Military Matters

“I remember them all with pain”

Says Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka of the men who were injured and who died in the Eelam War IV. Arrangements are now underway, to honour in a fitting manner the war heroes who participated in this humanitarian operation

By Tissa Ravindra Perera
Arrangements are now underway, to honour in a fitting manner the war heroes who participated in the humanitarian operation. which began with the battle to free the Mavilaru sluice gates, and ended with wiping out terrorism for good - after destroying all top LTTE leaders including Prabhakaran.

Army Commander Sarath Fonseka has already baptised the entire operation comprising two stages, as` Unceasing Tsunami`. The Army Commander had not considered giving a name to any of the operations he led, until he succeeded in eliminating terrorism.

‘We initially hoped to conclude this Eelam War IV in three years. But we succeeded in bringing it to an end in two years and 10 months. This was not a war started ceremoniously under an auspicious name at an auspicious time,” Army Commander General Fonseka said.

‘I did not want to leave this war unfinished for my successors to continue,” the Army Commander told media persons who were hosted to dinner by him in 2008. He told media personnel at a similar dinner given to them in January this year that he hoped to conclude the humanitarian operation in May.

Now General Fonseka has taken steps to fete every soldier who fought so valiantly with a selfless commitment to free the country from the terrorist menace. He has planned to award three separate medals: one medal for those who contributed towards the victory in the East, a second medal for those who fought to liberate the Wanni, and the third medal for those who contributed towards the collective effort to liberate the country.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Commander –in-chief of all armed forces will confer separate honours on the war heroes.
Meanwhile, a special ceremony was held at the Army headquarters on May 28, 2009 to felicitate the war heroes. Army Commander General Fonseka in his address at this ceremony, paid a special tribute to the soldiers maimed, killed and who disappeared during action. A visibly moved General Fonseka said: ‘I remember them all with immense pain of mind.”

Troops now engaged in mopping up operations in the North, are piling up arms and ammunition recovered from bunkers and camps of the terrorists in the North. Operations to search and destroy the isolated small groups of terrorists scattered in the jungle areas in the East began last week. The Army Commander said that 17 groups commandos from SF and Deep Penetration Units, have been deployed in the East, while two infantry units were engaged in this mission in the North.
SF 3 commandos destroyed 11 terrorists at Kanchikudichchiaru in Amapara on May 27. Earlier SF and LRRP commandos destroyed two other groups in the East.

The LTTE military leader in the Yala area known as Ram, fearing commando strikes, has informed his willingness to surrender through the Karuna Amman group. It is well known that it was the group led by Ram which was responsible for the brutal massacres of civilians in Yala, Buttala and Kataragama areas. This terrorist group is now facing the fate that their supreme leader Prabhakaran and other Tiger frontliners suffered.

Final battle

When the troops launched the final battle on May 17, the remaining Tigers, including Nadesan, Pulithevan, Ramesh and Ilango, had been reduced to no more than 140. By May 18 morning, over 100 of this group had been killed. It was rumored while the last Tigers were being decimated, that Nadesan and Pulithevan had expressed willingness to surrender.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaska by 3.30 am on May 18, had inquired about this from the Army Commander. However, by this time, SF commandos had finished off all Tiger cadres. SF Echo led by Rajitha Bandara and ALFA led by Suranga Manatunga, by 3 am on May 18, had killed 50 Tigers in skirmishes in the Nanthikadal lagoon area where Prabhakaran had been holed up.

The bodies of the dead Tigers including that of Prabhakaran, were picked up by the Vijayaba troops who were deployed for the purpose the following morning. Sergeant Adikaram of SF 1, while collecting the weapons of the dead Tigers had found the pistol NO: TVP 1 belonging to Prabhakaran on the night of May 18 itself. Sergeant Dissanayake of SF 2, found the other pistol used by the Tiger leader the following morning.
Meanwhile, DNA tests of blood samples of Prabhakaran and his son Charles Anthony, had confirmed beyond doubt the death of Prabhakaran.

The Army Intelligence on a tip off given by Tamil civilians, had arrested Prabhakaran`s father Thiruvekkadam Velupillai, 85, and mother Velupillai Parvatiwhile, 78, while taking refuge in a relief village in Vavuniya. Born in Malaysia, Velupillai had later taken up residence in Velvetithurai. He had started his career as a postal employee, and retired from public service as a land officer at the Mullaitivu Kachcheri.
Prabhakaran. was the youngest of Velupillai`s four children. Prabha’s parents who had fled to India in the 80s, had returned home during the ceasefire in 2003.
The house Prabhakaran resided in his last days in Wellamullavaikkal, has been identified by the troops. He had been holed up in a bunker built inside this house.

Prabhakaran`s wife Madivadini and her mother too had managed to disguise their identities in the exodus of civilians to Vavuniya. However, Army intelligence had later identified them.
Army Commander General Fonseka says, “Prabhakaran`s parents have to be questioned.
But they are too old to be prosecuted and punished ‘

“Our troops did not hack to death old people and children as the Tigers did. ‘If Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman could have been taken alive, we could have shown them how they had committed heinous crimes like massacring bhikkhus and children. Our soldiers had to shoot him when he was firing at them from a mud puddle in the Nanthikadal lagoon. He had come to a tragic end,” says Army Commander Fonseka. He also says that our troops demonstrated their high standard of discipline by sparing the lives of over 9000 Tiger cadres who had made it to Vavuniya along with the fleeing civilians. ‘They were offered abhayadana,.” he said.

By last week the Tigers’ international network too was in the grip of a deepening crisis. Wracked by increasing dissension, Tigers` chief arms procurer Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP,) who first denied that his leader was dead, later admitted that he had been killed. Meanwhile, Tiger leaders among the Tamil diaspora angered by KP`s statements to the media, had said that the latter had no right to make statements on behalf of the LTTE.

Government has now sought international help to have KP arrested and extradited to take legal action against him.
‘After all KP has now been reduced to an insignificant character. A man like KP who is used to the Western dress and the Western style of living, cannot resurrect the LTTE and give it leadership that can bear the brunt of a hard jungle life in Mullaitivu. However, we are on the look out for any possible threat to the country`s sovereignty,” the Army Commander said.
The Army Commander said they are quite aware of the ground realities. There could be Eelam sympathisers abroad. There are extremists who even have gone to the extent of attacking our diplomatic missions abroad. Their dream of an Eelam will never come true.

The Armed Forces have been greatly strengthened to face a possible threat originating from abroad. The government has decided to further strengthen the man power, fire power and other capabilities of the Armed Forces through the introduction of state of the art technology.

‘ Our aim is to reinforce our Forces to face all possible threats in the future without being complacent after the elimination of the LTTE leadership For example, our air force has already deployed surveillance aircraft to reconnoitre our territorial waters up to a 200-nautical mile strip from the shoreline.” Army Commander General Fonseka said.