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Military Matters


The story of the BRAVE SOLDIERS

By Tissa Ravindra Perera
Deployment of troops and reorganising the military structure in the recently liberated Wanni according to a new defence plan are now underway.
Army Commander Sarath Fonseka has taken steps to set up two new security divisions in the Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi under the new plan.

Maj. Gen. Nandana Udawatta has been appointed as the Commander of security forces in Mullaitivu, and Maj. Gen. Channa Goonetilleka the new Commander for Kilinochchi.

The Army Commander had been frequenting the Wanni army headquarters to monitor the developments in the battlefield regardless of security concerns expressed by national intelligence and however, it is generally accepted that close monitoring of the operations in the North by the Army Commander was a main factor that contributed to the victory. Even after the victory the Army Commander has decided to regularly visit the Wanni headquarters to personally direct the implementation of the new defence plan.

The Army Commander is paying special attention to deployment of troops in such a manner as to provide the suitable environment for re-settlement of the displaced civilians.

The removal of land mines and booby traps is now being carried out in Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass and Pudukudyirruppu as part of a clearing operation. The security arrangements are being made to prevent terrorism raising its ugly head once again.
Even now there are small units of Special Forces (SF) and Commando Regiments (CR) with two Infantry Battalions (IR), each attached to them, deployed in Wanni to search and destroy terrorists scattered in small groups.

Search operations too are on to unearth possible Tiger arsenals that had gone unnoticed in Tiger strongholds in Wanni.
28 Infantry Battalions that were in the frontlines of the recently concluded battles have been deployed in the Wanni jungles to look out for any signs of terrorist presence.

Under the direction of the Army Commander already 53 Division under Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratna and 58 Division under Brigadier Shavendra Silva have been converted into two additional Divisions. Accordingly 53 Division will take up position in Mankulam.

Strengthening armed forces

In a bid to meet a possible security threat from an outside source in the future, government has approved further strengthening the armed forces.

Likewise plans are underway to step up intelligence activities. Search operations for the recovery of Tiger arsenals are also expected to be intensified after questioning the surrendered leaders. The 56 Division intelligence, on information received from Tiger cadres taken in for questioning recovered 300 kilos of C4 explosives at Vellamullaivaikal.

While the searches for Tiger military material are on, investigations are also carried out to identify security personnel believed to have been in the pay of the Tigers.

With the arrest of a colonel who had been in the pay of the Tigers, much more information about such renegades is flowing in.
Among the suspects are a major general, a colonel and a few others of the Navy, Police and the CID.

Mole

The colonel, who was taken in, had been serving at the Ratmalana camp. While being there, a man named Prabakaran, who was a Tiger mole posing as a businessman, had been visiting him frequently. The Tiger agent had befriended the colonel, a habitual gambler, by readily offering him Rs.50,000 when the latter heavily lost in a game at a club. The colonel had later been selling the Tiger agent sensitive security intelligence to meet his gambling debts.

This colonel had even bought his wife a car worth Rs.3.4 million with money obtained from the Tigers. The wife, who was a teacher at an International School, too is in Police custody.

Prabakaran, the fake businessman who had been associating with army personnel with the ulterior motive of assassinating President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Gen. Sarath Fonseka too is in Police custody now.
The colonel who was bought by the Tigers had taken a Tiger suicide bomber to ceremonies at Diyatalawa Defence Academy, and at Deyatakirula exhibition held at the BMICH to enable him to assassinate the President, but the Tiger cadre failed in his mission as he could not go near the President due to tight security.

Again when the President was scheduled to leave on a foreign tour the treacherous colonel had conveyed the information to this Tiger cadre for him to make another try and this has been confirmed by Government Intelligence.

Investigators also have found that this colonel had given on hire a van to the Army. A major general who is to be taken into custody, is currently on training abroad. He had been attending many meetings where security matters had been discussed while working in Colombo. He also had been regularly meeting the fake businessman. Investigations are now on to ascertain whether this officer was knowingly maintaining contact with the Tiger agent.

On payroll

This discovery of traitors has pointed to the suspicion that the Tigers may have been having many other links in the South on their payroll for gathering sensitive security intelligence. Now the search is on for nabbing persons who have had Tiger connections.
The security threat to the President and the top defence authorities is still there undiminished. Therefore, security needs to be beefed up. Although the war is over the Tiger cadres who infiltrated Colombo are yet lurking around. They have to be flushed out and that is the task in hand for the intelligence.

Changes

Several changes in the Army hierarchy have been made to meet the exigencies of the new situation and accordingly Army Secretary Brigadier Sumith Padumadasa has already signed necessary documents to give effect to the necessary moves.
The vacancy in the post of commander, the 53 Division Anuradhapura which was created when Major General Nandana Udawatta was posted to Wanni under post-war defence plan, has been filled by Maj. Gen. Mohan Jayawardana. Brigadier Sathyapriya Liyanage takes over as Commander 3 STF.

Brigadier Maithri Dias who was Chief of Security at Army Headquarters has been appointed War Assistant to Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Col. Janaka Mohotti fills the vacancy that occurred with the new appointment of Brigadier Maithri Dias. Col. Kapila Udalupola has been appointed Deputy Chief of Security.

Brigadier Rohana Bandara who was the Commander 2 SF takes over as the Commander 56 Division.
2IC 55 Division Brigadier Nissanka Ranawana takes over as the Commander 2STF. Commander Weli-oya Col. A.R. Ranawaka takes over as the commander of the 2IC 55 Division.
Col. Sarath Wijesingha takes over as the Commander 3 STF. Col. Jayantha Seneviratna takes over as the Commander Weli-oya.

Effort to skip

An effort made by Prabakaran to skip the country during his final hours with foreign assistance has been revealed. A diplomat and a politician of a Western nation had been involved in an attempt to sneak away five Tiger leaders via the International Red Cross to the capital of their country.
On May 16 when the name list of these five leaders was presented to the government seeking their release by this Western nation, the government had rejected the request. They could not surrender via a third party but could do so direct to the government the foreign mediators were told.

Throughout the May 17 night, desperate LTTE leaders had been in contact with several countries via a satellite phone, government sources revealed. There had been telephone exchanges with foreign politicians and journalists of many countries. One of these satellite phones used by an LTTE leader belonged to an NGO.

Another satellite phone call made on May 17 has been identified as one taken by Tiger leader Prabhakaran to contact KP, the man in charge of LTTE`s foreign dealings.
Replying to Prabha`s request to seek foreign help at this critical hour when they were facing decimation, KP had said: “No country will help us. There is no way out but surrender. We cannot rely on the international community. The Sri Lankan Government does not listen to them,” KP had told Prabhakaran.

Final hours

When this conversation took place Prabakaran was in the mangroves of Nandikadal lagoon. The area where the Tiger leader found himself at the time was under army fire from all quarters.
Troops commanded by Lt. Col. Lalantha Gamage supported by SF 681 led by Col. G.V. Ravipriya under the direction of Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratna were directing artillery fire at this area throughout May 18.

Troops of Vijayaba 4 regiment, commanded by Lt.Col. Rohita Aluvihare had closed in on the mangroves area where Prabakaran lay hidden in his last moments on May 19. Given the strategic importance of the lagoon covered by mangroves, the army had thrown two security rings around it and built up bunkers in the muddy waters at the centre of lagoon.

An eight-member team belonging to the Delta Company led by Sgt. Bandara under the direction of Captain Sirisena who commanded it were on guard at the front defence line, when about 100 Tigers led by Jeyam of their military wing advanced towards them to create a gap for Prabhakaran and other top leaders to escape.

The team led by Sgt. Bandara swung into action taking the Tigers by surprise. Although it was an eight man team, they fought on for hours until another eight man team was sent by Lt.Col. Aluvihare came to their support.
The battle raged from 3.30am to 6.00am on May 18, and realising he could not achieve his goal Jeyam and cadres retreated into the mangroves once more. During the battle Sgt. Bandara made the supreme sacrifice along with three others and eight were wounded.

After this incident the Tigers once again launched an onslaught with artillery and armoured tanks fire throughout the day on May 18.
As the night approached the army deployed the Charley Company of 4VR to secure the lagoon. There, Sgt. Muthubanda had heard someone he took for Prabhakaran barking at his men in Tamil:”You are Black Tigers. Don’t run away like women.” Here some of those guarding Prabhakaran had wanted to surrender to the Army and moved forward when Prabha screamed at them and shot some of them down as revealed later.

At dawn on May 19, the Commander of 68-1 and Commander of 4VR and a few other officers had gone to the mangroves area on a search operation.

Platoon leader Kirinda with Sgt. Muthubanda and Sgt. Wijesingha of the Charley Company under Lt. Nalaka had joined the search operation in the mangroves about 7.30am. As they neared the mangroves, they were greeted with several rounds of fire. And they started firing back and throwing grenades. When guns fell silent, they started combing the mangroves. After a gun battle troops around 10.00am found the body of the Tiger leader lying among the mangroves. The bodies of his personal guards were strewn around.

Relief shipment

The Captain Ali that entered the Sri Lankan territorial waters with a shipment of relief for displaced civilians in the North was detained by the Navy when it was about 160 nautical miles away from the shoreline.
This much publicised ship had set sail from the UK under the name “chanangami” which later has been changed to Captain Ali.

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