Military Matters


Military readies for Wanni safari

A warring govt. finding it progressively difficult to appease its foreign benefactors
of the sincerity of its political intentions

In as much as the creation of the 57 Strike Div. early this year signaled that major operations were on the cards in the Wanni, the creation of the 59 Div. in Weli Oya also suggests that a major front is about to be opened in this region.
Brig. Nanda Uduwatte (Armoured Corps) would head the 59 Div. while Brig. P.W.B. Jayasundera (Artillery), the former 512 Brigade Commander, has been appointed the Deputy General Officer Commanding (GOC) Weli Oya. The new 512 Brigade Commander is Lt. Col. C.K. Costa.

This is the first time a Deputy GOC has been appointed and this novel feature is not just for Weli Oya, but also for the 55 (Northern Muhamalai) and 57 (Vavuniya) Div.
523 Brigade Commander, Brig. S.B.T. Liyanage (Armoured Corps) has been appointed 55 Div. Deputy GOC, while Brigadier General Staff of the Security Forces, Jaffna (BGS.SF.J) Brig. Z. Wickremeratne (Artillery Regiment) has been appointed the Deputy GOC 57 Division.
Col. A.R. Rowell, Centre Commandant of the Signal Unit has replaced Brig. Wickremaratne as BGS SF(J), while Lt. Col. P.I. Pathiratne- Gemunu Watch (GW) replaced Brig. Liyanage as 523 Brigade Commander.

Putting men and material into place
Three Brigade Commands have been established in Weli Oya under the Div. and his Deputy Commander. Lt. Col. A.S. Ariyasinghe (Artillery) heads the 591 Brigade Command, Lt. Col. H.M. Peter Silva (Sinha) heads the 592 Brigade Command and Lt. Col. K.H.P.P. Fernando (Sinha) heads the 593 Brigade Command, according to the appointment order MSB/PA/6?1 (APPT) 14 dated November 16, and signed by Major General Sunil De Silva (Military Secretary).

With the appointment of a Deputy GOC each in the 55 and 57 Div., Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka has demonstrated that operations in the Wanni and the North are likely to intensify, while the establishment of the 59 Div., including a GOC and a deputy GOC with the three Brigade Commands, will mean major operations are around the corner.

The military is working according to plan and hopes to have thousands on the battlefield with multi fronts opened to storm LTTE controlled territory. The monsoonal weather is not conducive to using armoured vehicles but, once the monsoon ends, the military would not hesitate to use all its assets to uproot the LTTE.

Small is effective
Nevertheless, the army is not idling, but continuing to undertake limited operations in the northern front, right up to yesterday. They are putting behind the mini debacle in Muhamalai on November 7, the day the budget was presented in Parliament, and continuing with limited operations.

Yesterday, infantrymen from 4GW undertook a limited operation in Nagarkovil around 9:00 a.m., while on Friday (16) evening, the 7VIR (Vijayaba Infantry Regiment) hit a LTTE tractor killing six cadres and wounding three more.

The security forces destroyed several bunkers in the Kilali and Nargarkovil area. The Tigers are avoiding bunkers amid torrential rains, to escape the limited but accurate offensives. While the military is on the offensive, it is possible that the LTTE might attempt to launch an attack on a vulnerable area in Jaffna, but the security forces are alive to such possibilities and orders have been given by Jaffna SF Commander, Maj. Gen. G.A.Chandrasiri, to take precautions.

This week, intense fighting also continued in the Wanni, where LTTE strongholds were coming under intense air strikes. Dozens of Tigers are claimed to have been killed by the security forces that broke into the LTTE forward defence lines, in the early hours of Tuesday (15). Several bunkers were also destroyed, compelling the Tigers to avoid the bunkers and take cover in the trenches.

LTTE abandons Vietnam Base
Already, the LTTE, in the face of limited operations, has abandoned Vietnam Base at Mullikulam, which was the main supply base for the Wanni Forward Defence Lines (FDL). The LTTE had launched an operation from Vietnam Base, to stall the military advance to wrest control of the Madhu area.
Troops from 9GW and the Commando Brigade destroyed six LTTE bunkers in Tharikulam in Mannar and killed eight LTTE cadres, including Wanasa Maduweli.
Meanwhile, even as these operations continued, Special Forces, ambushed a Defender Jeep and killed an LTTE leader in charge of artillery and mortars among others.
Wanni SF Commander, Maj. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya is giving leadership along with Brigadiers Jagath Dias, Shavindra Silva, Nirmal Dharmaratne and Jagath Rambukpotha in the Wanni offensives. Maj. Gen. Jayasuriya received Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka yesterday in Vavuniya and briefed him on the latest developments.

SLAF restoring its pride
The October 22 Anuradhapura disaster annoyed President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who during the Security Council Meeting that week, ordered the SLAF not to spare any of the identified LTTE targets.
However, due to a shortage of Bunker Buster bombs, the SLAF had to urgently get them. Having got them within 10 days, the SLAF really went for a key Tiger. They razed to the ground the Alex Base at Ratnapuram at Thiravipuram, the abode of LTTE Political Wing Leader Thamilselvan, who the military claims was put to supervise the Pooneryn area.
This week the SLAF continued to take on LTTE assets, maintaining it successfully hit an LTTE boat manufacturing factory at Murukandi on Friday (16), after Navy Intelligence had passed on information to the SLAF that the factory was located on a one acre plot near the Murukandi Kovil.

But, the LTTE has a different twist to the story, claiming that the boat factory served tsunami victims and that a 32 year-old woman living in a house nearby was injured and admitted to hospital. The LTTE claimed that the SLAF dropped six bombs on the factory south of Kilinochchi, adding that the place was visible on the A 9 Road.On Wednesday (14), the SLAF had hit two LTTE targets in the Wanni and destroyed a training camp of the LTTE in Mullaitivu. It is a matter of time before the SLAF, which has been taking on Tiger assets, would go for more Tiger leaders with the bunker busters.
LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran did say on November 27, 2005, days after the presidential election, that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was a pragmatic person and that he would give him time to come up with a practical solution.
But, the LTTE made some monumental mistakes by not making the Geneva Talks work with a new administration. By targeting the army commander, the organization was asking for a fitting response.

Dates and events
President Rajapaksa celebrates his 52nd birthday today, and tomorrow marks the beginning of his third year in office. It is also the day when the crucial Budget vote will be taken. After a stormy political week of crossovers on both sides, the government expects to pass the Budget vote with ease.
In exactly a week, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran celebrates his 53rd birthday. And the next day, after a week set aside for his fallen heroes, Prabhakaran will make his Heroes Week address.
What will Prabhakaran say in his policy statement? He is likely to hammer the international community for its open support, as well as entreat the world to hear the Tamil cry for freedom from destruction.

Uncle Sam amenable
The government is not overly worried about the international community’s response to its pro-war stance. The government feels the CFA was simply on paper, as the two sides have failed to honour it.

As for the US, the government is extremely happy that only recently it presented the Navy with surveillance boats and equipment, much to the chagrin of the LTTE. On top of that, the US has frozen the assets of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), much to satisfaction of the government. But, US Ambassador Robert Blake has maintained that this action was not against the Tamil people but against the LTTE. US officials who, however, have castigated the government for its human rights record, does not want to bring that into the picture, where material to crush terrorism is concerned.

The same goes as far as India is concerned. If not for the support (intelligence and equipment) by the Indian Government, the SLN would not have achieved its successes. The SLAF, too, is receiving much support in recent times. A US$ 100 million credit line for military purchases on a low interest rate has also been given.

India playing ‘hard to please’
But, as far as India is concerned, the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been a failure, vis-à-vis, a political settlement is concerned. India has reiterated that a negotiated settlement is the only way out, while a military solution is not the answer.

Indian leaders have even snubbed President Rajapaksa by failing to pose with him for a photograph and failing to have a high level welcome during some of his visits. He has visited India officially thrice, since he came to power, in 2005, 2006 and 2007. His brothers, Basil and Gotabhaya who are, essentially, his political and defence advisors, have also visited New Delhi several times.

While on the economic side the two countries did progress after President Rajapaksa took over the reins on the political side there is some sort of estrangement. But, the biggest drawback, the country has faced since Rajapaksa became President, was to reverse the anti LTTE feelings in Tamil Nadu over the past two years. Several Tamil political parties openly expressing anger at the Rajapaksa government and thereby taking a pro-LTTE stance have the backing of about 20% of the voters. This does not augur well for the government. It should not do away with the APRC, as that and that alone gives the world and India, especially, Tamil Nadu, some hope that a political solution is at least being considered. This is food for thought at this crucial juncture when the JVP is trying to hold the government to ransom.
Retaining the party in power is important, but more important is keeping the world against the LTTE. What if European countries turn a blind eye to the LTTE due to the course of action taken by the government?


Anuradhapura air base probe crash lands

It is almost a month since the October 22 attack on the Anuradhapura air base. Three parallel investigations are being conducted‑‑ one, by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), another by the three services and the regular one by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the police.
Air Force Chief Air Marshal Roshan Gunatilleka appointed his Chief of Staff to head the probe into the Mi 24 crash and the attack on the air base.

Meanwhile, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda heads the three services probe team on the disaster. Army Director General Legal, Major General Mohanthi Peiris is another member on this team. The report will shortly receive the attention of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is currently facing a political crisis.
The LTTE did it, so what?
As for the CID probe, it appears that sleuths are now resigned to the fate that the air base was hit by the LTTE and there was nothing more to probe, as the damage had been done.
This new found attitude stems from the probe crash landing, following vital information surfacing from the preliminary investigations.

Efforts are under way to stifle the probe and key people, who might be able to provide more information, are being sidelined and shielded in the process. More arrests must be made and the probe taken to its logical conclusion.
How did the July 7 London bombings or the Glasgow airport bombings cases get cracked? Sleuths were allowed to probe the cases with 100% independence, until they got to the bottom of the whole affair. How did the US sting operation succeed? The success led to the arrest of key LTTE operatives (including former non Lankan military men) from several countries. The US, this week, froze the assets of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, after months of probing. British Intelligence, MI5, was likely to extract from the former LTTE deputy leader Karuna, currently in British custody, vital information about the Tiger’s international network.

Unfortunately, our investigators, for decades, have been viewed as imbeciles, simply because they are not allowed to do their job independently. It is more than 18 months since the attempted assassination of the army commander, with inside support, and despite an initial breakthrough, the case is yet to be cracked

The enemy within
In the immediate aftermath of the Anuradhapura air base disaster, it was revealed that the contractors, who undertook the transport of soil, for the extension of the runway, were negligent in their choice of sub contractors, who had a hand in providing vital information to the Tigers.
Both the SLAF and the CID are blaming the attack on Google Earth, as a convenient way to absolve the contractors who passed the project onto sub contractors in a negligent manner, without sufficient screening of the personnel.
The contract was given to the Maga Neguma Project coming under the Ministry of Highways and Road Development. (Under the Rs 1.8 billion Maga Neguma Project, some 170 small projects, involving carpeting and tarring of roads in the rural areas, have been undertaken).

Some 164 workers and 94 vehicles were deployed by the Coordinating Secretary of the Road Development Ministry, for the work on the runway.
Last week, it was speculated that a Coordinating Secretary of the Road Development Ministry might be arrested. Sleuths from the CID and the PSD interrogated the Coordinating Director of the Maga Neguma Project, Kithsiri Abeygunawardena, who also coordinates the work of the Nation Building Ministry, coming under President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
It was to him that the project to extend the runway of Anuradhapura air base was given.
Abeygunawardena was known to A.N. Thananayagam of ANT Transport fame, who transported many goods to the Wanni and had the LTTE nod for it.

Thananayagam introduced Pradeepan, a resident of Batticaloa, who had links with the LTTE, to Abeygunawardena, who admitted accepting Rs 1 million from Pratheepan and issued a letter regarding the sub contract.
Abeygunawardena and Thananayagam were in the habit of visiting night clubs and, in the course of time, one Malki from the Athurugiriya Millennium City had befriended the former.
It is also learnt that a suspected LTTE cadre, under the guise of a Karuna loyalist, was working under Abeygunawardena as his driver. His name is Leslie Alexander Shakespeare and he used to drive Abeygunawardena’s double cab bearing No. 253-9297.
The PSD and the Army Intelligence began to suspect him after he refused to allow his cab to be searched during at least three visits to Vavuniya. At a road block where he refused to be checked, he said he was Kithsiri Abeygunawardena.

Investigations have also revealed that three vehicles that should have come under the Road Development Authority (RDA), when the agency changed names, went missing. Two of the vehicles bearing numbers 16-580, a Mazda 323, was despatched to the uncleared areas having sold it for Rs 150,000 and 18-1965, a Nissany Sunny, was also despatched to the LTTE areas. An Izuzu Double Cab, No. 54-8413, which was also missing, would be taken into custody shortly.
Investigators have also found that of a list of 11 people who were employed at the RDA, one Keerthi Bandara, a subordinate of underworld leader Ice Manju, who is believed to have killed Col. Meedin, was part of Abeygunawardena’s security detail. Bandara, who is in remand custody, continues to draw a salary of more than Rs. 20,000.
Abeygunawardena, who also was involved in the Nation Building Ministry, had links with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, minister in charge of the subject.
President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated by Babu, who had befriended the Head of State and cultivated a close relationship with him.
President Rajapaksa, whose public relations are excellent, could also fall prey to the LTTE, which scrutinizes the traits of those they target.

Wheels within wheels
In fact, an intelligence report on the President’s security has already being submitted to the head of State. (Recently, the office of the Director General, Public Relations, Vajira Irugalbandara was sealed. It is unclear whether the office situated near Temple Trees was moved elsewhere).
On one occasion, President Rajapaksa had castigated Abeygunawardena, who had suddenly taken off to Kandy, even though he was supposed to visit the East, for work relating to the Eastern Province development.
Anther top official had recommended Abeygunawardena recently for the Post of Director, Land Reform Commission. President Rajapaksa promptly turned down the appointment, saying he lacked the qualifications for such a job.
Like Abeygunwardena, this official, none other than the Additional Defence Secretary Willie Gamage, a non-SLAS officer, was a man of many parts.

He made this recommendation as Chairman, Selection Board, for the appointment of directors of corporations and other Boards.
As the week dawned, the news in the grapevine was that an additional secretary faces arrest. Payment to the contractors of the Maga Neguma project handling the Anuradhapura SLAF airbase runway extension was passed by Additional Defence Secretary Willie Gamage, a close confidante of President Rajapaksa for more than three decades. He was attached to the Multipurpose Cooperative Society at Beliatte as a Purchasing Officer. He had also worked with Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Vidyodaya library. Senior stalwarts of the JVP and SLFP are aware of the role entrusted to him in 1971.
Gamage, who earlier headed an NGO called National Forum of People’s Organisations, was Director Operations, Hambantota District Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme.

Gamage, who was handpicked as Chairman, Strategic Enterprise Management Agency (SEMA), played a major role in projects relating to the Mahinda Chinthana. The Manifesto pledged road development of the rural sector.
While the SLAF and the Defence establishment was keen on extending the runway, to enable Kfir Jets take off from Anuradhapura, instead of Katunayake, to save time, no one appears to have been keen on protecting the base, in the process.
As usual, the authorities would close the stable door, once the horse has bolted and billions of rupees have gone down the drain. It appears that sleuths are forced to draw a blank, despite successful efforts by them, initially, to uncover the plan by the LTTE, in taking the very officials working for the government, for a big ride or raid.