Sunday, December 23, 2007

Where English comes to symbolise Tamil resistance

While in the rest of Sri Lanka nationalism means rejection of the English language, in the areas controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels, virulent Tamil nationalism coexists with an eagerness to promote English education.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which survives on global links, is pushing English education with a view to equipping the Tamils to face the challenges of the modern world. The rest of Sri Lanka too depends heavily on foreign links, like international trade, foreign aid and overseas employment. But it has determinedly shut out the English language in its educational system out of a sense of nationalism.

The LTTE established an English Language College (ELC) in Kilinochchi in 2004 to train English teachers, and its fourth convocation was held December 17, 2007 reports

Stressing the strategic importance of English in his convocation address, the LTTE's political wing leader, B Nadesan, said: "For our people to acquire skills and knowledge at the global level, opportunity and facilities to attain high levels of proficiency in English is critical.

"Historically, Sri Lankan governments have created educational hurdles with a view to curtailing the development of the Tamils and scuttling their progress. The English Language College is symbolic of the Tamils' resistance to such moves," Nadesan said.

Contrasting the LTTE's policy with that of successive Sri Lankan governments, which denied an English education to the masses but winked at the elite learning the language, Nadesan said that Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran wanted English to be taught to all.

In south Sri Lanka, home to the majority Sinhalese, there has been a rigid adherence to the "swabhasha policy" (involving the use of the mother tongue only for study and work), though this has resulted in the rise of conflicting and violent nationalism based on ethnicity and religion.

Up to the mid 1950s, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims went to the same schools and learnt through a common medium, English. They developed a fellow feeling of being "Ceylonese" as Sri Lankans were called then.

But post-independence, Sinhalese nationalist governments did away with English and created separate schools for Sinhalese and Tamil speakers. Later, Muslims got their own schools, adding a religious dimension to the problem.

With the children of various ethnic groups not studying and playing together, ethnic stereotypes got enforced and xenophobia increased.

The language policy also reinforced existing class distinctions. While the rich taught their children English, sent them abroad and got them the best jobs in the private sector, the Sinhalese or Tamil-educated underprivileged majority languished, employable only in the unproductive government sector.

Attempts by individual leaders to promote English education at a mass level were opposed tooth and nail by the radical Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and university students with vested interests.

And the governments always succumbed to such pressures because no politician wanted to be branded "anti-national".

The language policy has adversely affected the economy also. Foreign investors are shying away from Sri Lanka not only because of the war and terrorism, but also because of lack of skills, including English language skills.

The envoys of Britain and the US have publicly urged the adoption of English to open a window to the world, and break the ethnic gridlock that has resulted in the death of over 70,000 people and displacement of millions in the last 25 years.

But any such suggestion would immediately draw flak from Sinhalese nationalists, who would denounce it as a nefarious plan to bring the British Empire through the backdoor.

However, there is a subtle change for the better now, says Gamini Samaranayake, chairman of the University Grants Commission.

"Today, students as well as parents are seeking proficiency in English," he told IANS.

"Science and technical students in the universities have to go through a three- month course in English. In the arts faculty, at the post graduate level, some lectures are in English, though the students are allowed to write their exams in any language they like," he said.

"I believe that English should be taught from an early level in schools, as children have the capacity to learn many languages, but Sri Lankan educational experts disagree," Samaranayake lamented.

Sri Lanka says weekend war death toll tops 40

Sri Lankan troops killed 41 Tamil Tiger fighters in a series of weekend clashes in the island's civil war-ravaged north, while three soldiers were also killed, the military said on Monday.

Eleven rebels were killed in fighting in the northern districts of Vavuniya and Jaffna on Sunday, while another eight were killed in the northwestern district of Mannar.

Those clashes came, in turn, after soldiers killed 22 rebels, destroyed several bunkers and captured an insurgent base in a series of exchanges on Saturday and Sunday.

"Another 19 terrorists were killed on Sunday, taking the weekend toll to 41," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are seeking to carve out an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka, were not immediately available for comment.

There was no independent account of what had happened or how many people were killed. Analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own.

Pro-rebel Web site cited the Tigers as saying 17 soldiers were killed and 54 were wounded in a clash in Mannar on Saturday, when the military says troops captured an insurgent check point along the forward defense line that separates government from rebel-held land.

Well over 5,000 people have been killed since early last year amid near daily land and sea battles, bombings and air raids.

The government has vowed to wipe out the Tigers militarily and to clear the rebels from territory they control in the island's north, after driving them from eastern strongholds earlier this year.

Military analysts say there is no clear winner on the horizon, and fear a war in which around 70,000 people have been killed since 1983 could rumble on for years.

Major LTTE Base Seized

20 Killed in Sri Lanka Latest Clashes

About 19 Tamil Tigers and a soldier were reported dead after the latest clashes between the two sides in northern Sri Lanka. After the latest military operations, the pro-government troops captured a key LTTE base as well as two defense lines in the region, the Army informed on Sunday.

''During Saturday's military advance into non-liberated territory ahead of Wanni defenses, security forces overran what was identified to be the LTTE's 'Vietnam base' located at general area of Periyapunichankulama,'' the Defense Ministry said for

The statement also informed that the government troops managed to move one kilometer on Saturday into the entry-exit pass at Uiylankulam in Mannar-Vavuniya border. The maneuver forced the LTTE rebel fighters to retreat.

As several clashes took place, the government troops destroyed ten rebel bunkers and killed eight militants and injuring 14 others in the process, the military reported. One soldier was also reported killed in combat.

Another conflict occurred at Nagarkovil defence line in Jaffna, where troops engaged in heavy mortar and artillery barrages on Sunday. The clash ended with another four LTTE bunkers being destroyed and at least eight rebels shot dead, the statement said.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam wrote in their website about the latest clashed with government troops, but the facts were totally different. The web site said the separatist fighters repelled the offensive in Mannar and that 17 government soldiers had been killed and 54 injured in the fire exchange. There were three casualties among the LTTE fighters, the web site said.

Path Clear for Wanni Liberation

Forces inflicting maximum casualties to weaken enemy; more manpower for Army as LTTE faces cadre shortage

Many thoughts have been expressed about the Government strategy or rather the military strategy about the liberation of the Wanni. The idea of liberating the Wanni, more popularly known as the liberation of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu strongholds of the LTTE, seems to be a confusing one for the public.

The public seems to be confused over the idea of capturing Wanni strongholds soon, considering the long way the Security Forces have to march forward from Omanthai to Kilinochchi.

Is it possible to go such a long distance, within a short period of time? That is the basic query the people have in their mind and the pertinent question that should have a clear answer from the defence authorities.The other factor leading to confuse the public about the Wanni battleground is that they do not see Security Forces capturing any vital grounds in the Wanni front like in the East despite hearing about many confrontations in the Wanni and the large number of deaths on the part of the LTTE declared by the Security Forces.

Again it is a question for the public why Security Forces failed to capture vital grounds in the Wanni front especially in the west of Vavuniya where the Security Forces are inflicting heavy damages to the LTTE on daily basis.

According to Security Forces, more than 1,500 Tiger cadres have perished during the battles in the Wanni Front after the formation of the 57th Division of the Sri Lanka Army on February 26, this year. This is at the rate of killing five to ten cadres a day.

Therefore, it is fair on the part of the public to raise questions regarding the Wanni front.To answer all these questions there should be an in-depth study about the situation there in the Wanni and also about the military strategy adopted by the Security Forces for the Wanni sector.Then only can we understand why the Government and the military are sovividly expressing confidence about the capture of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu soon.

Firstly, the intention of the Security Forces now engaged in offensive operations is not to capture territory but to inflict damages to the LTTE as much as they can to weaken them militarily both in terms of manpower and firepower.

On the part of the Security Forces they are engaged in a strategic move with the formation of the 57 Division, basically an Offensive Division, to neutralise LTTE threats on civilian settlements in Vavuniya and Mannar.

Capturing territory is no longer an issue for the Security Forces as long as they inflict casualties on Tiger cadres posing threats to civilian settlements and also to the Security Forces.

Despite the fact that the ground situation in the Wanni is completely different from the Eastern theatre, and the battles are much harder than the Eastern battles, the troops have been able to inflict heavy damages to the LTTE during the past 10 months.

Then how the LTTE could be still powerful in the Wanni is a question that has to be answered.

The assessment of the Security Forces is that the LTTE still keeps their well trained hardcore cadres inside the Wanni to face the last battle in Kilinochchi or Mullaitivu.

The LTTE still engages in the ruthless practice of preying on innocent Tamil civilians entrapped in the Wanni to guard their imaginary Eelam state from the Security Forces, at least to keep the remaining territory in the Wanni under their control.

So the Tiger leadership is sending their Ellapadaicadres - civilians who have undergone weapons training for one to two weeks, to guard the FDLs in the Wanni, against their will.

The Security Forces witness that many of them are underage cadres, forcibly recruited to the LTTE from the civilian population in the Wanni. Many of these civilians have to sacrifice their lives to secure the lives of the Tiger leadership, risking their lives at the FDLs in the Wanni.

The Tami Diaspora funding the terror acts of the LTTE should think twice about the plight of these Tamil civilians entrapped in Wanni as they are indirectly funding the LTTE to pave the way for more suffering for the Tamil community in the name of liberation.

But the ground reality is that the LTTE cannot continue this tactic fora long period as the number of civilians living in Wanni is confined to 250,000 to 300,000. Their recruitment base is limited to at 80,000 people once the elderly and children under 12 are exempted.

In reality they cannot continue with this strength once Security Forces induct their well trained cadres to the Wanni battle front. The Sri Lanka Army has already inducted the Task Force -1 as an offensive force to take control of the Mannar front.

The Task Force -1 which was basically formed with five battalions to take control of areas south of Mannar are now moving ahead of their FDLs taking control of the areas surrounding the Giant Tank in the direction of Vedithalthivu north of Mannar.

Task Force -1 which is operating with eight battalions will soon be elevated as the 58 Division of the Sri Lanka Army.

Apart from this the Sri Lanka Army will soon induct the 59 Division which has already been established with nine Regular Battalions of the SriLanka Army as an offensive Division to confront the LTTE in the Wanni battle front.

The Sri Lanka Army is doing this with the public support extended to them with a large number youth joining the Army during the recruitment drive carried out during this year, considered to be the biggest recruitment drive in local military history.

The Army is facing difficulties due to the lack of training facilities to train the youth who had been recruited during this period. The SLA had to open new training facilities in many parts of the country to train these youth.

With the completion of the recruitment drive for this year the SLA will complete the formation of 11 new Regular Battalions and 15 Volunteer Battalions.

Therefore, the Security Forces with their well trained soldiers will be able to pose a bigger challenge for the LTTE in Wanni, after strengthening themselves rather than capturing their territory hastily to take any mileage out of the current security situation.

The other positive factor contributing to the military successes of the Security Forces is the low percentage of absentees among the troops attached to the offensive Divisions compared to the soldiers attached to other Divisions of the SLA.

They have shown their commitment towards the cause of liberating the Wanni with their regular presence in the Army.

Apart from this the troops are also fighting under bad weather conditions prevailing in the area.

But the Security Forces have learnt lessons from their earlier experiences of capturing territory without removing the real threat from the ground.

Therefore, there is no hesitation on the part of the military to walk into Kilinochchi, 60 kilometres away from present FDL in Omanthai allowing the LTTE to launch a major thrust on the Security Forces as happened in the past.

Therefore, they have not kept any room for the LTTE to take advantage out of any weakness of the Security Forces and regain the captured territory by hastily moving towards the target.

But the LTTE is now engaged in different tactics to draw the attention of the international community especially to please the Tamil Diaspora spread all over the world by showing them that they still operate in the borders of the so-called Tamil Eelam.

Outsiders who are not aware of the ground situation get a completely different picture due to this tactic followed by the LTTE.

That was why they were showing they have a presence in Yala and also in Wilpattu, the so-called borders of Tamil Eelam, while engaged in sabotage activities in the Eastern province to disturb normality.

Therefore, the LTTE once again has returned to the primary stage of terrorism and is engaged in subversive activities in the East to sabotage the smooth functioning of activities there.The situation is very much in favour of the Security Forces in their bid to take control of the Wanni with the strong position of the Security Forces in the Jaffna peninsula.

Under these circumstances it is patently clear that the path for the liberation of Wanni has been fully cleared for the Security Forces.

Prabhakaran's bunkers: No longer impregnable

The LTTE has always kept mum about incidents that are not in favour of them. Though the LTTE made attempts to keep their operations secret to the Security Forces they are no longer a secret to the outside world.

When Sea Tiger leader Soosai sustained injuries in an explosion the LTTE did not utter a single word about the incident. But later they announced that his son became a victim of that incident and he had a narrow escape.

But they could not hide the news when Tiger Political Leader S.P. Thamilselvan was killed in an air raid on November 2. They could not cover up the incident as Thamilselvan could not rise from his death.

Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran who always issues death warrant son the lives of other people for the first time sniffed death on November 26 when the SLAF carried out yet another air raid targeting Tiger leader Prabhakaran.

The SLAF received reliable information about four to five locations where Tiger leader Prabhakaran was moving on his birthday. Along with the attack on the Voice of Tiger radio station they took targets North of Kilinochchi.

The MiGs and Kfirs that went into action took a precise target north of Kilinochchi in Jayanthinagar around 5.25 p.m. They carried out the air raid using a sufficient number of bombs that can destroy the type of hard bunker where Tiger leader Prabhakaran usually hides.The pilots who carried out the task observed that anti air craft guns at the location were activated once the target was hit precisely. That confirmed that the Tiger leader was definitely there at the time of the air raid.

The Tiger leader has around 200 guards around him all the time. The SLAF has received reliable information that 116 of Prabhakaran's bodyguards also perished in the air raid.

Though there was no intelligence report about the exact damages caused due to the air raid the SLAF observed that the area was completely sealed off by the LTTE after the air raid.

According to information available the LTTE removed rubble from the location to save the life of Prabhakaran who had been trapped inside a destroyed bunker.

Intelligence reports indicate that the top Tiger has sustained injuries or fractures in his arm and a leg. Since the Tiger leader is already suffering from diabetics the situation has got worse and the LTTE is making attempts to evacuate him to a foreign country for further treatment.