Military Matters

LTTE strikes city nerve centre

The LTTE proved the President right in terms of deciding “the time, the place and the opportunity”, but the security forces failed to uphold the assurance by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces that “the principal duty of a government (is) to assure the public of security of life and limb”

The latest bomb blast on Friday suggests that the Tigers have managed to breach the security cordon in the capital and smuggle in such a powerful bomb into the heart of Colombo. By exploding it, they sent out both, the immediate physical vibrations across the city’s buildings, as well as the mental vibrations which the workforce in Colombo will take back and reflect upon, over the long weekend, wherever they choose to relax. Their minds would gyrate, as they contemplate the twin message that, though the organisation is being targeted in a conventional war, in which they are defending territory, they are capable of switching modes and putting on the terrorist garb to inflict damage in the high security zone of Colombo.

The fact that this blast came days before Vesak, the LTTE seems to have another message, this time to the rural folk, who usually throng the capital city during Vesak. The LTTE suicide cadre rammed his explosives-laden motor cycle into a bus carrying police personnel near the Shri Sambuddhaloka Viharaya, perhaps not for nothing. It will not be an easy task to provide security in the city with large numbers thronging the city. The Tigers are unleashing a fear psychosis among rural Sri Lanka from where a majority of the recruitment to the armed forces are drawn. (Recent attacks in Moneragala and other districts adjacent to the Eastern Province had a similar message).

Three bomb blasts on three successive Fridays shows a pattern in the targets, and perhaps is an indication that the LTTE is really getting hammered in the war front. The indiscriminate blasts by the Tigers could be counterproductive, and instead of simply creating a fear psychosis, they could push people to fully support the war effort of the incumbent administration.

When the authorities try to enforce more stringent security measures, the workforce in Colombo are put into greater inconvenience. The LTTE’s hidden motive could be to cause disaffection towards the administration, as people treasure their freedom while valuing their safety. The twin feeling that “we are unsafe” and “we are harassed” would play on the people’s minds in the last and decisive third part of this administration’s tenure, with hardly two years to go for the next general election. (Though President Rajapaksa took over the reins of leadership in November 2005, the UPFA government came into being in April 2004).
It was a month before the last general elections that, Vinyagamoorthy Muralitheran, alias Col. Karuna, officially announced that he was parting company with the LTTE, citing the regionalism card. Four years later, his erstwhile deputy, S. Chandrakanthan, better known as Pillaiyan, joined hands with the ruling UPFA and contested the Eastern Provincial Council (EPC) polls after 20 years, following action by this administration to legalise the demerger of the two provinces, by conducting a separate PC election.
Friday’s blast, a stone’s throw from the presidential secretariat, where, Chandrakanthan was sworn in as Chief Minister of the EPC a few hours later, had a message for the group that broke away from the LTTE, as well as for the President.

Unable to stop the election, despite sporadic attacks and violence on the day of the polls, the blast suggests that the organisation would not give up targeting the TMVP, as it did with the EPRLF that contested and secured the North-EPC in 1988. The LTTE boycotted the polls now, as well as then, but succeeded in eliminating the EPRLF, as well as the armed Tamil National Army created by the IPKF before it left the island. The LTTE created the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), allowed it to contest the last general elections, but didn’t permit it to contest the recently concluded PC polls. The Tigers evidently choose democracy when it suits them.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa waxed eloquent in the seat of learning at Oxford in the United Kingdom last week, saying that, if the international community does not allow his administration to defeat the LTTE, it would have failed in the war on terrorism. President Rajapaksa referred to annihilation of terrorism, lest democracy, the political system pushed by the West, becomes the victim.

Days later, the LTTE exploded this bomb, to prove it was true to its classification as a terrorist organization by Britain, EU, US, Canada and others.

“It is the principal duty of a government to assure the public of security of life and limb. It is the terrorist group that decides when to strike. They decide the time, the place and the opportunity. They are in no way constrained by the values and procedures which rightly control the responses of democratic governments. These realities must be taken into account as the basis of a fair and objective assessment of Sri Lanka’s situation,” said President Rajapaksa.

The LTTE proved the President right in terms of deciding “the time the place and the opportunity”, but the security forces failed to uphold the assurance by the commander in chief of the armed forces that “the principal duty of a government (is) to assure the public of security of life and limb.”

Ten people, including eight Police personnel, were killed and over 95 casualties reported, following the LTTE suicide bomb attack near Sambuddhaloka Viharaya.
The Riot Police Squad was there at hand, in the event the protest by the main opposition UNP and SLMC against the conduct of the EPC election reach the HSZ.

The blast, close to the presidential secretariat, key ministries of Defence and Finance, the World Trade Centre, and close to three five star hotels, Hilton, Galadari and Intercontinental, has ramifications of security and economy, as it could affect Colombo bound tourism.

The Colombo High Security Zone also houses the headquarters of the Army, Navy and Air Force and Police and President’s House and Foreign Ministry. There were plans earlier to acquire a large section of buildings in the Fort for a President’s Square, but they were abandoned after representations made to the government by the Business community. The Fort is the financial, political and defence hub of the country.

The LTTE, which was unable to make a dent in Colombo for a long time, succeeded in reaching the very heart of Colombo. For the last two years, there were no major blasts in the capital city, thanks to the vigilance of the security forces. But, the LTTE knows, that with time, this vigilance would wane, as it is difficult to sustain a prolonged period of alertness.

But, what is more important is the failure to anticipate. The anticipation element on the part the security forces, has to be developed, as they are fighting a long-standing terrorist organisation.

Hence, the choice of the least-suspecting vehicle, a motor-cycle to carry the explosives. It is important to study the current pattern of LTTE actions, when mapping out counter strategies. Most bomb blasts, assassinations and even assaults on the military, have taken place on Friday and Saturday, when energy levels of the security forces drop and society gets into a relaxation mode with every one dropping their guard.

Alertness is at the optimum in the first few days of the week. The other reason for strikes by the LTTE on Friday and Saturday is to get maximum mileage in the weekend newspapers.

Those assassinated on Fridays include former National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali (April 23, 1993) and former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar (August 12, 2005). The assassination attempts on President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse ((December 1, 2006) were also on Friday.

Those assassinated on Saturday include Minister of State for Defence Ranjan Wijeratne (March 2, 1991), President Ranasinghe Premadasa (May 01, 1993) and Brigadiers Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Vijaya Wimalaratne and Rear Admiral Mohan Jayamaha on August 8, 1992.


Tiger booby traps slow Army advance

The final operation to capture Palampididdy, a main stronghold in the Wanni, was in progress this week. The 57 Division under Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias was advancing amidst a series of obstacles. Booby traps laid by the LTTE at every nook and corner, were the main obstacle. The LTTE had used every possible tactic to prevent the advancing security forces (SF). Their strategy is to re-construct the Periyamadu forward defence lines (FDL) while the forces are held up at Periyamadu.

According to Intelligence reports, the Tigers were planning to mingle with the refugees returning to Madhu, to launch an attack on the advancing SF from behind. The SF believe that the LTTE would have buried massive hauls of arms and ammunition in the area, to be used in future attacks, as they did in Toppigala, and Narakamulla areas.

The SF are of the opinion that re-settlement of the refugees in the Madhu area needs urgent attention.
The 58 Division under Maj. Gen. Shavindra Silva, is just 1.7 kms away from the Mannar-Pooneryn (A32) Road. The SF are advancing amidst booby traps and artillery attacks. The 58 Division wrested control of the Mannikulam and Nendunkandawala areas in Mannar this week. Meanwhile, the LTTE is bent on preventing the SF from entering the strategic point of Vidithalthivu, where there is a major Sea Tiger base. If Vidithalathivu falls to the SF, supplies to the LTTE by sea from the western coast would be greatly hampered.

Tiger heads ‘roll’

A prominent LTTE leader attending a meeting at a LTTE stronghold, died in an artillery attack. The LTTE confirmed that ‘Lt. Col.’ Vikundan was killed in the attack. A pro-LTTE Website reported that Vikundan had received special training in shooting down aircraft.

It has been confirmed that another LTTE leader called Gadafi, who was killed in an attack by the Commando Brigade on May 8, was the chief of the Sea Tiger engineering division. Three prominent LTTE leaders, including Gadafi, who were traveling in a double cab, came under a claymore mine attack in the LTTE-controlled area, approximately 25 kms from Vidithalathivu in Mannar. It is understood that the LTTE leaders in Pooneryn rushed to the scene on hearing the incident.

“Gadafi was in the LTTE organisation for 15 years and was responsible for several successful attacks. He was a close confidante of the LTTE leader Prabhakaran. He accompanied the LTTE leader during inspections of Sea Tiger exercises. He is learnt to have provided training and instructions to the Sea Tiger cadres who destroyed the ship in Trincomalee harbour, on the day of the EPC elections.

Tiger ‘sniping’ of EPC polls

The SF in Trincomalee, who seized a RPG to be used in an attack on a VIP, arrested 18 Tigers from the Wanni, including group leaders planning to sabotage the PC election.

It has been revealed that at least 30% of the voters in Tambalagamuwa, where the LTTE is still rampant, had not voted at the polls, due to the LTTE threat. Two police constables who were on special duty in Batticaloa, were shot dead by the LTTE pistol gang in front of the police station. On Friday, they gunned down another police constable at Nawakkudah. The Tigers fired several rounds of mortars from Kanjikudichchiaru jungles and some 28 shells fell in a village east of Pannaalgama, in Ampara on the day of the elections. Four persons, including a schoolboy, were injured in the attack and admitted to Kottama hospital. The schoolboy was transferred to Ampara hospital in a critical condition. The small pockets of Tigers could not make a dent in security but their nagging presence is a threat to normalcy.


‘UL Crisis Deepens’ - A response

The Editor,
The Nation,


In response to the article, in your newspaper, on May 11th, titled ‘UL Crisis Deepens,’ we wish to respond to some of the issues, raised in those columns.

Firstly, SriLankan Airlines maintains the highest standards in safety and security, in all aspects of its operations and the same applies to our pilot cadre. In no circumstances, is the airline willing to put the millions of passengers, that fly with us, at risk, due to human or technical incompetence.
The airline adheres to all international regulations governing its operations, including strict standards imposed by IATA and the CAASL. Our operations are also closely monitored and audited on a regular basis by the two statutory bodies and other independent institutions, leaving no room for any irregularities and procedural shortcomings.
Decisions with regard to pilots, have always been based on these principles and the policies of the airline, which clearly outline the course of action and the minimum requirements, for each situation. Each pilot has to fulfill a number of requirements, including a series of tests, before moving on to the next level, including a minimum number of flying hours.
This strict criterion has earned SriLankan Pilots, the reputation of being among the best, in the world.
Meanwhile, the aviation industry over the last two years, has posted commendable growth and the future projection, is also very positive. Keeping up with this growth trend, airlines are eager to attract staff, from across all spheres of operations, including pilots, cabin crew and other support services, with above average remuneration packages.
In this context, a total number of 30 pilots, have resigned, including expatriates during the last six months, due to very attractive remuneration packages, including additional benefits, such as, education for children, being offered by leading regional and international airlines.
Capt. Milinda Ratnayake has been with the airline, since 1979 and the Chief Pilot A340 and Manager Flight Operations, for over 15 years and is fully qualified for the position.
His administrative decisions have been within the airlines’ policies and procedures and not in violation of any laws, as stated by your paper. If any such violation had occurred, it is an issue for the statutory authorities, governing such issues to take up. SriLankan Airlines has not been informed by any statutory authority, of any breach of procedure, as stated.
Capt. Ratnayake and his team have also initiated many other programmes, to uplift the standards of the department, including obtaining ISO certification.

Corporate Communications
SriLankan Airlines
May 15th, 2008