War or Peace?
an hour after sunset that ushered in a new weekend, around 6:40
p.m. Friday, the Tigers began firing mortars in the direction of
on the western side of Black Bridge on the Batticaloa- Maha Oya
Road. Two soldiers and a civilian were killed.
But the real target of the Tigers was elsewhere and the Black
Bridge attack was a diversionary tactic to distract the security
They planned to stage an attack on Pillumalai on the Chenkaladi
– Maha Oya Road the next day. In fact the Special Task Force (STF)
camp in Pillumalai was set up to protect the Sinhala villages-
Tempitiya and Kosgolla- that borders the Batticaloa and Ampara
Districts in the Maha Oya area. Sandwiching these two villages
are more Tamil villages including the Pulaweli village. In the
past few days, the area had been subject to mortar fire twice by
Two weeks back, according to intelligence reports, the LTTE was
planning to attack the Pillumalai and the Nugelanda STF camps
and Sinhala villages. Commandant STF, DIG Nimal Lewke had
subsequently ordered that these camps be placed on maximum
In the run up to the North-East monsoon, this is cultivation
season during which time villagers are busy irrigating their
fields. As there was information that the Tigers would possibly
launch an attack on civilians, a plan was drawn up by the STF to
pre-empt the Tigers.
More than two dozen Tigers were dispatched from the main LTTE
Karadiyanaryu camp, not along the main road but crisscrossing
through the Rukam tank area. The Tigers were planning to take on
civilians expecting the forces to withdraw at first light.
The STF had changed its regular pattern and, instead of getting
back to the camp, hid and ambushed the Tigers. The ambush patrol
had given a false signal that provoked an LTTE attack in a big
way. This was followed by a strong retaliation by the STF patrol
killing 13 Tigers and injuring eight others (two critically
wounded) according to communication intercepts.
Following a cordon and search operation, there was indication
that the Tigers had dragged some of the dead bodies and injured
cadres away from the site of the incident.
The STF also recovered 11 T-56 automatic weapons, two radio
sets, 40 Johnny mines, and 36 round of ammunition. The STF had
informed both the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) as well as
the ICRC to enable the handing over of the 12 Tiger bodies.
All the major attacks in the past few weeks in September
happened over the weekend as the Tigers are generally aware that
the weekends are set aside for mustering. The forces have been
changing their timetables and springing surprises on the Tigers.
Last Sunday was no exception. The elite Sea Borne Squadron of
the Sri Lanka Navy on patrol in the seas off Mullaitivu detected
a cluster of Sea Tiger craft (approximately 25) launching from
Alampil in the Mullaitivu area and heading towards Trincomalee
around 9.45 p.m.
When the enemy boat cluster was off Pulmodai, Fast Attack Craft
took the initiative to engage and cut off Sea Tiger boats moving
further southward according to the Defence Ministry.
Reinforcements were rushed to the area from the Northern and
Eastern Naval Commands.
During a fierce sea battle which lasted nearly five hours, the
Navy’s FACs destroyed 11 craft and damaged another five which
along with nine others withdrew only around 3:00 a.m. on Monday
(25). One SLN craft was damaged and five sailors injured while
the Navy claims 70 Sea Tigers were killed. The Navy has pulled
off yet another success and according to LTTE communication
intercepts, this Sea battle was commanded by the third in
command of the Sea Tiger wing ‘SELIYAN’ and his boat was among
those which were badly damaged in the confrontation. The Sea
Tiger high command was desperate to bring back the third in
command but feared he was seriously injured or killed as he
never communicated after the two Sea Tiger craft caught fire
initially, the Defence Ministry maintained.
The Navy believes that the Tigers were desperate to send troops
and logistics to the Vakarai / Verugal area and it is believed
they are planning to stage an attack from that area to recapture
the Sampur area which it lost to the military last month.
The security forces have the backing of the international
community to thwart terrorism. US Secretary of State,
Condoleezza Rice on the sidelines of the UN general assembly
sessions had an encouraging word for Foreign Minister Mangala
“Terrorism is unacceptable in any part of the world, be it in
Sri Lanka or in the United States, and the US administration
will take all steps to counter and eradicate the threat of
terrorism,” said Secretary Rice.
The September 11 Twin Towers attack remains unparalleled in
terms of destruction hatched by humans, unleashed by humans on
humans. It was the defining moment that brought upon the world
the ‘war on terrorism.’ Terrorism and counterterrorism has only
resulted in human misery in all quarters of the world.
Three years prior to the New York attack, on September 11, 1998
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) exploded a powerful
bomb that ripped through the Jaffna Municipal Council Building
claiming the lives of 13, including the peninsula’s city father,
the highest ranking army officer and the senior most police
officer in Jaffna.
Jaffna Mayor Pon. Sivapalan, Jaffna Brigade Commander Brigadier
Susantha Mendis, SSP Jaffna Chandra Adikari and HQI Mohandas
were all killed in one blast that injured dozens of civilians.
Friday before last, on September 22, a powerful claymore mine
weighing 10 kilograms and a suicide kit to be used for a similar
attack was detected in transit at the Medawachchiya Police check
point. The explosives packed in a box were concealed in a van
coming down to Colombo. A parcel of mutton was placed near it to
prevent the police sniffer dogs from detecting the explosives,
but to no avail. The globe shaped claymore mine which looked
like an electric bulb was to be fitted to the ceiling of a
building where a VIP was scheduled to attend a meeting.
Investigations led to the arrest of a Police Constable of the
Ministerial Security Division (MSD) who is alleged to have links
with the LTTE. Sleuths recovered a haul of arms and ammunition
from a house in Wattala. Security forces are alive to the
possibility of the LTTE attempting to assassinate a VIP in
Colombo or to launch an attack on a defence or economic nerve
centre. Out of desperation, a totally civilian target could be
taken and according to intelligence reports, ambulances, garbage
trucks or passenger buses could be used to perpetrate attacks in
The possibility of a major attack stems from the argument that
the LTTE will not want to come to the negotiating table from a
position of weakness.
With September done with, the month of October has dawned. Will
there be talks in October as proposed by the Co-Chairs? The
proposal is part of the strategy to prevent a full scale war.
While the security forces are upbeat after their recent
successes, the Tigers are awaiting the North East monsoon to
have an edge over the forces. The use of battle tanks and
armoured personnel carriers are near impossible while the
weather conditions affects ground troops, air support and naval
warfare. With both sides raring to go, the Co-chairs were keen
on fixing talks in early October.
Norwegian Minister for International Development Erik Solheim
was expected to meet LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran this
week. But he was forced to cancel his visit as Prabhakaran has
said he would not be available. According to information, it is
believed that Prabhakaran now fears for his safety after the
recent air raids on Pudukuduiruppu in Mullaitivu by the Sri
Lanka Air Force (SLAF). Prabhakaran has both an outer perimeter
as well as an inner perimeter to ensure his security. According
to reports reaching Colombo, the bombs had fallen within a
security perimeter. This has truly shaken Prabhakaran who was
likely to make major changes after this attack.
SLAF fighters destroyed two LTTE strong holds at Pudukuduiruppu
in Mullaitivu on Wednesday. The Media Center for National
Security (MCNS) says that the air raids conducted in the morning
hours on September 27 have successfully destroyed an LTTE
training base and a Transit camp, causing heavy damages to the
“The government of Sri Lanka has expressed its sincere
commitment and the readiness to restart peace talks with the
LTTE on an assurance given by the LTTE leadership stating
Prabhakaran’s true commitment to peace,” MCNS said.
But the initial euphoria over the statement by Defence Spokesman
Keheliya Rambukwella on Wednesday (27) that Prabhakaran had
replied through the facilitators even though in a different
form, died by the end of the week.
Rambukwella yesterday was quoted as saying that the government
was aware that Prabhakaran was taking security precautions and
may not meet the Norwegian facilitators. He however had noted
that such a position did not deter Prabhakaran from writing to
the government intimating his agreement to hold peace talks.
Given the number of occasions successive governments had been
taken for a ride, the current administration was not willing to
take things for granted and hence was demanding a written
commitment from Prabhakaran.
With Rajapaksa the ‘pragmatist’ and ‘realist’, Prabhakaran is
getting a good dose of war and peace. Internationally, key
countries are supporting him to the hilt.
President Rajapaksa met Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh
on the sidelines of the Non-aligned Movement Conference in
Havana, Cuba. While the Indian Premier admitted that terrorism
was a problem but insisted there is an ethnic problem that needs
to be resolved politically. He said that given the gravity of
the Tamil Nadu issue, weapons and equipment cannot be given,
training cannot be afforded to Sri Lankan military personnel but
one thing could be done - providing intelligence.
This is exactly what the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) did a
Sunday before last. It provided intelligence of Tiger activity
in a foreign country. The Navy waited patiently for the Tiger
vessel that was bringing in arms and hovering in the
international waters for a while before entering the exclusive
economic zone. The Navy spotted the vessel on Sunday morning off
Last Sunday, this time in the night, the Navy again spotted a
flotilla of Tiger boats off Pulmodai in the Trincomalee area.
Intelligence sharing between the two countries is crucial and
this time too it came in handy.
What India declined to do - provide- weapons and ammunition-
China and Pakistan have readily agreed to. In fact China was
even willing to send a complete radar system to face the
challenges posed by LTTE light aircraft. Getting wind of this,
India promptly provided the air force with this radar system.
This is reminiscent of the Ranil Wickremesinghe period where
India was able to stall the US ACSA (Acquisition and Cross
Servicing Agreement) with the promise of a defence cooperation
agreement between the two countries.
Even as India has declined to help Sri Lanka with military
training for its officers, the British High Commissioner to Sri
Lanka Dominick Chilcott on Wednesday said he hoped the Royal
College of Defence Studies shall “be able to keep that
friendship with the RCDS fresh and vital by making available to
Sri Lanka places at the college in future years.”
This is after a successful meeting between President Rajapaksa
and British Prime Minister Tony Blair this month in London.
Consider the statement made by High Commissioner Chilcott to
mark the Queen’s Birthday prior to the UK meeting. Chilcott was
very critical of the Sri Lankan forces at that time.
The UK High Commissioner on Wednesday was speaking at a ceremony
at Westminster House to welcome the RCDS team led by Rear
Admiral Mark Bonser. The RCDS, which studies international
security and international affairs at a strategic level, is a
component of the United Kingdom’s National Defence Academy.
In an exclusive interview with The Nation Rear Admiral Bonser
said from what he could fathom, the Sri Lankan military officers
were very disciplined and of high calibre. He said a return to
Sri Lanka after three years has helped as the country offered a
valuable study in the peace process that has been
internationalised since 2002 and the Cease-fire has held despite
violations. Having praised Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka,
an alumni of the RCDS, Bonser said he was impressed by the
sentiments expressed by Kumar Rupesinghe and his work at the
Foundation for Co-Existence. Rear Admiral Bonser said Sri Lanka
is at an important crossroads and to develop trade it had at its
disposal one of the finest harbours in the world. He said if
there is greater stability Trinco could also be very productive.
The visiting team accompanied by Chilcott, and Defence Advisor,
Lt. Colonel Colin Martin, met President Rajapaksa on Thursday at
President’s House and discussed the current political situation
in Sri Lanka, a press release by the High Commission stated.
The RCDS team, on a week long visit to Sri Lanka, met political,
academic and business leaders, as part of a South Asia tour that
includes Pakistan and India. There are 75 members on the current
course - 29 from the UK and 46 from a wide range of overseas
countries, representing 42 nationalities in total.
On Sunday and Monday, the team visited Kalatura and a tsunami
reconstruction project being funded by the UK company Marks and
Spencers. They also undertook a tour of Galle Port conducted by
Chairman, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Saliya Wickramasuriya and
Commander of Southern Naval Area Rear Admiral Ananda Peiris and
Capt. Athula Hewavitharana, Deputy Harbour Master Galle. They
visited the eastern Galle suburb of Katugoda and toured tsunami
areas and projects with the NGO Project Galle 2006.
They undertook a tour of Galle Fort conducted by Brigadier
Jagath Wijetileke, Commander Security Forces Galle and also
visited the Koggala free trade zone with Mr Dineal Peris, the
CEO of UNICHELA garment factory. On Wednesday they visited
Puttlam. “The main purpose of the visit is to examine at first
hand the current position and future prospects for the
preservation and enhancement of the security, stability and
prosperity of Sri Lanka,” said High Commissioner Chilcott.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Envoy for
Tsunami Recovery has urged the Government and the LTTE to “cease
hostilities and return to negotiations.” Whether the month of
October would force the parties back to the negotiating table or
to all out war, only time will tell.
More LTTE missile seekers arrested in US
By Mendaka Abeysekera in New York
Anti LTTE camp in the US has decided to hold a demonstration and
protest rally to expose LTTE activities and to protest against
brutal killings, ethnic cleansing and forcible recruitment of
children by Sri Lanka’s separatist Tamil Tigers.
The demonstration will be held on Wednesday, 4th October, 2006
between 11 am and 2 pm at the Lafayette Park opposite the White
House, the official residence of U.S. President George W. Bush,
in Washington, D.C.
This demonstration and protest rally is organized by the Sri
Lankan community in Greater Washington area.
Meanwhile six men were arrested Thursday and Friday in
Guam,Maryland in the US, who tried to buy missiles and other
weapons for LTTE through undercover agents in Maryland.
The main suspect is Haji Subandi, an international arms dealer
from Indonesia. Among these six men Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa,
is the only Sri Lankan charged with being part of the
U.S.Attorney Rod Rosenstein disclosed to media that
they had a plan to ship these weapons from Guam to
members of the Tamil Tigers in the Indian Ocean, where
they would then be used for their terrorist purposes.
Last month, FBI officials in New York arrested eight
LTTE supporters for conspiring to buy surface-to-air
missiles in the United States.
Killings: Propaganda war heats up
The only eye witness of the Pottuvil massacre which took
place on 17 September, Meera Mohideen talking to journalists
claimed that the atrocity was carried out by the LTTE. He was
admitted to the Ampara hospital with severe wounds to his neck
on the 18th after being found injured at a construction site in
the Sastrawela area off Pottuvil. The Special Task Force of the
Police was initially accused by local people and several
politicians for carrying out the crime. As a result of this
agitation the officer in charge of the Sastrawela STF camp was
transferred by Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando. The
survivor making a statement from the Intensive care unit of the
Ampara hospital says that around five or six individuals with
guns had kidnapped him and his 10 colleagues around 6.30 in the
evening. Though they were blindfolded they were told by their
captors that no harm will come to them. Mohideen says that his
captors spoke fluent Tamil and said that they were awaiting
orders from a senior a leader. In the early hours of next
morning all the captives except Mohideen were massacred by
slitting their throats. Mohideen survived by pretending to be
dead after receiving a wound to his neck. Last week The Nation
reported from Pottuvil that the survivor on admission to the
Pottuvil hospital had told the doctor there that the killers
spoke fluent Tamil. In his recent statement too he has mentioned
that the assailants spoke Tamil throughout the period of their
Though the CID investigation in to the massacre has not yet
concluded and all possibilities are still being looked in to,
the important question now is why was the STF accused of the
crime at such an initial stage? Within hours of the incident
Pottuvil residents accused the STF and one officer in particular
for carrying out the crime. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader
Rahuf Hakeem also expressed similar sentiments.
Another factor which has come to light after the statement from
the survivor is the chilling similarity between the crime that
took place at Pottuvil and the massacre at Weikanda on May 29
this year. On that day 12 labourers also working at an
irrigation project were killed with their hands tied. More
disturbing is the similarity in the story told by the only
survivor of that incident when he claimed that the 13 men were
blindfolded and kept for several hours under guard being told
that the captors are awaiting orders. After several hours of
captivity they were gunned down presumably after receiving
orders to do so.
The investigation in to the Pottuvil massacre with the details
provided with the survivor is now indicating that the atrocity
was carried out in a planned manner. Though it is too early in
the investigation to judge as to who carried out this crime with
the comparison of other such crimes in the recent past a pattern
is emerging which suggests that some of these brutal acts may
have been carried out to embarrass the government at crucial
junctures. The Weikanda massacre took place at a time the
European Union decided to ban the LTTE. The recent massacre at
Pottuvil occurred when President Rajapaksa was attending the Non
Aligned Movement summit in Havana, Cuba. The President later
went on to New York to attend the Annual Session of the United
Nations General Assembly where he met several world leaders.
Also on the 3rd of May when Sri Lanka was hosting the World
Press Freedom Day celebrations two Tamil journalist from a pro
LTTE news paper were killed in Jaffna. That incident was also
initially blamed on a political party affiliated to the
government. Even though the investigation in to the latest
killing of innocents is yet to make a conclusive judgement it is
clear that the government and the security forces need to be
aware of the LTTE’s ploy to disrepute the state on the