Sunday, June 17, 2007

Colombo’s beaches may be further from the fighting, but anxiety remains

Colombo’s beaches may be further from the fighting, but anxiety remains. There are fewer tourists, military checkpoints are pervasive and many public buildings are off limits to camera-carrying visitors, for fear that they may be Tamil spies

Women cooked outside the camp

Women cooked outside the camp. Some families have fled their homes as many as four times since the war began.

Inside an internally displaced persons camp

Asirvatham Fernando at his home inside an internally displaced persons camp on the grounds of a Catholic church in Jaffna. The United Nations estimates that there are roughly 300,000 people displaced across Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Army conducts mine clearance operations in Vakarai

After pushing Tamil rebels out of the Vakarai region in January, the Sri Lankan Army conducted mine clearance operations in the area. The rebels had controlled the region for 12 years.

Tamil Tiger rifles recovered from the Jaffna Peninsula by Sri Lankan Army forces

Tamil Tiger rifles recovered from the Jaffna Peninsula by Sri Lankan Army forces. A 2002 cease-fire has collapsed after staunching the violence for a time.

A girl with the photo of her sister

A girl with the photo of her sister, slain in an August 2006 attack on the French aid organization Action Contre Faim in Mutur. Seventeen mostly ethnic Tamil employees were forced to lie face down on the ground and were shot dead.

Laborers repaired a wall damaged when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle exploded in downtown Colombo

Laborers repaired a wall damaged when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle exploded in downtown Colombo. The defense ministry says more than 4,800 people have been killed in the past 18 months.

A government soldier patrolled the streets of Jaffna

A government soldier patrolled the streets of Jaffna the morning after Tamil boats attacked government forces on a nearby island. Army commanders expect a major battle for Jaffna before the August monsoon.

By 6 p.m., Jaffna's bustling day market resembles a ghost town

By 6 p.m., Jaffna's bustling day market resembles a ghost town due to a curfew imposed on the city. The curfew has brought with it a series of mysterious abductions.

A Sri Lankan Army soldier blocked civilian traffic to clear a road for troop movement

A Sri Lankan Army soldier blocked civilian traffic to clear a road for troop movements past the Nachchi Amman Temple in Jaffna, a key flashpoint in the recently-escalating conflict between the government and Tamil rebels.

he historic Pettah Market in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo

The historic Pettah Market in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. There is growing anxiety associated with the conflict taking place on the opposite side of the island between the Sinhalese-dominated government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

A Sri Lankan solider blocked traffic to allow a military convoy to pass in Jaffna

A Sri Lankan solider blocked traffic last month on the main road in Jaffna to allow a military convoy to pass through the city at high speed.

Sri Lanka’s Scars Trace Lines of War Without End

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka — The nights here are once again broken by artillery fire across the black lagoon. The road out of this peninsula has been closed since last August, making the area nearly inaccessible. Though food and fuel manage to arrive, shopkeepers are reluctant to keep stocks, not knowing when they may have to close up and run.

By 7 p.m., barely sundown, stray dogs have the run of Jaffna’s streets. The city’s people are indoors well before an 8 o’clock curfew. Soldiers linger at the edges of the alleys.

“Anytime, anything can happen,” said Ravindran Ramanathan, a tailor. “People are afraid of everything.” At least 15,000 are waiting to get on government ships to the relative safety of Colombo, the capital.

This is Jaffna, the picturesque prize of Sri Lanka’s ethnic civil war, girding for a new storm. The army commander for the area, Maj. Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri, said he expected a major battle for Jaffna before the August monsoon.

No other place in Sri Lanka is so scarred because no place carries Jaffna’s special curse: it is the heart of the homeland that the Tamil Tigers have fought to carve out, and the trophy that soldiers and rebels have fought over for nearly 25 years.

A 2002 cease-fire, which had stanched the bloodshed for a time, has collapsed. For a year, fighting has spread across the island between the Sri Lankan military, dominated by the ethnic Sinhalese majority, and the separatist force called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

According to the Defense Ministry, more than 4,800 people, civilians and fighters, have been killed since December 2005. Though the number is not entirely reliable, it points to a significantly lethal period even by the standards of this long, ugly war.

It is likely to continue. Peace talks are nowhere on the horizon. Gotabhaya Rajapakse, Sri Lanka’s influential defense secretary, says the military is under instructions to eliminate the rebel leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and eradicate his organization once and for all.

“That’s our main aim, to destroy the leadership,” Mr. Rajapakse said in an interview in May. The job, he said, would take two to three years.

Pressure from abroad has done little to temper either side’s ambitions. The Tamil Tigers, banned in many countries, including the United States, upped the ante this spring by carrying out air raids with modified two-seater propeller planes. Britain and the United States, which extended a hand after the devastating tsunami of December 2004, have suspended aid.

Jaffna is no stranger to war. Its temples and churches bear the pockmarks of battles past. Its people are familiar with running and dying.

But today the weapons of war are dirtier than ever. Targeted killings and land-mine attacks in crowded civilian areas are common. The Tamil Tigers regularly deploy suicide bombers. Journalists, diplomats and aid workers face hostile scrutiny for any criticism of the security forces. On a Sunday morning in April, a young reporter for a Tamil-language newspaper in Jaffna was shot and killed as he rode his bicycle to work. In May, fliers appeared at Jaffna University, containing a hit list of people accused of being rebel sympathizers.

That is not all. A new fear also stalks Jaffna, more ominous than any its people recall from the past: mysterious abductions usually carried out during the curfew hours. No one is quite sure who is being taken, for what reason, by whom. Sometimes, bodies turn up on the street. More often, they do not turn up at all.

One night in early May, well into the curfew, C. Kuharajan’s son, Kanan, 18, was watching television on the floor of his parents’ bedroom, when four armed men pushed open the front door of their house and demanded that Kanan come with them for questioning.

His captors refused to identify themselves — “ ‘None of your business,’ ” Kanan’s father recalled them saying. Nor would they explain where they were taking his son or why. The gunmen, all in civilian clothes and with pistols, promised to return him soon.

That was on May 4. Kanan, a high school senior, has not been heard from since.

According to his family, Kanan had been active in a high school group affiliated with the student union at Jaffna University, which security forces describe as a den of antigovernment activity. But Mr. Kuharajan said his son was under strict instructions to avoid anything political. He said he planned to send Kanan abroad to study next fall.

After a month of waiting and searching, Mr. Kuharajan wondered why those who abducted his son did not question him at the house, or at least arrest him and take him to jail. “That’s the terrible thing,” he said, “snatching children from parents’ hands.”

The Human Rights Commission, a government agency, said it received 805 complaints of abductions in Jaffna from December 2005 to April 2007; the army says it is aware of 230 abductions.

Occasionally, someone survives to tell of the horror. In January, a university student named Arunagirinathan Niruparaj was plucked from his village, taken to what he later identified as a series of military camps and interrogated about links to the rebels.

He said his captors hung him upside down from the ceiling and beat his feet. They covered his head with a plastic bag soaked in gasoline. They rammed a stick into his anus.

After seven days, they left him on the side of a railway track. By then, he was experiencing kidney failure, one of his ears was damaged and he could not keep down any food. In April, Mr. Niruparaj, 26, fled to Chennai, in southern India. He maintains that he has no links to the rebels. No one has been arrested for his kidnapping.

The reports of abductions have prompted sharp criticism even from Sri Lanka’s allies, including Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, who met with General Chandrasiri during a visit here in May. In the weeks after Mr. Boucher’s visit, reports of abductions plummeted.

General Chandrasiri, in an interview, first said the abductions were the work of pro-government Tamil paramilitary groups who, as he put it, try to “eliminate” Tamil Tiger operatives. He later acknowledged that some people in the security forces could also be involved. “I’m not saying all our people are clean,” he said. “Our duty is to catch them and punish them.”

Most of those abducted, he added, are not innocent civilians, but known Tamil Tiger operatives. As for Mr. Kuharajan’s son, the general said he had personally resolved to find him. “I don’t want, internationally, anybody to think every day we are killing people,” he said.

Not far from the general’s office, another kind of uncertainty hovers over a Roman Catholic church, now home to a small number of the roughly 300,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict.

At this church, some families have fled their homes as many as four times since the war began. The last time was in August, after rebels and soldiers clashed in their village, Allaipiddy, driving its residents into a local church. When it, too, was shelled, a priest, the Rev. Thiruchchelvan Nihal Jim Brown, knelt before the troops and then, waving a white flag, led the villagers here.

Days later, Father Brown, who had rebuked the Sri Lankan Navy for attacking the village, disappeared. He has not been heard from since.

The families here somehow carry on. The men cannot fish anymore because the coast is occupied by soldiers. Food aid has not come for weeks. Women have sold their gold bangles for rice. Or they have gone without eating, saving what little there is for their children.

One mother, Sathyaseelan Thilaka, had been eating so little that she could no longer produce enough breast milk for her youngest child, a 4-month-old boy born in the camp for displaced persons at the church.

Mrs. Sathyaseelan, 39, said she had reared four children through this war. Never before had she been without milk. This morning, she sent the older children to school without breakfast. She had eaten nothing herself, and it was almost sundown.

An emergency assessment by the United Nations found signs of an increase in child malnutrition in Jaffna. The government has blocked the study’s release.


a soldier blocking civilian traffic to clear a road for troop movements past the Nachchi Amman Temple in Jaffna,

With the war intensifying and alleged human rights abuses drawing international condemnation, the crisis in Sri Lanka is being gradually internationalized. The New York Times on Thursday carried an extensive feature by Indian journalist Somini Sengupta who gave a bleak picture of Sri Lanka. This picture of a soldier blocking civilian traffic to clear a road for troop movements past the Nachchi Amman Temple in Jaffna, was part of the bleak picture.

Ten commandments to restore peace in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon till 1972) has a long and rich history. The island of three main communities – Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim – however, has attracted global attention in recent years, particularly for its deadly ethnic civil war. Sri Lanka, once hoped by the West as a model of democracy, requires political solutions to ease ethnic tensions and to restore the trust of the marginalised minorities. Hence, I suggest the following – what I call “The Ten Commandments to Restore Peace” – to build the trust both of the minorities and of the system.

Political elites and politicians shall seek a non-ethnic platform to win and hold power. In other words, Sri Lanka cannot afford any longer to have politicians who still strive for emotional symbolic policies that have power to trigger war rather than peace. Civil society institutions and intellectuals shall jointly work among the masses to promote non-racist politicians and leaders who have the ability and willingness to think beyond ethnic and religious lines.

There shall be tangible efforts by the global community to push the conflicting parties towards attending and address the issues concerning human right violations and abuses. The modern state of affairs requires respect for human values and freedom. The ethnic crisis in the island of Sri Lanka is unlikely to win peace as long as parties to the conflict disrespect the rights of the common man and take inhuman measures such as the forceful ethnic expulsions that occurred on June 7, in an effort to weed out what Colombo calls Tamil terrorists.

There shall be pressure to halt the current war against the Tamils of the North and East and to seek a meaningful political solution. War is only capable of stimulating hatred and engendering destruction. Sri Lanka has already shed enough blood; hence it urgently deserves peace.

Global forces, particularly India, the US and Norway shall call for peace talks in non-Sri Lanka territory, preferably in Scandinavian territory. Both global and local institutions shall exert pressure on the ruling political elites to reform the state structure and its institutions to allow all communities to make economic progress in a peaceful environment without the ravages of war, and to meet the aspirations of the minorities and to manage the challenges posed by modernization. Such reforms shall strongly encourage adoption of, in tactical political science language, a power-sharing formula both at central and regional levels (i.e., ethnic autonomy).

If the state and politicians in Colombo seriously agree to seek a political solution, there shall be concrete measures by the global forces on the Tamil Tigers to ease its deadly ethnic resistance. Tamil nationalists shall recognise the right to self-determination of the Muslims of the North and East and their desire to be identified as a separate if not distinct group.

The Muslim political establishment shall freeze its anti-Tamil nationalist approaches. Nothing herein shall preclude their continued cooperation with or giving critical support to the Sinhalese ruling class in Colombo, as they have been successfully doing since independence in the name of the Muslim masses.

Politicians and leaders shall sincerely understand the need for harmony among the different ethnic groups and peace in Sri Lanka. The earlier they understand the better for Sri Lanka’s future. Sri Lanka desperately needs peace. Peace would strengthen embattled democracy in Sri Lanka. War only fortifies ethnic identity and sooner or later creates space for genocide and ethnic cleansing. Then again, resistance to peace can create more ethnic warriors. In brief, failures to engage peace eventually could lead a society into a state of affairs where people of Sri Lanka find nothing but ethnic hatred, bodies, and suicide bombers. In other words, peace would aid Sri Lanka in realising its dream to become the Singapore of South Asia.

– The writer is a visiting scholar at Department of Political Science, Temple University, USA. His primary research interest is in the study of ethno-political conflict, both in Sri Lanka and in other countries.


Prabha junior not in Wanni - Karuna

Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TVMP) leader Karuna Amman refuted media reports that the LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran’s son had masterminded the aerial bombing in Colombo.
“He had no hand in such an operation and it is wrong to say that he is in Sri Lanka. According to the information I received he is very much abroad”, Amman told the LAKBIMAnEWS. He said that Prabhakaran’s son is studying abroad and is enjoying a luxurious life.
“The real truth is that Prabhakaran does not want his children to be involved in the war but want them to pursue higher studies. But Prabhakaran has deprived the education for thousands of children in Sri Lanka,” he said.



The Criminal Investigation Department toge-ther with top level government officials invented the story of a Tiger plot to attack the Colombo port and skillfully planted it in the media to justify the eviction of Tamil lodgers from Colombo, LAKBIMAnEWS learnt. They had passed the fabricated information to a private television channel generally considered anti-government. This TV station carried the story in its prime time news bulletin.

None of the top brass of the intelligence arms of the Army, Navy and Air Force were aware of an alleged guerrilla plot.
Senior army and naval officials who were privy to sensitive security information ruled out the CID story that the guerrillas were planning a massive attack on the Colombo port using LTTE sleepers who have infiltrated Colombo. “This is a cleverly executed psychological operation,” said a senior Naval official. “It is anybody’s guess what their objective is. But the common contention is they simply want to justify the evictions.”
Some others who were entrusted with the security arrangements for the city were clearly embarrassed by the planted information which they felt had let them down.
The CID confidently asserted that the guerrillas are planning a major attack on the Colombo Port in the middle of this year. The CID claim further went to state Sea Tiger boats will be launched from Wellawatta, Mount Lavinia and Dehiwala to confront two Dovra fast attack boats (FACs) providing security to the port, thus enabling two Tiger divers to execute an underwater attack on the boats. While the sea borne attack is in progress, guerrilla sleepers in the city would conduct raids on the security forces positioned in the port, it was said.
The CID also claimed guerilla aircraft would bomb the port. They went on to report that the Tiger plan was to ram a port entrance with a truck laden with explosives. It was claimed the C.I.D. had extracted this information from a Tiger guerrilla who claimed he attended a rehearsal of the attack.
The Defence Secretary confirmed the story that guerrillas had infiltrated the city. He also said last week: “We can’t arrest 300 people and detain them....So you can tell them, if you don’t have any legal business in Colombo, we don’t want to detain you. You go back to your homes.”


Problems far outweigh advantages in Karuna Alliance - Jayantha Dhanapala

The problems caused to the government by Karuna far outweigh the advantages of an alliance with a terrorist, a former head of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process said last week.
Jayantha Dhanapala also stressed that the government should be clear in its stand on human rights issues such as child recruitment, a practice for which Karuna has strongly been condemned by the United Nations. Calling on Sri Lankans to shed their “frog in the well” mentality, he urged for a realisation that the country’s problems have been caused more by faulty governance than by international meddling.
“It is a moot point as to whether my enemy’s enemy is, in fact, my friend,” Dhanapala said, speaking at the launch of the book Negotiating with the LTTE: A View from the Second Row by John Gooneratne. “I think the problems caused by the Karuna factor far outweigh the advantages of having yet another terrorist as an ally.”
Dhanapala also recalled that President Chandrika Kumar- atunga was once asked by journalists whether she would have Karuna as an ally. “She described Karuna as a terrorist at that time,” he said. “We know that the UN today regards child recruitment by the Karuna group with equal condemnation as they regard child recruitment by the LTTE. “We as a government of a democracy should have no doubt about the value judgements we make with regard to these issues of human rights.”
A former Deputy Secretary General and Secretary General of SCOPP, Gooneratne’s book has been described as the first authentic, undiluted account of negotiations between the government and the LTTE. He participated in all rounds of peace talks and was closely involved in the drafting of the Ceasefire Agreement.

Conflict continues

Participating as chief guest, Dhanapala observed that the longer a conflict continues, the more complex and difficult to solve it becomes. “This we know is something very much true of our own situation,” he pointed out. “I have the impression that we are today in a deep well and I hear a lot of croaking of frogs.... As you know, the frog in the well mentality is not a very healthy mentality to have.”
“There is a certain amount of anti-foreigner feeling,” he elaborated. “You have only to read the newspapers today to see how not one country is being spared for meddling in Sri Lanka’s affairs with very little realisation that the problems have been caused by ourselves, by our faulty governance of our country since independence, and that the solution lies in our own hands.”

Rising xenophobia

Guest speaker H. M. G. S. Palihakkara, who recently retired as foreign secretary, also commented on the rising “xenophobia” in the country. Noting that it was the first time since his retirement that he was speaking publicly - as an “unshackled citizen” - he said it was a “particularly hot political summer for us in Sri Lanka”.
“It’s marked by political turbulence, flaring fires of terrorism and counter-measures, some governance malfunctions, some human rights and humanitarian problems as well as, to be very frank, a kind of xenophobic humidity quite unfamiliar to Sri Lanka slowly enveloping us and making us quite uncomfortable,” he said.
Palihakkara opined that the country had a highly externalised peace process and third party involvement simply because Sri Lankans had failed to agree among themselves on an appropriate governance system. But, he added: “We cannot ask foreigners to make peace for us. We have to learn to be at peace with each other and we have to do it ourselves. I have not seen any negotiating process that has been publicised so much and commented upon as much as that of Sri Lanka.”
Palihakkara emphasised that the brave foot soldiers engaged in the battlefield must be supported by a solid bipartisan political platform constructed in the form of an equitable governance structure.
“The LTTE’s separatist agenda can only be dislodged through a genuine devolution agenda offered to all our people, especially to minorities,” he asserted.
“All over the world, diehard separatists fear devolution more than the armies of a unitary state. Sri Lankan separatists are no different. That is why they eliminated distinguished devolutionists like Tiruchelvam, Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran and Kadirgamar.”
“It is a monumental failure on the part of our political leadership from all parties... and successive governments, that they were either unable or unwilling to do this obvious thing of which they were perfectly aware.”


Flying Paper Tigers

Low ‘n’ slow prop planes can be more effective ground attack weapons
A bit of gallows humour about the fighting in Sri Lanka: As seen by an American War Nerd

Some un-peace-loving people of Sri Lanka have shown the world what you can do with a bit of imagination, a couple of old airplanes and rusty fishing boats, and plenty of that ol’ can-do, will-kill spirit.
The main Tamil insurgent group has been there In my first column I called the LTTE “Terrorists with an Air Force,” and this April the LTTE finally committed its entire AF to the attack! Yes, the skies over the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, darkened as swarms of rebel aircraft swooped in for the kill, hitting the city three times in a row. I love the comment made by one retired Sri Lankan general after the third attack: “One attack is understandable, but there is something wrong when the Air Force is not able to take them out after three attacks!”

Flying relics

What really irked the Sri Lankan armed forces was that the LTTE carried out these attacks using converted Czech prop planes, East Bloc Cessna-type subcompacts called the Zlin Z-143. Here’s something wired: Zlin’s advertising slogan for the Z-143 is that it’s the plane “...for pilots who want more than flying from Point A to Point B.” Such as, I guess, “dropping an incendiary bomb on Point C,” with Point C standing for “Colombo.”
The effectiveness of these cropduster CAS craft is one more nail in the coffin of pure-hardware/hi-tech war diehards. Over and over we keep seeing that these low ‘n’ slow prop planes can be more effective ground attack weapons than the shiny flying dragsters that Top Gun types like to fly.
Take America’s own A-10 Warthog. I remember back when it was in the procurement cycle, the USAF hated the A-10, bad-mouthed it at every chance they got. One fighter jock said, “it’s built to take a lot of hits and boy, is it going to take a lot of hits.” A lot of other pilots just said out loud, “It’s ugly.” The AF wanted to invest in another generation of flying Porsches, and the Army, naturally, tried to drag the money into up-armored choppers, resulting in the AH-64, the Y2K of attack aircraft - all hype, no kills. Little Orphan A-10, the Warthog nobody loved, ended up saving Christmas for everybody, becoming the best CAS aircraft in the world. And I really love the Sri Lankan AF’s explanation for not being able to knock down the rebel planes: They were “too slow” to be intercepted by the AF’s fast, expensive foreign-built fighters. Lord, I knew pilots were snobs, but that’s going a little far even for a fighter jock: “Nope! Those enemy planes are too slow! Not in my contract! And remember, no more brown M&Ms in the officers’ lounge!”

The General’s reaction

Well, you might say, what about all the heavily armed helicopters in the Sri Lankan inventory? They’re slow enough to take on the rebels’ sneaky slow pitch attackers, right? Wrong. The one time the Army scrambled an Mi-24 to intercept incoming LTTE planes, the chopper had to crash-land “due to mechanical failure.”
Are the Sri Lankan officers all Brit-trained, moustached, paunchy dudes who talk like snooty, hungover Monty Python characters? Maybe not? Just take the reaction of Gen. Fonseka, Sri Lankan Army Chief of Staff after an LTTE air strike: “It is a joke! You can drop a bomb from any flying thing! Even tossing a grenade while riding a swing is an ‘air attack’!”
Ah, that’s wonderful. You hear how angry Gen. Fonseka is at these upstarts daring to imitate the big-budget players by claiming an “air attack”? Back in Victorian times, having a Navy made you a ‘playa.’ Now, it’s having an Air Force. That’s what makes the General so mad. It just ain’t fair!
As for his grenade-on-a-swing idea, I wish he’d come up with that back when I was in third grade. That idea would’ve made me drool with joy - drool more than I already was drooling, that is. If only I’d known a swing was an air force! I’d have had my dirtclod cluster munitions sending death from above on the popular kids before homeroom! In a tech sense, he’s right. The LTTE air attacks didn’t do much direct damage. But if there’s one thing I keep trying to teach you metal-head hardware freaks, it’s that the tech sense is the least important aspect of war these days. Look at the bigger picture and you can see that these “militarily insignificant” rebel raids had a huge effect.
Even in terms of damage, the raids were true “force multipliers,” because they got the enemy - the Sri Lankan military - to magnify the damage. Take the third LTTE air attack on April 28, which set fire to an oil storage tank farm in the outskirts of Colombo. Consider the radiating waves of damage the raid caused.

Wasted cooking oil

Direct damage was very minor - a few hundred gallons of oil burned. But the island’s oil suppliers panicked, and as a result supplies of cooking oil stopped for hundreds of thousands of locals.
But the real thing about a wildcat air strike like this is that it sets off all the anti-aircraft batteries surrounding the capital, and THEY do the real damage. You see, unguided AA artillery is one of the worst weapons in the inventory. It dates back to pre-radar days, and it’s really just light art’y firing altitude-fused shells. Somebody hears enemy engines overhead and your battery gets a call to start throwing up flak - throwing it blind, because I’ll guarantee that the average Sri Lankan AA unit does NOT have a radar system capable of finding a low, slow-flying enemy aircraft.
Now, ever wonder what happens to all those thousands of shells the AA is sending up? If you’re lucky, they explode at the set altitude (which is probably thousands of feet above the enemy planes’ altitude if the enemy is using the low ‘n’ slow technique).

Doolittle-type raids

But it’s what happens when those shells don’t explode that really multiplies the effect of the raid. They come down, on the city they’re supposed to be protecting. And here again, you can be lucky or unlucky. If you’re lucky, they come down as duds, and unless you take one on the head they’re just souvenirs (until somebody bumps into one on his scooter next morning, and then it’s the Ultimate Speed Bump). But a lot of these cheap shells (and I’m guessing the Sri Lankan Army went to the bulk bins when they bought their AA shells) explode when they hit the ground. That’s the genius of the Doolittle-type raids: You get the enemy to contribute matching bombs at a rate of about 100:1! You throw down a couple of homemade gravity bombs, and the enemy kicks in thousands of his own! It’s a 3-D version of the old circular firing squad.
Quiz: Next to unguided AA, what’s the most self-destructive technique a city can adopt against air attack?
A: B lackouts. They don’t work the way they’re supposed to, because for God’s sake it’s 2007 and every car on the road has GPS - you really think the enemy pilots can’t tell when they’re over your city, even if it was as blacked-out as Pyongyang on a rainy Tuesday night? Apparently the Sri Lankan authorities haven’t heard about GPS, because they imposed a total blackout on Colombo after the LTTE air raids. Naturally, this had no effect at all on the attacking planes, which dropped their bombs on target anyway. The only effect, and it was a big one, was on every business in the city - total write-off for the duration of the blackout and business way down for days afterward. So here again, the authorities end up turning a tactically ineffective attack into a huge strategic victory. The biggest effect of this is: The fact that it caused huge dents on the line that the LTTE is being on its knees, about to surrender, etc. With a few prop planes and primitive gravity bombs, the LTTE managed to make that claim look a little ridiculous.


Military dictates theatre of battle

Following a stormy week following the eviction of Tamil lodgers, and in view of the Commander in Chief, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, taking wing to Geneva, the National Security Council did not meet this week.
Instead, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who ran into a storm over the eviction of lodgers and a hard hitting interview with an international news agency, met some of the commanders on Wednesday.
On Friday, the Defence Secretary met IGP Victor Perera who had offered to resign but later, reversed his decision. It was President Rajapaksa who ordered the IGP to hand over a report on the matter.
The week also had its funny side with Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernadopulle trying to retract the apology tendered by Prime Minister Ratanasiri Wickramanayake for the eviction. Finally, Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa announced that the apology was the official position.
As if the drama was not enough, there may be another government twist to the whole affair.
The LTTE claims the LTTE had planned to stage a major five-pronged attack on Colombo and its port, as if to justify the removal last week of some structures adjoining the port wall. However, the biggest blunder in the whole revelation was that the Tigers planned to attack the harbour, cargo ships and containers. Is the government trying to commit economic hara-kiri, vis-à-vis the port, after the security forces successfully repulsed two previous attempts close to the port? Furthermore, would the suspected LTTE cadre be allowed to carry the entire operational plan on his person? And what negligence to leave it lying in a boutique.
Or is it that the Tigers wanted the government to do its dirty work?
During UNP times, too, there were attempts to plant such stories which were, in fact, damaging to the defence establishment and the economy. The Tigers’ aim is to paint a dismal picture. Should the authorities aid and abet them in their plans?
Against this background, those in the defence hierarchy are unrelenting in the pursuit of their goals. Accordingly, on Thursday Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa with Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Air Chief Marshall Donald Perera and Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka traveled to Maha Oya, to be briefed by the Special Task Force on resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons there. They also proceeded to Vavuniya to check out operations and security in the Omanthai region, flashpoint of a major battle last week.
Passing the torch?
Incidentally, the CDS was traveling just two days after completing a-year in office (June 12) , with the man who decided to retain him and the one who was rumoured to succeed him.
Speculation was rife that Perera would be given a diplomatic posting to make way for another CDS. That was not to be, and unlike the service chiefs, whose extensions are subject to yearly renewals after 55, the CDS, who is a retired officer, could continue without an extension.
Fonseka’s extension as Commander is till December 2007, and if he is to continue as Army Chief, his services need to be extended. Given his success in the military operations to date, and in view of the battles ahead, he would, too, most likely, be given an extension, unless something drastic happens in the interim.
The defence establishment, while retaining Fonseka’s services as Army Chief, could have made him the CDS. There have been precedents where previous holders of this office also remained as service chiefs. Former Army Commander General Lionel Balagalla and former Navy Chief Admiral Daya Sandagiri are two examples.
However, the authorities were not keen to rock the boat at this stage and appoint Fonseka CDS, bypassing Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, who is the senior most commander to whom the post goes by tradition. While Fonseka appears indispensable to the defence establishment, the role played by the Navy in ‘Eelam War IV’, which the LTTE claimed would be decided on the seas, has been creditable.
To iron out whatever differences between these two service chiefs, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa had a discussion with Admiral Karannagoda and General Fonseka.
The junior most service chief Air Marshall Roshan Goonetileke also completed his first of four years in office, on Tuesday. Air Marshall Goonetileke will not require an extension, as he would complete his customary four-year term prior to turning 55.
Ruling the skies
One defence official noted that the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), with close upon a thousand sorties, turned a defensive into an offensive war in the past year, beginning with the battle for Mawil Aru in July.
After the LTTE initiated the war, the defence establishment decided where they fight it, with the SLAF taking on identified targets, including infrastructure. The LTTE’s will to fight declined, as the SLAF continued to inflict much damage on its assets, including its fuel and ammunition dumps, gun positions and camps.
In this phase of the war, the LTTE, to date, has scored heavily with its light aircraft raids, not so much in achieving its targets but, in causing panic and confusion among the security forces and the people, not to mention the economic damage due to the airport closure at night. The drop in tourist arrivals with terrorist attacks in Colombo also did more damage than the guerilla attacks that included soft targets. It has been decided to re-open the airport at night and is likely that SriLankan and Mihin Lanka would resume night flights and pave the way for other airlines.
Not only has the Government been able to secure 3D radar but, it has also been advised by both American and South Asian experts on the need for interceptors. Towards this end, MiG 29s and other aircraft are being looked at.
A team of experts have already visited Ukraine for this purpose. This week, while on a mission to obtain UAVs, an expert, Dr. Amith Munindradasa, a senior lecturer and former Head of the Department of Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering of the University of Moratuwa, passed away in Tel Aviv, following a bout of pneumonia. The Government is increasingly involving academics to evaluate military equipment, to ensure that the security forces get the best material.
Horses for courses
Last week’s temporary setback west of Omanthai, in the Wanni, came after a string of successes in the East. By recommending several officers for promotion, based on their successes in the East, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka has indicated that hard work would not go unrewarded.
However, by removing Brig. Sumith Manawadu from 57 Division- created for offensive operations in the Wanni- and posting him to a non operational theatre, the army chief had a message: Those who fail will not be tolerated.
The correct decision has now been made to have Brig. Jagath Dias, an Infantry officer from 56 Division, to head the offensive 57 Division, and Brig. Jagath Rambukpotha from the Artillery Corps, to replace Dias, to head the holding Division. Brig. Dias led 516 Brigade that captured Colombuthurai, Ariyale and Navakuli bridge in 2000 after the Elephant Pass debacle which made the army retreat almost up to Jaffna town.
The question is whether Brig. Manawadu was suited to head 57 Division, in the first place. He was not from the Infantry but, from the Artillery Corps. and was Director, Planning at Army Headquarters when he was handpicked to head a Division created for offensive operations.
Apart from insufficient combat experience, he was selected over and above many senior and experienced officers, including those from Infantry regimes.
Overlooked were two Majors General and at least six Brigadiers. Majors General Abdul Zaheer and Aruna Jayatillake and Brigadiers Chrishantha de Silva, Deepal de Alwis, R.M.J. Ratnayake, L.W.C.B. Rajaguru, Tuan Morseth and Susil Udumalagala were overlooked.
Barring de Silva (a capable officer from the Engineering Corps), Jayatilleke, Rajaguru, Morseth and Udumalagala are all Infantry officers with substantial experience and exposure from platoon and company commander days.
While the strategies and operational plans are so far salutary, the security forces should ensure that the best officers are placed in the right positions to prevent any heartburn.
Special Forces has Tiger on the run
The military, with successful deployment of the Special Forces in small groups, on covert jungle operations in the East, wrested control of the region with minimum civilian and military casualties.. The military’s expectations to maximize Tiger casualties, did not materialize, as, in most of the confrontations, the Tigers withdrew to live another day. The LTTE claims that it has lost roughly a thousand cadres.
Offering limited resistance, the LTTE cadres moved north and fortified these areas, to face the military’s predicted forward thrust.
While it is a basic principle in British conventional warfare to concentrate ones forces to separate and contain the enemy, in guerilla warfare, it is advantageous for the Tiger cadres to attack from scattered positions. The security forces, adopting a virtual non conventional approach in the East, would like to take on the Tigers in a conventional war in the Wanni, as they inch forward and close the gaps. Of course, the use of Special Forces to penetrate the jungles, as they did in the East, will continue in the Wanni.
The military strategists are on record that they do not want to hold real estate and take control but, are keen on seeking and destroying LTTE cadres and their assets, to weaken the Tigers.
This is with the hope that the third level of cadres would turn themselves in, while the second level will be confused. Of course, the hardcore Tigers will fight tooth and nail but, in a demoralized frame of mind. This appears to be part of the overall strategy to weaken the Tigers, even as the deep penetration teams take on key targets within Tiger territory.
Military operations in Toppigala continued this week, in an effort to flush out the Tigers from, what is described as a significant wilderness base. Toppigala was an operational base from where the Tigers supplied arms and ammunition to cadres in the rest of the region.
This is the first time in an operation, where the Tigers lost much equipment, as they have been systematically cleared from the region from Sampur to Pullumallai, nearly a 100 km parallel to the sea coast. Isolated attacks by the LTTE are staged to make their presence felt as a morale booster to the cadres.


Govt. reveals LTTE plans to attack Harbour

Three spies, Sindu, Muhudalan and Sheelan were deployed to provide information on the area between Galle Face and Colombo Harbour. They had pointed out the targets. According to Areevamudan, an arrested LTTE cadre, the attack, to be launched mid 2007 or, on a date determined by Areevamudan, was intended to cripple the economy and to upset the security forces. According to information provided by Achchudan Master, it is easy to launch the attack from the Galle Face roundabout. Five police checkpoints are located in the area. Movement of heavy vehicles is prohibited on the approach to Galle Face. Therefore, vans were to be used for the attack. Two Dvora fast attack crafts are on round-the-clock sea patrol off Galle Face. Achchudan had advised to launch an attack with two fibre glass boats from Wellawatta or Dehiwela, with a few more boats from the Mt. Lavinia area. Nandan and Deeman of the Divers Unit, were to swim underwater and destroy the Dvora crafts. Meanwhile, Kidiravan and Sheelan were to be signaled to lead two groups of four cadres each, bearing code numbers 321, 4017, 821, 3067 and 654, 787, 7530, 223 in two ambulances. Kidiravan and Sheelan are to be commanded by Achchunath and Elilavanvan from Vavuniya. Ten minutes later, another group of 15, also bearing code numbers, were to launch a massive offensive and break the wall adjoining the habour, 200 meters from gate No. 2, and enter the harbour. Here they were to divide into three groups of five each. Group No.1 to attack several targets while Group No. 2 had its own targets and so did Group No. 3. Achchunath has provided the codes to Kadiravan and Sheelan. All attacks were to last between three to five minutes. The plan was based on information provided by spies from 2005 to 2006. Fuel storage tanks and oil tankers were to be the targets of the group using the sea route. They were to first capture an identified ship and disconnect its communication system, the government claimed.
Then, they were to act as the crew of the ship. A heavy vehicle was to enter gate No.4 and explode it in an area marked target 5. After setting fire to all the containers in the harbour within three hours, the attackers were expected to retreat. Two cadres on the top of the fish market, were to shoot aircrafts. Meanwhile, the main security bases in the North were to come under continual artillery fire to create further problems for the Army. Sasandan Kalaiarasan was to video film the events. Sea Tiger headquarters at Kaiveli had arranged for the training of cadres for the attack. The plan is now being studied by Vinayagam and Sangilian of the intelligence wing. Injured cadres were to be sent to a temporary medical centre at Alwis Place, Wattala via Mattakkuliya . After two days they were to be transported to Trincomalee by train, and from there to Mullaithivu. Another arrangement was to take them to a house at Navinna, provided by Parliamentarian Chandrasekaran, and after a week to Vavuniuya.
Group No 01: Two of the first group of five from the Vanni were to stay at a school hostel arranged by Achchunath at Vavuniya while one of the other three were to travel to Colombo by night mail and the other in the day to stay at Wellawatta.
The two men staying at the school hostel were to proceed to Anuradhapura by bus and from there to Colombo.
Group No.2 were to come from Vidathalathivu to Arippu in Mannar, and from there to Puttalam. Two of them were to travel to Colombo and stay at Alwis place, Wattala, and another two by a lorry to Colombo and stay at a Teleshop in Grandpass.
Group 3: Two members of this group were to travel from Trincomalee by night mail and the others by train the following day.
Group 4 was expected to proceed to Kadiramalai and from there to Negombo by sea and to Colombo by bus. Two of them were to stay at Maligawatta and the others at Mt. Lavinia.
Group 5 was proceed from the Wanni to Batticaloa and from there to Colombo by train.
Each unit had been ordered to continue the attack using weapons seized during the battle.
The fighting unit had been instructed to continue the attack, even if communication between the commanding unit and the fighting unit failed. They must take orders from the leader of the unit or, act as they deem fit to achieve their objective.
Though the military would be prepared for an air attack by the Tigers, the LTTE, however, would attack Kelanitissa Power station and Kolonnawa Petroleum complex by air, at 2030 hours. However, the air raid would be suspended if the weather was not favourable.
A proposal to invite family members of the cadres joining the attack, to the Wanni, to spend a day with them, was rejected by LTTE headquarters (HQ). LTTE HQ called for a report on the disappearance of a cadre sent to Colombo to gather information for the attack. Did he flee to India, after sneaking information to the army or, was he killed by the army? It was decided that, the date and time of the workshop for the attack, was to be notified on receipt of this report.
LTTE HQ ordered that Dialog telephones not be used during the attack. Instead, satellite communication equipment to be provided to the leaders of units and cell card telephones to the cadres. They were to be paid Rs. 5,000 for transport. After the attack, group 01 and 02 to break the wall near Gate 01 and proceed to Fort Railway Station, and Group 3 by vehicle parked near St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade. LTTE cadres with 6-years experience in land and sea battles, were selected for the attack. They are engaged in swimming practices under Kapilan. Kalaiwanan has informed that the weapons for the attack would be handed over to the cadres at Navinna, where they were to meet 3-hours before the attack. Cadres not willing to join the attack, should inform in writing before the end of the workshop, giving valid reasons. Kapilamman has informed that spies were deployed to provide further information on the harbour. 32 cadres will be deployed for the attack and the routes of the vehicles.
It is reported that 80% of the plan would be completed by the end of the workshop. Fifty-three cadres, including those in charge of supplies attended the workshop.


Forces maybe involved in Jaffna abductions – Jaffna commander

Top military official and Jaffna commander Maj. Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri admitted that a handful in the Sri Lankan security forces could be involved in the abductions taking place in Jaffna.
General Chandasiri disclosed this when he was interviewed by New York Times reporter Somini Sengupta.
Her news feature published on Friday New York Times front page as “Sri Lanka’s Scars Trace Lines of War Without End.”
According to New York Times, General Chandrasiri, in an interview, first said the abductions were the work of pro-government Tamil paramilitary groups who, as he put it, try to “eliminate” Tamil Tiger operatives. He later acknowledged that some people in the security forces could also be involved. “I’m not saying all our people are clean,” he said. “Our duty is to catch them and punish them.”
“Sri Lanka’s Scars Trace Lines of War Without End” mainly targeted on abductions in Jaffna.
The news item also stated that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa disclosed to the writer that their main target is to eliminate the LTTE leader.
“Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s influential defense secretary says the military is under instructions to eliminate the rebel leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and eradicate his organization once and for all.
“That’s our main aim, to destroy the leadership,” Mr. Rajapaksa said in an interview in May. The job, he said, would take two to three years”.