Govt., LTTE strategise anew
Liberation Wanni is gradually beginning to bear fruit for the military.
Civilians from uncleared areas are seeking freedom in the cleared areas
in the Mannar District
After the miraculous statue of Madhu Matha was removed last week, in
the face of an impending military showdown, the incessant torrential
rains that lashed the region for weeks, ceased!
The weather cleared up completely and so did the rain of artillery and
mortar shells. For two whole days, the big guns went silent this week.
There was the occasional shell fired from the cleared to the uncleared
area and that was it.
The rains, of course, have resulted in boggy conditions, making ground
operations difficult and the use of armour, impossible. The rains also
caused mosquito-bred diseases to spread, hampering manpower on both
The LTTE took possession of the Madhu Shrine area after the miraculous
statue was removed to St. Xavier’s Church Thevenpiddy, close to
Vellankulam in the Mannar District.
Catholic devotees in Mannar commenced a signature campaign to pressure
the LTTE, as well as the government, to allow the safe return of the
Madhu Matha statue. The petition was handed over to the Government Agent
Mannar, A. Nicholaspillai, to be passed down to Colombo.
Church authorities blowing hot
Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph joined his fellow bishops at the
Catholic Bishops Conference held in Kandy this week. The Bishops
Conference last week, in a press release, appealed to the government and
the LTTE to keep Madhu, a place of worship, out of the combat.
The conference this week met in Kandy and discussed the serious issues
at stake, including the safety of the Madhu Matha statue, as well as the
speedy return of the statue to its sylvan shrine, the occupation of the
sacred area by the LTTE and the fact that troops were poised to secure
it. The current Bishops’ Conference is a sequel to representations made
by Mannar Bishop Joseph as well as Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein
Bhaila to Apostolic Pro Nuncio Archbishop Mario Zenari last week.
Judging by the restraint on the part of the two warring parties, they
seem to have taken the appeal by the Bishops’ Conference seriously.
In Weli Oya, notwithstanding the conditions and diseases and Tiger
resistance, including minefields and booby traps, troops made progress
of sorts, advancing nearly 5 kms into Tiger-controlled territory,
Fleeing Tiger conscription
Barring the Sunday (6) attack north of Madhu, where there were
casualties on both sides, operations in Mannar and Vavuniya were greatly
limited this week, owing to boggy conditions.
But, in the overall account, Operation Liberation Wanni is gradually
beginning to bear fruit for the military. Civilians from uncleared areas
are seeking freedom in the cleared areas in the Mannar District, just as
they did in Vakarai and during other operations in the East.
Just like Vakarai, the LTTE is trying hard to hold back civilians but,
as the area is vast, and Tiger cadres thinly spread, it is an unenviable
The two routes taken are via sea by boats and through the paddy fields.
The safe passage by boat costs around Rs 1 lakh per person. By end
March, there were just eight families accounting for 32 individuals, who
arrived at the new Kalimoddai internally displaced persons (IDP) site in
the Nanattan DS division, headed by Thirugnanasambanthar.
To date, some 140 families, accounting for over 500 civilians, mainly
children and adults, have been registered by the District Secretariat
In the Mantai West DS Division, Sudharan, who shuttles from Batticaloa,
is the Divisional Secretary. Operations in this division are still
progressing, even though there has been a lull in the past week or so.
Those returning from the uncleared areas are being screened by the Navy
and Military Police before they are sent to the Kalimoddai Welfare
Centre, a special camp run by the military. Civilians from the cleared
areas are barred from visiting this camp as of now.
In the entire Mannar district, by end March, there were 6,240 internally
displaced families, accounting for 23,445 IDPs, on account of military
operations during the past nine months to a year.
On the one hand, the torrential rains destroyed much of the paddy in the
Mannar rice bowl, while fishing was made difficult due to this unusual
weather. This is on top of restrictions placed by the Navy for security
In recent times, fishing in the Vidattalativu area has virtually come to
This time, it is not because of any new measures by the Navy, but
because the LTTE is abducting young fishermen and conscripting them, due
to severe manpower problems, as the military continues its war of
Last month, Sandiyago (28), Xavier (26) and Leonard (19), three brothers
from the Pigardo family, along with Akilan Perera (21), were whisked
away from a group of five Tamil fishermen off Vidatalativu.
Troops are poised to reach Vidatalativu, the last key LTTE arms supplies
point. Part of the Madhu operation, as well as the operations north of
Madhu was to secure the western coast to cut off supplies from South
Last year, troops cleared the Silawaturai area to prevent smuggling of
arms and ammunition from that area.
This new wave of Tiger conscription has resulted in more civilians
crossing over to cleared areas. For several months, civilians have
braved military operations and remained in uncleared areas. But, they
are not ready to stand conscription, particularly, at a time when the
LTTE is at the receiving end, unable to stage a single major operation,
as the oganisation is fighting, essentially, a defensive war.
Tigers still resilient
If this trend continues, the LTTE would find it difficult to continue
its war effort. But, the Tigers have done considerably well in the face
of an unprecedented military onslaught on several fronts in Mannar,
Vavuniya, Weli Oya and across the Kilali-Muhamalai-Nagarkovil axis in
This columnist predicted long before the operations in the Wanni
commenced, that it would not be a cakewalk for the security forces, as
it was in the East. This is because of the LTTE’s conventional war
capabilities. The LTTE, as predicted, put its artillery and mortar guns
to good use, as well as used mines and booby traps to stall or delay
Notwithstanding all these, the troops made headway in its war of
attrition and managed to take control of a few key points west of the
Giant’s Tank around Parapankandal and north of it around Adampan in the
Mannar area. Troops have also successfully advanced some 10 km north of
Madhu, close to Pallampiddi. In the Vavuniya area too, by continuous
penetration, it managed to secure a few key places.
Feeling the pressure, the LTTE is desperate to divert the attention of
the troops. Hence, the various attacks in the border villages, as well
as in the Anuradhapura, Moneragala and Hambantota districts.
The terrorist attacks in Colombo and the suburbs have also put the
forces under heightened alert. This administration has fought the war on
several fronts, not just in the northeast theatre of war, but also in
Colombo. Tamil civilians face numerous difficulties and hardships, as
the military is bent on ensuring the security of the Capital.
Human rights (HR) excesses have also resulted in the process and this
administration, despite all the bashings internationally, has managed to
fight back and even contest powerful governments and international
organisations, including the world body.
The LTTE hoped that international pressure could be brought to bear on
this administration, to halt the military offensives, but that has not
When blocked by one quarter, the government would go to another, and
return to the original quarter, when things have subsided in the first
The administration used the good offices of the United States to get the
European Union (EU) to ban the LTTE. The dangers of international
terrorism were played up to get foreign countries to do all in their
control to expose Tiger activities and to get at the bottom of the
LTTE’s international arms smuggling network.
But, since the high profile visits to Iran were made, Sri Lanka began to
lose America’s support for the war on terrorism and in fact, was at the
receiving end in terms of HR abuses.
Since December 26, 2007, the US diplomatic service announced a “policy
of rejection of applications for licences for the export of defence
articles and services to Sri Lanka.” Last month, the US State
Department, in its annual report, made a scathing attack on the current
administration in Sri Lanka vis-à-vis its HR record.
Sri Lanka has been facing hard times in Geneva at successive UNHRC
sessions and managed to prevent a resolution.
EU’s ‘rendition’ of HR abuse
The EU is also not very pleased with the country’s HR record, and was
set to end all benefits Sri Lanka would otherwise have obtained via GSP
+ facility it enjoyed for several years.
The EU has its own Code of Conduct on arms exports. The Code asks
countries to reject licences for the export of weapons to countries that
violate the observance of HR or where they could provoke [or aggravate]
But, beating all these restrictions, the administration in February
secured a shipment of 10,000 GRAD missiles from Slovak that has led to a
major controversy that was highlighted by the BBC.
Despite the Sri Lankan Government (SLG) unilaterally abrogating the
cease-fire agreement with the LTTE in January, this shipment was
approved the following month.
The Economy Ministry granted a licence for the export of 10,000 missiles
to the company Way Industry from Krupina.
Deputies of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia [HZDS] have expressed
concern over the export of missiles to Sri Lanka, as it was contrary to
the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports.
The Slovak Foreign Ministry defended its position, saying that the SLG
was strengthening the country’s defence capability and what they have
done was only to permit a transaction involving ammunition and not
permit the use of this ammunition.
Way Industry Director Julius Mokos denied that the deal violated any
laws, and said that the SLG had a right to defend itself against the
Tamil Tigers. “They are the worst terrorists in the world. We should be
asking where the terrorists are getting their weapons, not where the
government is getting them,” the report said.
China, Pakistan friends in deed
Sri Lanka has been successfully obtaining assistance from a range of
foreign governments for its military efforts. The support it has
received from Pakistan and China has been immense.
Currently, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is visiting China, the second
visit in 14 months.
Immediately after the last visit, US Ambassador Robert O. Blake,
together with the Defence Secretary, signed the Acquisition for Cross
Servicing Agreement (ACSA) for greater military cooperation. China has
managed to dislodge Japan as the largest aid donor to Sri Lanka.
President Hu Jintao assured President Rajapaksa on his current visit
that China will stand by Sri Lanka in its efforts to counter terrorism.
It was only last month that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and
Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka made a successful official visit to
India, securing the support of the military top brass in New Delhi to
maintain the upper hand in the war on the LTTE to defeat terrorism.
The Government’s resolve to end terrorism would not weaken by Sunday’s
silencing of Chief Government Whip Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, was
the stern warning by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka, who vowed
that operations would continue to completely eradicate LTTE terrorism.
Having exhausted all channels to get the military to stall its
offensives, what the LTTE would probably want is a repeat of a southern
subversion like in 1988/89 so that the forces would be divided between
the north and South.
But, the ultimate goal of the LTTE is Eelam and for that it would want a
UN intervention of sorts. The Government may have done a number
internationally, to get the support of different groups, but has it done
enough to stall a UN intervention like East Timor.