On the Offensive on All Fronts
diplomatic efforts, including high level official visits, were made to
South East Asian countries, to curb the Tigers from using these places
for procurement and shipping of arms and ammunition, to the north and
These efforts paid off, as these countries employed greater vigilance to
stem the flow of weapons to Sri Lanka, in the recent past.
Besides these efforts, the government has sought to promulgate Emergency
Regulations (ER), to make it an offence, not only to procure such
material, but also to aid and abet, as well as fund such procurements.
Govt. plugging the gaps
Under fresh regulations, titled Restriction on the Procurement of
Certain Items, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made it an offence for
any Sri Lankan national, resident here or overseas, from procuring,
aiding or abetting or providing financial assistance under these
regulations. Upon conviction after trial by the High Court, a person is
liable to Rigorous Imprisonment for a term between three months and five
years, and a fine not exceeding Rs. 500,000.
Under the category of weapon systems, weapons and ammunition, military
aircrafts, naval ships, armoured vehicles, artillery, naval and air
defence guns, aircraft guns and accessories, missiles and rockets, all
types of grenades, all types of firearms, pistols, machine guns,
automatic rifles, 40 mm grenade launchers, 40 mm RPGs and mortars (60mm,
81 and 82mm) have been listed as prohibited items and equipment.
Armoured vehicle spares, submerged vehicles or underwater vehicles,
explosive detection equipment, digital jamming devices, infrared
illuminators, GPS equipment, inclusive of aviation GPS and laser
designators have been prohibited under the category miscellaneous items
and spares. Laser Range Finders and Radar Range Finders and Thermal
Image Devices are also in this list of prohibited items that, however,
could be procured with Defence ministry approval.
Under special equipment, all types of radars and radar spares, all types
of parachutes, night vision devices and beta lights, while all types of
military switches used for booby traps and IEDs and ISF electric and ISF
percussion igniter switches have been prohibited. The list could be
further enlarged by the Defence Secretary in the interest of national
security, preservation of public order and the maintenance of essential
services and supplies.
So, it appears that the government is leaving no stone unturned to
throttle the Tigers in every conceivable sphere, and is going hammer and
tongs, to defeat the LTTE on all fronts.
Alive to the fact that the LTTE, taking a beating on the battle field,
is likely to turn its guns on key defence and economic installations in
areas outside the north and east, the Government has set up high
security zones (HSZ) around key places such as the Colombo Port, the
Katunayake International Airport and the adjacent Sri Lanka Air Force
base, to name a few HSZs. The Government has set up these HSZs under ERs
promulgated recently. (See Katunayake HSZ map).
Army draws first blood in Wanni
Militarily, this has been a significant week, as the security forces
launched separate operations on what has been an impregnable forward
defence line (FDL) along the Kilali-Muhamali-Nagakovil axis.
The military claims that 20 Tigers were killed as against two soldiers,
in the pre dawn attack on Kilali, when small groups of soldiers from the
4 CLI, broke into the area and destroyed eight bunkers.
The LTTE, however, concedes the deaths of four Tigers and claims an
unknown number of dead soldiers were removed by the military, which
returned to base after three hours of fighting. The pre dawn attack on
Sunday at Nagarkovil, where the military is quite strong, did not
produce the desired results, while five Tigers were killed in another
attack on the Muhamalai FDL. Intercepted LTTE messages revealed that an
LTTE area leader Ravi disappeared during the confrontation.
The LTTE is trapped in an area of 6,500 sq. kms., due to the ongoing
operations by the security forces. The Tiger strength is in the region
of 3,000 cadres, including 1,800 on Jaffna FDLs along this axis, and
1,200 Sea Tigers.
The August 11 and October 11 attacks last year by the Tigers and the
security forces respectively, saw each side that attacked first pay the
This week, the attacks by the security forces, were swift and as a
result, the casualty count was far below that observed on either side,
in the two major attacks last year.
The LTTE is blaming the army for initiating the ground attack with
battle tanks, in Kilali, while the army maintains that the Tigers fired
120mm and 81 mm mortar rounds during the attack.
The attacks up north, were launched Sunday, despite setbacks in
Thampanai, in Mannar, till late Saturday (22), when the Tigers rained
artillery and mortars and attacked the military’s FDLs killing Captain
Alagiyawanna and three soldiers and injuring 32 more. Several Tiger
cadres were also killed during the confrontation, and the military
claims it captured three bunkers.
The security forces had broken into the FDL in Periythampane, from the
direction of Vilathikulam. The battle was co-coordinated by Wanni
Special Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya and Brig. Jagath
Dias, on the instructions of Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka. The
eastern flank of the A-9 Road, was guarded by the newly created 57
Brigade that faced a major debacle recently and subsequently, came under
Jagath Rambukpotha. The army had advanced about two kms. beyond
Periyathampanai, since March this year, when operations in the Mannar
Meanwhile, the Army Chief had earmarked another operation on Monday, to
target the LTTE in the Giant Tank area, popularly called Yodhawewa in
the Mannar region. The second Commando Brigade and the 10 Gajaba
Regiment were deployed for the attack. According to battle plans, the
elite forces and the infantry troops were detailed to capture a row of
bunkers west of Yodhawewa area, from where the LTTE launched attacks on
security forces and vehicles on the Vavuniya- Mannar main supply route.
Amidst stiff resistance, the security forces managed to capture seven
bunkers during the battle.
Three soldiers were killed and 22 others injured in the confrontation,
when security forces stormed the LTTE bunkers, killing around 30 Tigers.
Capt. Thushara Wettasinghe lost a leg when he stepped on an anti
personnel mine. Capt. Wettasinghe, a valiant officer, was awarded the
Veera Vikrema Vibhushana for his galantry during the Thoppigala battle.
Strategies and Tactics
The modus operandi of the security forces was likely to succeed in
the Mannar region via the Wanni jungles, but in approaching the northern
Jaffna FDLs, a new approach may have to be devised.
The military began its operations by systematically clearing the Tigers
off their habitat. Initially, small groups, including elite forces,
penetrated the jungles. This is in contrast to previous efforts of
sending battle tanks and columns of soldiers, who were vulnerable.
This ‘Eelam War IV’ saw the military put its artillery, mortar launchers
and multi barrel rocket launchers into good use, while ground troops
specialized in jungle warfare, penetrated Tiger territory.
Military aircraft kept pounding rebel positions and destroying Tiger
assets with the support of ground and electronic surveillance.
Even last week, as we reported, air sorties were carried out on an LTTE
base consisting of large arms and ammunition dumps, which had also
harboured the special Imran Pandiyan “regiment” of the Tigers.
Navy rules the waves
On the part of the Navy, on several occasions, Fast Attack Craft (FACs)
have intercepted Tiger craft carrying reinforcements and supplies, while
Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) have helped destroy Tiger vessels laden
with arms and ammunition. This was the case just a fortnight back, with
three ships destroyed in the space of 24-hours.
This week, the Navy, on Thursday (27), launched an attack on a flotilla
of Sea Tiger boats from Nayaru area cruising towards Podwakattu. During
the confrontation, in the sea off Trincomalee, the Navy destroyed three
Sea Tiger craft, killing an unknown number of cadres onboard. A naval
rating was killed and several others injured in this battle that lasted
nearly four hours.
All out War on Terror
With the Navy destroying nearly a dozen LTTE ships loaded with arms
and ammunition, the government has also moved to cripple the LTTE’s
procurement of weapons, weapons systems, spares and ammunition at the
first instance, by introducing new ERs.
Internationally, too, the Tigers procurement mode has been placed on low
gear after a spate of arrests of LTTE operatives in the US, UK,
Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and France, among other countries.
On the ‘KP’ affair, this is how Senpathi reported on September 16:
“Top officers in the Sri Lankan Defence establishment are convinced that
the Americans, who conducted an undercover sting operation, had planned
to take it to its logical conclusion.”…
“In August 2006, the FBI netted in 11 people, including Sri Lankans and
foreigners, involved in procuring weapons. But, they had deliberately
kept out Pratheepan Thavarajah’s name in the press release, for fear
that he would become a fugitive.
The US, which has been working closely with the Indonesian authorities,
was able to take over Thavarajah, who was grilled by Indonesian
authorities for a week. Some officers feel, a similar pattern would
befall Kumaran Pathmanathan, as the US authorities would want to get at
the bottom of the LTTE network. This would help unravel the network of
other terrorist organizations, they believe.”
As expected, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during his address to the UN
General Assembly on Wednesday, was quick to connect the local efforts to
root out terrorism, with the international campaign to uproot the
“Terrorism anywhere is terrorism. There is nothing good in terrorism.
Sri Lanka has taken an upfront position in the global community’s
efforts to deal with terrorism. We have become party to 11 out of 13 UN
Conventions for the suppression of the various acts of terrorism,” said
Though the President made a boast of signing 11 of the 13 UN Conventions
on terrorism, he may have forgotten the international fall out just last
September, after a five-member Bench of the Supreme Court dismissed the
Sinharasa application based on the UNHCR determination on his case.
(Please see relevant box story)
Sucking the finger that feeds
The Sri Lankan delegation to Geneva, at the sixth session of the
Human Rights Council (HRC), not only managed to prevent the Resolution
being tabled against Sri Lanka, it also ensured that it was not kept
hanging over the country’s head.
When the sessions ended this week, there was nothing pending against Sri
Lanka, but at the same time, there was no question of the Resolution
As we said in a previous column, the government is practical in its
thinking, and even though it was confident that it could defeat a
Resolution against the country, at the HRC, it did not want a vote to be
taken. The reason: It would need the members of the European Union (EU)
for future aid and assistance.
The delegation did not want to be seen, on the one hand, fighting the EU
at the HRC, and the country, on the other hand, going to this important
block for aid.
This week, three urgent Bills considered inconsistent with the
Constitution, were referred to the Supreme Court for determination.
The move was also meant to satisfy the international community,
particularly, the EU, which had already decided to grant Duty Free
concessions to Sri Lanka, via the General Preference System Scheme (GSP+),
that was coming up for review in 2008.
This benefits the country’s garment sector, which accounts for about 50%
of the country’s total exports. The concession GSP+ Scheme applicable to
vulnerable countries with special developmental needs such as Sri Lanka,
will cover around 7,200 products, which can enter the EU duty free.
When President Rajapaksa, addressing the UN General Assembly sessions on
Wednesday, said that Sri Lanka has signed 11 of the 13 UN Conventions on
Terrorism, he may have forgotten the international fall out last
September, following the Supreme Court dismissal of the Sinharasa
application (based on the UNHCR determination on his case).
The Supreme Court stated that that the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights (ICCPR) had no legal effect in respect of Sri
Lankan citizens, even though the island is a signatory to the ICCPR.
The reason given was that the ICCPR was not incorporated into Sri
Lanka’s Constitution as a normal law. In fact, the international
community has observed at international for a, that the government has
signed many international covenants but, they have not been ratified or
given legal effect after the Supreme Court determination on the
So the government went before the Supreme Court this week with three
urgent Bills, to ascertain whether they were consistent with the
One Bill was titled “Convention Against Illicit Traffic In Narcotic
Drugs and Psychotropic Substances” and the second was “Drug Dependant
Persons (Treatment and Rehabilitation) and a third titled,
“International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to make it a law
of the country.”
In the last Bill mentioned, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P.A.
Ratnayake, Deputy Solicitor General Shavindra Fernando P.C., Senior
State Counsel Nerin Pulle and State Counsel Mahen Goppallawa appeared
for the Attorney General.
The Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Nihal Jayasinghe, N.E.
Dissanayake and Jagath Balapatabendi, however, found some clauses
inconsistent with the Constitution, according to its determination.
The Bench observed that Clause 7 of the Bill, which vests in the High
Court (HC) jurisdiction over the enforcement of Human Rights recognized
by the Act, would be inconsistent with Article 126 of the Constitution,
which vests the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine
any infringement or imminent infringement of any Fundamental Rights
provided for in Chapter III and IV of the Constitution.
However, the Bench maintained that the said inconsistency would cease if
the jurisdiction conferred on the HC to hear and determine petitions on
an alleged infringement or imminent infringement of the Rights referred
to under Section 2, 4 and 5, and is amended, whereby, to state that the
jurisdiction of the HC is limited and it could adjudicate on the
residual Rights that are not within the authority Chapter III and IV of
the Constitution, in regard of which the sole and exclusive jurisdiction
is vested in the Supreme Court, under Article 126 of the Constitution.
ASG Ratnayake agreed to amend Clause 7 of the Bill, to ensure that
Article 126 is not violated by providing a procedure for the HC to hear
and determine the rights conferred by Clauses 2,4, 5 and 6 of the Bill.
The Bill seeks to confer Statutory Rights, to give effect to the Civil
and Political rights referred to by the ICCPR. Clause 2 recognises the
Rights of every person to be recognized as a person before the law,
while Clause 3 of the Bill provides that no person shall propagate war
or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes
incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
Should this Bill be passed, as is likely to happen, propagating war or
advocating national, racial or religious hatred by any group- the LTTE
or any other chauvinistic party- the act could become an offence under
the normal law of the land.