READY TO POUNCE
JVP it appears is hell bent on exerting pressure on the
Rajapaksa administration making various demands from time to
time since Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ascension to the presidency. The
latest among this is their call to negate the Cease Fire
Agreement signed between the government and the LTTE five years
ago. It was on February 22, 2002 that the then Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe signed the CFA with the LTTE under the
auspices of the Norwegian facilitators. Accordingly the fifth
anniversary of the CFA falls on Thursday this week. Under that
circumstance, the sathyagraha undertaken by the pro-JVP National
Bikkhu Front to force the government to call off the CFA is
likely to continue till Thursday and Colombo has come under a
tight security cordon to prevent untoward incidents such as mass
rampaging on Colombo streets and an imminent attack by the LTTE.
How the LTTE would mark this anniversary is only known to LTTE
Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and those detailed to carry out
The government and the LTTE have been fighting an undeclared
Eelam War IV despite the CFA since July 28 last year, eight days
after the Tigers closed the Mawil Aru sluice gates.
It was on July 23, 1983 that Eelam War I commenced with the
killing of 13 soldiers at Thirunalweli, Jaffna. This action led
to the worst ever anti-Tamil riots and a bitter war that will be
25 years next year when the country celebrates the diamond
jubilee of independence.
LTTE piling up arms
It was in this same place Thirunalweli, that the army on Tuesday
discovered 690 kilos of C-4 (Plastic) explosives packed in some
30 boxes with detonators fixed. These were ready to be exploded.
Did the LTTE target the fifth anniversary of the CFA to commence
a declared war?
On receiving a tip off from a civilian, these explosives, hidden
in an abandoned house down Shivam Kovil Road Thirunalweli, in
the Jaffna city were unearthed.
To unearth these explosives, a major operation was staged by a
team that included an Engineering Unit, Bomb Disposal Unit, a
group of Special Forces, and personnel from the Sri Lanka
Arriving in several jeeps two hours after the curfew came into
force, the team surrounded the premises, but was extra cautious
before entering, as it was not too long ago that several
battle-hardened officers were killed in a booby trap during the
Using night vision equipment, the team first observed whether
there were occupants in the house. After clearing their doubts,
several hours later the team entered the premises.
Firstly, the engineering unit entered along with the bomb
disposal squad. Using sophisticated equipment, they clearly
checked whether the house was been booby trapped.
They then entered the abandoned house and went straight to the
second room according to the information provided and found it
to be accurate. In between two walls that were built up to the
roof, a massive haul of C-4 explosives were found in a number of
boxes. They had to literally pull down the wall little by little
to unearth the entire stock of 30 odd boxes containing 690 kilos
of plastic explosives.
Sleuths are trying to establish whether the LTTE had planned to
use them one by one or many together for greater impact.
One could get an idea of the quantity of the explosives and the
possible damage these explosives could have caused from the
quantity used in the biggest-ever bomb blast in Sri Lanka. In
the January 31, 1996 Central Bank bombing, 200 kilos of high
explosives were used.
The biggest-ever haul of explosives was found on Tuesday while
the next day again in the Jaffna peninsula at Kodikaman, the
LTTE successfully targeted a group of top army officers and
other rankers on their way to a conference. It has been revealed
that the Tigers are using satellite phones inside the Jaffna
peninsula to communicate with Tiger-held areas as mobile phone
towers are often switched off. This week it was switched off
when Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe visited
the peninsula. The Kodikamam area came under LTTE fire from 130
mm artillery guns from possibly Pallai and Pooneryn.
Lance Corporal K. Roshan was killed and ten senior officials
including Brigade Commander of 531 Brigade in Jaffna, Lieutenant
Colonel Ralph Nugera from Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI) were
injured in the attack. Eleven other rankers were injured. The
other officers injured included Lt. Col. S.M.S.B. Attapattu,
Major R.U.A.C. Guneratne (Ordnance Corps), Major W.H.K. Perera (Gajaba
regiment) and Major B.K.M.G.M.C. Rodrigo (Artillery).
Nugera, a battle-hardened officer with several medals to his
credit including a Weera Wickrema Vibushana (WWV), a Ranaweera
Wickrema Padakkama (RWP) and a Ratna Suriya Padakkama (RSP) was
the most seriously injured and after initial surgery at Palaly
he was transferred to the Army Hospital where he is receiving
treatment. Army Commander Lieutenant General Fonseka visited
these officers at the Hospital.
The attack is similar to the artillery attack staged by the
Tigers when a group of journalists who were taken on a guided
tour of Muhamalai several months ago after the Security Forces
successfully thwarted a battle staged by the Tigers.
Just as the Armoured Personnel Carrier carrying the journalists
came to a halt, artillery fire rained in that direction and a
security force personnel on guard had his head blown off.
Senpathi gave a vivid description of that attack.
The injured Lt. Col. Nugera headed the Mack Infantry, a new
brigade that was introduced to minimize security force
casualties and maximize enemy victims. Those in the Mack
Infantry are afforded specialized training. There are unique
features in the Armoured Personnel Carriers used by the Mack
Infantry which we cannot disclose for security reasons.
Replacing Lt. Col Nugera as the Brigade Commander for the 531
Brigade is Shantha Dissanayaka from Gajaba Regiment who returned
after an overseas course. Jaffna City Brigade Commander Lt. Col.
Athula Kodipilly will replace 533 Brigade Commander Charlie
Gallage who took over as Brigade Commander of the Commandos. Lt.
Col. Ruwan Wanigasuriya from the artillery regiment who was
positioned at Vavuniya will take over the crucial 512 Brigade.
Given the recent postures by the two sides, the 512 Jaffna
Brigade will be called upon to play an important role in the
second innings of this latest phase of Eelam War.
51, 52, 53 and 55 divisions are important in the second innings
for which dedicated and battle-hardened officers are selected.
The Brigade Commanders have been handpicked by the Army
Commander himself. This selection has been based on his own
evaluation when he led the battle as a Brigade Commander,
Divisional Commander and later Security Forces Commander in
All newly selected Brigade Commanders were captains or majors in
rank and some commanding officers at the time Gen Fonseka
commanded troops on the battle ground. General Fonseka is learnt
to be happy with their dedication, commitment, strategy, tactics
and fighting capabilities. The commander adopted a special
scheme to supervise the officers of these ranks and to help him
evaluate their performance.
It was as far back as December 24, last year that Senpathi
predicted in this column titled Army Revamped that Major General
Lawrence Fernando was very likely to be appointed as the Chief
The security forces retaliated the LTTE attacks at Kodikaman
with heavy weapons and on Friday Sri Lanka Air Force fighter
jets pounded LTTE mortar positions at Sorampattu in Pallai and
targeted a Sea Tiger base at Chenmalai, in Mullaitivu District .
Military turning on the heat
Meanwhile the army launched a massive Multi Barrel Rocket attack
from the Welioya region on Friday few hours after the air
strikes in Muhamalai. The military’s strategy seems to keep the
Tigers guessing as to which front they will open up in the north
once the much hyped operations in that area begin. Previously
the military has shown signs that they will move southwards
towards Elephant Pass from the current positions along the
Killai-Muhamalai-Nagarkovil axis. The recent air strikes in the
Pallai and Soranpattu regions along with the artillery attacks
from Muhamalai can be an indication of this. Also there has been
visible manoeuvring in the Vavuniya front with several battle
hardened officers being transferred there along with some units
which took part in the recent Vakarai operation. The newly
created 57 division is also based at Vavuniya. A northwards
thrust from Vavuniya will be reminiscent of the Jayasikuru
operation which ended inconclusively after setting a record as
the longest military operation in Sri Lankan history. In
addition to these two fronts the military has two more options.
It can either open a new front from the Mannar mainland, moving
along the A32 road or else move north from Welioya towards
Mullaitivu. The LTTE of course will not be able to defend all
these areas and will have to make a calculated guess as to which
front the military will open up once full scale hostilities
break up in the north. In the meantime the military is keeping
the Tigers guessing with repeated air strikes and artillery
attacks on most of these vital areas.
In as much as the massive explosives haul in Jaffna was made by
security forces based on information provided, the Tigers
targeted the group of army personnel, it appears based on
So, it goes without saying to have an upper hand in battles and
indeed in this phase of Eelam War, what matters most is
The military has rightly claimed a first innings win in the
eighth-month long war. But, the second innings is going to be a
tough call judging by the stepped up operations in the north.
The winner is decided at the end of both innings.
While some say the war cannot be won conclusively, Army
Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, himself a battle-hardened
veteran, strongly believes that the Security Forces could win
the war. In fact when diplomats and other visiting foreign
dignitaries queried from him about the prospects of defeating
the Tigers, he has replied in the affirmative.
British State Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Dr.
Kim Howells on Friday ended his two-day visit that included a
trip to the recently-liberated East. He paid a courtesy call on
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Foreign Minister Rohitha
Bogollagama, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe and Defence Secretary
“During my visit, I heard at first hand the stories of child
abduction, disappearances, and other human rights abuses in Sri
Lanka… The world needs to see that the Sri Lankan government is
taking robust action to safeguard the human rights of all people
in Sri Lanka,” said Dr. Howells in a statement.
The country is back to the eighties where the world community
focused its attention on human rights violations. But, this time
the war on terrorism has slightly blurred the human rights
element and even taken precedence.
“As long as the killings and abductions continue the LTTE which
claims to be the sole representative of the Tamils will have no
future,” said Dr. Howells in an interview with a private
The British High Commission statement quoting Dr. Howells said
the international community needs to be reassured that the
Government of Sri Lanka is committed to a peaceful solution.
“Security measures and military action alone do not resolve
internal conflicts. For a peaceful resolution to be reached,
both sides of the conflict need to realise this,” said Howells.
Military dimensions of a political crisis
The political battle between former Foreign Minister Mangala
Samaraweera and the defence establishment was on the prosecution
of war and the strategy articulated by the Defence Secretary,
the brother of President Rajapksa, who is the Defnce Minister.
Samaraweera, who had the backing of the western world as well as
India for pursuing a political solution, knows the thinking of
the international community better. Samaraweera previously
spearheaded the fight to put the Tigers on the terrorist map but
suddenly changed gear, causing a clash of interests.
In this phase of war, the Government pre-empted the LTTE and
sent a dossier on LTTE’s possible game plan to both India and
Pakistan well in advance detailing the number of LTTE camps in
the vicinity of the Trincomalee naval base and harbour and the
LTTE’s plans to attack the supply line for troops from Trinco
harbour to the Kankesanthura port.
While Pakistan continued to support the government by selling
Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs), India which is unable to
help by selling weapons has increased its surveillance and
continued training military personnel.
But it was only last week that the Defence Secretary Rajapaksa
during a visit to India was told that in hindsight, the Sri
Lankan government’s prediction on the LTTE game plan was correct
but failed because of precautions taken.
On Tuesday the Indian Coastguard had foiled a major arms
smuggling operation when it seized a boat packed with weapons,
chemicals used for bombs and a suicide belt that could blow up a
large area. Five men including a top LTTE cadre was on the boat
at the time of detection.
Earlier in the week, the Indian Navy caught a boat laden with
materials for making Claymore mines and other explosives bought
in south India.
On Friday, Naval Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC) off the coast at
Kalpitiya detected two suspicious boats about 6 nautical miles
North West of Battalangunduwa seas heading towards the
Silavathurai. When the patrol craft intercepted the two boats,
they were trying to flee the area ignoring the orders.
The naval patrol craft then fired warning shots at the boats and
the occupants retaliated. In the end, the naval craft sank the
two boats and killed four LTTE cadres on board. Naval diving
teams were rushed to the area and recovered among other items,
28 sacks of steel balls containing a total of over one million
balls used for land mines.
On Tuesday the LTTE detonated a claymore mine targeting a
private vehicle from Akkaraipaththuwa to Aranthalawa. In two
other claymore attacks, some 12 STF personnel were injured and
hospitalized. STF Commadant DIG Nimal Lewke visited them at the
The LTTE cadres are striving hard to prevent the Thoppigala
camps, the last bastion of the Tigers in the East, from falling.
LTTE Deputy Military Commander Ramesh, Batticaloa Leader Jeyam,
Vakarai Leader, Nagesh and Amparai Leader Stalin have been
discussing ways of preventing what the military claims is an
Villagers are moving out of Toppigala into government controlled
areas like Vavunativu sensing the impending fighting between the
two sides. The Tigers still believe to have two 122 mm artillery
guns in this region.
This week Karuna loyalists infiltrated Toppigala from the South
and exploded a claymore mine, at a place called
No senior LTTE cadres were among the four killed.
From here some seven kilometres away, there is an LTTE camp and
eight to ten satellite camps. At the moment the supply route is
totally cut off and there is a lack of food and medicine. From
Welikanda to Poonani the supply route is cut off by the army.
The LTTE supply routes through Karadiyanaru, Vavunathivu,
Ayanthimalai, Kokadicholai , Tharavikulam, and Kiran are also
being cut off.
While the STF has taken control of the Batticaloa town and the
army has an added responsibility to man Vakarai along with three
police stations, senior police officers from the Criminal
Investigations Department are likely to be posted to the north
Director CID Sisira Mendis who has been in the service for 30
years and counts four years in his current position is likely to
be sent to Vavuniya.
His deputy Nandana Munasinghe is to be transferred to Batticaloa.
Both faced interviews to be considered for promotion as DIGs
With the security in key installations being beefed up, it is
learnt that President Rajapaksa, discussed with the relevant
authorities at the Defence Ministry this week on providing
adequate protection to the air port. In fact it was decided that
the air force take over the security of the air port from next
week. The biggest ever attack on the air port and the air force
base at Katunayake was staged in 2001. The defence establishment
is taking no chances in protecting the country’s only
international air port.
CFA still worth the paper?
Anniversaries will come and go, but the CFA has stood the test
of time. Will it ironically be the basis for further hostilities
or will it be the basis for a reasonable political solution,
only time will tell.
In five years since the CFA was singed the LTTE has lost 2,210
cadres, the most being during the last year, when hostilities
It is clear that during this past year both sides have paid lip
service to the CFA and carried out their plans to a great extent
unimpeded. But, during these five years the number of deaths has
greatly been minimized.
While the CFA has caused a dent in the LTTE with the breaking
away of the Karuna faction, the same agreement gave the LTTE the
opportunity to liquidate Tamil paramilitaries opposed to the
Tigers, informants and intelligence officers. It provided the
atmosphere to bring in weapons and infiltrate the Capital and
suburbs as well as Jaffna. Infiltrating cleared areas was done
courtesy political offices opened in keeping with the agreement.
Some of these have been used for intelligence gathering rather
than political work. The permission to marry and settle down
after the CFA was signed also has resulted in lesser commitment
on the part of LTTE cadres who have families and have tasted
freedom. Some have even gone over to government controlled areas
and surrendered including at Human Rights Commission offices in
order to leave the country.
The CFA which was opposed by parties when in the opposition have
been upheld by these same parties when in government. The JVP
and the JHU however have been constantly for the abrogation of
this agreement but while the JHU which joined the government has
been silenced, the JVP will be free, to carry on its campaign
(hope not violent) against the CFA, provided that it is not
restrained by the police and security forces.