Archive for March 18th, 2008


Charles Anthony Regiment Insignia

The Charles Anthony is the LTTE’s first conventional regiment (Padai Pirivu). The number one in the above insignia probably explains its seniority. The emblem has a significant criss-cross of LTTE’s earliest rapid-fire gun, the Sub Machine Gun.

The Regiment was commanded by many famous LTTE ‘Commanders’ including ‘Col’ Swarnam, ‘Col’ Nagulan and ‘Lt. Col’ Nakulan. At its inception 15 years ago, the Charles Anthony Regiment was actually a guerrilla unit with some semi-conventional warfare capabilities.

The Charles Anthony Regiment could have as many as 1000-1500 cadres presently. Hardcore cadres could be around 500. They are almost entirely northern Tamils. Charles Anthony was Prabhakaran’s earliest conventional military formation. The unit has also been trained by LTTE Military Wing Leader ‘Col’ Balraj.

The name Charles Anthony comes from Prabhakaran’s personal friend and comrade-in-arms Charles Anthony, an early LTTE recruit from Trincomalee District. He was killed by the Sri Lanka Army at Meesalai on 15th July 1983. Pirapaharan named his first conventional unit the ‘Charles Anthony Regiment’ as a tribute to his close friend. The LTTE leader later named his only son Charles Anthony Seelan, as a further tribute to his old comrade.

The Charles Anthony Regiment has fought against the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) in Cease-less Waves -I (Oyatha Alaikal-I) to capture the Mullaithivu SLA base, the Kilinochchi SLA base, Cease-less Waves II, against the Jaya Sikurui Operation and the second successful LTTE attack to capture the Elephant Pass Base.

The Regiment, considered part of the LTTE’s Special Forces is suffering almost daily casualties at the hands of normal infantry regiments of the Sri Lanka Army.


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“Under water defence systems obviously is another nomenclature for mines of different description. During the height of cold war the underwater defence systems also included deep-sea moored sensors that could track submarines and other movements to be relayed to the receiving stations. Some of them were equipped to even release a homing torpedoes on the ICBM armed nuclear submarines that were proceeding to patrol stations.”

The news paper reports on 23rd January 2008 about the installation of the “Underwater defence systems” in Sri Lankan waters is indeed an interesting phase in the fight against the Sea tigers soon after the abrogation of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA). As reported in the press, Sri Lankan authorities/Navy have informed their counterparts about the measures to safeguard their interests as well as to prevent large-scale movement of the Sea tigers who are starved of essentials. The Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC) of Tamil Nadu has apparently informed the Chief Secretary of the State that it would indeed be now even more dangerous for our fishermen who routinely cross over to the Sri Lankan waters for fishing around Kachativu Island. This paper aims to examine some of the related issues in the background of sensitivity that is associated with fishing and security in these troubled waters.

Fishing Issues. Most of the issues related to fishing and security have been covered in my previous papers. However with out having to refer to those papers suffice to say that this has been the most contentious issue between the fishermen of Tamil Nadu and their Sri Lankan counter parts both civilian and military. It has been over three decades since the demarcation of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IBML). The maritime agreement of 1974 gave away the Kachativu and the rich fishing grounds around it to Sri Lanka. While New Delhi went to the extent of saying that Kachativu is just a barren Island, the Government in Tamil Nadu did not make much noise as borne out by facts/records.

With the dwindling of fishing stocks on our side of the IMBL and the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka that was equally intense on the sea front, the Tamil Nadu fishermen capitalised on the fishing ban that was imposed by the SL Navy during the intense phase of the struggle. On lifting of the ban on fishing the fishing communities of the two countries came in to conflict. The fishermen from Tamil Nadu who were sympathetic to the cause of Eelam and those who wanted to make a quick buck were also involved in illegal transportation of goods for sustaining the war effort of LTTE. The liberal subsidies by the Government for fishermen for Diesel encouraged some of the fishermen to trade in diesel and other essentials.

The transgression of the IMBL by our fishermen was also used to their advantage by the LTTE. When convenient, the LTTE chose to fire on our innocent fishermen and made out that it was the act of the Sri Lankan Navy. This invariably caused a furore in Tamil Nadu with political parties immediately getting in to the act at most times even with out any verification. The involvement of LTTE in the shooting and killing of our fishermen was conclusively proved in the case of the missing boat Krishna from Tamil Nadu, which was hijacked. This boat was subsequently sunk in Maldivian waters. Any arrest made by the SL Navy of our fishermen immediately compelled the State Government to request the Centre for intervention for the release of fishermen. Sri Lanka has been more than tolerant of this nuisance that has been going on for decades though legally Sri Lanka has every right to apprehend the erring fishermen and prosecute them under the law of the land.

Legality of the installation of underwater defence systems. Various provisions of the relevant laws on mining at sea during conflict as recognised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are appended at the end of the article. After the successes of the Sri Lankan armed forces on both land and on water particularly since the assumption of office by Mahinda Rajapakha, The Sri Lankan leadership was encouraged to pursue the military option to weaken the LTTE fully. The abrogation of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) therefore is a turning point from a military and strategic point of view. There are divided opinions about the wisdom of abrogating the CFA. With or with out the CFA the war was never suspended and both the parties continued to violate the CFA at will to try and score military success in the chosen theatre. However with out the abrogation of the CFA Sri Lanka would not have been justified in laying sea mines in its own areas of operation. (Note that the land mines were laid even when the CFA was in force) The Sri Lankan military scored notable successes in all the medium of land, air and water thus weakening the LTTE. The successful targeting of LTTE leadership that resulted in the death of Mr Tamilchelvam and many other leaders has dealt a severe blow to both the capabilities and the intentions of the LTTE. However the abrogation of the CFA, which was signed in 2002, has paved the way for going all out in the maritime arena the control of which is so crucial for the LTTE. Mine warfare has been acknowledged in the annals of naval history as one of the most important methods of sea denial. Whether it is offensive or defensive or even psychological, it has the ability to achieve the objective due to the nature of devastating threat posed by mines. Even if the mines were not physically deployed, the notification or promulgation that mines have been laid would be enough to keep the areas clear of unwanted vessels. Such a ploy is always a considered option by naval commanders.

Underwater Defence Systems/Mining. Under water defence systems obviously is another nomenclature for mines of different description. During the height of cold war the underwater defence systems also included deep-sea moored sensors that could track submarines and other movements to be relayed to the receiving stations. Some of them were equipped to even release a homing torpedoes on the ICBM armed nuclear submarines that were proceeding to patrol stations. While the clay more mines over land has made it difficult for both the SL Forces and the LTTE over the land the use of sea mines now makes it very difficult for vessels to use areas which have been identified for sea denial and thus mined.

The modern mines come with many sensors that can trigger the explosive device onboard. It could be a contact mine which detonates on contact, or an acoustic mine that could be set to detonate on picking up of propeller or hull noise above or below a set threshold value. It could also be a pressure sensor that could sense the pressure of the water column over it as the target passes over it thus triggering the detonator and the consequent explosion. Even from the world war times, the ship count mechanism (SCM) has been effectively used to choose the target in a formation depending on its location and its likely sequence of passing over the minefield. At sea Mines are most devastating in terms of damage caused even to large ships.

LTTE Response. It would be interesting to see how the LTTE responds to the mining threat. With its suicide squads (black tigers) in place, even at the risk of losing some of its cadres, it may venture out to see what kind of vessels could be used in the areas with out activating the mines. With the shallow depths in the areas however, it would be difficult to find a vessel that can navigate in these waters safely. The LTTE has no mine clearance vessels as of now. The LTTE however would like to find some novel methods to clear the mines in areas that are crucial for landing of military stores.

The attempts by the LTTE to illegally cross over to Tamil Nadu for various illegal activities would also become that more difficult due to the mines in the waters through which the infiltrators are required to transit. The intense patrolling along the coastline by both the Navy and the Coast Guard has already rendered the task of illegal entry in the Tamil Nadu difficult.

Indian Response. Having been officially informed about the use of underwater defence systems, India is obliged to ensure the safety of its fishermen by not allowing them to cross the IMBL. Sri Lanka has every right to protect its waters and deny the illegitimate use of the seas by the LTTE. The LTTE has failed time and again in landing its war like material on shores controlled by it. The sinking of over a dozen Flags of Convenience ships owned by the LTTE by the Sri Lankan Navy at thousands of kilometres from its shore has dealt a severe blow to the capability in all the three medium. The squeeze applied by the International community has not helped the LTTE either.

There are no doubts that some of the political parties and sympathisers of the LTTE in India would protest the mining of the Sri Lankan waters. The Tamil Nadu fishermen and their lobby would likewise make a lot of noise on being denied the unlawful fishing in some one else’s waters. The only correct option for India is to ensure that mechanisms are put in place to prevent tragedies at sea due to exercising of obstinate intentions by our fishing community. The Navy, the Coast Guard and the Police have a tough task on hand to ensure that the situation does not go out of hand both on land and at sea. Measures required for weaning away our fishermen by providing alternate means of livelihood have been made in earlier quoted my earlier papers and thus are not being repeated.

According to some police sources it appeared that they were happy with the mining, as it would minimise the incursions by the LTTE cadres to TN through the sea routes.

The hawks on the Indian side would say that the abrogation of the CFA is being used by the Island nation to settle scores with the erring Indian fishermen who habitually cross over to the Sri Lankan waters using the excuse of preventing the LTTE from using the seas for clandestine activities. The fact of the matter is that Sri Lanka is entitled to exercise all its options including mining as allowed by the international conventions even if it is killing two birds with the same stone.

(Commodore R.S. Vasan IN Retd has a distinguished military service of over 34 years .His shore assignments include command of two naval air stations, maritime air squadron, Air Crew Examiner, member of the faculty at the College of Naval warfare and Chief Staff Officer of the Southern Naval Command at Kochin, India.)

* Appendix

* Excerpts Prepared by International Lawyers and Naval Experts convened by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law. Adopted in June 1994 taken from San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea. Only relevant sections 80 to 92 are quoted below .It may be noted that not all the provisions may be applicable in this case.

80. Mines may only be used for legitimate military purposes including the denial of sea areas to the enemy.

81. Without prejudice to the rules set out in paragraph 82, the parties to the conflict shall not lay mines unless effective neutralization occurs when they have become detached or control over them is otherwise lost.

82. It is forbidden to use free-floating mines unless:

(a) they are directed against a military objective; and

(b) they become harmless within an hour after loss of control over them.

83. The laying of armed mines or the arming of pre-laid mines must be notified unless the mines can only detonate against vessels, which are military objectives.

84. Belligerents shall record the locations where they have laid mines.

85. Mining operations in the internal waters, territorial sea or archipelagic waters of a belligerent State should provide, when the mining is first executed, for free exit of shipping of neutral States.

86. Mining of neutral waters by a belligerent is prohibited.

87. Mining shall not have the practical effect of preventing passage between neutral waters and international waters.

88. The mine laying States shall pay due regard to the legitimate uses of the high seas by, inter alia, providing safe alternative routes for shipping of neutral States.

89. Transit passage through international straits and passage through waters subject to the right of archipelagic sea-lanes passage shall not be impeded unless safe and convenient alternative routes are provided.

90. After the cessation of active hostilities, parties to the conflict shall do their utmost to remove or render harmless the mines they have laid, each party removing its own mines. With regard to mines laid in the territorial seas of the enemy, each party shall notify their position and shall proceed with the least possible delay to remove the mines in its territorial sea or otherwise render the territorial sea safe for navigation.

91. In addition to their obligations under paragraph 90, parties to the conflict shall endeavour to reach agreement, both among themselves and, where appropriate, with other States and with international organizations, on the provision of information and technical and material assistance, including in appropriate circumstances joint operations, necessary to remove minefields or otherwise render them harmless.

92. Neutral States do not commit an act inconsistent with the laws of neutrality by clearing mines laid in violation of international law.

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