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Archive for November 25th, 2007

The 71st Birth Anniversary of Lalith Athulathmudali falls on November 26

I first met Lalith Athulathmudali at the Joint Operational Headquarters (JOH). At the time I was recalled from retirement and was Chairman, Airport and Aviation Sri Lanka. President J.R. Jayewardene made it clear to me that he had the right to recall me from the regular reserve, which he did and I was appointed Commander JOC.

At this time, Lalith was the Deputy Minister of Defence and Minister of National Security. We met at his office at JOH and had a long discussion regarding anti-terrorist operations. I knew he was probing my thinking and possible plans to tackle the menace of terrorism. I found him to be very clever and quick on the uptake. He had studied terrorist problems throughout the world and made a detailed analysis of our problem, including training in India and induction of trained youth at the behest and initiative of the TULF.

HQ, JOC was at 80 Flower Road, Colombo. His office was next to mine, which was located opposite the Operations (OPS) Room. I had placed OPS room out of bounds to all ranks except the Principal Staff Officer and staff who manned it 24 hours a day for 365 days. One morning when I walked into the OPS room I found Lalith with a pointer in his hand explaining something to two individuals on the operational map.

I closed the door and walked back to my office and continued with my work. Lalith realized that I disapproved of his bringing people to the OPS room and within minutes he walked into my room and said “I am sorry General, I brought two of my friends to the OPS room. I will not do it again”. We had a long chat in my office at the end of which our bond of close relationship and mutual respect grew. I knew he was a gentleman politician with whom I could work in the interest of our country.

He did not interfere with operational planning, but we had a continuous dialogue on the effects of military operations, consequences and the fall out. Being widely read on military matters, Lalith had many ideas, which we used to discuss together. The greatness in the man was that one was able to disagree and argue with him with no hard feelings. With his intelligence, he was open to different ideas and opinions and accepted them in good spirit.

We had our intelligence system working in the adjoining building with military intelligence on one side and civil intelligence handled by Retired IGP, Ana Seneviratne, who also handled various aspects including psychological operations to which Lalith was very supportive.

We discussed the possibility of starting a school to conduct an immersion course in spoken Tamil to enable our troops to communicate with the Tamil people of the north and east. When a soldier taps on the door of a Tamil household, the women naturally get frightened. In such a situation, if he can speak to her in her own language and reassure her, it would make a world of difference.

We decided to establish the school in Kotmale on available vacant buildings previously occupied by the hydro project officials. Lalith was able to get the services of retired teachers to conduct a three month residential course for the three services and the police. We trained 300 students at any given time. We made it very strict. From the word go, they had to speak, think and breathe Tamil. Many came back from the course speaking very good Tamil. I recall Lalith strongly advocated the concept of a national Sri Lankan identity for all citizens, irrespective of ethnicity.

During the Vadamarachchi operation Lalith was very committed and assisted in many ways in civil administration. I discussed the Vadamarachchi operation with Lalith and we were able to keep it absolutely secret, between ourselves only.

The important thing is that he knew secrecy was of prime importance in military operations. It was known, that we were doing an operation in Jaffna but not where it was to be. For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, we got all available troops together for this operation. To get them together, a tremendous amount of administrative backing was required.

The obvious place to gather the troops together was at the Palaly camp. At that time, we had one sixteenth of the forces available today. With that we had to finish the LTTE. Getting the troops together with all the military equipment was no easy task. For an operation that can get extended, equipment is necessary. Manpower, weaponry and ammunition should be accessible at the correct place.

Ammunition needs to be replenished. To replenish large stocks, ammunition dumps were needed, accessible to the operational troops. All this needed much planning and logistical support, which Lalith was able to provide. The movement of ships and extra resources were made available,We were also able to establish very good field assistance in medicine.

Advanced field dressing stations were set up close to the fighting troops to enable immediate resuscitation and evacuation to a safer location. Medical officers of Volunteer Medical Corps and a few civilian doctors stood by at the Palaly hospital. It was a powerful medical team that was available to render their services to injured troops who were airlifted by helicopter from the battlefields.

The Palaly hospital was converted into a massive surgical unit. A blood bank was also set up. It was a tremendous morale booster for the fighting troops. Lalith himself visited the camps and spoke to the troops in the north, despite personal security threats.

Many were the areas of Lalith’s interest. Two of great importance come to mind. One was his dedication to agricultural development on which we have had long discussions and the other was his keenness to assist university undergraduates for whom he inaugurated the Mahapola Scholarship Scheme.

After he broke away from the ruling party and formed his own political party, he neglected his own security. I reduced my own security and sent them to his residence even without his knowledge, for which he was grateful. Obviously it was not enough…We lost a gentleman politician and one of Mother Lanka’s devoted sons.

 

 

 

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In a bid of abortive attempt to attack the police, a cluster of few LTTE boats mingling with fishing boats, approached by sea towards the Pesalai Police in Mannar in the morning today (November 23rd) around 8.30.

On detection of the approaching LTTE craft, naval craft rushed to the location and chased away those boats with the augmented fire support extended by the ground troops.

One LTTE craft sustained damages in the brief confrontation that took place and it was towed by the fleeing LTTE boats towards the un-liberated area in Vedithaltievu.

Monitoring of LTTE radio communication transmissions later revealed that the seventeen (17) LTTE cadres have been killed in the confrontation.
Names of thirteen cadres killed are;

1. Ramachandran (0027),2. Gajendran (00462),3. Elilan (1278),4. Thamul Priyan (1131),5. Thangei Maram, 6. Thangei Murasu (216) ,7. Arichchandran (950),8. Arun Dewan (1593),9. Piyala Rasa,10. Aha Amuda (1112),11. Puyal Rasi, 12. Karikalan ,13. Piyawan

Numbers of four cadres, who also perished in the confrontation, are;

1. 437 , 2. 1256, 3. 492,4. 1480

Their names are yet to be known.

However, no damages or casualties caused to the naval troops or police.

Meanwhile, Naval patrol craft rescued four Tamil youth at sea, who were fleeing from LTTE conscription, in Pallemunai, Mannar on the 21st November 2007 around 7 a.m.

The group consisting of two males and two females were in the ages between 15 and 23. They had fled from Kilinochchi, Vedithaltivu and Punagar areas where the LTTE carries out forcible recruitment of youth and children to replenish their fast dwindling cadres. The youth had been swimming towards Pallemunai at great risks to their lives when they were spotted and rescued by the naval personnel.

The highly exhausted youth, who were under fatigue from swimming for hours at sea, had revealed that they fled from the LTTE clutches due to the harassment, forcible recruitment and abductions carried out by the LTTE in their residential areas where the terror outfit tries to impose its dictates at gun point. The youth had further confessed that they were threatened with torture unless they surrendered themselves to undergo combat training in LTTE camps. The two male youth were aged 15 and 20 respectively while the females were 15 and 23 in age.

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The Acting Foreign Secretary summoned the Country Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Colombo to the Ministry on 22nd November 2007 and expressed serious concern on the participation of several members of its staff, including the international staff, at a recent public demonstration in Colombo. He pointed out that this act was in violation of the mandate of the UNICEF and was beyond the scope of its legitimate functions. The Country Representative was requested to take appropriate action against the staff members who participated in the demonstration including the withdrawal of the concerned international staff and the termination of local staff .

The UNICEF Country Representative acknowledged the participation of some of its staff and assured that it would not be repeated in the future. He further added that an inquiry was presently being carried out by the Department of Human Resources of the United Nations and undertook to keep the Foreign Ministry informed of developments.

Earlier this week, UNICEF had issued a press release on the safety and security of its work and its staff in Sri Lanka in the light of recent accusations leveled against the Organization. The Acting Foreign Secretary confirmed that the UNICEF security concerns were conveyed to the respective authorities to take necessary measures.

As a confidence building measure, the UNICEF Representative informed that although there is no evidence of any illegal transactions that had taken place between the UNICEF and the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), the UN Headquarters would carry out a full audit in a transparent manner with regard to the alleged involvement of UNICEF in TRO projects. The Representative further informed that the outcome of the audit will be shared with the Government of Sri Lanka.

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Almost three decades old killing spree in Sri Lanka is progressing without any mitigation and with daily count of deaths of combatants and civilian population. The daily deaths for the past three years are finding it hard to be included in the aggregate static number of deaths claimed for the past five years.

For the past five years the aggregate number of deaths in the war claimed by the media is a static 70,000. Whilst the 70,000 estimated deaths is stubbornly resisting any forward movement death spree is continuing without abating. The media says over 5,000 people have been killed in the violence since President Rajapakse came to power two years ago. It is claimed the death toll of LTTE stands at about 2,000 during this period.

During Indian Peace Keeping Force time, about twenty years ago the death toll stood at 35,000. With the declaration of full scale war by the former presidents Late Ranasinghe Premadasa and Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga against the LTTE the official figure leapt to 70,000. But since then the upward movement is at static hold.

There is no real count of the deaths in this debilitating conflict. In the low intensity Northern Ireland conflict there is reliable count of deaths. Even in the Iraqi conflict since the removal of Saddam Hussein there is reasonable count of deaths.

The deaths of combatants are available. Death toll of LTTE cadres is readily available and claimed to be over 12,000. The LTTE worship them annually and do not hesitate to publicise the number of their dead cadres. Unfortunately, the government of Sri Lanka has not provided any official number of men in the forces died in the conflict. This too must have reached many thousands. In a high intensity war like this, when racial prejudice plays major part, civilian population of both sides of the divide takes the brunt of the violence and disproportionate number of civilian population have been killed for all kinds of reasons.

LTTE has killed thousands of its own people for all kinds of reasons. This includes combatants belonging to rival Tamil groups systematically wiped off with its sheer force and thousands killed in its internal purges. The notable cleansing was when Mahataya and his men were eliminated from its machinery.

Any statistics must reflect the anti-Tamil violence of 1977 and 1983 when state aided Sinhala mobs went on the spree and killed thousands of Tamil population. The 1977 violence was investigated by a special commission headed by Judge Sasoni. There was no official investigation for the worst violence of July 1983. To this day no one knows the exact number of deaths in these anti-Tamil violence.

Random shooting and massacres was common features of the Sri Lankan forces in the 1980’s and 1990’s. There are recorded incidences of thousands of innocent Tamils being killed. At the same token LTTE too had killed hundreds of religious leaders belonging to all the religious groups and many thousands of innocent civilians belonging to the majority Sinhala community.

The present claim that only 70,000 have been killed so far is not the reflection of true number of deaths. Every person in Sri Lanka has a true story tell on the deaths and the Tamils will tell stories in multiples.

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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), most famous and ruthless terrorist group in the World has begun commemorating nearly 20,000 of their men and women who were killed fighting for an independent homeland.

Five days of traditional remembrance events began on Friday and are set to conclude on Tuesday evening when the Leader of the LTTE, Velupillei Prabhakaran , lights the “flame of sacrifice”.

Documents released by the LTTE show that 19,887 fighters have been killed since 27 November1982.

The total includes 15, 691 males and 4, 196 females.

Amongst the dead were 343 members of the elite Black Tigers unit that launches devastating attacks deep within enemy territory.

The LTTE said 950 of their cadres have been killed this year as fighting with troops escalated while a Norwegian-brokered truce unraveled.

The truce went into effect beginning in February 2002 — and still is in place, at least on paper — but the fighting began to worsen in December 2005, soon after the election victory President Mahinda Rajapaksa who defeated the LTTE at war without political cohabitation or reasonable political solution with Tamil people or their problem.

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The Hero’s Day event to be held on 27 November 2007 at the Excel Centre in London is receiving all the publicity to attract maximum crowd. The Deepan Television has joined the campaign and is giving free telecasting from 23 November 2007.

They are pitching themselves by broadcasting pro-LTTE programmes and news and views supportive of the LTTE and propagating the Excel event of the LTTE.

Unfolding events in London confirm Tamil shop owners have been asked to close their shops on Hero’s Day.

One of the LTTE front website reported under news titled: ‘Tamils prepare for remembrance ceremony in UK’ that: ‘Tamil Diaspora community in the UK is preparing to remember thousands of their fellow men and women who died in the ethnic conflict in the island of Sri Lanka. Remembrance ceremonies are expected to be held world-wide on Tuesday, 27 November. Tamils are thought to number over 100, 000 in the former colonial ruler. This year the organisers, a consortium of Tamil community groups, have hired London’s largest indoor-venue, the Excel Centre for the main event. Excel Centre has a capacity of 25, 000 people at anyone time. Organisers expect that around 75, 000 people will garland the photos of fallen heroes, throughout the day. The logistics involved in getting so many people in and out of the venue is ground breaking. Speaking to ….. a volunteer involved in the logistical operations said: “Our main difficulty is that we cannot let everyone stay inside the venue, because of the venue’s capacity. At the same time we have to be sensitive not to force people out of the venue straight after the photos have been garlanded. We have to remember that many of the people in attendance would have lost at least a loved one in the war. It is a major logistical challenge, but we have the necessary highly capable volunteers to successfully embrace the event.” In 2006, an estimated 50, 000 people attended the funeral of the Tamil’s Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham, held at London’s Alexandra Palace’.

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In a local post office in the outer London Harrow, an interesting incident took place on 23 November 2007. This is not something praiseworthy cricketing news or someone enjoying a hot cup of high quality Sri Lankan tea.
As usual when the post office opened, there were about fifteen people queued up to deal with all sorts of postal matters. In the queue there was a Sri Lankan lady as well. In front of her stood, a nearly 70 years old Englishman. He was attended to when his turn came up. He wanted to make the payment for the service by credit card. He put his credit card into the small payment machine on the counter and entered his pin number and incorrectly pressed the cancel button instead of the enter key.

He tried twice and on each occasion pressed the wrong cancel button. The postmaster (an Indian) explained to him to use the enter key instead of cancel button. The English man lost his cool and shouted in high voice: ‘You Sri Lankans are credit card fraudsters. Wherever you go these f***ing Sri Lankans are taking the money from the customers credit cards. Petrol stations, supermarkets everywhere…. These b*****ds should not have been allowed in this country. Now the f****rs are trying to take the money from my credit card at the post office’.

The Tamil lady was very ashamed to hear all what the Englishman said. She said, ‘we cannot blame the man. It is true that widespread credit card fraud is carried out by some elements in the community. It is unfortunate that innocent Indian and wider community people are getting the stick for the criminality of some terrible Sri Lankans’. This incident proves to the extent the credit card fraudsters are bastardising the entire Sri Lankan community. Sri Lanka earned the name for its quality tea and cricket amongst many other things. But the credit card fraud is sticking very heavily now on the Diaspora Sri Lankans.

(http://lankaguardian.blogspot.com)

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