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Archive for November 1st, 2007

India has supplied air defence guns to Sri Lanka as the situation on the island nation was described as turbulent, the Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted the new Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor as saying.

The comments by Kapoor came days after the LTTE carried out a daring air and land attack on an airbase deep in the hinterland of the country.

Colombo has made a number of requests for arms supplies, Kapoor said adding that the government was looking at these.

He also said that India was training personnel of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The Times of India reported earlier this month while India has been providing “largely defensive” equipment to Sri Lanka till now, sources said the supply of “some clearly offensive weapons” could not be ruled out since India does not want China or Pakistan to step into the vacuum, much like what happened in Myanmar in the 1990s.

An indicator of this unease in the Indian defence establishment had come earlier this year when national security advisor, M. K. Narayanan had publicly asked Sri Lanka to refrain from seeking arms from China or Pakistan.

The remarks had created a furore in Lanka, especially since Narayanan had added that India would not provide weapons with offensive capabilities to the island nation.

The government, of course, has to keep political sensitivities in Tamil Nadu in mind all the time as far as weapon deliveries to Sri Lanka are concerned, with its partner DMK frequently voicing its concern over the plight of Tamils in the island nation.

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The Defence Ministry has instructed the military to temporarily refrain from recruiting civil workers to carry out development activities at military establishments or permit civilians entry to such installations.

This is in the wake of the attack on the Anuradhapura Air base following revelations that at least one Black Tiger was involved in the reconstruction of the Anuradhapura base under the ‘Maga Neguma’ project of the government, defence officials said.

Meanwhile some 164 civilian employees involved in the development activities of the base have also failed to turn up for work following the attack last week and the authorities are unable to trace them down as their place of residence has not been recorded, the Daily Mirror learns.

Civilians are recruited to carry out construction work at military establishments owing to cheap labour charges but now a special circular has been sent to military establishments in the country banning the recruitment of civilians temporarily and also permitting civilians, except the immediate family members of military officials, from entering military installations.

“We have found there was direct involvement of civil workers in assisting the LTTE to carry out the attack on the Anuradhapura base last week.

Because of this a decision has been taken not to allow civilians into defence establishments until further notice,” the defence official said on the condition of anonymity.

Ongoing police investigations into the attack revealed that a Black Tiger had been recruited a few months back as a driver for a lorry to transport soil for the Anuradhapura air base runway development project and it is also understood that the suspect hd identified himself as a member of the Karuna faction.

A top defence official claimed that while the air force had checked the identity cards of the construction workers whenever they entered the air base premises they had however failed to carry out in-depth background checks on the workers.

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Nine Tamil youth, forcibly recruited to the LTTE terror outfit unveiled a string of suffocations experienced at the LTTE training camps deep in the non-liberated Wanni patches, after surrendering themselves to security forces at Pallamunai, today(30) morning.

The nine youth were in the ages between 18-26, and were forcibly recruited from the non-liberated areas of Mullaittivu, Killionochchi, Poonaryn and Mannar. According to revelations made the youth were all abducted and held at an LTTE training facility at Parappakaddaththan, north of Mannar.

The youth have managed to escape the terrorists on guard and fled to Veddathalthivu, making along the coast to Papamoddai from where they surrendered to naval Personnel at Pallimunai in Mannar.

The youth were later handed over to the Mannar Police.

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Sri Lankan Air Force fighter jets on Tuesday bombed a major sea base of Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka’s embattled north as a series of clashes between the security forces and rebels left at least 14 guerrillas dead, officials here said on Tuesday.

Following surveillance and credible information, the Air Force jets conducted an aerial attack on the sea base in Chilawatta in the northern Mullaithivu district.

Intelligence confirmed that the base had some Tiger cadres present at the time of bombing, the Defence Ministry said, adding the fighter jets returned safely after the
attack.

At Welioya in north-eastern Sri lanka, troops on the forward defence line in Ethavetunuvewa area fired on a group of armed LTTE rebels, killing one and injuring two of them, the Defence Ministry said. Later, the troops traced one T-56 weapon from the area, it said.

The security personnel had on Monday recovered one claymore mine and some hardware while on a search and clearing operation in Welioya area.

At the Nagarkovil Forward Defence Line in northern Jaffna, two LTTE bunkers were destroyed and two Tiger rebels killed in pre-emptive strikes by troops, the Army said.

In a separate incident at the Muhamalai forward defence line in Jaffna, the army destroyed four LTTE bunkers, killing at least eight Tiger rebels in an attack on Monday, the Defence Ministry said.

During the counter-attacks in the area, a soldier was injured and air lifted to the military base hospital at Palali.

An LTTE attempt to breach the forward defence at Karampikulam in Wanni on Monday was foiled by the troops, who launched artillery strikes inflicting heavy damage on the
rebels, security sources said.

Intercepted LTTE communication later revealed that three rebels were killed in the confrontation, the army said.

During search operations conducted at the general area in Vilathikuklam in the LTTE-dominated Wanni, troops recovered 100 anti-personnel mines, security sources said.

Security personnel conducting search operations on Monday at Kokkuttoduval in Welioya recovered a claymore mine and two detonators.

Meanwhile, Navy personnel recovered a claymore mine, one T-56 assault riffle and 30 ammunitions in a search operation conducted on Monday at Samplathivu in north of Trincomalee district.

A 2002 truce brokered by Norway between Sri Lankan government and the LTTE collapsed in December 2005 resulting in intense fighting which has claimed more than 5000 lives so far in the island country.

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What afflicted Kolkata (Calcutta then) and its periphery, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh and parts of Orissa in the late sixties and early seventies has now engulfed more than forty percent of the country. That fear was dimmed by passage of time but activists like SN Singh, Pulla Reddy, DV Rao, Vinod Mishra, and Venu have continued to keep the pot boiling. The internecine turf and ideological war between the PWG and MCCI was ended by the merger of the two in September 2004 into CPI (Maoist) doubling their material, financial, intelligence and organizational resources. The Maoists are getting stronger by the day. There are suggestions that a linkage between Indian Maoists, Nepali Maoists, Punjab militants, ISI and the LTTE exists. Now over 125 districts out of 605 or so districts in 14 states are feeling the intense heat of Naxalism. Hundreds of lives have been lost and irreparable damage has been done to social fabric of tribal society besides causing great financial loss to the nation.

I had the opportunity to read over a hundred police case diaries of POTA cases pertaining to Jharkhand. It enabled me to comprehend the magnitude of the problem. Most of those arrested – they were in a large number- had hardly any ideological commitment. They belonged to lumpen category. Some had an axe to grind or retribution in their mind, were unemployed, or had nothing else to bring excitement to their otherwise insipid lives. Only a handful of them knew what they were doing and had the capability to carryout orders of their mentors.

Many such middle level or some higher-level leaders had amassed wealth through extortion or defalcations, and converted into personal property. All of them were ruthless, cruel, and inhuman and exulted in carrying out killing and maiming in the name of meting out social justice. They had surrendered merely to save themselves from severe punishment from the party.

Chhattisgarh region is no different and almost comparable to Andhra Pradesh. The Dandakaranya region of Chhattisgarh comprising of six southern districts of Bastar have average tribal population of 65% (Dantewada 79%- Kanker 56%) of which 98% live in rural areas. Naxalites have been able to make inroads in areas where the population mainly comprised of tribals, dalits and the landless. 90% of them live below the poverty line.

The causes which attract youth to Naxalism- socio-economic factors, social injustice, and discrimination, denial of access to land, want of livelihood, oppression by landlords, moneylenders, forest, revenue and police officials, and political neglect are all there.

Tribal region of Chhattisgarh makes a classical recruiting ground for Naxalism. In the ongoing Naxal related violence, over 271 people in 968 incidents were killed in 2004-2005. This included 175 civilians, 54 police personnel and 35 Naxals. 24 policemen were brutalized and killed this year in a mass attack.

An estimated 9.8 tonnes of gelatine and SLRs and ammunition was looted from the NMDC Baladila magazine after killing eight CISF jawans. Recently three power pylons were blasted disrupting power to a major portion of Bastar region. In the first eight months of 2007 alone, over 405 lives have been lost.

Most people in the country are unaware of the magnitude of the problem because it has yet to touch their lives.

The Salva Judam (peace initiative) movement, hyped as a spontaneous anti-Maoist reaction in Bastar has been castigated by the Maoist front organizations of all the Naxal infested states. For them, it is state ‘sponsored’ and state ‘managed’ enterprise. Maoists also go to the extent of charging that the Salva Judam’s core cadre comprises state paid Special Police Officers (SPO).

Maoists of all hues allege that about 60,000 tribals from about 500 villages have been displaced from their homes and were forcibly brought into roadside camps and that security forces kill those who resist the shifting. The front organizations have conveniently omitted to mention that the exorbitant cut levied by Maoist on contractors collecting Tendu Patta and their refusal to bid for the bidi leaf has robbed most tribals of their only source of living and that as a consequence the Salva Judam movement was born.

The so-called emancipators of tribals took away the ‘means by which they lived’. The attacks by the Naxalites to smother the movement made villagers to flee to camps that had to be set up by the state. Villages of the area today are bereft of population and the Maoists have ready built huts to live in and, in gloat, call it a liberated area.

The state has been accused of paying little attention to critical issues that allegedly sustain Naxalite movement, such as weakening of social roots and support structure, unemployment, non-upliftment of the poor, negative economic regeneration, absence of infrastructure, and the abysmal performance of the institutions of civil governance.

It is politically convenient to beat the government with these sticks but systematic destruction of roads, bridges, schools, canals, transport, railways, and most of the developmental activities is perpetuating the very conditions, which sustain the anti-state movement. There is a vested interest in creating chaos to enlarge recruiting base.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the Maoist insurgency the biggest internal security challenge faced by India since independence. Addressing the Directors General of Police in Delhi on October 4, he urged the administration to take steps by all legitimate means to control the situation. Early this year, February to be precise, a brainstorming session took place in Hyderabad on means to bring normalcy to Naxal infested areas. Another such session was held a month ago in September.

But the fact of the matter is there does not appear to be a well thought of national doctrine to counter Maoist menace and to stop red advance. Knee jerk reaction and fire-fighting will not solve this massive problem. The Maoists are using variegated means of waging war against the state; it can be countered only with a variegated and holistic approach to the problem.

Naxalism is an ideology driven violence and it will be impossible to counter it by denigrating that ideology. The criminality of the violence must be exposed and fought.

The 14-point policy of Government of India advises states to adopt a collective approach and coordinated response to Naxalism. It advocates no peace dialogue without Maoists surrendering arms. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s readiness for peace talks is no doubt laudable but one must not forget that every time the Maoists are under pressure or want a breather they offer ceasefire and peace talks. They then use the lull to regroup, recuperate and reorganise.

Never forget Ho Chi Minh’s famous words -“talk talk; fight, fight”. Governments must talk from the position of strength. Political parties must fill the political vacuum by strengthening bases in the ‘liberated zones’ to wean away new Naxal recruits. Financial gains must be denied to them. Village volunteer groups must develop local resistance and the state must ensure their security and further improve police response.

Sustained police action, holistic approach to the socio economic issues, encouragement to surrender and genuine action for the rehabilitation of people will bring desired response.

Various committees have suggested new approaches: “Get tough. Forget talks until they give up guns. Choke off men and money supply. Wean away their support base among tribals and the poor through development and availability of jobs. Train local resistance groups (Salva Judam). Increase men, material, and training support to local police”.

Undoubtedly, the need for a coordinated and combined effort by affected states is imperative. Also, honest and better exchange of human intelligence (humint) can deliver. This is one most important area that needs unwavering focus.

From my experience of long years of policing in Naxalite and insurgency ridden areas, I can say one thing. That is that firm handling of the situation does not mean oppression by the state and its agencies.

The state must not fall for the justification of ‘moral construal in killing’ in response to the acts of terrorists. The state must maintain a dignified human face and ‘moral legitimacy’.

I can do no better than to quote Kofi Annan, former Secretary General, United Nations, who said, “We face a nearly unsolvable conflict between two imperatives of modern life – protecting the traditional civil liberties of our citizens, and at the same time ensuring their safety from terrorist attacks with catastrophic consequences”.

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Hearsay as Gospel

Yesterday, Maneka Gandhi, an environmentalist of international repute said, in her column in this newspaper, parrots were far more intelligent than they were thought to be and capable of making rational decisions based on their own judgment, contrary to the conventional belief that they can only imitate humans. Sadly, some humans seem to lack that parrot-faculty. They rush to conclusions based on hearsay. The US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack has urged the Sri Lankan government to reconsider its decision not to allow the UN to base a human rights group in the country, citing an assessment by UN Human Rights High Commissioner Louise Arbour that the human rights situation was deteriorating in Sri Lanka as the reason.

Let there be no argument that the human rights situation in this country is bad. But, it is not as bad as it is made out to be. If one were to go by the various reports filed by vested interests, then one would conclude the situation in this country is far worse than that in Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, where American private security personnel can mow down Iraqis with impunity, as the Blackwater mercenaries did the other day.

The Sri Lankan government, no doubt, has to get its act together and take steps to improve the human rights situation with the help of genuine human rights groups, who are critical of violations by both the government troops and the LTTE, as we have repeatedly pointed out in these columns. Those who are calling for the establishment of a UN human rights mission here without highlighting and/or condemning the human rights violations by the LTTE are only furthering the interests of the LTTE, which is striving for a Cyprus like situation here through UN involvement. Ms. Arbour seems to be yielding to pressure exerted by various separatist fronts including a section of the Colombo-based NGO circuit, whose bosses get paid more than Ms. Arbour per month to create an environment conducive to LTTE operations.

This country may be anything but a killing field like Iraq, where not even an ordinary civilian can walk the streets without fear of being abducted or killed by religious fanatics despite the heavy presence of the US-led forces helping maintain law and order. Can a foreign diplomat ever think of venturing out at an ungodly hour for a stroll on a street in Afghanistan or Iraq? No! But, Mr. McCormack should be told that it was only the other day that the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake took part in a ten-kilometre marathon in Colombo! The same envoy together with a group of other ambassadors had to hit the dirt in the East a few months ago when the LTTE showered shells on them before that part of the country was ‘cleared’.

It is in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. McCormack will agree with us, that Ms Arbour’s services are most needed. Time was when in Iraq, deaths of children continued at 5,000 per month due to sanctions. In 2002, UNICEF estimated that 70 per cent of child deaths resulted from diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections. Those children, who died due to sanctions, could have been saved, had there been a proper human rights intervention. Although no comprehensive study has been carried out in that country of late, the situation is believed to be equally bad. Ms Arbour should also make a trip to Diego Garcia, where the CIA is accused of having a secret prison to ‘put terror suspects to the question’. Ironically, while Mr. McCormack and Ms Arbour are busy trying to intervene in Sri Lanka, the much-dreaded hangman’s noose, which is the symbol of lynching, has made a comeback in New York, much to the horror of the African American community. This time round, the ugly head of white racism has manifested itself at the Columbia University, where Prof. Madonna Constantine had a hangman’s noose hanging from her door the other day. Prof. Constantine, who teaches psychology and education, is the author of the book Addressing Racism: Facilitating Cultural Competence in Mental Health and Education. One is reminded of the recent Jena Case, which sparked racial tensions and civil rights protests against what was dubbed double standards of prosecution for blacks and whites in the US.

Finally, that foreign powers have no right to intervene in this country doesn’t mean that the Rajapaksa government can turn a blind eye to human rights violations. It has to strengthen the local human rights protection mechanisms and permit the involvement of local independent human rights groups to monitor abuses, probe them and make recommendations, which need to be implemented. Similarly, those UN knights in shining armour tilting at windmills in small countries should be told that the protection of human rights is next to impossible during a fiercely fought war.

Sri Lanka is fighting the LTTE not for the fun of it. It has no other way of dealing with the outfit as it is not amenable to a negotiated settlement. Minister Douglas Devananda, a one time confidant of LTTE leader Prabhakaran, recently told Parliament that even if one could achieve the feats such as ‘brushing the teeth of a cobra, ploughing the sea or squeezing an elephant through the eye of a needle, one couldn’t make peace with Prabhakaran’.

About the PKK (or the Kurdistan People’s Party), Mr. McCormack said on Tuesday, “You can’t negotiate with a terrorist organisation… you have to deal with the larger question of how you eliminate threat from a terrorist organisation…to make sure that there are no further attacks or loss of innocent life…” But, it is the very antithesis of this policy that the US wants Sri Lanka to adopt!

Not even a game of soccer, Mr. McCormack and Ms Arbour will see, gets played without head-butts and illegal tackling. So, the best way to prevent human rights abuses is to put an end to the on-going war. If the foreign powers are not using human rights as a Trojan horse to achieve some sinister objective through their involvement in Sri Lanka’s conflict, they must go all out to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table which it unilaterally left under the UNF government which was bending over backwards to keep the peace process on the track and stood accused of servile appeasement.

Will Mr. McCormack and Ms Arbour take notice?

(www.island.lk)

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Nine (09) Tamil youths aged between 20-25, residents from Mullaithievu, surrendered at the naval detachment, at Mannar-Pallimunai on Tuesday (30). According to their statements, recorded individually, they reached Papamottai by trekking jungle tracks (an area North of Vidithalathievu) and then walked along the shores up to Pallimunai, where the Sri Lanka Naval detachment was located.

When questioned by the naval personnel, surrendered youths declared that as Tamil Tigers were involved in the conscription of youths, they fled Mullaithievu and sought protection in government controlled area. They also said that Tigers’ at present adopt a very aggressive and violent method to recruit youths.

They further revealed that Tigers used to forcefully recruit young ones, as cannon fodders, without any considerations about the future of Tamil youths. They added that parents’ pleas were simply ignored by Tigers and at times parents intimidated and their voices stilled.

To avoid from being kidnapped by Tigers, according to the surrendered youths, many youngsters spend their nights sneaking into jungle hideouts, as kidnapping in Mullaithievu used to take place in nights.

Also they told that if in case one needs to sit for the G.C.E. Ordinary Level examinations, joining the Tigers is a must. Kidnapping school children on their way to school by Tiger cadres who come on motor bikes has become a day to day common event.

According to reports, Tamil youths who surrendered to the Navy were later handed over to the Mannar Police for further investigations.

Furthermore, on May this year, a family from Pudukudirippu area took a chance between life and death when they boarded a fibre glass dinghy in order to proceed to Trincomalee. Their message was perceptible one; ‘only to be liberated from Tigers deadly grip.‘

Reports revealed that over the last couple of months, more than 200 Tamil civilians fled from Tiger dens, surrendered to Sri Lanka Navy in Mannar area.

A spokesperson for Navy told Asian Tribune that already large number of civilians fleeing from areas controlled by Tigers had also surrendered to Army and Police from various parts of the North. He added that civilians fleeing from the Tiger controlled region at present is on the increase.

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