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Archive for February, 2008

At least 07 persons including 04 police personnel were injured in a Suicide Bomb blast inside a house in Modara this morning,police said.

Team of police men visited the house early morning after they received credible intelligence on the suspect,who believed to be the main distributor of weapons and explosive of the LTTE for their covert operations in Colombo.
Before visited the suspect’s house police able to found haul of explosive nearby undisclosed location and subsequently it led to the investigations in to the three story house,which still being built.

The suspect,whom police visited to arrest declined to open the door in second level of the building and exploded a bomb and killed himself according to senior police officials.
03 civilians were also injured in the incident are being treated at Colombo National Hospital,with 04 police personnel.

03 suicide jackets ,06 claymore mines,04 hand grenades and haul of C4 Plastic High explosives are among the explosive found near by place hours before the explosion,police sources said.

The intelligence regarding the finding of explosive and arrest of a senior LTTE cadre-Who provide the information both on explosives and the person who blew him self up this morning- last evening was based on information provide by 02 sex workers in Modara area.

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The LTTE’s strength in numbers is a much contested issue of late. It is only appropriate that we at DefenceWire contribute our analysis and information regarding the topic.

The Commander of the Army claimed the man/woman-power of the Tigers was around 5000. He was referring to the hardcore fighters. Sources close to the Tigers estimate it at around 25,000. Our estimate is that it has a hardcore fighting force of around 10,000 fighters.

LTTE may also have around 10-15,000 more second line fighters and a militia/home guard of 40-50,000 (lightly trained civilians), of whom they might have the capacity to deploy around 5,000 as auxiliary forces at a time.

The 10,000 hardcore fighters could be composed of those indicated in the chart above. Of these the SLA has to deal with Charles Anthony, Jeyanthan and to some extent in future, Imran Pandian Regiments. The Malathi Unit was also engaged by the Army, until majority of them were withdrawn recently from the battle field through Vidusha’s intervention.

The second line fighters are youngsters or new recruits who are suffering casualties at the hands of Task Force I. According to latest information we have, LTTE has also deployed the remaining Jeyanthan Regiment cadres who withdrew from the East to face Task Force I. Mingled among these are more experienced Charles Anthony Regiment Tigers.

The lightly trained civilians have a potential for disbanding fast under light pressure due to the loose organizational structure without a proper rank and file. Of those, 5000 could be mustered by the LTTE into a considerable auxiliary force for defensive operations, for example against LRRP units, deep inside LTTE areas. But the question is whether these cadres could remain intact and resist a full assault.

The second-line fighters have demonstrated they cannot withstand attacks from normal SLA infantry units for long. Normal infantry units from GW, GR, SR, VIR etc., have been successful against them continuously without any support from Special Forces, Commando or Air Mobile Brigades.

Unfortunately for the LTTE, normal infantry soldiers from Task Force I have not discriminated against any LTTE units and have attacked, killed and wounded tigers from all respective units sent to fight them.
In a scenario like this, LTTE might turn to its hardcore fighters in the Sea Tigers, intelligence unit as well as the Black Tigers for force multiplication purposes. Their plan would be to hit the government at its rear and force the Security Forces to collapse. This they will do while maintaining defence-in-depth strategies using a mixture of hardcore, second-line and auxiliary force members along the frontlines.

The SLA has also developed a force multiplier in the form of a Mechanized Infantry Regiment. SLAF is reversing LTTE gains in the south through bombings inside LTTE terrain. The SLA will attempt to further increase its troop strength for defence-in-depth in the south. The next few months would be the time when these preparations and predictions would start unfolding, one-by-one.

(http://defencewire.blogspot.com)

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The temptation is too high, not to make comparisons between the ‘unilateral declaration of independence’ (UDI) in Kosovo and the prevailing LTTE posturing in Sri Lanka. Not very long ago, Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle claimed that the LTTE would go the UDI way a couple of days after the Tamil harvest festival of Pongal in mid-January.

Now after Kosovo, no one should be surprised if the rumour-mill begins over-working on the same score in Sri Lanka, timing it this time around the Tamil New Year in mid-April. It is the kind of talk that has gone on for years but has acquired an added vigour and relevance, no thanks to the ‘Kosovo development’.

If fresh talks of the kind erupt on the Sri Lankan scene this time round, it would owe mainly to the Colombo Government’s hasty reaction to Kosovo. In comparison, the LTTE continued to weigh its options for long. In a way, this even contrasted with the spirit of LTTE political wing leader, B Nadesan’s end-January letter to UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. In the said letter, the LTTE urged the UN chief to “recognize Tamil sovereignty as a constructive approach to end…. the violations against the Tamil people”.

It does not stop there. Coupled with the UDI by Kosovo-Albanians, and also similar demands that are beginning to emanate from Bosnian-Serbs and others, the Sri Lankan Government may have played into the hands of the LTTE and other separatist Tamil groups that may not be as militant or as committed as the LTTE. The focus of their deliberations and discourses relate to ‘extra-territorial sovereignty’ – or, at least the inevitable emergence of the same and its acceptance, as well.

For long now, determined, though muted voices, have emanated from the Sri Lankan Tamils for the international community to re-visit issues such as ‘sovereignty’ and ‘territorial integrity’ as the bench-marks for a ‘nation-State’ to be recognised as such. The voice from the Diaspora has been consistent for long. It has grown shriller with every military defeat of the LTTE in recent months.

It was easy to have shrugged off the shoulders, saying that the Diaspora discourses for re-visiting the existing definition of ‘nationhood’ in a ‘wired world without borders’ was a part of the military pressures being faced by the LTTE. In political terms, it was an academic rebuttal of the frequently reiterated Indian position on the ‘ethnic issue’ in Sri Lanka, which underlined the ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’ of Sri Lanka, within which the Tamils needed to be given their due rights and place.

Much of the world shared the Indian view, or so it seemed – and the Indian view counted in the Sri Lankan context, whatever the JVP may have to say about it. The initial Indian reaction to the Kosovo UDI also reflected the known Indian sentiments on the subject. “It has been India’s consistent position that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be fully respected by all States,” the Indian Foreign Office said in this context.

In contrast, Sri Lanka’s was a knee-jerk reaction, whatever the justification. For starters, waiting for a day or two for issuing its condemnation of the Kosovo UDI would not have made any difference to the situation on the ground. Even otherwise, the world would have been surprised if the Sri Lankan Government’s reaction was anything but what it turned out to be. To be precise, the Colombo statement, either official or otherwise, did not add any new point to the age-old global discourse on such matters.

“The UDI by Kosovo could set an unmanageable precedent in the conduct of international relations, the established global order of sovereign States and could thus pose a grave threat to international peace and security,” the Sri Lankan Government said in a statement. In a way, it is this that may reopen the ‘nationhood discourse’ nearer home than the real act of the Kosovo-Albanians declaring UDI in distant Europe.

The Sri Lankan concerns about a possible, if not plausible re-enactment of the ‘Kosovo act’, by the LTTE in particular, however are for real. If anything, the LTTE had for long been considered a candidate for declaring UDI, long before Kosovo and Bosnia became issues of the kind.

As a nation-State known in the traditional sense of the term, Sri Lanka has been fighting off separatist politico-military tendencies for over three decades, whatever be the provocation and progress. It had begun with the 1976 Vadukottai political resolution of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), and continues still, but as a militant/terrorist movement.

That way, the Kosovo UDI has not only divided the European nation. Nor has it stopped with triggering similar tendencies elsewhere. In the post-War world of 60-plus years, it may soon threaten to divide global institutions like the UN. Russia and China, among the P-5, are clearly opposed to any UN recognition for Kosovo while the UK and Italy, France and Germany have been supportive of the Kosovo UDI. Typical of it, the US has welcomed Kosovo to the comity of nations, but is undecided as yet about backing it for a seat in the UN General Assembly.

If someone is thus reminded about the collapse of the League of Nations, he cannot be mistaken. Nor could he be ignored. Yet, greater damage may await a regional organisation like the European Union. For, there are EU member-nations that are opposed to the Kosovo UDI, what with ‘secessionism’ of the kind that has been knocking at their doors.

At a time when its emergence as a ‘regional government’ of sorts is  said to be among the chief causes for a ‘multi-polar world order’, divisions within the EU could sent out a wrong message, all out. How the EU handles the situation, and handles itself would provide clues to the future of the organisation, and the ‘new world order’.

It may be easy for the rest of the world to acknowledge the Kosovo UDI, one way or the other. So could they be handling similar issues erupting in Bosnia one day and elsewhere on another day. Sri Lanka may take its turn. That, at best, would be opening  a Pandora’s Box.

Otherwise, the Kosovo and Bosnian problems have spurt out of issues of ethnicity and culture. Often, culture gets identified with religion, or ethnicity, or both. The reverse is also true. In many a case, language plays its part. Sri Lanka has them all, and in full measure

Perceptions and definitions about ‘nation-State’ are believed to have served the world well, at least since the end of the Second World War. Yet, when such constructs begin to show strains, the international community may well have to sit up and take notce – not simply accept or reject individual cases on the basis of political expediency, particularly in home constituencies.

When it began with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern Europe, the West saw it as the collapse of communist ideology on the global front, and the latter’s militarist approach to problem-solving on the domestic front. Today, Kosovo, if not Bosnia, have ethnic strands attaching to it.

It could be a different strain tomorrow – and much of the West, the US and the UK, France and Germany included, have one or the other strain embedded in them. Or, there could be other strains, based on the rich-poor divide, or the urban-rural hiatus. If population-centres based on ethnicity and culture are not the dividing lines, as is being argued in the case of the Kosovo UDI, it could be anything, anywhere, any time.

The Kosovo UDI is “particularly regrettable, since all efforts at reaching a negotiated political settlement on the future status of Kosovo, as envisaged by the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, have not been exhausted,” the Sri Lankan Government statement said. Regrettable also is the fact that the Colombo Government has not even re-commenced the negotiated path to a political settlement on the ‘ethnic issue’.Sure enough, the Kosovo UDI has triggered apprehensions in the Colombo Government, and expectations in the Tamil community. After all, what the international community could not ‘do’ directly for the Sri Lankan Tamils in the current context of a perceived ‘militarist approach’ by the Colombo Government, an international development of the Kosovo kind may have achieved.

Kosovo has proved the limitations of a non-negotiable ‘militarist approach’ in Sri Lanka, where again promises of a political solution has not gone anywhere. It may not be a justification, but it could not stop frustrations, either. If it leads to consequences that the Sri Lankan State and the people could do without, then the Colombo dispensation need only to look at the ‘mirror, mirror on the wall’. It’s written all over there.

The writer is Director, Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the Indian policy think-tank, headquartered in New Delhi. The views expressed here are those of the writer’s, and not of the Foundation.

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Kosovo not only divided Serbia into two independent States, it also divided the world into two differing blocs. One that supports cessation and the other that does not. The major power blocs in the West had consented to accept Kosovo as an independent state even before it made the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on 17th February. The USA was thanked by thousands of Kosovans who came on to the streets of Pristina for giving them an independent country. Yet it was a difficult acceptance for all of those big powers. Bush therefore qualified their stand by saying cessation of Kosovo and accepting it, would not be made a precedent. For most who opposed, there were ample reasons to do so. Russia is pained with separation and still fights against more cessations. China has not given up on Taiwan. Spain has Basque wanting to secede. India has at least Kashmir fighting a liberation struggle. Pakistan has Baluchistan rebelling for freedom. Cyprus torn in two is still sore. So is our own Sri Lanka, waging a war that claims to keep the country as a Unitary State.

The Sri Lankan government cannot therefore felicitate Kosovans over their liberation and would be left in a tight patch, if Palestinians liberate to establish their own State too. Yet the Sinhala South that expects the war to deliver a unitary State for them, needs to learn a few lessons from the Kosovo issue, what ever this government says about wining the war and annihilating the LTTE. A few words about the war and negotiations with all stakeholders to the conflict as per “Mahinda Chintanaya” to begin with would indicate where this country is being led right now. In the Sinhala version of the Mahinda Chinthana booklet, Presidential candidate Rajapaksa promises to conclude all negotiations within 03 months from assuming office (page / 29) as Executive President. A pledge there would be no war in this country, there after from March 2006. Having assumed office in November 2005, the war was dragged on for two years for now without any semblance of negotiations, but with promises thrown in between by different personalities of high authority on winning the war. Once it was before end 2007 and then before Sinhala New Year 2008. There was the promise of eliminating 10 Tigers every day to finish the war by June this year. The crowning glory to all these promises came from the President himself about a fortnight ago when he told the Indian media he would need  “about an year, or may be one and a half years” to finish the war. That would keep this country bleeding in agony at least till mid 2009. And then who knows for how long there after ?

But that had been the war with every government, starting with President JRJ who wanted General Weeratunge to report back to him after finishing off the Tamil insurgents by end December 1979. That is not all about waging war against an insurgency that has a political reason for its brutal presence. It’s all about the Kosovo Albanians gaining independence with a separate State, for SL to learn a lesson or two.

Kosovo Province with 90 percent Muslim Albanians since the Turks ran over all that Balkan land from 1389 stretching up to the doors of Vienna and established the Ottoman rule for over five centuries, enjoyed a fair degree of autonomy since 1963 within the Yugoslav Republic under President Josip Bros Tito. President Tito was a Socialist maverick who opposed Stalin, allowed religious freedom and schemed a different social system that allowed for profit sharing within a state controlled economy. Tito believed in defusing tensions through loosening state controls and the Yugoslav Republic underwent another major constitutional reform in 1974 that gave education, health and housing to the autonomous regions and provinces and Kosovo gained self – government in many areas of social life including police and the judiciary.

Like most Eastern European States with the Yugoslav Republic running into dissenting politics in the decade of 80, Serb nationalism was a rallying call in Belgrade that paved the way for Slobodan Milosevic to rise to power. This on the other hand catalysed Kosovo Albanian sentiments and in 1981, a student protest broke out in six of the major Kosovan cities with a call for a “Kosovo Republic within Yugoslavia”. The protests were brutally suppressed by Belgrade and thus began the organised Kosovo Albanian nationalist movement with a political agenda. The Kosovo Albanian nationalism gained further legitimacy with Milosevic ascending to power in Serbia in late 1987.

The last straw on the camel’s back was the Serbian referendum in 1989 that allowed curbing of autonomous powers in the provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. Most national minorities and Kosovo Albanians boycotted the referendum. Milosevic’s government was accused of rigging the elections, controlling of media and abuse of human rights. Constitutional reforms that had to be ratified by the provincial governments were done so with tanks and armoured cars lined in front of provincial assemblies. The constitutional reforms thus affected gave the Serbian government of Milosevic, total control over police, the judiciary, economy, language policy and the education system, previously enjoyed by the provincial governments.

The results were obvious. Initial non violent protests led by Kosovo Albanian populist Dr. Ibrahim Rugova failed to resolve the Kosovo conflict. Instead they swelled the presence of Serbo-Yugoslav military and police in Kosovo. The rest is history of ethnic cleansing. Over 100,000 Albanians within the Kosovo province were sacked from state enterprises by the Serbian government. The provincial media was shut down and the Pristina University closed. In 1995, Croatian Serbs were settled in Kosovo in an attempt to change the ethnic balance within Kosovo.  With non violent politics of Rugova unable to deliver justice to Kosovo Albanians, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) came into existence in 1996 and the struggle to establish an independent Kosovo took a violent turn. With Milosevic’s government choosing war, Albanian villages in Kosovo were looted and burnt down. Whole villages were displaced and thousands of ethnic Albanians sought refuge in neighbouring Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Fleeing ethnic Albanians were killed and dumped in mass graves. In return, Serbs in Kosovo had to flee to Serbia.

The entry of NATO, the formation of UNMIK and the facilitation of stability and peace within the Kosovo province under UNMIK since 1999, were all results thereof. The NATO took 78 days of heavy bombing to compel Milosevic’s government to agree to withdraw all its military and police from Kosovo. The UN Security Council Resolution 1244 accepted Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo but the majority of the Kosovo Albanians refused to accept Serbian rule. This compelled the UN to facilitate negotiations between Serbia and KLA on the “status of Kosovo”. UN backed negotiations began in February, exactly two years ago.

Lessons to learn are not very complicated. One, even 02 mn people would not accept ethnic or religious ideology based centralised rule over them. Two, military interventions in controlling nationalist aspirations leads to violent protests that over time changes into armed conflict that we prefer to call “terrorism”. Three, hyped State nationalism can not compensate a protracted war, breaking down of social stability, economic devastation and criminalising of social forces. Four, what we label as “terrorism” that emerges out of political suppression can not be suppressed militarily and negotiations to end that terrorism have to be with those terrorists themselves. In short, war is no answer to a politically triggered conflict although it turns into an armed conflict due to authoritarian and sectarian politics of a governing party.

This basic fact was perhaps understood by the post Milosevic Serbian government that negotiated the status of Kosovo with the KLA leadership, although it had to accommodate Serb sentiments. There was no room left any more to compromise on the old autonomous rule that was given by the Yugoslavian State under Josip Bros Tito. It now had to be something more than what was there thirty years ago. This left the Serbian government of Vojislav Kostunica to choose between another war and an independent Kosovo. He chose the latter by protesting, instead of going back to war even with the backing of the Russian super power.

What is important to us is the strategy that was developed by the KLA which was classified a “terrorist organisation” by the CIA, the USA and the UN. The BBC’s Correspondent in the Balkans, Paul Wood wrote in March 2001 that “the Kosovo Liberation Army became the most successful guerrilla movement of modern times”. They had proved to the international community the Serbian authorities are not only violating human rights within a genocidal war, they would not accommodate the Kosovo Albanian aspirations within a democratic power sharing system. That Kosovo Albanians have no alternative but to be independent from Serbian hegemony to achieve peace for both societies. It is therefore worth reading how the Sri Lankan situation would evolve with Indian backing that may not be enough to plug leaks of robust Southern hegemony. One that avoids accommodating Tamil aspirations with actual power sharing, substituted instead by war for another one and a half years to satisfy Southern sentiments within an economy that holds no promise even for the Sinhala majority.

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A war heroes’ monument which was being constructed at the parliament play ground in Kotte was demolished and razed to the ground on Monday.A senior spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said that prior to the demolition only the top portion of the monument would be demolished for minor alterations.

However security forces personnel at the site subsequently said that it had to be demolished due to bad construction by the contractors but added the monument would be reconstructed in the near future. They also said that rumours saying the moment was built in commemoration of the Indian Peace keeping force is untrue.

The security forces personnel meanwhile refused permission for photo journalists to take pictures of the demolished moment. Many are surprised by the demolition of a structure built at a very high cost.

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The Free Media Movement (FMM) is both surprised and disturbed to learn that the CID has taken into custody a computer used by Dr. Rama Mani, the former Executive Director of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), to check for “controversial” correspondence.“The events leading up to and surrounding Dr. Mani’s forced and hurried departure from Sri Lanka and other matters of organisational administration internal to ICES are not our concern here. Our interest is to strengthen the open exchange of competing ideas that we strongly believe and affirm are a cornerstone of a vibrant democracy. Dr. Mani had an inalienable right to hold her own opinions and ideas, to articulate them, to promote them and discuss them with friends, colleagues and associates in Sri Lanka and internationally. This is fundamentally the freedom of expression,” FMM said in a statement.

Further, the FMM says for years it has called for Right to Information legislation that holds all public bodies, including NGOs, accountable for their actions and transparent in their initiatives but adds that sadly, this regime has clearly indicated that it will not countenance such legislation because it would place it in a spot of bother if the public were allowed scrutiny into its familial workings.

Given the absence of such legislation and that even “controversial” ideas fall under the fabric of democracy, the FMM finds the confiscation of Dr. Mani’s PC by the CID to be entirely absurd and an action that can only be interpreted as a thinly veiled tactic to intimidate civil society in Sri Lanka.

FMM is also concerned by reports that “initial investigations into the files contained in all the other computers at ICES have not found any reference to R2P and hence the CID has now taken Dr. Mani’s computer into its custody.”

This peculiar reasoning raises the question as to whether mere reference to R2P is now enough in Sri Lanka for the CID to interrogate members of civil society. By extension, we are compelled to believe that media and civil society can no longer openly debate and promote issues related to the concept of R2P or other “controversial” ideas, lest the CID confiscates all PCs, mobile phones and notepads belonging to them, FMM added.

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Bodies of 14 LTTE cadres, killed in clashes in the Wanni and Welioya areas recently, were handed over to the ICRC in Anuradhapura yesterday, while 14 more rebels and two soldiers had been killed in separate clashes on Monday in the Northern region.The military said that following post-mortems and other legal procedures, the remains of fourteen LTTE cadres had been handed over to the ICRC who accepted the bodies to be transported to un-cleared areas.

They said that seven bodies of the total were recovered from the Welioya area on Monday evening by the military after a fierce battle that destroyed rebel’s strong position.

Meanwhile, fourteen LTTE cadres were killed in separate clashes between the military and the rebels in the northern region.

Detailing the clashes, the military said that in Vavuniya, Udayanthankulam area Army troops attacked and killed six LTTE terrorists. During the battle one soldier was killed and two others injured.

Other LTTE and the military casualties reported from Muhamalai in Jaffna, Vilaththikulam and Karampai in Vavuniya, Chawalkadu in Mannar.

The sources also said that the military recovered 70 litres of petrol hidden in a jungle path.

The consignment of fuel was hidden with an intention to be sent to un-cleared areas, the military added.

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