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Archive for November 7th, 2007

The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were locked in fierce firefights near the forward defense lines of Muhamalai today. Fighting started when SLA launched a limited offensive to capture part of LTTE defence line near Muhamalai. Both parties have suffered heavy casualties in the fierce firefights that raged on for more than two hours.Fighting started at around 5.30 am morning and lasted till 7.30 am. LTTE used group based attack teams to provoke the SLA into a limited offensive. Soldiers of the 55th division walked into a guerilla killing field, falling for the trap which was set in advance by the tigers. Even under a worst case scenario, SLA soldiers were able to overrun several highly fortified LTTE bunkers in the frontline. However these had to be left behind as the LTTE resistance forced the troops back to their starting positions within two hours.

Intermittent artillery and mortar attacks are still continuing in the area. 23 SLA soldiers have been killed and more than 125 have been injured during today’s fighting. At least 20 soldiers out of the wounded will not be able to return to battlefield due to the serious nature of their wounds. Much of the SLA casualties were due to land mines and artillery strikes. LTTE too suffered heavily in the battle and armed forces observed them deploy at least five tractors to evacuate casualties. Exact number of LTTE cadres killed or injured in the incident cannot be confirmed as of yet. However reliable intelligence reports suggest that at least 65 LTTE cadres were killed in action and an unknown number were wounded in the attack.

In addition to the above the following points can now be confirmed:

  • LTTE has not captured nor damaged any MBTs (Main Battle Tank) or IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) belonging to the SLA as per reports by some media.
  • Several light weapons including assault rifles, ammunition, RPG rounds and around 100 Hand grenades have been captured by the tigers.
  • No heavy guns of the SLA were damaged nor captured.
  • All SLA units involved in the operation have now returned to original positions.

This situation resembled a similar blunder made by the army last October where 175 soldiers were killed and over 400 were injured during a failed advance towards Pallai. Although the damages received and the number of lives lost in the latest operation are significantly less than that of last year’s, it is still a huge morale booster for the tigers.

(http://defencenet.blogspot.com)

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The sudden passion exhibited by the political leaders of Tamilnadu, while mourning the death of SP Thamilchelvan, the political head and chief negotiator of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is typical of the double speak most of the politicians of the state have been practising on issues relating to the LTTE.

Perhaps the Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s ode paying tribute to the “courage and valour” of the slain LTTE leader on the occasion, particularly when the state is supposed to be carrying out a crackdown on the LTTE militants operating in the state, is a prime example of this. In recent times, the chief minister has repeatedly said that his policy on Sri Lanka was the same as that of the government of India. His response to the strong objections to the Chief Minister’s response to Thamilchelvan’s death when his bête noire Jayalalithaa, the leader of All India Anna DMK, showed how he has mastered the art of doublespeak. He said that he had only made a ‘humanitarian gesture’ towards a fellow Tamil. “The person who was killed in Sri Lanka was a Tamil. And the blood that runs in me is Tamil too. So, I extended my condolence,” he added.

Of course, conveniently he did not remember that the leaders brutally killed by the LTTE like Amirthalingam, Ranjan Padmanabha, and Neelan Thiruchelvam also had Tamil blood running in their vein. Nor did he think of his close friend of early days of Eelam militancy, Sri Sabaratnam, leader of Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), massacred by the LTTE. But then, Tamilnadu politics had always considered some Tamils are more ‘Tamil’ than some others; after all this had been the cornerstone of Tamilnadu politics.

The comments of Cho Ramaswamy, editor of ‘Tuglak’ known for airing his views freely, on the chief minister’s approach to the Eelam Tamil issue is interesting. In an interview with http://www.rediff.com on May 16, 2000 Cho succinctly summed it up thus: “Karunanidhi always takes great pride in being hailed as a leader of Tamils wherever they live, and there is no Tamil issue as such in India now. Earlier, you had this anti-Hindi platform; then came the anti-north Indian platform. Now, none of those issues are relevant. So, what is the only Tamil issue available now? It is the Sri Lankan issue. If he doesn’t occupy that platform, it will become the monopoly of Ramadoss (leader of the Pattali Makkal Katchi and partner of the ruling coalition at Delhi) and Vaiko (leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and a vocal supporter of the LTTE). He is not able to digest the situation. That is why he wants to go on record as having made some noise about this.” One can only hope that Cho’s comments still hold good.

Almost all the political leaders of Tamilnadu, including the Communists, were quick to come out with passionate messages of condolence on Thamilchelvan’s death. Perhaps, the Communists had a nagging guilt feeling when they joined the condolence bandwagon remembering the entire leadership of the only Leftist Tamil insurgent group Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Front (EPRLF), who had close contact with them, was wiped out in Chennai by the LTTE in Tamilnadu. Their wording of the condolence message was appropriately carefully worded.

The Congress party was one exception. It had no choice in any case. However, compulsions coalition politics perhaps made the senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily, to brush aside the chief minister’s remarks as “personal views.” However, the Union Minister of State G.K. Vasan, the leading light of the party in the state, was more forthright. He said the Congress has “neither forgotten the gruesome murder of its leader Rajiv Gandhi nor forgiven the perpetrators of the crime.” It was in an earlier spell of Karunanidhi’s regime that an LTTE suicide bomber had killed the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. A few months before Rajiv’s killing, the same killers gunned down the EPRLF leaders while the Tamilnadu police conveniently stepped aside.

There is some confusion in understanding among non-Tamils of the Tamil mindset (including Indians and Sri Lankans) about their support to the LTTE. This confusion is understandable as it prevails even among some people in Tamilnadu also .The people of Tamilnadu, like most of the Tamils all over the world, have always supported the struggle of Sri Lanka Tamils for their democratic rights. They will continue to do so till the Tamil aspirations are satisfied. Tamilnadu extended passionate support when the Tamil struggle turned into militancy in 1982. The support to militants gained legitimacy after the Sri Lanka government inspired Black July pogrom against the Tamils was carried out. Different Tamil political parties patronised different Tamil groups. While TELO had Karunanidhi as a patron, his political rival MG Ramachandran naturally favoured the LTTE, which was contending with TELO for leadership of Tamil militancy. At the Centre, Mrs Indira Gandhi, the prime minister of India, during the crucial years of the growth of Tamil militancy found it politically expedient to provide sanctuary and lend support to the Tamil militancy.

However, two developments split this support base for militants in Tamilnadu in 1987: the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, and the induction of the Indian Peace Keeping Force. The military involvement of the IPKF against the LTTE was not accepted by most of the Tamil people, who had romantic notions about it. But this notion was shattered when the LTTE carried out the killing of Rajiv Gandhi after meticulous planning. And after Vaiko, then a popular leader of the DMK, fell out with Karunanidhi over his overt support to the LTTE (among many other internal issues), there had been a change in Karunanidhi’s attitude. He had studiously distanced himself from the LTTE, when the people of the state adversely came out against the LTTE when Rajiv Gandhi was killed. Though the LTTE had been trying to cultivate him for sometime now, he had been careful in talking about them on the subject.

Commenting on the aspects of Tamilnadu’s attitudes, I had commented in an article (SAAG Sri Lanka update 97 of July 30, 2006) ‘Engaging Sri Lanka: India’s potpourri’ last year: “The Sri Lanka Tamil issue is no more in the centre stage of Tamilnadu public or political agenda. However, if war breaks out in full scale and the refugee inflows increase it will make reappearance as the bread and butter issue of minor political partners in the central coalition. In principle the DMK is unlikely to change its stand in such circumstances. However, political compulsions will compel it to toe the same line. LTTE has probably enough ‘sleepers’ who will become active in such a situation. This could not only prove embarrassing to GOI, but also affect national security, as LTTE could make silent inroads to establish its support facilities in Tamilnadu as it did in 1987-90. It would reflect poorly on the GOI’s ability to fight against terrorism and insurgency in its own backyard. And that would not be in the larger interest of India-Sri Lanka relations either.” This is still valid.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister simply cannot afford to have a ‘personal view’ different from the Union government’s policy prescription when it comes to issues of national security. One can see the signs of Tamilnadu politicians trying to use the death ofThamilchelvan to gather some mass support, perhaps for their own gain and the Congress party trying to soft pedal the issue for political reasons. The LTTE fighting with its back to the wall, needs Tamilnadu’s political, financial and material support now, more than the people of Tamilnadu need the LTTE. In this ambience, mollycoddling the LTTE is a dangerous game not only for Tamilnadu leaders, but also for the state and the nation. In the past many have paid their price for such attempts. It is good to remember that the LTTE always has its self interests first and last. Right now it has an one and only priority, fighting it out with the Sri Lanka government; all other issues including Tamil leaders and people come after that, if at all the organisation has any space to spare.

(Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90.)

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Tough Talk

Sri Lanka leader says terrorism must be defeated to achieve peace

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said Wednesday that Tamil Tiger separatist terrorism has to be defeated in order to achieve peace in the island.

Sri Lanka has been left with a weak and unstable economy owing to 25 years of terrorism, poor infrastructure development and inadequate attention to developing the domestic economy, he told parliament at the start of his speech to present the government’s budget for 2008.

“The Tigers are not prepared to lay down arms and come for peace talks,” Rajapakse said.

“In order to bring about a political solution and rescue the Tamil people, we invariably need to defeat terrorism.”

Rajapakse said that in recent months the military has been able to score many successes against the Tigers and secure much of the eastern region.

Despite the war, last year’s economy growth rate was the highest the country had achieved, he said.

Although the government has been forced to in crease defence spending in order to strengthen the military to fight the Tigers, it had not neglected economic development nor the people’s welfare, Rajapakse said.

Defence spending went up to 117 billion rupees last year from 63 billion but Sri Lanka’s defence spending was still less than five percent of GDP, below that of many other countries.

Instead of reducing state activity and embracing globalization, Sri Lanka decided to forge its own path in 2006 when the present government assumed power to strengthen the domestic economy and agriculture, he said.

(http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/fullstory.php?newsID=239871227&no_view=1&SEARCH_TERM=36)

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An LTTE terrorist gang is suspected of hacking three farmers to death on Monday night at Thambaraweva village in Hambanthota district of Sri Lanka’s Southern Province.

The victims have been identified as W.K. Pemananda (51) of Ranminithenna, Nupe Hewage Piyadasa (55) of Yodhakandiya and Kodithuwakku Kankanamge Piyasena (53) of Thambaraweva, Tissamaharama.

Sources from the area said an armed group came to their rain-fed-farm huts, took them away saying for an investigation and committed the crime a short distance away.

Civilians of the area said that a Tamil speaking group clad in black abducted them. They have informed police instantly but no action has been taken. Three Muslims were abducted similarly several days ago and there was no information on them, they said.

Another farmer, who went to look for the abducted people was injured by an anti-personnel mine and admitted to the Hambanthota hospital. One more anti-personnel mine was recovered from the area and defused. Tissamaharama police conducted a search operation in the area and police was preparing a special security plan for the safety of the villages along the border of the Yala Wildlife Park.

(http://www.colombopage.com/archive_07/November725312SL.html)

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Lankan government announced Tuesday that 77 people including 58 troops and 19 civilians were killed by Tamil Tiger rebels during the last 30 days.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka told parliament that over 270 troops and civilians were also injured in the confrontations between government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during this period.

He accused Tamil Tiger rebels of trying to destabilize the country saying that after the losses to the military in the east, they are now trying to carry out attacks in the south of the country with a view to upset civilian life and stability.

Meanwhile military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said that at least three civilians were hacked to death on Monday night by suspected Tamil Tigers in a village in the Southern Province district of Tissamaharama.

A joint Army-Police search operation had been launched since Tuesday morning, Nanayakkara said.

Government troops have been conducting regular search operations in the area since the LTTE rebels launched an attack on the Yala National Park on Oct. 15.

The capital Colombo has also been put on high alert after the LTTE vowed to revenge the killing of its political wing head S. P. Thamilselvan by an Air Force bombing last Friday.

Claiming discrimination at the hands of the Sinhalese majority, the LTTE has been fighting the government since the mid-1980s to establish a separate homeland for the minority Tamils in the north and east.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in the new wave of violence since the end of 2005, making the Norwegian brokered ceasefire agreement exist only on paper.

(http://www.alalam.ir/english/en-NewsPage.asp?newsid=009030120071106193257)

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The bodies of three farmers who were allegedly abducted by the LTTE were found yesterday morning in Thambarawewa, Tissamaharama while two others escaped from their captors , police said.

Five people including a woman were reported missing after they went to their Chena on October 26 in the Thamabarawewa area. The villagers had launched a search for the missing farmers and found a shattered push bicycle under a shade built by the Chena farmers as a resting place, police sources said.

The two escapees including the woman reported the incident to the Tissamaharama police. They said that three other farmers who were abducted with them were killed and dumped in the jungle, police spokesman Senior DIG Jayantha Wickramaratne said. “Following the information from the two escapees police rushed to the scene yesterday at around 6.00 am and found the three bodies with cut injuries”, DIG Wickramaratne said.

The victims have been identified as W. K. Hemananda (47), N. H. Jinadasa alias Kammala Basunnahe (55) and K. K. Piyasena (55). They all were residents of Thambarawewa. “Tissamaharama police are conducting inquiries while a hunt is on for alleged LTTERs who committed the deed. According to DIG Wickramaratne, five framers were abducted by suspected LTTEers from a Chena in a remote area while they were guarding their cultivations from elephants.

“There were certain media reports which said that the LTTE was roaming in Ranminithenna, Tissamaharama. “Ranminitenna is a village already given full security and it is located 5km from where this incident took place”, he added.

He reiterated that security has been strengthened in Hambantota and in the Moneragala districts. “Additional security have been deployed by police jointly with Home Guards to provide security and safety for the identified isolated Sinhala villages bordering Yala sanctuary, Tissamaharama, Kataragama, Buttala areas. Security has also been increased in Moneragala districts and more bunkers were established at such isolated villages”, he said.

Meanwhile, a civilian was injured in a bomb explosion in Hambantota and was admitted to the Hambantota hospital.

(http://www.dailynews.lk/2007/11/07/news23.asp)

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As many as 400 LTTE militants have been killed in encounters with government forces since last month, largely due to information provided by civilian inhabitants in embattled northern Sri Lanka, an official said here today.

While 349 tiger rebels were gunned down during October, as many as 51 LTTE militants have been killed this month, defence spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said.

“Besides the success of the security forces during confrontations with the Tiger rebels, the common people in northern region are also informing about the presence of the LTTE rebels who are forcing people to join the outfit to carry out attacks,” he said.

“During the month of October itself, we received 29 pieces of information from the common people in the northern region on the whereabouts of the LTTE rebels that also helped US in dealing with the militants,” Nanayakkara said.

Out of this, information of LTTE’s presence were received nine times from Jaffna and four times from the North-West Mannar, he said.

Meanwhile, seven militants were reported killed in separate incidents at Wanni and northern Jaffna since yesterday, security sources said.

Military reports said that four LTTE militants were killed today in the Nagarkovil defence lines in Jaffna, when troops effectively neutralised an LTTE offensive advance.

Three LTTE militants were killed yesterday evening at Thampane in Vavuniya during a strike by security forces.

A soldier was killed while another sustained injuries during the confrontation, military sources said.

(http://www.zeenews.com/znnew/articles.asp?aid=405679&sid=SAS&sname=)

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