Monday, December 10, 2007

Gratitude of the Nation:SLN at 57th

Sri Lanka Navy, which emerged victorious in the last year as never before in the battle against the terrorism, commemorates its 57th anniversary today, heralding its past achievements and progress, giving more weigh up to the religious rituals of all the faiths, in order to invoke blessings to those who made the supreme sacrifice, their limbs and liberty in the battle for the sake of the nation and for the honour of the navy.

The customary naval parades and inspection of the parades by the senior most officers present is of no change this time as well followed by all ranks and rates dinner traditionally known as Barakana.

An all night Pirith Chanting (chanting of sacred cantos of Buddhism for benediction/ blessing) ceremony was held at the naval base SLNS "Gemunu" at Welisara on 30th November 2007 followed by a Dhana Kamma (offering of meals and other necessities to the order of Buddhist monks) to 57 Bikkhus next day. A joint Christian service was held on at the All Saints Church in Borella in Colombo on 03rd December 2007 at 0930 hrs. Hindu religious rituals were held on at the Kovil in Captain’s garden in Maradana by 0930 hrs on 06th December. Muslim religious rituals were conducted at Jumma Mosque in Colombo by 1000hrs on 05th December. Concurrently a blood donation campaign was too held on at the naval hospital, Colombo, on 04th December. The final religious ritual to be held on was offering of "Gilan pasa" (offering of cool or natural drinks to the order of Buddhist monks) in the evening on 08th December followed by Dhana Kamma to 25 Buddhist monks next day morning.

Sri Lanka Navy, originally raised as Royal Ceylon Navy, was sanctioned and formed on 09th December 1950 with the passing of the Navy Act no 34 0f 1950 in the chapter 358 of the legislative enactment with Captain WE Banks, CBE, RN, as the Captain of the navy. Commander GRM De Mel was sent to the United Kingdom for training to steer the navy that was emerging. The officers and sailors of the Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve who were not demobilized were retained to form the nucleus of the upcoming navy.

However, it would have been incomplete, if no references to the incidents that led to the formation of the navy were at least touched upon.

Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, a British colony was assigned the task of safeguarding its own territories due to a decision made in the defence conference held in 1932 that any country whether a colony, a dominion or a protectorate should find its own method of security; and it paved the way for the enactment of the Volunteer Naval Defence Force ordinance no 01 0f 1937. Ceylon Naval Volunteer Naval Force (CNVF) was thereafter raised in 1938 under the commanding officer Captain Beauchamp VRD, CBE. With the outbreak of the world war II CNVF was called out for active service on 31st August 1939 for war duties. Three years later, Royal Navy accepted CNVF to the admiralty and renamed Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (CRNVR) and deployed for duties such as escort, guard, search and rescue operation at sea, patrolling and light house relief duties.

With the victory of the World War II by the Allied forces, CRNVR was again handed over to the Ceylon government though the same name continued. .Lt Rajan kadirgamar, with 17 sailors, went to the United Kingdom to participate in the Victory Parade.

In 1948 February, a new chapter in the history of Sri Lanka unfolded, and it gained dominion status independence, and the Ceylon government had plans to raise three forces of its own. The ship HMS "flying Fish’ was handed over to the government and commissioned as HMCyS ‘Vijaya’.

From 09th December1950 till 08th November 1955, under captain WE Banks, Captain JRS brown, and Commodore PMB Chavasse, navy progressed slowly but steadily. One important feature during this period was that navy was deployed mainly for aid to civil power and for the security of the Colombo port During the period 1950 and 1956 several bases were established and several craft and boats were acquired out of which Lihiniya, Hansaya, Seruwa, Diyakawa, and korawakka stood out.

During the phase of 1956 to 1960 too, it marks some important milestones in the history of the navy as well as in the country as the Trincomalee harbour, Katunayake Airbase and some camps at Diyatalawa were acquired from British administration. The navy, which had been comprised of 48 officers and 510 sailors in 1951 – 1952, grew to 136 officers and 1,650 sailors in 1957 – 1958. In1950, HMCyS Parakrama HMCyS. Mahasena and HMCy.S Gajabahu, strengthening the fleet, were added to the navy. Mahasena & Parakramabahu, proving the blue water capability, were sent to Singapore.

Navy thrived even under limitations in 1965-1970. Enlistment of officers and recruitment of sailors started. Naval and Maritime Academy was established in Trincomalee in 1967. Controlling of nationalized ports, opening of agricultural & livestock project, providing training commenced and training and technical aspects advanced steadily. 1971 April insurgency had a greater impact on the navy. Unprepared, under-manned and under-equipped services took by surprise. Crews on board SLNS Gajabahu too had to be sent for fighting on land. Navy's condition grew better and recruitment drive was faster.

With the dawn of a new era in 1972, the country gaining full independence from dominion status to a Republic and the remnants of imperialist decoys being removed, Ceylon became Sri Lanka and Royal Ceylon Navy became Sri Lanka Navy and Captain of the Navy changed to be the Commander of the Navy. Her Majesty's Ceylon ship turned out to be Sri Lanka Navy ship.

Shanghai River Class Fast Gun Boats (FGBs) SLNS Sooraya and SLNS Weeraya were acquired from china in 1972. Some craft of the same type, Dakshaya, Ranakamee, and Balawatha were purchased from China in 1975. In 1980 Samudra Devi was donated by the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republic of Russia (USSR) to SLN. Offshore patrol craft Jayasagara & Sagarawardana built in Colombo dockyard LTD too were taken over. New roles and duties assigned and new bases were established. Coordinating officers from navy were appointed to Polonnaruwa, Ampara and Rathnapura. SLNS Vijaya in Kalpitiya was established in 1973. Navy basically focused on anti-smuggling and anti-immigration (e.g. Task Force Anti Illicit Immigration- Tafaii)
The 08th decade of the 20th century changed whole scenario of the country as the vicious tentacles of the terrorism was growing and budding with robberies of state banks, looting of public property and sporadic attacks on police constables on duty .

A sea patrol from SLNS Elara ‘Karainagar’ detected a suspicious boat and when it landed ashore; navy apprehended an occupant who was trying to shoot himself. Later he was handed over to police. It was Kuttimani, the then de facto leader of terror outfit. Jegan, another terrorist leader, also was apprehended by the Navy.

1983-1987 period marks the escalation and burgeoning of separatist terrorism even with purported clandestine support from some interested sections of India .with terrorists being trained and military hardware being supplied. Killings and Robberies were rampant. The Forces too were small in sizes thereby making the way for them to expand considerably including the Navy. Operation liberation (Vadamarachchi Operation) was launched. Navy engaged in transportation of troops and logistics, support and relief activities in the operational area.

The Indo Lanka Peace Accord was signed in July in 1987

SL Army was confined to barracks. But SL Navy carried out naval patrols and continued with Indian Navy. SL Navy apprehended two LTTE leaders, Kumarappa and Pulendran, two deadliest terrorists responsible for massacring some innocent civilians too along with many other terror acts, when they were transporting a large consignment of arms and ammunitions and later it ensued in plunging the whole affairs into havoc as pulendran and Kumarappa swallowed cyanide. Operation ‘Pawan’ was launched by the Indian Peace Keeping Force.

IPKF was finally withdrawn in 1990.

Peace talk between GOSL and LTTE un-ceremonially collapsed, LTTE keeping some police stations in the east and north under siege and taking captives and killing many of them, in 1991. SLA bases were too under siege .However, security forces fought back confining the terrorists into their own dens in the operations Thrivida Balaya, Balavegaya in which Navy actively participated in holding the ground, transportation of troops and logistics.

The unforgettable incident of killing the most senior officer to die in the terrorists’ attack by a suicide bomber, the Commander of the Navy, Admiral W.W.E.C Fernando took place in 1992. Peace talks began in 1994 which too ended up being violated by LTTE again.

However, capture of whole Jaffna Peninsula in 1995 by the security forces in the Operation Riviresa marked the superiority of the government forces. Naval involvement in holding the ground, transportation and sea operations were remarkable in this endeavour.

There was a dramatic change of the scenario after 2005. There were innumerous violations of CFA by LTTE, though security forces kept mum and silent adhering to the Ceasefire agreement. The building up of new bunkers and camps were visible. In spite of the Geneva Peace talks Ceasefire Violations were continuing. Child conscription was alarmingly higher.

LTTE cadres made attempts to hit naval craft, bases and men from Sampur where they built and fortified during the ceasefire agreement. Illegal transportation by sea was continuing and some LTTE craft blew themselves when the navy approached to investigate.

During the period, 2006 and 2007 the Sri Lanka Navy has been able to achieve remarkable victories unequalled and unparalleled ever before, over the enemy. It has been able to destroy eight arms ships and eleven trawlers belonging to the LTTE and inflict heavy losses to the enemy at sea and in ground confrontations.

For over one and half years, Sri Lanka Navy has been aware of the modus operandi of the LTTE tigers after having scrupulously analyzed the intelligence gathered on the LTTE's clandestine activities across international waters violating the international maritime laws. LTTE had 08 rogue merchant vessels in their possession which were between 45 to 75 meters in length and had the capability of carrying 1000 to 1500 tons of cargo on board. The vessels were deployed on clandestine arms smuggling missions across international waters. Due to the successes of the naval operations conducted to date, Sri Lanka Navy has been able to destroy all 08 LTTE arms smuggling ships, thus drastically reducing the LTTE’s arms smuggling capabilities. The Navy took the battle into sea tiger territory and effectively denied the freedom of operation to the LTTE sea tiger fleet, on several occasions even at distances exceeding a thousand kilometres away from Sri Lanka. Thus, the Navy was able to surface itself victorious in many sea confrontations and inflict heavy losses to the enemy.

The LTTE ship which was destroyed off Kalmunai on 17th September 2006 was on its way to deliver the artillery shells and ammunitions to the sea tiger bases located along the eastern coastal belt. It was destroyed by the Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) and FAST (FGBs) in a major sea confrontation which erupted 195 nautical miles off Kalmunai resulting in heavy losses to the enemy. LTTE lost 14 of their cadres in this battle.

The LTTE ship, "Kyoi", which was destroyed 185 nautical miles south of Dondra on 28th February 2007, was carrying 152 mm, 130 mm and 122 mm artillery shells and 120 mm mortars to the LTTE. LTTE accepted the loss of 13 of their cadres recently when this ship was destroyed. However, intelligence sources confirmed that the LTTE had 18 cadres on board the ship.

The Navy destroyed two LTTE ships 195 nautical miles south east of Arugambay on the 18th March 2007. One LTTE ship was named "Seiyoo" while the other ship did not carry a name with her. Both were transporting arms and ammunitions to the LTTE. LTTE lost approximately 24 to 28 cadres in this battle.

On the 10th and 11th September 2007, the Navy was able to destroy three large LTTE ships which were carrying arms and ammunitions to the LTTE in the high seas; about 1200 kilometers (600 nautical miles) south east off Sri Lanka's southern most tip, Dondra, foiling their attempt in smuggling lethal weapons in to un-cleared areas. The naval task force formed of four SLN ships, namely SLNS Sayura, SLNS Suranimala, SLNS Samudura and SLNS Shakthi supported by two logistics vessels, A 520 and A 521 destroyed the enemy vessels, depriving the LTTE three of their remaining four merchant vessels. The destruction dealt a severe blow to the LTTE’s international arms shipments network and drastically reduced its fire power.
SLNS vessels had initially detected two ships on the10th 0f September. The LTTE ship, "Manyoshi" was the first ship to be destroyed. It was sunk on the 10th around 7.00 a.m. The second LTTE ship to be destroyed was "Seishin". It was sunk on the same day around 5.00 p.m. Seventy-two explosions had been observed on board "Seishin" alone, before it finally went down. The last LTTE ship, "Koshia", was destroyed after a hot pursuit, which lasted well over four hours, on the 11th around 3.30 a.m. The destroyed LTTE ships were sailing towards the seas south-west of Sri Lanka with the intention of making a mid sea trans-shipments of their priced cargo in to smaller vessels that were awaiting their arrival. ‘Sri Krishna’, one such small vessel, hijacked by the LTTE from Indian fishermen, was used in carrying out similar transactions in mid-sea, when it was tracked down and destroyed last May at the same location by the Maldivian defense forces. The ill-fated LTTE ships were "floating arms warehouses" that were loaded with approximately 4000 tonnes of military cargo. They consisted of three light aircraft in knock-down condition, speed boats, a bullet proof vehicle for the LTTE tiger supremo, Vellupillai Prabakaran and a large quantity of 152 mm,130 mm and 122 mm artillery shells and 120 mm mortar rounds in addition to other arms and ammunitions on board. The 10th LTTE ship, which was the largest ever arms smuggling vessel that belonged to the LTTE, was sunk by the Navy about 1700 km south of Dondra point, the southern tip of Sri Lanka, on the 07th October 2007, around 0930 hrs. Initially, the Navy had received credible information about the LTTE arms shipment bound towards Sri Lanka consisting military hardware which included Electronic Warfare (EW) Equipment, communication equipment, high-powered Outboard Motors (OBMs), water scooters, jet skies, swimmer delivery vehicles, radars, Geographical Positioning Systems (GPSs) and other war-like materials. The interception and destruction of the enemy craft was carried out by the naval task force which consisted of two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV's), SLNS Sayura and SLNS Sagara, one Fast Missile Vessel (FMV), SLNS Suranimala and two logistics vessels A 520 and A 521.

The loss of the ships is expected to be a major blow to the LTTE which is facing a severe shortage of arms and ammunitions at present as a result of their international arms procurement and smuggling activities are being systematically destroyed by the Sri Lanka Navy in their successful naval operations against the terror outfit. It would, in the long run, completely cripple the LTTE's supply of illegally smuggled weaponry and explosives along international waters. The meticulous coordination maintained by the Navy High Command, the team effort displayed by the naval personnel on the naval task forces and the expertise of its improved naval intelligence network have enabled the Sri Lanka Navy to achieve this victory over the enemy. His Excellency the President commended the naval task forces involved in the naval operations to destroy the last four LTTE arms ships and awarded a ceremonial welcome upon their return after accomplishments of their tasks.

Apart from the destruction of those floating arsenals engaged in gun running and transportation military hardware, navy destroyed some trawlers engaged clandestine movement in the same manner out of which followings stand out.

The Navy’s P 497 detected and subsequently destroyed the LTTE Multi-Day Trawler, "Kusum" north east of Mannar on the 11th February 2006.

The LTTE trawler, "Biyanka Duwa" was apprehended by the Navy off PPD on the 21st March 2006.

On the 25th March 2006, an LTTE trawler blasted itself off Baththalangunduwa.

On the 15th October 2006, an LTTE trawler was destroyed off Arippu.

An LTTE logistics boat was destroyed at 5th Sand Bank on the 31st October 2006.On the 14th November 2006, an LTTE trawler was destroyed off 40 nautical miles west of K point.

On the 27th November 2006, an LTTE trawler was destroyed 50 nautical miles west of Udappuwa.

Without being complacent and contended with those of stopping LTTE’s movement, the navy launched many offensive operations to cripple its sea movement capability which were hilariously successful.

On the 06th October 2006, an LTTE craft was destroyed off Vakarai.

On the 18th October 2006, five LTTE suicide boats were destroyed while attempting to enter the Galle Harbour.

On the 19th October 2006, an LTTE suicide craft was destroyed

On the 20th October 2006, seven LTTE boats were destroyed and four of their boats damaged off PPD.

On the 10th November 2006, an LTTE suicide boat was destroyed and the dead body of the Trincomalee Deputy LTTE Leader and a suicide boat were recovered.

An LTTE attack on the naval base was repulsed and an attack on the LTTE crafty was launched north of Thalaimannar on the 14th November 2006.

An abortive LTTE attempt on the Colombo Harbour was repulsed on the 27th January 2007.

On the 12th February 2007, two LTTE boats were destroyed off Kallarawa and two LTTE bodies were recovered.

On the 16th February 2007, two LTTE craft carrying war like material was destroyed off Kalpitiya.

On the 22nd February 2007, an LTTE craft was recovered with 14.5 mm weapon off Baththalangunduwa.

On the 28th March 2007, three LTTE boats were destroyed off Alampil.

On the 19th June 2006, the largest LTTE craft ever to be captured was apprehended by the Navy off Point Pedro.

On the 22nd June 2007, an LTTE suicide boat was destroyed off Nilaweli.

Sri Lanka Navy dared to take the LTTE terrorists on the land as well in which the terrorists lost approximately 850 cadres. Nearly 40 senior LTTE cadres above the self-styled rank of lieutenant colonel are believed to be among those killed during the ground confrontations with the navy. It is said that this to be a major blow since most of their well-trained cadres were killed by the Navy in theses battles. To name a few followings can be cited.

The Navy foiled the LTTE attempt to trap troops from the 2nd to the 5th August 2006 in Muttur and repulsed their attack on the naval deployment inflicting heavy damages to the LTTE.

The LTTE attack on the naval deployment at the Thalaimannar Pier was successfully repulsed by the naval troops on 18th and 03 LTTE boats were destroyed during the confrontation. November 2006.

The LTTE attack on the SBS personnel attached to the SLNS Walagamba was repulsed at Kaddukulum Paththu on the 28th November 2006. Three LTTE bodies were later recovered.

The navy repulsed the LTTE attack on the naval deployment in Delft on the 25th May 2007 and killed 07 LTTE cadres.

Other than fighting the most ruthless terror organization in the world, the navy is burdened with the heavy responsibility of transporting of civilain passengers, consumer products and other items to the north by sea as the land route has been closed and blocked by the LTTE. The civilians are being relieved of the heavy taxes imposed by LTTE due to this sea transportation.
The Navy transports service personnel of other sister forces and police and logistics to the north as well.

All the harbours and ports of the country are being protected by the navy and the terrorists had been unable to cause any damage to any port of the country.

Sri Lanka navy has established a unit for research and development which carries out research and development to improve the efficiency and capabilities of the navy.

Seva Vanitha Unit of the Navy comprises of the ladies of the officers and sailors of the navy. They implement many welfare projects such as building houses to the families of the personnel those killed and wounded in action. They have launched a law interest/ interest free loan schemes to such personnel who are in need.

The civilians serving and served in the Sri Lanka navy, in many naval establishments, deserve ‘a big thank you’ in this moment of commemorating the 57th Anniversary.

However, finally Sri Lanka Navy thriving with meagre available resources and hardships, which continues to safeguard the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the motherland working laboriously and shedding blood and sweat, deserves the gratitude of the nation.

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