Archive for November 5th, 2007

The latest move of the US State Department to establish an Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Sri Lanka has been rejected by the Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management Mahinda Samarasinghe. Sean McCork of the US Department of State said on October 22 that Sri Lanka should reconsider its opposition to the expansion of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) and mandate in Sri Lanka. Samarasinghe in a letter sent to the American Ambassador Robert Blake has said that no “office” exists for the Office of the High Commissioner in Sri Lanka to expand. He added: “Any discussion of its “expansion”, therefore, will be redundant. OHCHR’s presence in Sri Lanka consists of a Senior Human Rights Advisor and an assistant working under the aegis of the UN Country Team.”

He also emphasized that that “not once in her statement of 13 October did Madame Arbour (High Commissioner for Human Rights who visited Sri Lanka) request the establishment of an “office” in Sri Lanka.”

Samarasinghe has questioned McCork’s reference to an “assessment” purportedly conducted by Louis Arbour. Rebutting McCork’s statement Samarasinghe states: “As she herself has stated in her communications to the Government, the High Commissioner’s objective in visiting Sri Lanka was to enable her to deepen her understanding of the situation in Sri Lanka and how her office can best support the government of Sri Lanka’s efforts to protect human rights.” Samarasinghe has also pointed out that both preceding and subsequent to the visit of Louis Arbour there were numerous calls, from certain quarters, for a UN monitoring mission on human rights.

On this aspect he states: “The High Commissioner did not at any point during her visit call for a “monitoring mission” – either directly or tacitly. What the High Commissioner actually said in this regard (as published in her statement of 13 October) was: “The current human rights protection gap in Sri Lanka is not solely a question of capacity. While training and international expertise are needed in specific areas, and I understand would be welcomed by the Government, I am convinced that one of the major human rights shortcomings in Sri Lanka is rooted in the absence of reliable and authoritative information on the credible allegations of human rights abuses” and, accordingly, that there is a “need for independent information gathering and public reporting on human rights issues” in addition to the capacity building requested by the Government.”

The peace merchants in the NGOs have been very active in promoting the idea of establishing a UN “monitoring mission” in Sri Lanka. Four of them – a former B-grade actress, Sunila Abeysekera, Nimalka Fernando, Rohan Edrisinha and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu,–.even staged a theatrical walk out from the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission on the eve of the visit of Louis Arbour to impress that there is a crisis in the human rights conditions in Sri Lanka. This was their underhand move to undercut the credibility of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission and replace it with UN office.

According to the Peace Secretariat they had given three reasons for their resignations: “One was that SCOPP had criticized them, another was that the government was trying to muzzle them by putting them on the committee. The third was that the committees were not serious.”

The Peace Secretariat added that they were appointed nearly a year ago and they seldom attended the meetings.

Unconfirmed reports state that some NGO apparatchiks are busy preparing applications to compete for the lucrative posts in the OHCHR if it is to be established.


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According to the latest findings from the investigations on AAB attack, it is now confirmed that the Black tigers who infiltrated the base completely took control of both the L-70 anti aircraft guns and the surrounding area. Investigations also revealed that the guns were under black tiger control for a considerable amount of time. It is also confirmed that the suicide cadres operated the guns successfully and directed fire at hangars and aircraft parked nearby, causing widespread destruction.

L-70 is a 40mm close range anti-aircraft cannon which requires dedicated training to operate. However military intelligence has confirmed that LTTE does not have any L-70s in their inventory. If so, how did the tigers manage to operate the guns successfully? Did they obtain training from a foreign country or did they have inside help?  This is a question that has so far proved unanswerable.

Both L-70s at Anuradhapura Airbase were provided by India. In addition to the anti aircraft cannons, India also provided four ‘Indra” low-altitude detection radars. In addition to these, Sri Lanka has requested Nishant UAVs, laser designators for guided bombs and artillery guns from India. So far no confirmation on the supply of these weapons has been received.


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Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are well known for their devastating suicide attacks on both military and economic targets. Military Intelligence has now warned that Colombo harbor, a key economic structure, is on top of LTTE’s hit list. According to intel, LTTE’s plan is to inflict massive damages to the harbor and isolate Sri Lanka from the sea based supply route.

Almost all LTTE suspects arrested in the last few months were either aware of a plan to attack the harbor or were part of such a plan. According to some of them, at one point LTTE planned to deploy sea tigers, land units and its light aircraft simultaneously in an attack. This plan however was abandoned when a senior cadre involved in it was arrested by the army.

LTTE will need a major victory to overcome the huge morale buster that was Thamil Selvam’s death. Security forces will have to be in constant vigilance to prevent such an attack in the future.


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One TMVP group member was killed injuring six others when their vehicle plying from Valachchenai to Polonnaruwa came under an LTTE hand grenade attack yesterday (04), at 2:45 p.m.

According to reports, the area financial head of Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) sustained serious injuries. The injured were admitted to the general hospital at Polonnaruwa, Valachchenai police sources said.

According to Valachchenai Police, an LTTE operative has hurled a hand grenade at a vehicle passing along the A-15 main road, near the 36th kilometer post at Navaladi.

Valachchenai Police along with area security forces launched a search operation immediately, the sources further added.


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Sri Lanka’s air force is planning more strikes against leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam after the rebel group’s political chief was killed in a raid last week, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake said. “Our security forces are targeting the hiding places and safe houses,” Wickramanayake told reporters yesterday, according to the Defense Ministry. “They will not stop the relentless pursuit of terrorists.”

S.P. Thamilchelvan was killed along with five rebel officers in the Nov. 2 air strike near the northern city of Kilinochchi. Security has been stepped up for his funeral today, the military said.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for 24 years for a separate homeland on the South Asian island nation in a conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people, according to the ministry. The government rejects dividing the country and is offering to devolve power to some provinces.

The government doesn’t want a new cease-fire although it is ready for unconditional talks with the LTTE, Wickramanayake said.

“It is not the government that left the negotiating table,” the Defense Ministry cited him as saying. “It is the LTTE which spurned the peace drive.”

Thamilchelvan’s death has set alight a “deep yearning for the goal” of a separate homeland, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran said in a Nov. 3 statement on the group’s Web site.

Terrorist Group

The LTTE has an estimated 12,000-member land force and a 4,000-strong naval unit. The group, designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and India, also has an air wing which the military says consists of five propeller-driven aircraft.

Sri Lankan forces are attacking rebel-held territory in the north, after capturing Eastern Province in July. The fighting is the heaviest since a 2002 truce brokered by Norway.

The Tamil Tigers’ last weapons-smuggling vessel was destroyed last month and the group’s navy commander was killed in September, the Defense Ministry said at the time.

An Oct. 22 raid by the LTTE on an airbase destroyed eight aircraft and helicopters, the most serious assault on Sri Lankan forces by the Tamil Tigers since the loss of the eastern region.


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Sri Lankan security forces stepped up patrols and roadblocks Sunday, fearing reprisals after the death of a top Tamil Tiger leader in a government air strike.

They boosted their presence in and around the capital Colombo as the Tigers’ overall leader vowed to step up the long and bloody battle for independence. Checks at all entry points into Colombo were increased and roadblocks set up within the city of 650,000 people, a police spokesman said. “We have similar arrangements in other parts of the country too,” he said, adding they feared that the Tigers could try to avenge Friday’s death of SP Thamilselvan, the head of the guerrillas’ political wing.

His funeral will be held today in rebel-held territory. The Tigers’ leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, said he was determined to keep up the “liberation struggle” despite the killing of Thamilselvan, who was the public face of the separatist organisation. “Thamilselvan was close to me ever since he joined our freedom movement,” Prabhakaran said. “I loved him deeply. I taught him as my own beloved younger brother.”

Thamilselvan, 40, was the highest-ranking member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to be killed by government forces in the 35-year separatist campaign and his death has been seen as a major setback to the separatists. The LTTE declared three days of mourning and named Thamilselvan a brigadier, the highest rank conferred posthumously on any guerrilla by Prabhakaran since the group’s formation in 1972.

Prabhakaran, who turns 53 on November 26, named his police chief P Nadesan as new leader of the LTTE’s political wing.

Four killed: Tamil rebels attacked soldiers guarding front lines in northern Sri Lanka, triggering a gunbattle Sunday that killed four rebels and one soldier, the military said, as guerrillas mourned a top leader killed in an air raid last week. The clash erupted at about 6 am when a group of insurgents attacked the defence line in the Muhamalai area of Jaffna peninsula, which separates government and rebel-held regions, said an officer at the Defense Ministry’s media center.

Soldiers repelled the attack and the ensuing battle killed four rebels and one soldier, the officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. There was no immediate comment from the rebels and it was not possible to independently verify the military’s claim because the area is restricted.


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LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is mourning for his political wing leader S. P. Tamilselvam, who perished in an air raid on Friday together with five others. There are two schools of thought about that killing.

One is that the Sri Lanka Air Force mounted that decapitation strike using intelligence it had gathered on its own; it had marked the target weeks ago but desisted from taking it until time was opportune. And the Tigers struck in Anuradhapura. Others argue that Tamilselvam’s enemies within the LTTE leaked information about his hideout, as he had fallen out with the leadership towards his tragic end.

Prabhakaran, as his history reveals, knows more than one way to skin a Tiger, according to the second school of thought. He, as is well known, doesn’t tolerate dissent and goes to any extent to remove from his path anyone who, he thinks, will be a threat to his leadership one day. The de facto deputy leader of the LTTE Mahattaya or Mahendraraja became too popular within the organisation and it was expected that he would one day succeed Prabhakaran. Prabhakaran got him ‘arrested’, kept in a dungeon and finally got him murdered together with over 200 of his loyalists. Prabhakaran is also said to have betrayed Kuttumani because he was perceived as a threat. Kuttumani was arrested on a tip-off from the LTTE itself and later killed in the then UNP government-instigated prison riots in 1983. Prabhakaran’s rivals still have serious doubts about how a vessel with Kittu, another popular LTTE leader, on board came to be intercepted in 1993, causing his death. More recently, immediately before Karuna’s breakaway, Prabhakaran sent for both Paduman and Karuna and the SLMM arranged for their travel to the Wanni. An SLAF chopper picked up Paduman from Trincomalee and proceeded to Batticaloa, where Karuna was to board it. Karuna had second thoughts and refused to join Paduman. That was the last seen of Paduman, who is believed to be either killed or incarcerated in the Wanni as his loyalty to Prabhakaran was in question.

The conspiracy theorists claim that the on-going dispute in the LTTE over Prabhakaran’s decision to groom his son for leadership has resulted in a bitter power struggle, which has led to the information leak in question. The battles fought between the Sea Tiger chief Soosai faction and the Pottu Amman loyalists in Scandinavia, they say, demonstrate how serious the LTTE’s crisis is.

This view is, however, disputed by the other school of thought, which insists that the full credit should be given to the SLAF for the successful surgical strike mounted after months of intelligence gathering. The military intelligence, the proponents of this view point out, has successfully broken into the inner cells of the LTTE. Even before Tamilselvam fell out with Prabhakaran, they argue, the army long rangers had almost accounted for him, with the benefit of accurate information about his movements and, therefore, Friday’s attack was something to be expected. They ask why on earth the Prabhakaran faction should have helped the SLAF gain mileage with a devastating airstrike and boost its morale in the aftermath of the Anuradhapura debacle. Friday’s air raid also destroyed sophisticated communication equipment belonging to the LTTE, they say, and therefore it is not possible that the LTTE leadership had a hand in the tip-off. Prabhakaran, they argue, could have clipped Tamilselvam’s clips further and relegated him to obscurity after promoting another person for that job, without enabling the SLAF to overshadow the Anuradhapura attack. This argument, we reckon, seems tenable. Else, the Tiger leadership wouldn’t have been so rattled and paranoid in the aftermath of the attack.

“Our people are in profound shock and sorrow,” Prabhakaran has said of Tamilsevlam’s death in a condolence message, describing him as a true leader loved by the people and respected by the international community. De mortuis nil nisi bonum! But, it needs to be added that Tamilselvam was no saint. He was a military man with a political face. That’s why he was promoted to the rank of ‘Brigadier’ posthumously. Remember it is he who threatened to destroy targets in the South following the fall of Thoppigala.

Tamilselvam was only a dwarf in comparison to the Tamil political leaders and intellectuals the LTTE has assassinated such as Amirthalingam, Rajini, Neelan, Yogeswaran, Sarojini, Padmanabha and Kadir. The LTTE also assassinated President Premadasa, Gamini and Lalith and almost accounted for President Kumaratunga. In India, it assassinated Rajiv.

Tamilselvam is the highest ranking LTTE leader to have been killed after the pioneer of the LTTE’s crude air wing and Prabhakaran’s personal friend Shankar, who died in an army long ranger attack about six years ago. His killing made Prabhakaran confine himself to his well fortified bunker all the time and opt for a truce, which was also partly due to the fallout of the 9/11 attacks. He was so frightened that he got the Norwegians to insert a special section in the CFA prohibiting deep penetration operations. The UNF government played into his hands by raiding the safe house of the long rangers at Athurugiriya and divulging their identities. The LTTE decimated the entire intelligence network that the deep penetration unit had painstakingly put in place over so many years. But, the long rangers are said to be back in action in the Wanni.

What Prabhakaran urgently needs at this juncture is a breather. His ammunition stocks are running out with no hope of replenishment due to the effective blockade by the Navy, which has sunk as many as eight arms smuggling vessels for the past thirteen months. Now that the army is poised to march on the Wanni and the military intelligence has outsmarted Pottu Amman’s outfit—some foreign defence analysts with a soft corner for the LTTE have warned that the LTTE leader is vulnerable to airstrikes as never before—Prabhakaran might wave an olive branch as a tactical ploy the way he did in 2001, contrary to the belief that he will go all out to inflict heavy damage on the military in retaliation for Tamilselvam’s death.

His message on the killing is devoid of usual threats. It sounds more an appeal for international intervention. “Despite the repeated and continuous calls from the international community to find a peaceful resolution to Tamil national question,” Prabhakran has said, “we have not seen any goodwill from the Sinhala nation.” (Emphasis added). He has suddenly realised ‘peace’ and given something to the peace lobby to hold on to. It will be interesting to see what he has got to say in his ‘heroes’ day’ speech which is due shortly.

Prabhakaran has no way of absolving himself of the responsibility for Tamilselvam’s death. But for his decision to plunge the country back into war last year by capturing the Mavil Aru anicut, Tamilselvam would still have been smiling in Kilinochchi, ‘loved by the people and respected by the international community’ as he says. Having suffered a string of humiliating defeats, he had just scored a win, when disaster struck. Worse, Prabhakaran has run short of surprises for the Sri Lankan state. He has attacked almost every economic and military target from the Central Bank to the Katunayaka airbase; killed a President, a service commander and a large number of political and military leaders; partly destroyed the main oil installation and the fleet of the national carrier; committed a large number of massacres and blown up civilian targets. But, he has not got anywhere near his goal. Instead, he has to live in eternal fear, encircled in the Wanni with the army threatening to move in any moment. His arms smuggling network is in tatters and intelligence wing has been wrong-footed. Worse, he is left with nothing new to do to frighten the State into submission.

A prisoner of his own violence, Prabhakaran has had to begin from the very beginning after two decades of fighting. He has no one to blame but himself.


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