the Chief Secretary of the Eastern Provincial Council, Herath Abeyweera. The top most State official for the Eastern province had introduced a daily work norm that included the hoisting of the national flag and the playing of the national anthem on the public address system. The next day, guerrillas shot dead an Army captain and wounded two soldiers at Sittaru near Kantalai in the Trincomalee district.

The fact that groups are still operating, though not holding territory, poses threats not only to Government officials, but also military, Police top brass and VIPs. They could also be more than an irritant in sabotaging the ambitious development projects which the Government wants to launch. Furthermore, with plans to conduct both local and provincial elections, they can pose serious threats to the lives of candidates contesting them.

Naturally, minimizing these threats effectively would require not only a larger strength but also more resources. This becomes the dilemma for the defence establishment. With claims that the East has been rid of guerrilla presence, their focus is now turning to the North. It is no secret that troops are thinning out in some parts of the East paving the way for Police, including the Special Task Force to take over their roles. More strength and more resources would be required for the planned military operations in the North.

Unlike their strategy in the East of withdrawing to return later, the guerrillas have been strongly resisting any advance by troops in the Northern theatre. This position was underscored by guerrilla political wing leader, S.P. Tamilselvan in an interview with the Tamilnet web site on June 25. He said the LTTE adopts military strategies to suit the place, the environment and the time. He warned that the "Sinhala forces" would understand the trap they have set for themselves. It remains to be seen whether the remarks were mere rhetoric.

Though the Security Forces are yet to formally launch a major offensive in the North, a limited intrusion a week ago met with stiff resistance. Troops broke out of their defended localities near Irana Iluppaikulam to advance towards the village of Tampanai. These areas are located east of Mannar. Ahead of the move artillery and mortar barrages rained on guerrilla positions after midnight that day. By evening troops were back to their original positions. At least 14 soldiers were killed and 78 more were wounded. Army sources say a sizeable number of those wounded were P1 cases or those who would be left out of battle.

In the light of severe restrictions placed by Army Headquarters, correct casualty counts of troops are not made available to the media on most incidents. On Friday, guerrillas mounted attacks on three different small detachments of the Army near Mannar, overrunning one of them. The Army denied Tiger guerrilla claims that they had killed ten soldiers and said only four had died.

Ahead of plans to attack guerrilla positions in the North, a move which the Government has publicly declared, the Security Forces are in the process of assessing their new needs. Besides more equipment, replenishing stocks of artillery, mortar, heavy guns and small arms ammunition will require an enormous financial commitment. This is particularly after vast stocks have been expended in the East during the past months. This is besides the needs of the Air Force and the Navy. This poses a serious question for the Government. Even if immediate needs are obtained by marshalling meagre resources, the economic burden of running the expanding military machine on the long term becomes a critical issue. With a deteriorating economy, how would funds be raised is the all important question.

Even if there is forced recruitment in the North, with the LTTE demanding one member from every family, funds do not seem to be a major problem for them. Since March 26, this year, when they demonstrated their air strike capability, contributions from the Tamil diaspora has increased considerably.

A revealing article due for publication in the Jane's Intelligence Review next month notes that the LTTE generates an estimated US $ 200 to $ 300 million every year. It points out that after meeting their operational costs to run an administration (in the Wanni) amounting to US $ 8 million, the profit margin would become the envy of any multinational corporation.

Unlike the Jihadist movement, the LTTE, the JIR investigation reveals, is a centralized, hierarchical organization commanded and controlled by its founding leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. It says the LTTE ranks tend to fill the ranks of the two principal directorates that manage the interlocking arms of raising money and buying weapons. However, lower down the chain of command LTTE members tend to act as outsourced agents driven as much by profit as any ideological commitment to creating a Tamil state in Sri Lanka.

The JIR report has delved at length into the findings by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. During a series of detailed operations, FBI stings led to the arrest of Tiger guerrilla suspects and their associates in New York, Guam, Indonesia and Singapore.

The JIR report says that two overarching financial and procurement bodies are the Aiyanna Group, directed by Pottu Amman, and the Office of Overseas Purchases, directed by Kumaran Pathmanathan, alias KP, and source of the office's nickname, the KP Department. The Aiyanna Group (Aiyanna is a letter from the Tamil alphabet) functions as the Tamil Tigers' clandestine intelligence and operations body and is likely to be responsible for monitoring and ensuring the organisation's financial support and revenue streams. The Aiyanna Group's global management allegedly acts as overseer to Tamil communities in Western countries through myriad LTTE front organizations.

The Office of Overseas Purchases or KP Department is most probably the LTTE's procurement arm. Although Vaitiyalingam Sornalingam, alias Colonel Shankar, created the unit (the now deceased Canadian Tamil who also founded the LTTE's Air and Sea Tiger Wings), KP allegedly directs its activities at present. The second most wanted man in Sri Lanka, Pathmanathan, the JIR report notes, is a highly competent and elusive operative. The KP department has reportedly sourced arms in various countries and operates a fleet of deep-sea vessels, known as Sea Pigeons (Kadal Pura). Normally registered in Panama, Honduras or Liberia, the Sea Pigeons are primarily tasked with the delivery of procured weapons to LTTE bases in Sri Lanka and may also be in other LTTE enterprises, legal or otherwise.

Commenting on KP's role, a high ranking intelligence source in Colombo told The Sunday Times "KP is no longer active. He is sick. We know he is now in a Scandinavian country living under an assumed name. Castro, the LTTE's head of the International Wing, tried to take his place. Some of his operatives fell to FBI traps."

The JIR report reveals that the LTTE creates and staffs charitable fronts and projects its influence through these organizations and outsourced Tamil gangs to raise money from Tamil communities and, ultimately, convert the gains into arms. Noting that weapons from the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu have been limited to items of low technology, JIR says that Cambodia is one of the most significant single sources of weapons to the LTTE outside Sri Lanka. Other sources of origin were the rest of Southeast Asia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and Ukraine. Thailand is also described as another source.

The JIR report notes that LTTE's international network of non-governmental and charitable organizations work as an efficient way for it to move funds wherever investment or procurement opportunities arise. Proving that they can be profitable, these non-profit organizations afford an estimated US $ 2 million a month to the LTTE war chest. The charitable fronts also offer tax free status and legitimacy gained through working with larger, reputable, non-governmental organizations.

JIR says the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami allowed the LTTE to easily raise large sums of money and move them to LTTE-administered regions under the pretext of charitable disaster relief. Much of the money has been untraceable and the Sri Lankan government claims it has been diverted to the LTTE war machine.

In their conclusion, the lengthy JIR account says LTTE's strategic aim of defeating the Sri Lankan military and securing a political victory in the form of a separate Tamil state depends on the organisation's capacity to source money and arms abroad. Its strategic need to acquire high-tech weaponry, such as surface to air missiles, indicates its activities will continue. However, if the Western law enforcement crackdown on LTTE financial and procurement continues, the group's ability to fight may be weakened in the medium term, degrading its ability to withstand the Sri Lankan government's offensives and further undermining its combat capabilities.

Given the losses incurred by the LTTE since 2006 in the east of the country, JIR notes, this may lead to increased pressure to sue for peace, although given the tenacious history of the LTTE not even a severe denigration of its arsenal will encourage a political settlement with the current government.

In the past week or more Tiger guerrillas have withdrawn from positions in Batticaloa west. Military Intelligence sources told The Sunday Times groups had moved to the Trincomalee district.

They have headed towards Kandalkadu, Kadawana and to areas north of Trincomalee. Some groups have also moved into the Ampara district. These sources said sporadic attacks by these groups cannot be ruled out. A disturbing feature in this regard, according to these sources, was the shifting of the LTTE's main intelligence base from the Batticaloa district to the Amparai district. Intercepts of radio communications had shown that the new base was regularly making radio contact with guerrilla bases in the Wanni. Yesterday STF commandos killed six guerrillas including an area leader in Kanjikudichiaru in the Ampara district. This came during the concluding stages of Operation Nihatai Jaya (Assured Victory)

An unusual feature during the Government sponsored celebrations over the victory at Toppigala was a request asking the Army, Navy and the Air Force to address messages to senior school children. The message from the Navy praised both the Army and the Air Force for their role in operations in the East.

But the one from the Army to the students left out the role of the Navy altogether. Naturally, like observers who closely watch the defence and security establishments, discerning students would have wondered whether there was anything wrong. Many a question in this regard has been raised at the highest levels of the Government in the past. If in fact there were differences of opinion or displeasure at the higher levels of command, it is most reprehensible that attempts have been made to educate the senior students, the future generation, of such situations. The fact that there has been no firm Government control over such attempts to poison young minds makes the situation even worse.

This is what the Army message said, "…..the victory at Thoppigala is the greatest win the Army achieved in the past and it was done after master planning with the co-operation of the Commandos and other units whilst the Air Force support was great in aiming at Tiger targets…."

Without doubt, the Navy played a key role in preventing the guerrillas from escaping via sea. Guerrilla re-inforcements being rushed to the east were once intercepted in the seas off Pulmoddai. Gun battles ensued there. During briefings to his senior officers in the East, the Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, had asked them to extend full support to the Army in their operations there.

The concluding paragraph of the Army message to students says,: "Considering that the Indian Army, which is regarded as the fourth largest in the World had difficulties in tackling this area, the admission of defeat by Tiger cadres for the first time, is public proof of our Army's valour and courage." The message ends with a reported quote from a long retired one time IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) intelligence officer that "the Sri Lanka Army can go after any target, which goes to prove that the Tiger days are numbered under the present Army Commander (Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka), which statement we make with pride but with humility."

How the IPKF then found it difficult to reach Toppigala or where and when the Tiger cadres admitted defeat is not made clear. There is little doubt that the victory at Toppigala is significant and the Army played the most important role in it. But there is a long, long way to go if the Tiger guerrillas are to be defeated. In fact, Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, declared it would take at least three years more. Even if it is not for that long a period, sustaining a war effort with an enemy that largely retains its military capability is a challenging one but clearly not an impossible one for the Security Forces.

The words of the Chinese philosopher, Sun Tzu, in his treatise on the Art of War over 2,500 years ago still remain relevant. Although he used these words whilst dealing with spies, it seems appropriate in several other respects:

Raising a host of hundred thousand men and marching them great distances entails heavy loss on the people and a drain on the resources of state. The daily expenditure will amount to a thousand ounces of silver. There will be commotion at home and abroad, and men will drop down exhausted on the highways. As many as seven hundred thousand families will be impeded in their labour.

Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for victory that is decided in a single day. This being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy's condition, simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honours and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity.

One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help to his sovereign, no master of victory. What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge. Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any deductive calculation.

Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men…….


SCOPP urges co-chairs to condemn LTTE move

Government Peace Secretariat Chief Rajiva Wijesinha has written to Co-Chairs urging them to denounce the LTTE’s forcible recruitment of one member from each family in the Wanni.

Citing a recent report by Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar to back his claim, Prof Wijesinha has stated in his letter that it is imperative for the sake of the suffering people of the Wanni that the international community makes clear that it has zero tolerance for such practices.

“I hope very much that, while doing all in your power to ensure adherence to human rights norms throughout the country, you make clear that forced recruitment of anyone is intolerable, and that the co-chairs and all countries that are particularly concerned about such issues will stand foursquare against such practices,” he has noted in his letter.

In a related move, Prof. Wijesingh has written to Norwegian peace envoy Jon Hanssen Baur asking him to withdraw current SLMM spokesman Thorfinnur Omarsson for reportedly misinterpreting the positions of the Sri Lankan government and the SLMM.

“He has been consistently involved in misrepresentations of the position of the Sri Lankan government and the SLMM, in a manner which regrettably destroys confidence and may take away much of the good work that I believe you and your colleagues, both as facilitators and monitors are trying to do,” he said in his letter.


Six Tiger cadres killed

Signs of the LTTE’s continuing presence in the east emerged yesterday when six LTTE cadres, including an area leader identified as Ravindran, were killed in a clearing operation carried out by the STF in the Kanchikudichchiaru-Neriya Kanatte area in the Ampara district.

STF area leader Senior Superintendent Ajith Wickremasekera said the elite forces had killed the Tiger cadres while conducting the final stage of "Operation Niyathai Jaya". They recovered weapons and ammunition, including, five T56 assault rifles, 480 rounds of T 56 ammunition, eight hand grenades, four anti- personnel mines, one container of C4 explosives, ten metres wire and one 40mm round.

The SSP said the STF did not suffer causalities and more search operations were in progress. Meanwhile, two soldiers were injured in a claymore mine blast on the Vavuniya/Mannar road yesterday morning.


Hakeem hits out at President, Toppigala show

Hours after a parliament speech, hitting out at the government’s victory celebration at Independence Square on Thursday, Minister and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem repeated his criticism at a business-peace forum. The celebrations to mark the capture of Toppigala was 'a spectacle’, Mr. Hakeem said addressing the 8th Business for Peace Forum organized by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL).

“Our Tamil brothers feel very estranged, now even more than before,” he said. Mr. Hakeem said he voiced his criticisms in Parliament the same day, not to take away from the achievements of the security forces but to highlight that the celebrations had created the feeling that the nation had conquered an alien territory.

"That is the perceived message," he said, adding that Tamils felt bitter and upset and the government had added insult to injury.
Mr. Hakeem described President Mahinda Rajapaksa's speech on Thursday as compassionate but combative, filled with invectives and venom against the political opposition when a national function should be devoid of partisan politics.

"Our forces marched gallantly but we sent out a message that was negative to one section of the country," he said. He was also critical of the unveiling of the new Eastern flag at Independence Square. The flag was designed with an eagle representing Trincomalee, a lion Ampara and a fish Batticaloa. "Whom did they consult for the symbols?" he asked.

"We must also look at the political structure. Principles of good governance should be added to the constitution. The Constitutional Council is in limbo and the executive is merrily going about making appointments,” Hakeem said. He said the President had appointed a police commissioner, a judicial service commissioner and a public service commissioner without anyone questioning him on the legality of the appointments.

Mr. Hakeem said he recently had a discussion with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and told him that success for the development of the East lies in reforming the police. The forces must reflect the ethnic composition in the area for residents to live in an environment which is devoid of fear and retribution.

Mr. Hakeem said elections in the East were welcome but it was futile to speak of them until the climate of fear and insecurity was abated and total normalcy achieved.


Funding cloud over eastern sunrise

The government is likely to put on hold a donor forum on funding development projects in the east following a general reluctance particularly by European countries to provide new project aid, diplomatic sources said. Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera with whom some multilateral donors have had initial contact on the convening of a development forum, could not be reached for confirmation as his secretary said he preferred not to speak to the media because he was often misquoted.

Diplomatic sources said the government had been considering a donor meeting in September to discuss eastern development but the Rs. 1.8 billion plan was now on hold because many donors had expressed reluctance or reservations.

They said European Union countries, especially, were not in favour of getting involved in giving aid now as it might be interpreted as endorsing or condoning the continuing human rights violations and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. But officially the EU is taking up a different position.

An official of the European Commission’s Colombo office said they might consider government requests for aid connected to the new development plan for the east.

“We are unaware of any development forum being organised but we will consider any request for new funding,” said Guy Platoon, Charge d’Affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission in Colombo.

Asked whether EU countries were reluctant to fund new projects in the east, Mr. Platoon said; “I’m afraid I can’t speak for other donor countries. I can only give the EC position.”

Earlier in the week the Treasury’s Deputy Secretary, Sumith Abeysinghe said a blueprint for a proposed development forum for the east was being prepared and would be put on a fast track following the military victory in Toppigala. He said Dr. Jayasundera was supervising the development plan including infrastructure and resettlement.

Mr. Abeysinghe said he hoped that various projects would be undertaken by donor agencies such as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB).

The ADB’s Colombo office Deputy Director Laurence Pochard said the bank had regular ongoing programmes in the north-east and he did not think it would be giving any different budgets and programmes for the east.

World Bank Country Director Naoko Ishii said the bank had not been informed of a development forum for the east and decisions regarding future assistance to the entire country were being made under a new country assistance strategy (CAS) that would cover the next three to four years.

“As part of this programme, we are considering concrete programmes to provide additional support to conflict-affected areas,” she said in email comments sent to The Sunday Times.

She said the bank would continue to consult with a wide variety of stakeholders—including the poor and vulnerable in conflict-affected areas—to help ensure that its assistance was appropriately targeted and sufficiently sensitive to the many complexities surrounding the conflict.

According to initial estimates, some Rs. 1,800 million was needed for the projects on reconstruction of roads, irrigation schemes and electricity plants among others.


Toppigala a defeat for LTTE or “conquest of Tamils”

The euphoria associated with the capture of Toppilgala that was highlighted at Thursday’s nationwide celebrations was scarcely reflected on the floor of the House the following day when Parliament took up a day- long debate to praise the members of the security forces who had brought about this victory.

Quorum bells had to be rung three times during the course of the adjournment debate for want of the presence of 20 members to keep proceedings going which itself was a clear indication that politicians like to pay lip service to heroics of the military when its serves their political ends but coming to the Chamber and speaking a few words on their behalf means too much trouble for many of them.

JVP parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa who moved the adjournment motion praised the troops for the sacrifices they had made to secure Toppigala and said the military achievements must be strengthened by establishing democratic institutions in the area as well as economically uplifting the people of the east. Government members coupled praise for the security forces with words of praise for President Mahinda Rajapaksa the Commander-in-Chief, for the leadership given to the military.

From the UNP MPs, there was praise for the military but they could not help going back in time and speaking of the past successes in the eastern province under a UNP political leadership. So while the government members chose to bask in the glory of a victory that was achieved with the blood and sweat scarified by the men in the military, the UNP members found it hard to be gracious and accept that even under a government and President that they dislike a great deal, something positive has been achieved. If the roles were reversed between the two sides, it is likely people would have heard exactly the opposite views from them.

No one was expecting the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs to jump on the bandwagon and say “hurrah” to the security forces. As expected they saw no reason for celebration over the capture of Toppigala. “There is nothing to celebrate .There is an on-going war and there are changes in the balance of power and it will keep happening,” Jaffna district MP N. Srikantha said. He also said it was regrettable that it is the cream of youth who are losing their lives to the war be they Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims. Mr. Srikantha's argument that elections could not be held in the eastern province alone as it would be in violation of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was refuted by Education Minister Susil Premajayantha.

The Minister said that since the Supreme Court has ruled that the merger was illegal, the validity of the accord itself was in question. The main architect of the accord Rajiv Gandhi was killed by the LTTE and none of its provisions have been honoured by the Tigers, he said. The Minister also questioned why the TNA was opposing the holding of the local government elections in the east which would give the people there the chance to elect their own representatives after several years.

An urgent bill making provision for the calling for fresh nominations to nine local bodies in the east was passed by Parliament on Thursday. The TNA opposed the Bill while it won the support of all the other parties. Surprising Minister Rauff Hakeem chose the debate on the Bill to express his displeasure with the government ceremony held to mark the Toppigala victory calling it a “political exercise.”

Mr.Hakeem who had come to Parliament soon after attending the ceremony said he had been reluctantly compelled to attend as he did not want to be seen as opposed to the security forces, but said such measures would only alienate Tamils further from the government and make them feel like a “conquered people”.

The UNP also felt government celebrations were premature and meant only to bolster the image of the President. “The compensation paid to the family of a soldier who loses his life is only Rs150,000/- while millions are being wasted on such celebrations,” UNP Gampaha district MP Jayalath Jayewardene said.

So as the government prepares for an election in the east, the newly formed alliance between the UNP and the SLFP (M) faction is preparing to turn the heat on President Rajapaksa and his government. Memories of the military success will fade away and the government will still have to address some very serious issues such as the cost of living and corruption. It’s a decisive time ahead for both sides and given the strong rumours of shifting of loyalties by members on all sides, Parliamentarians are likely to play a pivotal role in deciding to which side the balance of power will shift in the weeks ahead.


Peace activists playing into government hands

Those keeping in touch with current events would be aware that despite the capture of Toppigala, there is little likelihood of any letup in the escalating cost of living, the death toll, or from that intangible but vitally important factor that accompanies war - fear. The LTTE's political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan warned in an interview with Reuters, "The government has accelerated its military offensives; to put an end to it we have to target economic targets."

Though it is not publicly accepted by the government, engaging the LTTE in the East is going to be a huge dilemma. This was rhetorically, but pithily put by a former commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force Harry Goonatilleke: "You needed around 1000 or 2000 soldiers to win the battle. But holding these areas would be very costly, as you would need to some 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers..."

The government, though acknowledging the need to recruit 50,000 more military personnel, has not said from where they would come. Fifty thousand is no small number and let alone the additional cost to exchequer, estimated by Air Marshal Goonatilleke at Rs.7.2 billion in salaries alone, recruitment to the military is notoriously difficult in times of war.

While contending with the economic costs of the war, the government has to also weigh its options on countering the LTTE's tactics to restore the military balance in its favour. The Tigers of course have said they would return to the guerrilla mode of warfare in the East. The security forces, on the other hand, being a conventional military outfit, are not equipped to follow suit, except perhaps using the deep penetration units to strike selected targets within the Wanni.

So the Sri Lanka military has basically three options and all to do with territory: start operations to capture areas in the Tiger-held Wanni; defend the East from LTTE incursions; a combination of both.

This writer admits freely that he is not a military analyst. But there are certain matters that could be commented upon from a commonsensical point of view. The security forces have opened a front northwest of Vavuniya to break through the LTTE's flank. But the battles in Tampanai, Pompaimadhu and clashes on the Vavuniya-Mannar Road have proved bloody with the Tigers resisting any effort to pierce the present line of control. Therefore, the security forces know that if the army wants to capture new territory it would be fiercely contested.

Second, any conventional army advances using heavy armour as a shield. With northeast monsoon expected to set in by October, armour will find mobility a problem and any such operation to be carried out this year will have to be accomplished in the next month or two.

Operation Jayasikurui - the last occasion when government forces attempted a major thrust to wrest control of the Wanni - is a good example: it began in May, giving army at least six months before the terrain would render any sustained push forward difficult.

Therefore, once the rains set in, in October, till March at least, operations in the North will have to be confined to artillery duels and aerial bombardment on enemy positions, supply lines, and population centres, but not the capture of territory.

On the other hand, the monsoon does not hamper a guerrilla army. Its tactics do not depend on moving heavy armour. On the contrary, rain and inclement weather assist such forms of warfare that depends on surprise and stealth. In other words, the coming months will be favourable for the Tigers to attack strategic targets in the Northeast as well as economic targets elsewhere.

Under these circumstances, the politico-military conjuncture will become critical for the government. Politically, it faces immense challenges from the newly-formed National Congress, which is expected to mobilise the people on issues of human rights violations, erosion of democracy, corruption and the faltering economy.

Meanwhile the JVP is questioning the government's conduct of the war and the soaring cost of living. At the same time, the government's human rights record, disregard for the human cost of war and its inability to put forward a coherent set of political proposals for a solution has brought it international condemnation and isolation.

In the past few months, the government sought to tide over its problems by saying it was "regaining the East." It has now done so. With further operations to gain territory in the North rendered impossible due to reasons mentioned above, the government would have to face an increasingly hostile political opposition in the South with nothing to show but the army merely defending positions it took earlier in the North, East and elsewhere.

Seeing these problems ahead, President Mahinda Rajapaksa chose what he thought was a clever ploy, only to see it backfire. Taking heed of the Clausewitzian advice that "… the political view is the object, war is the means…", he sought to change the means by engaging the enemy with diplomacy instead of combat for achieving his political objectives.

This was the reason for the feelers sent by government around the time of the recent meeting of the co-chairs, to Norwegian Minister of International Development Erik Solheim that the government would be willing to facilitate a visit by Special Envoy Jon Hansen-Baur to Kilinochchi. The Norwegian mission in Colombo was to later deny any such visit had been planned.

The government hoped that by re-establishing contact with Kilinochchi it could guarantee immunity from attack by the Tigers in the coming months. Thamilselvan in his Reuter interview dismissed the sincerity of the moves saying, "After closing all avenues for the other party (the LTTE) to participate in meaningful negotiations, the government inviting (us) to attend talks is meaningless."

Therefore, the president's call for talks was not intended to be a genuine gesture for peace but hope that diplomacy could be used to suspend hostilities for the moment, only to begin afresh at a more opportune time. It was in alignment with Clausewitz: "it (war) can only be brought to standstill by either side by one single motive alone, which is, that he (the commander) awaits for a more favourable moment for action [On War, Bk. (I) Ch. (i)]."

In recent weeks the well-intentioned writers have berated President Rajapaksa for not calling for negotiations to halt the bloodshed. Little do they realise that by saying this they play into the government's hands and project the president's dearest wishes.


From Thoppigala to city walls

Despite what the international community was told, the Southern psychology was being prepared and seasoned for a long drawn out war, the main purpose being to keep the people away from looking at economics of living. With that the CFA though considered vlid purely on the technicality that neither party to the agreement has informed the Norwegians they are backing out of the CFA, it is in every way, “Eelam War IV” now. There seems to be no turning back, even after Brattskar’s visit to Killinochchi last week. With the heat that’s on with official ceremonies, victorious melodies and media frenzies, this government would have to show some thing more and bigger than Thoppigala to survive. And there is nothing as large as the North and the Wanni to talk of, to contain the economically battered South.

The walls in Colombo, if not in other cities and towns have gone too scarce for posters that keep coming out like patriotic Tsunamis. Some don’t even have any ownership and some organisations sound obviously too fake to believe. There were the obvious ones from the JVP and the JHU too. All, competing between each other to be the best “patriotic salute” for the war heroes who defeated Tigers and their “Eelam dream”. Yet it is more than doubtful how much of those sentiments are actually indicative of the public mood. Often and almost always, these poster maniacs take upon themselves the total right to represent the people. Worst of all, they thereafter expect the people to accept their voice as that of the society too. Just now, the voices on the walls want a total war. Into the Wanni and against the LTTE.

That was any way the direction we were heading since President Rajapaksa was installed in power in 2005 November. The Rajapaksa regime was adamantly sticking to its election promise of a “Unitary State” dominated by the Sinhala South. Therefore, despite what the international community was told, the Southern psychology was being prepared and seasoned for a long drawn out war, the main purpose being to keep the people away from looking at economics of living. With that the CFA though considered valid purely on the technicality that neither party to the agreement has informed the Norwegians they are backing out of the CFA, it is in every way, “Eelam War IV” now. There seems to be no turning back, even after Brattskar’s visit to Killinochchi last week. With the heat that’s on with official ceremonies, victorious melodies and media frenzies, this government would have to show some thing more and bigger than Thoppigala to survive. And there is nothing as large as the North and the Wanni to talk of, to contain the economically battered South.

For the international community and the Tamil political parties and groups tied with the regime, the government is talking of development for the East. Rid of LTTE terrorism, the East would be democratised from the bottom with Local Government elections held towards the end of the year, is the promise. The East would thereafter be economically developed on a 20 year development plan designed under Presidential supervision. But for this government, development plans have no funds. Without funds, the government is looking out for private banks to bail itself out of bankruptcy even at high interest rates. The government would thus call upon the international community to support its anti-terrorism campaign, calling it a certain victory for the world campaign against terrorism. India may want to buy into this bargain to curb the LTTE some more and also more importantly block Sino-Pakistani influence in Sri Lankan politics. It is a pity that Indians have not been very lucky in intervening in Sri Lankan politics before. For the EU and other international partners, what preferences they would have on Thoppigala is rather doubtful.

Thamil Selvam is reported to have told the media, its no big deal for them to abandon Thoppigala a third time. The first was when the IPKF took the East under their control in 1989 and the second was in late 1993 with President Wijetunge’s promise to defeat LTTE terrorists. The most deafening difference between the two “Thoppigala captures” after the IPKF is that President Wijetunge never made it a political carnival and therefore the South was spared of hyped patriotic campaigns. Yet it was a good playing field that was created for all by Late Brigadier Algama, other officers and soldiers and the LG elections held in 1994, saw the EPDP, the TULF, the SLMC, the UNP and the PA contesting. Some LG bodies were even contested by independent groups. The East remained comparatively peaceful for two more elections to be held; the 1994 August Parliamentary elections and thereafter the Presidential elections. What needs to be stressed further is that, all those elections were adequately free and fair with a good voter turn over of around 60 per cent.

There was a seriously important reason for such ground level civil activity after the Wijetunge take over. Once, the LTTE was swept away, there were no paramilitary groups left to mar the cleaned up environment. Only the government security forces and the Police remained with arms, in the East. Mobility of the people with a sense of security is a necessary pre-requisite for free elections to be held. That environment was created and it was easy for other state organisations to function and for non state, civil society organisations to move about with adequate safety. That was the East, after its capture under President Wijetunge.

This indispensable environment where no one runs around with arms other than the state security forces and the Police, is the most conspicuous difference in the East this time. Karuna will not be an idle observer in the East. He represents a power bloc that would now want to entrench itself further in Eastern politics. The signs are already there. The EPDP that tried to move into the space created by the take over of the East was curtly cut short by Karuna. That compelled Douglas D. to come to terms with Karuna as to who would “Boss” around the Eastern polity. How long such patching up would hold, will again be decided, if the government declares LG elections. Beside state security forces and the Police, all of them will be there in the East to wield their authority in competition with each other and against each other.

Within such rivalry too the previously displaced Muslim farmers would now want their cultivation plots cleared out for themselves. The capacity, or rather the will of the government to intervene in such volatile issues is another that would decide the sympathy of the Muslim leadership in the East. With JHU claims of ancient Buddhist presence in the East, one wouldn’t be surprised if this government plans to settle Sinhala farmers in disputed land. In such a scenario where neither the international community nor the Indians would have little say, who would vote for whom in an election?

Unfortunately for the JVP, what ever the outcome of the East in months to come, they are trapped within the present hyped patriotic campaign. In fact with their posters and public meetings the distance they tried to maintain with the Rajapaksa regime has once again closed in. Now, with the government promising a clean, terrorist free Sri Lanka on the heels of the Thoppigala victory, the JVP can not afford to let the JHU and Rajapaksa’s SLFP to ride this wave of military success without them. They do have a legitimate claim to be on that platform. It was they who slogged since the CFA was signed in February 2002 to forge the Southern Sinhala social psyche that eventually brought Rajapaksa to Presidency.

In all probability, LG elections and development for the East, marching into the Wanni and decimating the LTTE, are as good or bad as the Eelam dream. Thoppigala has had its declines twice before and the third time turned into a state carnival, seems still worse. And that’s what the South needs to understand, the posters aside.


There is no ethnic cleansing in the East by the Govt

The capture of Thoppigala long considered the nerve center of the LTTE, and the subsequent celebrations by the government has received both praise and criticism. While the Opposition UNP accuses the government of politicizing the capture, the government maintains it was only concerned with liberating the East for the people to enjoy greater freedom.

The President on Thursday dismissed criticism that the capture of Thoppigala was an attempt by the majority to have its sway over the minority ‘We will not only ensure the right to vote but also carry out speedy development work, with the construction of roads, hospitals, schools, industries and the supply of electricity, giving new hope and new life to the people in the east,” he said.

Governor of the Eastern Province Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama tells Hard Talk that with a positive frame of mind and the cooperation of all including the international community the government can democratize the province without much difficulty. He insists that development is a must to build the confidence of the people on the administration. Such confidence he believes will make the people see that the LTTE is not the alternative and they will move closer to the government and the ‘LTTE will find it difficult to survive in that scenario.’

Q: Was Thoppigala more a political victory combined with a media frenzy than a real strategic military operation against terrorism?

* Democratising the East is a daunting task.
* Karuna is also threatened by the LTTE.
* Karuna will be a certain substitute for the LTTE and the TNA.
* If the TNA wants to be the power they were they will certainly have to work for it.

I see Thoppigala as the last bastion of the LTTE war machinery in the Eastern province. It’s true that Thoppigala is surrounded by a large jungle area, but they had camps there and these camps were supposed to be impenetrable and they were operating from these camps. Therefore by capturing Thoppigala and the surrounding area we have prevented the LTTE from using those camps to conduct various types of campaigns against the civilians and the military in the area. So I see it certainly as a military victory.

Q: But how do you see these accusations by various sides including the opposition?

I don’t know why they make these accusations, but as a retired naval officer I see the capture as a strategical military victory if you are going to ensure security in the Eastern province.

Q: But the military aspect apart isn’t democratizing the East easier said than done?

It's certainly a daunting task. One just can’t bring normalcy overnight. We have to work hard with all stake holders such as other political parties including groups like Karuna, who have to be brought in to the democratic stream. It needs to be done and you need to look at it positively. It may not happen immediately but we should be able to do it within the course of the next few years. I am very sure that if we have a positive frame of mind and have the cooperation of all including the international community we can democratize the province without much difficulty.

Q:What is the position of Karuna and other paramilitary groups in normalizing the East?

I think there is a little bit of exaggeration as far as Karuna is concerned. He is also threatened by the LTTE and therefore will have to defend themselves, like Douglas Devananda in the North. But the EPDP came in to the democratic fold and Karuna also should join the democratic system laying down their arms. But if they are threatened they may have to defend themselves. Until their safety is assured it will be difficult to totally disarm them. So I don’t think anybody would like to lay down arms and come in to the democratic stream and just get eliminated. But we should be able to make sure that Karuna is not permitted to carry arms in the East. Presently the armed forces and the police are preventing any other groups from carrying arms.

Q:What is his presence like in the East today? What is your assessment of his presence, political or otherwise in the area?

I will not be able to tell you because I have no communication with him, but from what I see in the newspapers they have a political wing which of course get in touch with me sometimes. They were in touch with me when they wanted some housing for some Tamil people who had not got houses after the Tsunami. And they also seem to be filling the vacuum created by the departure of the LTTE. And if they come strong with eminent persons to back them I think they will be a certain substitute for the LTTE and the TNA.

Q:But in a scenario where Karuna is to be de-armed how and who will monitor that Karuna cadres don’t carry weapons in the province?

Certainly in the cleared areas they are not permitted to carry arms. At various check points if they are caught and arrested, certain action will be taken. They are not supposed to carry arms in any of the areas now.

Q:What was the message that the killing of the Secretary conveyed?

That was a means of taking revenge from the government for liberating the East. He was a high profile target; he was a very dedicated, motivated, honest officer who served all communities alike. His track record as the GA Ampara was equally good winning the respect of all three communities. So he was a soft target. It was a target that the LTTE could take with ease. But taking him doesn’t mean that the security in the East is in anyway compromised. We will ensure that such soft targets will not be available to them in the future.

Q:How would you ensure the security of government servants in the future?

We are taking adequate measures to see that they will be looked after much better in the future.

Q:Do you have any idea who will take his place?

No appointment has been made and the government will be making that decision.

Q: With the greater possibility of guerrilla operations being stepped up till it becomes too costly for LTTE to carry on fighting in the east, how viable are the resettlement or development plans proposed?

How I look at it is that they will go back to their traditional guerrilla warfare of the pre 1990 era, where they will try to take opportune targets and disturb the administration. The only way I see is to win the hearts and minds of the people and prevent LTTE having safe houses to operate from because they have lost all their bases in the East. If there is development and there is confidence of the people on the administration and they realise that the LTTE is not the alternative they will move closer to the government and the LTTE will find it difficult to survive in that scenario.

Q: But how wise would it be to go ahead with the resettlement and development plans right away? Wouldn’t they be a sure target?

If development and resettlement doesn’t take place, it is a breeding ground for terrorism. If you want to wipe terrorism off, people have to be resettled and permitted to live a peaceful life with opportunities for livelihood activities. The government is focusing seriously on this programme and we are trying to bring in more and more investment to the area. This should be the attitude of the government and they are on the right track.

Q:Are you in anyway concerned that with the attention moving to the North soon, and the troop withdrawals that may have to take place security may be compromised affecting these plans?

The East can’t be forgotten. If that happens the victory will be lost. That is why I said that development will be the engine that will drive the economy of the East. And to ensure that we must ensure that the security is maintained. I don’t know about the North but I know that we can’t neglect or compromise the security in the East. The security experts will decide on that and I feel that the same level of troops will not be there when the LTTE is flushed out, but what is required is an adequate amount of troops to manage the security. Now that the areas are captured you don’t need such a high level of troop presence. How much they will move and retain is really a question for the defence authorities. But for development to take place you can’t compromise on security.

Q: There is speculation that the Government is not settling returnees in Trincomalee and the Government is accused of purposely carrying out ethnic cleansing. What is your response?

There is no basis for such accusations and the Government is not pursuing such a course of action. The Trincomalee Urban Metro Development plan which has been discussed for a very long time under various Governments was taken up again in 2006. This plan was discussed in detail with the UDA and the Provincial Council, Government Agent and his network and the Chairman of Pradeshiya Sabhas and all Ministries in the central Government directly involved. The Zoning plan was subsequently derived for the overall development of the Town. To cater to certain development areas naturally had been identified. The people who lived in these areas will be relocated with minimum inconvenience. They will be provided with housing etc; better than what they originally had. In fact during the accelerated Mahaweli scheme I remember villages were relocated and even for the Matara Colombo highway too a large number of families were relocated. This is not new in Sri Lanka. For development various changes are necessary.

Q:What percentage of funds really is in place for the development plans?

Huge amount of funds have been committed. I wouldn’t be able to say off hand but a fair amount of funds are committed. Some are committed directly by the government. Even in the Gama Neguma programme , the involvement is great. A lot of infrastructure and livelihood projects are going on in each village. So a lot of things are happening over there.

Q: So the government is not looking out for private banks to help out?

Certainly at the end of the day you can’t carry it out without the participation of the private sector. It won’t be complete especially in the present economic equation. However I see that the reluctance is not by the government but the private sector, but as soon as they see that the security situation is conducive they will walk in.

Q:How many people are already settled and what are the plans for the immediate future?

It is very successful. Resettlement in Batticaloa except for Thoppigala and Vaunativ which were recently liberated where de-mining process needs to take place, will take some time. About 40,000 people are in Batticaloa and to be resettled there. Then we have about 10,000 left from Trincomalee in Batticaloa and they are being brought in batches and are being resettled after making the infrastructure in place. The difference is that in Batticaloa the displaced were resettled fairly quickly and they were resettled within six months because the schools and hospitals had only suffered minimal damage. But in Trincomalee displaced people had been away for more than a year. The resettlement programme is moving fairly satisfactorily.

Q:What about the elections? The Parliament yesterday passed the Bill to hold fresh elections in Batticaloa.

That is not a provincial subject but a decision for the central government. If you look at the Eastern province comprising of the Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee districts, in 2006 we had Local Government elections and members were elected for all the PS in the Trincomalee and Ampara districts and some in Batticaloa. So I think that elections will be held only for the few that were not held in 2006.

Q:But can you ensure free and fair elections with the obvious difficulties for main Tamil parties like TNA fielding candidates with the presence of Karuna, who voted against the Bill?

TNA will certainly have to prove it at another election. You can’t just be in Parliament and say that they represent the people. And maybe if there is an alternative party, they may grab power from them. Certainly the government will have a free and fair election and if the TNA wants to be the power they were they will certainly have to work for it. And at the moment they are not doing anything.

Q:What do you mean they aren’t doing anything?

Well other than just talking about their rights on media they are not on ground.

Q:But isn’t their concern that with a greater armed presence of Karuna cadres they will not be able to campaign in any election?

No I don’t think so. I will not subscribe to that, because unless they live in uncleared areas and now there are no such areas, if they want to come and do politics or development activities in the East and certainly if they feel that the security is insufficient they can request for special security for that purpose for such duration which will be provided. They have never made such a request to my knowledge.


Merger of North and East not ruled illegal-Srikantha

TNA MP M. Srikantha told Parliament yesterday the Supreme Court did not rule the merger of the North and East illegal.

Joining the debate on an adjournment motion moved by JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa in the House, he said the Supreme Court only held that the procedure which was followed in merging the two provinces was illegal and not the merger.

He said the North and East were temporarily merged under the Indo Lanka Peace Accord in 1987 which was a pact between two states. “Therefore, the Sri Lankan government cannot ignore the procedures that have to be implemented under it,” he said.

He charged that the government is trying to handover the Eastern Province to Minister Athaullah “He is day dreaming to become the Chief Minister of the East,” he said.


War will continue until last Tamil falls dead - Gajendran

TNA MP S. Gajendran told Parliament that the war in Sri Lanka would continue till the last Tamil in the country falls dead.

He made this point during the debate on Thoppigala in the House yesterday.

The TNA MP described the liberation of the East as Sri Lankan forces occupying a foreign country after invading and said if the government thinks they can defeat the Tigers in the East, it is a myth.

“We will fight until the last Tamil falls dead and until then the war will continue,” he said

He charged that while the President of Sri Lanka is hailed for securing the East, the people in the area are leading a miserable life.

Mr. Gajendran charged that paddy harvests of the people in the area have been taken away by the forces.

He called on the international community to support the TNA in its endeavour to win their rights.


Two women wounded in LTTE mortar attack

Two women were injured when Athawetunuwewa in Weiloya came under LTTE mortar fire last evening.

The LTTE fired from beyond the Army forward defence line in the area. Two mortar shells had fallen near a house close to the Sarvodaya Bank in Athawetunuwewa and the women were inside the house.

The two injured women, fifty-eight-year-old Karunawathi and twenty-five-year-old Niranjala had been admitted to the Padaviya hospital.

The village had come under LTTE mortar attack over the last few weeks.


ICRC refuses LTTE bodies in Batticaloa

The ICRC yesterday refused to accept bodies alleged to be that of the LTTE from the military in Batticaloa. ICRC spokesman David Vignatti said they had refused to take LTTE bodies from Batticaloa as the LTTE is not operating in the area.

The military was to hand over three LTTE bodies to the ICRC yesterday in Batticaloa but the ICRC refused to accept them.

The bodies are now lying at the police morgue.


SCOPP demands removal of SLMM spokesman

Head of the Government’s Peace Secretariat (SCOPP) Professor Rajiva Wijesinha has in a letter to the Norwegian facilitators urged the removal of the current spokesman of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) Thorfinnur Omarsson.

The SCOPP claims that the SLMM spokesman has been consistently involved in misrepresentations of the position of the Sri Lankan government and the SLMM. “I will not dwell upon several incidents regarding two local newspapers, after which at least the Head of Mission ensured corrections,” Prof. Wijesinha said.

The SCOPP chief says he has also written to the SLMM head suggesting that he tell Mr Omarsson, who is now on leave, that he need not return to the Mission instead of formally asking that he be dismissed.

“As you know, disgruntled elements can cause a lot of problems in a situation in which we must proceed with mutual confidence. I believe immediate action by you, as Mr Omarsson’s employer, will prevent the type of situation we experienced with Gen Henricsson. Sadly Gen Henricsson’s habits may be such as Mr Omarsson too has grown accustomed to, since we gathered from Gen Solvberg that he had worked together with Gen Henricsson for a substantial period,” the SCOPP chief said in the letter to the Norwegian special envoy Jon Hansson Bauer.


Army-LTTE clash in Mannar - Heavy toll

The LTTE launched a pre dawn attack on an army detachment in Mannar yesterday resulting in scores of casualties on both sides though the toll could not be independently verified. The military said it had lost four troops in the three hour confrontation while the LTTE said four cadres were killed.

Both sides also claimed to have recovered a haul of weapons and ammunition following the confrontation, the first major attack to take place just a day after celebrations in Colombo to commemorate the liberation of the east.

The Defence Ministry said rebels launched the attack on the Army detachment at Neelachchena, Uyilankulam near the Forward Defence Lines in Mannar using mortars early yesterday . Security forces retaliated the rebel attempt inflicting heavy casualties on the LTTE, the Ministry said.

“It was a small detachment which came under mortar attack. They keep firing mortars. 3 soldiers were killed initially and one died later in hospital. 4 soldiers were also injured. We have cleared the area and recovered several weapons,” Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe told the Daily Mirror.

The Military, while claiming at least 9 rebels were killed and more than 24 injured also said it recovered three T-56 rifles, 13 T-56 Magazines, 355 T-56 Ammunition, three RPG bombs, three hand grenades, a stretcher, a water bottle and rubber slippers.

The injured troopers were admitted to the Anuradhapura hospital of whom two underwent emergency surgery, hospital sources said.

Meanwhile the rebels said a rapid deployment team of the LTTE raided a military minicamp at Neelachchena forcing troops to flee the area. LTTE military wing spokesman Rasiah Illentheriyan claimed ten government troops were killed adding that the rebels returned to bases following the clash.

The LTTE claimed to have recovered a medium machine gun, a light machine gun, a 60mm mortar, four assault rifles, and several rounds of ammunition. The rebels meanwhile also claimed that a eleven month old infant and his mother were injured as a result of retaliatory shelling from a military base in Thalladi, Alankulam in Mannar.

The LTTE also launched an attack on a security post on the Mannar – Vavuniya road on Thursday night injuring four security forces personnel, police said.

Meanwhile Brigadier Samarasinghe said that the bodies of 3 LTTE cadres killed in Narakamulla in the Thopigala confrontation was to be handed over to the ICRC yesterday. He also said that a further 5 were yet to be claimed by the LTTE.

Brigadier Samarasinghe also said that a part of the Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) recovered in Thoppigala earlier this week was also recovered in the same area yesterday.


Eleven killed in fighting across Sri Lanka's embattled regions

Eleven people were killed and three wounded in battles between security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels across Sri Lanka's north and eastern regions, the defence ministry said.

Suspected rebels clashed with police commandos in the eastern town of Ampara Saturday, with troops killing six rebels, the ministry said, adding there were no casualties among security forces.

Two foot patrol soldiers were wounded when rebels set off a Claymore mine in the northern district of Vavuniya on Saturday, the ministry said.

In the same area, an airforce camp came under rebel attack early Saturday, wounding an airman, police said.

The military claimed they also killed five Tamil Tiger rebels, when they clashed in the northern district of Jaffna late on Friday.

There was no immediate comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who have been fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in a bitter ethnic conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972.

The fresh clashes come two days after the government celebrated the capture of the last bastion of the LTTE in the east of the island with a victory parade.


Professionalism beats west in the east

As long as the Rajapaksa regime acts professionally to wipe out terrorism the world community would watch in silence. They would neither encourage nor discourage but would watch in silence. The world community has been advising in unison that Sri Lanka cnnot win the war against terrorists. Even though those very same countries were also involved in such armed struggles they vehemently opposed Sri Lanka militarily crushing the very same type of terror on the Lankan soil. They coined the word “war against terror” but limited it to the family of Uncle Sam. No body wanted to see anti-terror activities in Sri Lanka.

The donor community and the entire international community were up in arms against the government for the then prevalent general lawlessness in the capital. The government was at the receiving end of absolute hell from within and outside. However the ability to stop all abductions, disappearances and evictions in Colombo had helped authorities to regain the reins of authority. With the regaining of such authority the government did the next best thing to regain lost prestige. Hence the liberation of the Eastern Province should stand as a monument to determination and courage of those who planned and led the operation and their ability to put an end to haphazard activities in Colombo.

While the proud nation salutes the heroic military personnel for bravely recapturing the lost territory in the East, the liberation of the East stands as a monument to President Rajapaksa’s ability to transform the culture of lawlessness that prevailed in Colombo to a new chapter of professionalism in the East. The professional manner the East was captured without any excesses would have stunned the world community in disbelief in the background of near anarchy in Colombo a month ago.

The donor community and the entire international community were up in arms against the government for the then prevalent general lawlessness in the capital. The government was at the receiving end of absolute hell from within and outside. However the ability to stop all abductions, disappearances and evictions in Colombo had helped authorities to regain the reins of authority. With the regaining of such authority the government did the next best thing to regain lost prestige. Hence the liberation of the Eastern Province should stand as a monument to determination and courage of those who planned and led the operation and their ability to put an end to haphazard activities in Colombo.

Of course there are arm chair critics who unashamedly belittle the military effort in the East on various silly reasons. Those who put forward such silly arguments should bear in mind that whether there are any strategic interests or not, whether they are jungles or not the entire length and breath of the country should be under the rule of the government whether it is UNP or UPFA.

It is opportune at this stage to analyze briefly where the country stands among the world community and what the country gains in the aftermath of this victory. If the Ceasefire Agreement had nullified the governmental authority in some areas the recapture of the East had made amends to such one sided documents and made the terrorists’ claim of North-East amalgamation a pipe dream and shattered the homeland theory. In addition to that the Eastern province was being ‘nurtured’ to be the terrorists’ main landmass. In the absence of the entire eastern province and the peninsula Jaffna the only area under terrorists’ control is the Wanni (Kilinochchci, Mannar and Mullaitivu districts) These three districts are encircled by the Northern and Eastern provinces and the eastern and western coastlines. Accordingly the Wanni is more or less a trapped area for the Tigers. The only exit points are from the Mullaitivu Sea in the East or Mannar or Wilpattu sanctuary coastline in the West. Under such circumstances the loss incurred by the Tigers in the East might spell doom to them in the years to come if the authorities continue to handle the situation professionally.

In fact the authorities should act responsibly to prevent the type of activities that shook the city of Colombo with uncalled for abductions, evictions and disappearances elsewhere in the country hereafter. Especially the newly regained territory of East should be maintained as an epitome of unity and harmony in a civilized manner. Human rights violations would naturally attract the attention of the entire world community. The tendency for highhandedness by interested parties in the East is very much anticipated. The authorities must bear in mind that there is no war situation in the East now; hence there should not be any extraordinary activities by anybody who is some body in the East. In fact the evictions and abductions were said to be extraordinary activities prompted by extraordinary situations. Since the country has by now learnt a bitter lesson by engaging in such extraordinary acts the East should be showcased as an exemplary province to prove the credibility of the government and to keep the world at bay.

The victory in the East has made even the most vocal international non governmental bodies to hide their vociferous mouthorgan in disbelief. No body here or abroad is capable of criticizing the manner in which the military captured the East. The lawlessness prevalent in Colombo a couple of weeks ago almost converted Sri Lanka to a banana republic. Some would have expected the same in the East as well. In quite contrast the no-nonsense professional manner the military under their leaders captured the East had not provoked, agitated or antagonized any living creature any part of the world. The world would have heaved a sigh of relief when terrorists were defeated in the East but made it a point not to appreciate it. Under such circumstances the two different ways the world community reacted to Sri Lanka’s two different episodes convey an indirect lesson to Sri Lanka. The lesson for Sri Lanka is to act professionally to keep the world community at bay. That is the message and the lesson Sri Lanka has to learn from lawless abductions and lawful recapture of the East. As long as the authorities conduct military activities within the law to wipe out terrorism without any excesses the world community would be compelled to mind their own business. The stoic silence maintained by the world community is a testimony in silence for good conduct maintained in the East.

Yes, as long as the Rajapaksa regime acts professionally to wipe out terrorism the world community would watch in silence. They would neither encourage nor discourage but would watch in silence. The world community has been advising in unison that Sri Lanka cannot win the war against terrorists. Even though those very same countries were also involved in such armed struggles they vehemently opposed Sri Lanka militarily crushing the very same type of terror on the Lankan soil. They coined the word “war against terror” but limited it to the family of Uncle Sam. No body wanted to see anti-terror activities in Sri Lanka. The double standard maintained by those countries remains open for everybody to see. The absolute silence by the world community tells a tale that is understood only by them.

The Rajapaksa regime should rest assured that as long as the battle is conducted in a professional manner without leaving room for interested parties to chip in, even the belt-tightened poor peasants of Sri Lanka would support the regime to wipe out terrorism despite hunger pangs crunch them incessantly. This government, one should not forget came into power on hard line policies. Their oft repeated mantra which they preached during the campaign had martial music in the background.

The real acid test Mahinda faces in the East is the democratization of the East and the rehabilitation and reconstruction. First priority is to completely secure the area for rehabilitation and reconstruction. The East should be the icon of the war ravagd reconstruction process. The road network, schools, hospitals, markets and the other infrastructure facilities have to be developed on priority basis for people in the province to earn a living. The devastated war ravaged people might fall prey to various groups who can promise Sun and the Moon. That is why the government should move in first with projects and plans and quick results. There may be lots of other groups claiming a stake in the province. True, those who live in the province should have a stake but that should be purely on democratic principles but not on any other basis.

The hitherto silent world community will wake up no sooner the authorities take the wrong step. The crucial East would be a testing ground for Rajapaksa administration. The crouching Tigers too would be anxiously waiting to pounce on at the opportune time. Such an attack by the Tigers would nullify all the good work done. So the task ahead is to be carried out with military precision. The military has proved their mettle. It is the civil administration that has to come in to take over at a time the world community is uneasy without having a rhyme or reason to attack Sri Lanka over misdeeds.

The authorities should bear in mind that whether friend or foe what matters most is the rule of law and discipline. No party or group can claim that they have a right to carry arms in the liberated East. Once the East is liberated the law and order would be maintained by the law enforcement officials only. Political authorities naturally tend to bend such cardinal rules to help friends and acquaintances because they believe there is no political world without friends and acquaintances. But in the East if that cardinal rule is breached that would give birth to new breed called War Lords. At a time authorities struggle for almost three decades to control the Sun God of the Wanni better not create War Lords in the East.