Thwarted hopes of LTTE
  • Prabha pins escape hopes on BJP win
  • KP-Solheim plot to save LTTE leaders falls flat
  • Ranil criticised for Oslo visit
  • Sajith opposes common candidate proposal

It was a triumphant week for the Sri Lankan Government and the Armed Forces of the country. Despite nay-sayers and detractors voicing opinions to the effect that the LTTE could not be defeated and this war against them could not be won, the Armed Forces managed to liberate the final swath of territory remaining within the control of the Tigers and free the innocent civilians trapped in the fighting.

The LTTE which laid claim to three aircraft, two submarines, more than 200 gunboats, five massive supply ships and a host of other military equipment was considered one of the most ruthless and well-equipped terrorist outfits in the world. Furthermore, the LTTE has had 56 offices in 38 capitals of the world and also controlled 12 TV and radio stations and about 36 websites all over the world. They also controlled some 23 publishing houses worldwide that were engaged in publishing pro-Tiger propaganda via newspapers and newsletters.

At an interview with the Independent Television Network on Thursday (21) night, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa claimed that the LTTE managed to get this powerful, not because of any particular expertise on the part of the slain LTTE Leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran, but because of the weaknesses of all Sri Lanka’s previous political regimes. The Defence Secretary said that it was President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s correct political leadership, the specialised planning by the three Forces Commanders and the dedication and commitment of the troops on the ground that led to this enormous victory against the terrorists.

Interfering foreign powers

In addition to waging war against the LTTE, the government also had to contend with interfering foreign powers that were attempting to put various pressures on the Sri Lankan State by waging a separate diplomatic war. World leaders and international organisation representatives such as Erik Solheim, Bruce Fein, David Miliband, Bernard Kuchner, Carl Bildt, Des Browne, Gareth Evans, Allan Ross, Keith Vaas, Hillary Clinton, Robert Evans, Navaneedam Pillai, Desmond Tutu, Vaiko, Nedumaran, Jayalalithaa and others, also supported the LTTE. These individuals attempted to take the message to the world that the rights of the innocent civilians in Puthumathalan were being violated, despite the fact that the LTTE were holding them hostage inside the safe zone and shooting at them when they attempted to flee. In fact, even the LTTE Leader Prabhakaran firmly believed that these ‘international friends’ would come to his rescue at the last minute. In fact, although the military asked all remaining LTTE leaders to surrender within 48 hours, Prabhakaran still continued to have implicit faith in his international spokesman Kumaran Pathmanathan who had been instructed to get the international community to bail out the Tiger leader even at the last minute. Prabhakaran also placed his hopes on the Indian general election which was concluded on May 13. He was hoping that the ADMK party headed by the pro-LTTE Jayalalitha backed Bharathiya Janatha Party, would ascend office in the election. However this was not to be. Prabhakaran knew that if the BJP was to come to power, they would work towards creating an Eelam within Sri Lanka and that they would even drop food and supplies by air to the Wanni, as Jayalalitha constantly stated in her campaign speeches. Even Tamil Nadu Political Leaders such as Vaiko and Nedumaran worked tirelessly to try and the Indian Central government to save the LTTE leaders. It was therefore Prabhakaran’s intention to keep the war going until after the results of the Indian election since he believed that once the BJP won the election, the party would come to the aid of the beleaguered LTTE.

Tamil Nadu pressures

However, both Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha were posturing to win their seats at the election. But in order to assuage the growing pressure from Tamil Nadu, Indian Premier Manmohan Singh, sent his Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and National Security Advisor to Sri Lanka for discussions with Sri Lankan leaders.

Following these discussions, the two leaders returned to India with the news that the Sri Lankan military had ceased the use of heavy weapons into the No-Fire Zone because it could harm the civilians trapped inside the region.

This news was interpreted by the pro-LTTE political groups to be an indication that the Sri Lankan Government had ceased military operations in the Wanni and that Prabhakaran would now be allowed to go free. What they did not realise was that the military was nevertheless using small arms and sniper fire to trap the LTTE into a tiny area of land in Vellimullivaikal.

Meanwhile the three doctors named Shanmugaraja, Satyamurthi and Varadarajah who were responsible for giving daily updates to all the international news networks including BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera, indicating that the armed forces were using aerial bombardment and heavy shelling into the No-Fire Zone that were injuring civilians including women and small children have now been detained by the Sri Lankan authorities. It is a well known fact that the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora utilised these news reports based on information provided by these doctors to petition the European Union, the UN and other Western powers against the human rights violations by the Sri Lankan Government.

KP’s vain attempts

The LTTE’s designated International Spokesman Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP is reported to have discussed a proposal to prevent the capture of Prabhakaran and other Tiger leaders with Norwegian Minister for International Development and former Special Peace Envoy to Sri Lanka Erik Solheim. As Solheim has publicly acknowledged, the aim of these discussions was to attempt to effect a surrender of the top tier Tiger leadership to a third party. Although there has been no confirmation of the fact, it is now learnt that this third party mediator to whom the LTTE was proposing to surrender was to be Norway. An Indian news service has reported that Solheim had also held discussions with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the matter.

As a final resort, moves were made by KP to effect a surrender of Prabhakaran and other senior Tigers to the Indian government. KP is believed to have instructed a TNA MP who was in India at the time to petition the Indian Central Government in this regard, through the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

The Indian authorities however have asked for a request in this regard in writing. Accordingly, on Saturday (16) a letter indicating that the LTTE leadership was willing to surrender to India was handed over to the Indian High Commission in Colombo. However, this letter did not take effect till Monday (18) since the Indian Defence Ministry would not open for business again till the weekend was over.

Once all their plans for escape were thwarted, KP issued a statement claiming that the LTTE had decided to silence their guns in order to prevent harm coming to the innocent Tamil civilians.
On the Sunday (17) night, the military began attacking the remainder of the LTTE fighters trapped in the Vellamullavaikkal area. It was during this final battle that Prabhakaran, Pottu Amman, Soosai, Nadesan and some 400 LTTE cadres were killed by the armed forces.
And so the grand plans made by Solheim and KP to save the LTTE came to naught.

Ranil in Oslo

By the end of last week, military operations in the Wanni were reaching its end. President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was on an official visit to Jordan cut short his tour and returned last Sunday (17) in order to share in the joy of the victory. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was on an European tour around the same time. He however continued his tour to visit Norway, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Some UNPers have protested against the Opposition Leader visiting Norway, the country overtly supportive of the LTTE, at this juncture. Explaining this situation, UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake told journalists that no responsible Sri Lankan official had visited Norway after our Embassy in Oslo was attacked. Attanayake added that Wickremesinghe had visited our mission and met with the officers there and spoken words of encouragement to them. Embassy officials in Norway are continuing their work, even under difficult circumstances. Attanayake said that it was the duty of government officials to encourage such dedicated officers. He said that it was regrettable that instead of doing so, the government is carrying out a smear campaign against the Opposition Leader. However Norwegian and western media reported that Wickremesinghe had met with Erik Solheim and discussed the Sri Lankan situation. It is also reported that Wickremesinghe had called and congratulated President Rajapaksa on hearing of the military victory and ensured that all UNP MPs were present in Parliament on the opening of its fourth session on May 19.

Meanwhile, Sajith Premadasa, S.B. Dissanayake and Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya issued statements congratulating President Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the three service commanders for their effort to defeat the LTTE.

UNP General Secretary had congratulated the military for the victories. However, he has not mentioned the political leadership of President Rajapaksa and its contribution towards these victories. Speaking at the Central Province meeting S.B. Dissanayake said: “I always knew that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had the courage and power to defeat the LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran irrespective of the military might of the Tigers.”

The patriotic elements inside the UNP have started to speak up on the military victories while Ranil Wickremesinghe was overseas. This was evident at the Political Affairs Committee meeting of the party held last Wednesday. This was the first time, this committee was meeting since Karu Jayasuriya was appointed as its Chairman. Here, Sajith Premadasa proposed that the UNP should intervene against any attempts to drag war heroes to international tribunals to face war crime charges. Vajira Abeywardane seconded this proposal. Abeywardane added that legal action was taken against several government officials and some even imprisoned over the allegations of murdering JVP activists during President Premadasa’s tenure. He said that such things should not be allowed to happen again. Rukman Senanayake, Johnston Fernando, Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Ravinda Samaraweera also spoke in favour of the proposal.

Kudos for Karu

The Political Affairs Committee appreciated the statement issued by Karu Jayasuriya in his capacity as acting leader regarding the military victory. Jayasuriya proposed that a Bodhi Pooja should be held to invoke blessings on the dead soldiers. Samaraweera added to this proposal and said that bodhi poojas should be organised in every electorate. The committee accepted this proposal.

Senanayake proposed that committees be appointed at each electorate consisting of four senior members and ten youth with the aim of winning the next general election. He further proposed that the party’s organisation should be entrusted to Dissanayake, Johnston Fernando, Thalatha Athukorale, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Lakshman Seneviratne, Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Ravindra Samaraweera should visit each electorate and address the party’s organising committees. Senanayake further proposed that Buddhist monks and university students affiliated to the party should be reactivated and that task should be assigned to Dayasiri Jayasekera. It was decided here that this proposal be implemented once approved by the Working Committee.

Premadasa inquired who the party’s presidential nominee was going to be. Answering this, Attanayake replied that: “We need not be hasty about that. We are not sure whether a general election or a presidential election will be held first. Let us decide who our candidate is going to be once a presidential election has been declared.”

Premadasa informed the committee that he was not in support of a common candidate outside of the party. The incident that took place last Saturday (16) at a district organising committee meeting in Matara was also discussed.

Many in the party disapproved Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to appoint Sagala Ratnayake as the Matara District Leader. Jayasuriya said that it was an unwise decision to appoint Ratnayake, ousting Justin Galapatti and that this move had made the whole party crumble in the district.