Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September 7th, 2004

LTTE negotiator Anton Balasingham claimed in a speech on 7 April in Geneva that the Sri Lankan government’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) had infiltrated the Tiger-controlled areas of the northern Vanni region.

Mr Balasingham says that a claymore remote-controlled mine was recently found on a road on which LTTE leader V Prabhakaran was scheduled to travel. A search operation was ordered and thousands of Tigers combed the jungles of Vanni to apprehend LRRP members.

The LRRP is part of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), directed from a secret location in Athurugiriya. According to Colombo newspaper Sunday Times, this safehouse was raided on 2 January by Kandy police, who found weapons and arrested six soldiers. Unauthorized operations were alleged, and police filed a case against Army chief Lionel Balagalle and Director of DMI Kapila Hendavithana. A Commission headed by former High Court judge Dharmasiri Jayawickrema is probing DMI operations conducted from the safehouse in Athurugiriya.

The LTTE claim that the LRRP is trained by foreign intelligence services and responsible for the killing of LTTE leaders, Col. Shanker, Col. Nisam and Lt. Col. Gangai Amaran. They say others such as Col. Balraj, Col. Jeyam and political leader SP Thamilchelvan have also been targeted. The Army have denied LRRP operations in the north-east, but say that LTTE hit squads have penetrated the capital Colombo.

Sources allege that Tiger intelligence chief Pottu Amman has issued an order for the elimination of all members of the LRRP and other informants. According to press reports, at least 20 military intelligence operatives have been murdered since the ceasefire in February 2002. Former LTTE member Lingasamy Devarasa, was shot on 26 April by two people who arrived in an autorickshaw. He later died in hospital. The incident took place at Kohuwela in Colombo. Mr Devarasa had helped in LRRP operations in Batticaloa District.

Another LRRP operative and former member of Tamil group PLOTE, K R Ragupathy was killed in Mt Lavinia on 18 March. The security forces have introduced new security measures in Colombo, including checkpoints to track down the Tiger hit squads. Observers believe that the Tigers may have informants within the military and warned that there will be more deaths.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Former Deputy Minister Defence Anuruddha Ratwatte’s son Chanuka had allegedly visited the military intelligence Millennium City safe house during election time, where a large haul of arms was recovered by Police, a senior police officer probing the case told the Daily News yesterday.

“If this is a Military intelligence safe house what had Chanuka Ratwatte got to do there ? My informant told me that there is a private armoury at the Athurugiriya Millennium City and he told me that Chanuka had visited this place several times before the election,” he said.

The UNP revealed during the election period that there was a conspiracy to attack the UNP propaganda bus and assassinate leader Ranil Wickremesinghe with the knowledge of Military intelligence officers. When the UNP wrote to Army Commander Lionel Balagalle, he denied that the Army was planing to kill the UNP leader,

Police also recovered three claymore mines placed in a culvert in a Panvila to kill UNP MP Keheliya Rambukwella. However, he escaped after recovering these three mines. Police also suspect that these three claymore mines have released from this Private armoury, the Police officer said.

Police recovered 17 items from this house including 66 LTTE camouflage kits, a cyanide capsule, six large claymore mines, 10 anti-tank mines, eight small claymore mines, four light anti-tank rocket launchers, 20 fuses used for claymore mines, 17 detonators, two T 56 weapons, 12 magazines and 418 rounds of ammunition, protective plastic eye covers, nine wire rolls, three remote control antennas, etc.

“It is understandable if the Army keeps such armouries in places like Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, etc. But why did the Army keep landmines, anti-tank rocket launchers, cyanide capsules, LTTE camouflage kits in a place like Colombo,” he questioned. Police are investigating whether these Military officers were involved in the Udatalawinna massacre.

A news release from the Defence Ministry said the Police and the Army have already commenced a through investigation in to the incident. The Ministry has decided to take suitable follow up action based on the evidence that would emerge during the investigation and take appropriate action against those responsible. Therefore, the Ministry requests all parties concerned not to panic or to arrive at conclusions. A complete statement will be issued by the Ministry on completion of these investigations, the release concluded.

Read Full Post »

This came at a time when there was growing disillusionment within the military ranks and the country at large over the government’s stoic silence following the killings of military informants

The Police Chief of the LTTE P. Nadesen in an interview with a weekend English newspaper a few months ago said that one of the prime duties assigned to him by the LTTE leader was to identify the informants who helped the Sri Lanka Army’s deep penetration unit or the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP).

LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran no doubt must be quite satisfied with the performance of his police chief in this regard given the meticulous manner in which Tiger cadres are executing the job true to LTTE style.

While the LTTE was busy collecting information about military informants and systematically executing them at regular intervals, it took sixteen months for the UNF government to awaken from its slumber and demand a report from the Defence top brass on the subject.

So far nearly twenty odd informants have been executed by the LTTE in Colombo and the North and East. It all began after the Kandy Police made a blunder by revealing the closely guarded military secret – the presence of the LRRP, while hunting down the murderers of the Palletalawinna massacre.

Once the identities of Tamil and Muslim informants were known to the police and the LTTE, a chain of murders of persons collaborating with the Army was the result. The Attorney General recently directed the IGP to withdraw the case filed by ASP Kulasiri Udugampola against the Army Commander, Director Military Intelligence, another officer and four soldiers of the LRRP, saying there wasn’t a “trickle of evidence” to show that the LRRP were engaged in criminal activities.

The UNF government in its zest and zeal to expose political rivals initially took the side of the police and later realized the mistake too late though.

The government finally decided to act after last Saturday’s murder of Thirty-two year old Lingasami Devarasa, from Kokkadicholai who was gunned down in Dehiwala where he has been living for the past few months.

This came at a time when there was growing disillusionment within the military ranks and the country at large over the government’s stoic silence following the killings of military informants.

One thing that is certain is that without ‘inside’ help and a steady flow of information, the LTTE would not have been so successful in its hunting down informants.

A former Army Commander who said the military was fully aware of the names of those passing on information to the LTTE added that he sincerely wished that the government would not further delay taking action against these people.

Given the hard work by army officers to establish the necessary military intelligence network for the successful Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) popularly known as the deep penetration commando unit of the Sri Lanka Army he said, the government’s failure to crack down the LTTE pistol gang in Colombo comes as a major disappointment. The LRRP that claimed several victims was poised to get many LTTE top rungers by the time the ceasefire agreement was signed.

The government, he added, cannot afford to keep quiet about these killings as informants became really vulnerable following the leaking of information about the LRRP ammunition dump in Athurugiriya, a few days after the UNF came into office.

Just three months before this glaring blunder, September 26, 2001 thanks to the regular flow of information about the LTTE leaders, the LRRP killed Vaithilingam Sornalingam alias Col. Shakar, the head of Tiger military intelligence wing and founder commander of the LTTE Sea Tiger division, Air Craft and Air Wing division.

He was killed by triggering a claymore mine while travelling from Oddusudan to Puthukkudiyiruppu in a pick up vehicle.

Months before that, LRRP managed to kill Deputy Chief of Sea Tigers Gangai Amaran, Political Head of Batticaloa and Ampara, Nizam and Communication Chief of Eastern Tigers Mano by similar explosions.

The LTTE Political Wing Chief S.P.Thamilselvan, Deputy Military Wing Chief Balraj and Senior Commander Jeyam too came under attack by the deep penetration unit but escaped unscathed.

Thamilselvan had a narrow shave when a vehicle right in front of him was blown up by a claymore mine.

The man who led the LRRP team Captain Nilam, who would have otherwise been a war hero, it is learnt, is now in hiding as he is definitely number one in the hit list.

With the informants being regularly eliminated, there is also a growing fear among the retired servicemen whether they too would be targeted given the virulent and vindictive nature of the rebels.

At the rate the Tigers are gunning down informants, the former Army Commander said, that several retired flag ranking officers have expressed legitimate fears.

Nothing can be totally ruled out, he said, now that the LTTE is having a field day especially in Colombo and one should not be surprised if a retired military top brass suddenly dies “under mysterious circumstances”.

The elimination of informants have also re-kindled the debate as to whether the government made a blunder by agreeing to de-commission weapons of other military groups like the EPDP, PLOTE and EPRLF operating in the North and the East.

Most of these paramilitary cadres functioned as informants of the government troops and the disarmament of them under clause 1.8 of the ceasefire agreement, saw the LTTE stepping up its onslaught on these unarmed militant cadres.

One may argue that that disarmament of these cadres has helped streamline things and clear the ground as the government then have to deal with only one group- the LTTE that has the backing of an overwhelming majority of Tamil civilians.

However, others maintain irrespective of the political clout of these groups, they should be allowed to carry weapons as the LTTE has been given a chance to do so.

This is more so because a majority of them lately carried arms for self-defence rather than for combat purposes. The move to disarm them before decommissioning the LTTE was questionable.

Of all the militant groups, the EPDP is the most vulnerable being the strongest rival of the LTTE. Even the so-called champions of human rights based in Colombo are quiet about the regular killing of EPDP members including local level politicians.

Soliciting the services of paramilitary forces as military informants has been on since the beginning of the conflict and it was formerly recognized following the occupation of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF).

The EPRLF, which later held power in the North-East Provincial Council, was the first military group to co-operate extensively with the IPKF and it is no secret that those employed were amply rewarded by the Indian government for their services.

One of the first moves by the LTTE which regained control after the withdrawal of the IPKF obviously was to launch a major offensive on the other militant groups.

Since then these groups had to go through immense hardships for their survival and the Southern government more often than not used them to break the LTTE hegemony especially in the North.

However, it must be said that Tamil militant groups or individuals were not the only ones to be tagged by the LTTE as military informants.

Muslims, though majority of them remained impartial during the war, had to bear the brunt of LTTE harassment being designated by the latter as government informants.

One should not forget that the eviction of over 70,000 Muslims from Jaffna in 1990 by an LTTE decree giving them just 24 hours to vacate their abodes, came with the accusation that they sided with the Army and passed information to them about Tiger movements. Also the same year Tigers killed 64 Muslims in Nintavur the same year, hurling similar allegations at them.

Muslims all over the North and the East were generally treated as government “spies” by the LTTE and this attitude is partly attributed to the violence unleashed against them at regular intervals.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday appointed a three-member committee comprising Defence Secretary Austin Fernando, Army Commander Lionel Balagalle and Defence adviser Meril Gunaratne to submit a report proposing measures to be taken to prevent the LTTE killing those attached to the military intelligence.The move is likened to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted and one only wishes that in a few weeks time that there will not be cops and soldiers guarding the houses of personnel attached to the military intelligence, exposing them further.

It is proposed that the best way of ensuring the security of those who are in the hit list, is to provide a safe passage out of the country for them, at least for the time being.

Given Prabhakaran’s decree on the LRRP, which deprived him of several of his trusted and talented leaders, there is no doubt that priority should be given to the members of the LRRP who should be sent to safe havens.

However, equally or even more important is the tracking down of “inside men” who provide information to the Tigers.

It appears that the military top brass has a fair idea as to who is doing it and it’s a matter of eliciting such vital information professionally while guarding their identities.

One also wonders what the government intends doing with the information it gets through other sources, under different circumstances.

For instance it was reported in the newspapers that a 22-year old EPDP member Selliah Paraman who escaped from the LTTE custody a couple of weeks ago, had said, that a large number of government troops and members of other Tamil political parties are kept in LTTE custody, in underground cells in the jungles.

Has the government done anything in this connection?

What about the security of this EPDP member who is sure to have earned the wrath of the Tigers?

There are also reports of a masked pistol gangs operating in the East, which many feel belongs to an extremist group or groups, other than the LTTE.

Some masked men had recently flung a grenade at a group of Muslims in Jamaliyah, Trincomalee on Saturday.

Besides this, the killings in Mutur and the manner in which they were carried out all demand a thorough investigation and if one goes by what the people in Mutur have told the media it is clear that they know more about these pernicious elements.All these lead to the root cause of the failure of the government to track down undesirable elements- the need for a more vibrant integrated intelligence system through which information is received and shared by all forces and the police.

What we have today is a situation where one force jealously guards its information while a highly politicized National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) is preoccupied with collecting information about opposition politicians.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government needs to treat and address all these shortcomings if it is genuinely keen on improving the intelligence services while keeping a tab on all insidious elements that threaten the national security, be they the LTTE, the Eastern gangs or the underworld.

Read Full Post »

After seven long years of “Eelam War Three,” year 2002 dawned in Sri Lanka on a historic note.

Guns went silent in the battlefields as the security forces and Tiger guerrillas continued to observe a truce which came into effect from midnight December 24, or Christmas eve.

In terms of nomenclature, even if it was referred to as “cessation of hostilities,” the commencement of talks between the United National Front (UNF) Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in the coming weeks and months will see this transform into a formal cease-fire.

The UNF Government does not want to take any chances or send any wrong signal to the LTTE in the interim period. That has been made very clear to those concerned.

One area where it was clearly reflected was in a directive Chief of Defence Staff, General Rohan de S. Daluwatte, sent out on December 23 last year, to Commanders of the Army (Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle), Navy (Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri), Air Force (Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody) and Inspector General of Police (Lucky Kodituwakku). Also copied to commanders in battle areas, the instructions were clear about the “cessation of hostilities.” This is what it says:

• “Status quo with regard to ground deployment will remain.

• Security forces and Police will not launch offensive operations. This includes firing of direct and indirect weapons.

• However, security forces and the Police have the right to defend the Forward Defensive Zones up to a distance of 500 metres from the Forward Defensive Line/bunker line by employing observation posts, listening posts, patrols, ambushes, obstacle belts etc. The status quo should be maintained by both parties in the area between the bunker lines. Should any activity be conducted by the LTTE disturbing the status quo, such action should immediately be reported to the respective Service Commanders/IGP and this HQ (the JOH) also be informed accordingly.

• Security forces and Police will continue to carry out operations in the cleared areas as done previously.

• The Air Force will refrain from aerial bombar-dment of ground targets.

• Naval operations conducted at sea with a view to prevent the import of arms, ammunition or other military equipment by the LTTE will continue and the Air Force will support the Navy in the event of a confrontation without any restrictions.

• Should any situation arise, which the parties may consider to be a violation of the declaration of the cessation of hostilities, otherwise than by the use of force, the parties will endeavour to resolve such a situation.

• Any violation of cessation of hostilities in any form or nature must be immediately brought to the notice of the Service Commanders/IGP and this HQ (JOH) also informed accordingly.”

Confrontations between the security forces and the Tiger guerrillas have come to a halt with the cessation of hostilities. But, that is not to say the war is over. Raging internecine wars have intensified in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police causing not only factionalism but low morale and instability. Fuelling this situation almost every day is the lack of any visible action by the United National Front leadership, in the past four weeks, not only to arrest the disturbing trends but also the dangers it poses to national security.

Whilst the three services have been the mainstay in the battle against Tiger guerrillas and for the enforcement of the Government’s writ in “controlled” areas, the Police form the bulwark of the law and order machinery.

Nowhere is the phenomenon felt more acutely than in the Sri Lanka Army, the largest security establishment in the country. Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Balagalle, who offered jobs for his soldiers with United Nations troops during PA’s election campaign, received a strong rebuff from President Kumaratunga, for trying to get rid of his number two, Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Neil Dias. This was by using the very Regulations which the President promulgated to keep Lt. Gen. Balagalle in office when he was to retire at 55 years (on June 14, 2001).

But a more shocking blow came when Police conducted a raid last Wednesday night on a safe house at Athurugiriya, operated by the Directorate of Military Intelligence, to conduct counter terrorist operations. Assisting in the raid were men from the Army’s Military Police (or CCMP –Corps Ceylon Military Police, as they are commonly referred to). That the Army leadership, pre-occupied with their own problems, was unable to prevent a serious breach of national security when this happened, could not avoid a dangerous situation developing and allowed the LTTE to get to know state secrets, to say the least, is most damning.

The greatest irony of all this is the fact that an officer and five men are now detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and are being interrogated by a Police team led by SP Kulasiri Udugampola. Until last night, they are all being held at a secret location in Kandy. All of them are in one room and have to tolerate the ignominy of a stinking toilet whilst they answer questions from their interrogators.

These very men were at the forefront of the fight against terrorism. The Sunday Times has learnt since the Police raid, their arrest and the resultant publicity, the LTTE has come to know details of some matters that have remained a top state secret for security reasons. This is not to fault the Police or Mr. Udugampola for carrying out the raid.

An SP in the Kandy Division, Mr. Udugampola, had obtained a Court Order to conduct a raid on a house at the Millennium City at Athurugiriya. Before the raid, he had got in touch with the Army’s Provost Marshal, Major General Ivan Das-sanayake, and obtained the help of Military Police officials to accompany him. Yet, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Balagalle was unaware that one of the Army’s top secret operations which had brought great success and increased public confidence was going to be laid bare. Did Maj. Gen. Dassanayake inform Lt. Gen. Balagalle ? The fact that Military Police help was sought clearly indicated that the raid was on an Army establishment or one connected with it.

Who are the five men now in custody of the Police under the Prevention of Terrorism Act ? They are a Captain and four regular soldiers assigned to the Directorate of Military Intelligence. The sixth is a former Tiger guerrilla cadre, who surrendered to the security forces and later enlisted as a soldier.

The LTTE is now aware that these men are part of a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) Group – highly trained men who infiltrated Tiger guerrilla controlled areas and carried out devastating attacks. Their area of activity was the Batticaloa district and helping them to cross barriers was the Special Task Force (STF), the commando arm of the Police.

The team’s most prized accomplishments have been many. In the recent past it was the attack on Thambirasa Kuhasanthan alias “Nizam,” the LTTE Military Intelligence Wing leader for Batticaloa. It was Nizam who was in charge of all “suicide killer” and other attacks in the City. The Captain and his men infiltrated Tiger guerrilla dominated territory on June 9 last year, and carried out the attack on Nizam. He was killed. And now, the LTTE has become privy not only to the identities of the Captain but also the five others. This has been confirmed by intelligence channels. For obvious reasons one cannot elaborate.

Why did Police raid the Athurugiriya residence ? Contrary to claims that the investigations were a follow up of the killings at Udathala-winna during election vio-lence, the probe is related to an entirely different matter. It is an extension of the allegations United National Party Chairman Charitha Ratwatte and Vice Chairman Daya Pelpola made to the Army Commander on November 10, 2001.

They alleged that thermo-baric explosives had been brought from the operational areas in the North to the Panaluwa Army Testing Range and that certain persons alleged to be attached to a Northern Tamil Political Party were being trained in its use. The training, they alleged, was being co-ordinated by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) together with Army instructors specially flown from the north. The UNP leaders said there may be an attempt to use these weapons on the meetings held by the UNP leadership and the Leader’s campaign bus.

Lt. Gen. Balagalle in a letter to Mr. Ratwatte (and copy to Mr. Pelpola) declared “there is no substance in the information” and referred their letters to the Police Chief Lucky Kodituwakku, for whatever action he deemed necessary. Mr. Kodituwakku directed a CID team to investigate the matter but they could not record any statements since those concerned were busy.

The Sunday Times learns that men who were trained at Panaluwa were those engaged in the LRRP operations. They were taught the use of thermobaric weapons for use in assault on Tiger guerrilla positions. However, the Police in Kandy are learnt to have information from an informant that the Athurugiriya Safe House was linked to attempts at possible harm to Prime Minister Ranil Wickreme-singhe and to earlier claims of men being trained at Panaluwa.

Police investigations are focused in this regard but The Sunday Times has learnt no tangible evidence has been uncovered so far to establish there was in fact a threat to Premier Wickremesinghe arising from the training at Panaluwa or through the Athurugiriya Safe House. Hence, Police may be compelled to release the Captain and the five men if they cannot establish there was a plot of any kind. But some Police officials talk of attempts to indict the men for the possession of a cache of weapons though Military Intelligence officials insist there is official documentation for every item – the acquisition of the Safe House as well as every weapon found.

When Mr. Udugampola raided the Athurugiriya Safe House, in the company of the Military Police and men from the Athurugiriya Police, among the items found were: ten anti-personnel mines, 20 land mines, four Light Anti-Tank Weapons (LAW), one pair of goggles, two T-56 rifles, 12 magazines, 418 rounds of ammunition, one AK 47 rifle, 66 Tiger guerrilla uniforms, seven (ten kilogramme) claymore mines, one (eight kilogramme) claymore mine, 17 exploders, nine (50 metre) wire rolls, eight (100 metre wire rolls), one cyanide capsule, three antennas, three remote control devices, three detonators and thermobaric weapons.

The discovery was to create more confusion. Learning of the raid, Lt. Gen. Balagalle telephoned Police Chief Lucky Kodituwakku to plead with him to sort out the matter. Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) Brigadier Kapila Hendavithana was rushed by him to Athurugiriya. When the DGMI spoke on the phone to Mr. Kodituwakku from the scene to say he could account for all the finds, the latter had wanted to speak to Mr. Udugampola.

That conversation was to take a bad turn. Mr. Udugampola was to later telephone Interior Minister John Amaratunga, to complain of pressures on him. Interior Ministry officials were to soon assume that Police were trying to suppress matters relating to the raid. The media was tipped off and there was wide publicity. Minister Amaratu-nga despatched his relative and now a senior official, Lal Ratnayake, a former DIG, to Athurugiriya to make sure nothing was done to suppress matters. The Captain and the five men were bundled up and driven first to Military Police Headquarters in Narahenpita and then to Kandy where Detention Orders were served on them under the PTA. Their statements are now being recorded. They were taken to some places in Katugastota yesterday and no visitors were allowed to see them.

Internal Army investigations have raised some intriguing questions. It was only on December 15 last year, the Athurugiriya Safe House had been obtained on rent by the Directorate of Military Intelligence for a period of six months. It has been standard practice for DMI to operate Safe Houses for secret operations. Some months ago, one in fact functioned in close proximity to the Kotte-Sri Jayawardhanapura Parliamentary complex. The address of the house was such a closely guarded secret that only one or two DMI officials knew it.

Yet, the Court Order Mr. Udugampola obtained contai-ned the exact address of the house. Did a rival group within DMI surreptitiously obtain the address from an official in question and leak it ?

Did a close relative of a senior police official involved in the investigations, now attached to the Military Police, play a role in obtaining the address and facilitate the raid? Inquiries have not only raised this aspect but many other sensitive matters which show that a group within the DMI has been working against the leadership. They have now been identified and disciplinary action is to follow.

The last LRRP operation from the Safe House at Athurugirya had been prematurely concluded on December 21. This was after it became difficult to execute a “highly classified” and sensitive operation when it became clear there would be a cessation of hostilities. The men who came back to the Safe House had later returned some equipment including a Global Positioning System and encrypted communication sets to a camp in Kohuwala. The balance equipment was to be returned to a camp in Kosgama when the raid took place. DMI officials are now ready with documentation relating to weapons and other equipment.

Whatever the outcome of the Police investigation, the identities of some brave men who have risked their lives to attack the guerrillas is now public. So are their operations. All because of the callous inaction on the part of some of those responsible.

All is not well in the Sri Lanka Navy too. The leadership has been the subject of strong criticism for their inability to stall Tiger guerrillas from inducting weapons supplies through the north eastern seas. The Government last week ordered a full inquiry after The Sunday Island revealed that a large haul of weapons had been smuggled by the LTTE and the Navy had failed to intercept it.

Chairing a meeting of principal Staff Officers and Area Commanders at Navy Headquarters last Thursday, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri devoted considerable time to the media. He said he was not worried about media criticism or care about it. He said the media did not determine the destinies of people. They were born with it. He said the Government was aware of those leaking information to the media.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri has been at the end of criticism after ordering a Mercedes Benz worth Rs. 8.5 million as his official car during the general election period. This is despite the Navy possessing a number of Benz vehicles. In addition, he had also ordered the conversion of a Navy Pajero jeep by installing an intercooler engine at a cost of over Rs. 600,000. This was despite the Pajero jeep being in good condition with its original engine.

An action of Vice Admiral Sandagiri which is likely to pose an irritant in the upcoming peace process is his decision to construct a temple at Madagal – one of two vows he has kept, of all things at state expense, upon becoming Commander of the Navy. A small temple has been built and he is making arrangements to fly senior officers and their spouses to Jaffna for a ceremony on January 21. Two engineers sent from Colombo for the construction of the temple died in an accident in Jaffna. The second vow, a ban on the consumption of beef in the Navy, has come into effect from January 1, this year. The ban is despite objections from four of five Area Commanders of the Navy.

In the Sri Lanka Air Force, both infighting and campaigns have reached a high pitch. Some of those affected by the Court of Inquiry into last July’s Tiger guerrilla attack on the SLAF base and the Bandaranaike International Airport have launched a vicious campaign against its Commander, Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody. One of the major allegations was that he transported illegal weapons to Kandy during the election campaign. Another is that he evacuated former Deputy Defence Minister, Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte and his family, by an Air Force helicopter after he ceased to be a minister. Both allegations are being flatly denied by senior Air Force officials. A strong campaign, these officials say, is not only creating dissension but also disciplinary problems.

The infighting in the Police has become so acute that the Inspector General of Police, Lucky Kodituwakku, who had been at the centre of controversy during the election campaign and his own son, Ranmal Kodituwakku, are now at the centre of widespread allegations and a strong campaign.

Mr Kodituwakku, now 61, received a year long extension of service from the PA Government and some sections of the United National Front want to see him removed. He has, however, been asked to continue to function as Police Chief by the UNF leadership. Other likely aspirants are making their own pitch for the post.

An anonymous petition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption about the quali-fications of Mr. Koditu-wakku’s son, Ranmal Koditu-wakku, is now under inves-tigation. It centres over his qualifications to be an Assistant Superintendent of Police.

However, senior Police officials backing Mr. Kodituwakku say Ranmal, spent 11 years in California. He has been a product of Redlands University with qualifications in Maths and Economics. They say he was recruited after his credentials were verified from the United States Embassy in Colombo.

Divisions have become so sharp at Police Headquarters with at least one senior DIG staking strong claims to the post of IGP. These developments have pre-occupied the Police hierarchy so much that the pace of normal work is not only slowing down but the malaise is spreading to the provinces too. One of the reasons often attributed for the UNF Government’s inaction is a reported assurance it had given President Kumaratunga that no top level changes in the security forces or the Police would be made for three months. That is said to be the basis on which she parted with the Ministry of Defence portfolio.

But, if the existing situation in the security forces and the Police are allowed to deteriorate, particularly due to no action of any sort being taken by the new Government, its priority will become peace talks on two fronts – one with the Tiger guerrillas and the other with those in the country’s security establish-ment. The writing is clearly on the wall.

Read Full Post »

LTTE negotiator Anton Balasingham claimed in a speech on 7 April in Geneva that the Sri Lankan government’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) had infiltrated the Tiger-controlled areas of the northern Vanni region.

Mr Balasingham says that a claymore remote-controlled mine was recently found on a road on which LTTE leader V Prabhakaran was scheduled to travel. A search operation was ordered and thousands of Tigers combed the jungles of Vanni to apprehend LRRP members.

The LRRP is part of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), directed from a secret location in Athurugiriya. According to Colombo newspaper Sunday Times, this safehouse was raided on 2 January by Kandy police, who found weapons and arrested six soldiers. Unauthorized operations were alleged, and police filed a case against Army chief Lionel Balagalle and Director of DMI Kapila Hendavithana. A Commission headed by former High Court judge Dharmasiri Jayawickrema is probing DMI operations conducted from the safehouse in Athurugiriya.

The LTTE claim that the LRRP is trained by foreign intelligence services and responsible for the killing of LTTE leaders, Col. Shanker, Col. Nisam and Lt. Col. Gangai Amaran. They say others such as Col. Balraj, Col. Jeyam and political leader SP Thamilchelvan have also been targeted. The Army have denied LRRP operations in the north-east, but say that LTTE hit squads have penetrated the capital Colombo.

Sources allege that Tiger intelligence chief Pottu Amman has issued an order for the elimination of all members of the LRRP and other informants. According to press reports, at least 20 military intelligence operatives have been murdered since the ceasefire in February 2002. Former LTTE member Lingasamy Devarasa, was shot on 26 April by two people who arrived in an autorickshaw. He later died in hospital. The incident took place at Kohuwela in Colombo. Mr Devarasa had helped in LRRP operations in Batticaloa District.

Another LRRP operative and former member of Tamil group PLOTE, K R Ragupathy was killed in Mt Lavinia on 18 March. The security forces have introduced new security measures in Colombo, including checkpoints to track down the Tiger hit squads. Observers believe that the Tigers may have informants within the military and warned that there will be more deaths.

Read Full Post »

Former Deputy Minister Defence Anuruddha Ratwatte’s son Chanuka had allegedly visited the military intelligence Millennium City safe house during election time, where a large haul of arms was recovered by Police, a senior police officer probing the case told the Daily News yesterday.

“If this is a Military intelligence safe house what had Chanuka Ratwatte got to do there ? My informant told me that there is a private armoury at the Athurugiriya Millennium City and he told me that Chanuka had visited this place several times before the election,” he said.

The UNP revealed during the election period that there was a conspiracy to attack the UNP propaganda bus and assassinate leader Ranil Wickremesinghe with the knowledge of Military intelligence officers. When the UNP wrote to Army Commander Lionel Balagalle, he denied that the Army was planing to kill the UNP leader,

Police also recovered three claymore mines placed in a culvert in a Panvila to kill UNP MP Keheliya Rambukwella. However, he escaped after recovering these three mines. Police also suspect that these three claymore mines have released from this Private armoury, the Police officer said.

Police recovered 17 items from this house including 66 LTTE camouflage kits, a cyanide capsule, six large claymore mines, 10 anti-tank mines, eight small claymore mines, four light anti-tank rocket launchers, 20 fuses used for claymore mines, 17 detonators, two T 56 weapons, 12 magazines and 418 rounds of ammunition, protective plastic eye covers, nine wire rolls, three remote control antennas, etc.

“It is understandable if the Army keeps such armouries in places like Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, etc. But why did the Army keep landmines, anti-tank rocket launchers, cyanide capsules, LTTE camouflage kits in a place like Colombo,” he questioned. Police are investigating whether these Military officers were involved in the Udatalawinna massacre.

A news release from the Defence Ministry said the Police and the Army have already commenced a through investigation in to the incident. The Ministry has decided to take suitable follow up action based on the evidence that would emerge during the investigation and take appropriate action against those responsible. Therefore, the Ministry requests all parties concerned not to panic or to arrive at conclusions. A complete statement will be issued by the Ministry on completion of these investigations, the release concluded.

Read Full Post »

This came at a time when there was growing disillusionment within the military ranks and the country at large over the government’s stoic silence following the killings of military informants

The Police Chief of the LTTE P. Nadesen in an interview with a weekend English newspaper a few months ago said that one of the prime duties assigned to him by the LTTE leader was to identify the informants who helped the Sri Lanka Army’s deep penetration unit or the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP).

LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran no doubt must be quite satisfied with the performance of his police chief in this regard given the meticulous manner in which Tiger cadres are executing the job true to LTTE style.

While the LTTE was busy collecting information about military informants and systematically executing them at regular intervals, it took sixteen months for the UNF government to awaken from its slumber and demand a report from the Defence top brass on the subject.

So far nearly twenty odd informants have been executed by the LTTE in Colombo and the North and East. It all began after the Kandy Police made a blunder by revealing the closely guarded military secret – the presence of the LRRP, while hunting down the murderers of the Palletalawinna massacre.

Once the identities of Tamil and Muslim informants were known to the police and the LTTE, a chain of murders of persons collaborating with the Army was the result. The Attorney General recently directed the IGP to withdraw the case filed by ASP Kulasiri Udugampola against the Army Commander, Director Military Intelligence, another officer and four soldiers of the LRRP, saying there wasn’t a “trickle of evidence” to show that the LRRP were engaged in criminal activities.

The UNF government in its zest and zeal to expose political rivals initially took the side of the police and later realized the mistake too late though.

The government finally decided to act after last Saturday’s murder of Thirty-two year old Lingasami Devarasa, from Kokkadicholai who was gunned down in Dehiwala where he has been living for the past few months.

This came at a time when there was growing disillusionment within the military ranks and the country at large over the government’s stoic silence following the killings of military informants.

One thing that is certain is that without ‘inside’ help and a steady flow of information, the LTTE would not have been so successful in its hunting down informants.

A former Army Commander who said the military was fully aware of the names of those passing on information to the LTTE added that he sincerely wished that the government would not further delay taking action against these people.

Given the hard work by army officers to establish the necessary military intelligence network for the successful Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) popularly known as the deep penetration commando unit of the Sri Lanka Army he said, the government’s failure to crack down the LTTE pistol gang in Colombo comes as a major disappointment. The LRRP that claimed several victims was poised to get many LTTE top rungers by the time the ceasefire agreement was signed.

The government, he added, cannot afford to keep quiet about these killings as informants became really vulnerable following the leaking of information about the LRRP ammunition dump in Athurugiriya, a few days after the UNF came into office.

Just three months before this glaring blunder, September 26, 2001 thanks to the regular flow of information about the LTTE leaders, the LRRP killed Vaithilingam Sornalingam alias Col. Shakar, the head of Tiger military intelligence wing and founder commander of the LTTE Sea Tiger division, Air Craft and Air Wing division.

He was killed by triggering a claymore mine while travelling from Oddusudan to Puthukkudiyiruppu in a pick up vehicle.

Months before that, LRRP managed to kill Deputy Chief of Sea Tigers Gangai Amaran, Political Head of Batticaloa and Ampara, Nizam and Communication Chief of Eastern Tigers Mano by similar explosions.

The LTTE Political Wing Chief S.P.Thamilselvan, Deputy Military Wing Chief Balraj and Senior Commander Jeyam too came under attack by the deep penetration unit but escaped unscathed.

Thamilselvan had a narrow shave when a vehicle right in front of him was blown up by a claymore mine.

The man who led the LRRP team Captain Nilam, who would have otherwise been a war hero, it is learnt, is now in hiding as he is definitely number one in the hit list.

With the informants being regularly eliminated, there is also a growing fear among the retired servicemen whether they too would be targeted given the virulent and vindictive nature of the rebels.

At the rate the Tigers are gunning down informants, the former Army Commander said, that several retired flag ranking officers have expressed legitimate fears.

Nothing can be totally ruled out, he said, now that the LTTE is having a field day especially in Colombo and one should not be surprised if a retired military top brass suddenly dies “under mysterious circumstances”.

The elimination of informants have also re-kindled the debate as to whether the government made a blunder by agreeing to de-commission weapons of other military groups like the EPDP, PLOTE and EPRLF operating in the North and the East.

Most of these paramilitary cadres functioned as informants of the government troops and the disarmament of them under clause 1.8 of the ceasefire agreement, saw the LTTE stepping up its onslaught on these unarmed militant cadres.

One may argue that that disarmament of these cadres has helped streamline things and clear the ground as the government then have to deal with only one group- the LTTE that has the backing of an overwhelming majority of Tamil civilians.

However, others maintain irrespective of the political clout of these groups, they should be allowed to carry weapons as the LTTE has been given a chance to do so.

This is more so because a majority of them lately carried arms for self-defence rather than for combat purposes. The move to disarm them before decommissioning the LTTE was questionable.

Of all the militant groups, the EPDP is the most vulnerable being the strongest rival of the LTTE. Even the so-called champions of human rights based in Colombo are quiet about the regular killing of EPDP members including local level politicians.

Soliciting the services of paramilitary forces as military informants has been on since the beginning of the conflict and it was formerly recognized following the occupation of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF).

The EPRLF, which later held power in the North-East Provincial Council, was the first military group to co-operate extensively with the IPKF and it is no secret that those employed were amply rewarded by the Indian government for their services.

One of the first moves by the LTTE which regained control after the withdrawal of the IPKF obviously was to launch a major offensive on the other militant groups.

Since then these groups had to go through immense hardships for their survival and the Southern government more often than not used them to break the LTTE hegemony especially in the North.

However, it must be said that Tamil militant groups or individuals were not the only ones to be tagged by the LTTE as military informants.

Muslims, though majority of them remained impartial during the war, had to bear the brunt of LTTE harassment being designated by the latter as government informants.

One should not forget that the eviction of over 70,000 Muslims from Jaffna in 1990 by an LTTE decree giving them just 24 hours to vacate their abodes, came with the accusation that they sided with the Army and passed information to them about Tiger movements. Also the same year Tigers killed 64 Muslims in Nintavur the same year, hurling similar allegations at them.

Muslims all over the North and the East were generally treated as government “spies” by the LTTE and this attitude is partly attributed to the violence unleashed against them at regular intervals.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday appointed a three-member committee comprising Defence Secretary Austin Fernando, Army Commander Lionel Balagalle and Defence adviser Meril Gunaratne to submit a report proposing measures to be taken to prevent the LTTE killing those attached to the military intelligence.The move is likened to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted and one only wishes that in a few weeks time that there will not be cops and soldiers guarding the houses of personnel attached to the military intelligence, exposing them further.

It is proposed that the best way of ensuring the security of those who are in the hit list, is to provide a safe passage out of the country for them, at least for the time being.

Given Prabhakaran’s decree on the LRRP, which deprived him of several of his trusted and talented leaders, there is no doubt that priority should be given to the members of the LRRP who should be sent to safe havens.

However, equally or even more important is the tracking down of “inside men” who provide information to the Tigers.

It appears that the military top brass has a fair idea as to who is doing it and it’s a matter of eliciting such vital information professionally while guarding their identities.

One also wonders what the government intends doing with the information it gets through other sources, under different circumstances.

For instance it was reported in the newspapers that a 22-year old EPDP member Selliah Paraman who escaped from the LTTE custody a couple of weeks ago, had said, that a large number of government troops and members of other Tamil political parties are kept in LTTE custody, in underground cells in the jungles.

Has the government done anything in this connection?

What about the security of this EPDP member who is sure to have earned the wrath of the Tigers?

There are also reports of a masked pistol gangs operating in the East, which many feel belongs to an extremist group or groups, other than the LTTE.

Some masked men had recently flung a grenade at a group of Muslims in Jamaliyah, Trincomalee on Saturday.

Besides this, the killings in Mutur and the manner in which they were carried out all demand a thorough investigation and if one goes by what the people in Mutur have told the media it is clear that they know more about these pernicious elements.All these lead to the root cause of the failure of the government to track down undesirable elements- the need for a more vibrant integrated intelligence system through which information is received and shared by all forces and the police.

What we have today is a situation where one force jealously guards its information while a highly politicized National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) is preoccupied with collecting information about opposition politicians.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government needs to treat and address all these shortcomings if it is genuinely keen on improving the intelligence services while keeping a tab on all insidious elements that threaten the national security, be they the LTTE, the Eastern gangs or the underworld.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »