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Archive for March 20th, 2008

Major General Sarath Munasinghe, who held two prominent posts in the Sri Lanka Army passed away at the Asiri Surgical hospital on Monday after a brief illness at the age of 59.

A battle hardened infantryman, Major General Munasinghe who held the post of Army spokesman also served as a career Intelligence Officer and for a time was the Deputy Director of Military Intelligence.

He commanded the platoon which killed Charles Anthony alias Seelan who was a close confidant of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, in the early ‘80s in Jaffna. Soon afterwards his name was listed in the LTTE’s target list.

In 2000 he entered Parliament and held the position  of Deputy Speaker  for a brief period.

Major General Munasinghe RWP RSP USP (Retd) who retired from the Army in December 1999 joined politics after an illustrious career of nearly 29 years of military service.

He joined the Sri Lanka Army on 5th February 1970 as a Cadet Officer and was later commissioned in the rank of Second Lieutenant, attached to the 4th Battalion Sri Lanka Artillery (SLA) on 1st June 1971. He was at the same time posted to the Diyatalawa Army Training Centre as an instructor of the Recruit Training Wing.

He served as General Staff Officer (GSO) 1 (Intelligence) at Operational Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (MoD), Commanding Officer 6 SLA, GSO 1 of 5 Brigade Group Mannar, Military Assistant and Assistant Military Secretary after his promotion as Lieutenant Colonel on 15th October 1988.

His career as a senior military officer further shined following a series of commitments heaped on him as Coordinating Officer – Welioya, Director Psychological Operations – Army Headquarters (AHQ), Commander 12 Brigade Colombo, Director and Head of Media Unit Operational Headquarters MoD, Director Media Army Headquarters and Coordinator- in- Chief for Batticaloa and Ampara Districts. He was appointed as Major General on 23rd February 1998. He had also held the post of Commander, Security Forces Headquarters Jaffna, and he commanded the 51 and 54 Divisions in Jaffna as General Officer Commanding for more than a year.

Major General Sarath Munasinghe had published a book titled “A soldiers version”after he retired from the service in early 2000.

Late Major General Munasinghe’s funeral was held in his hometown Kurunegala with military honours yesterday.

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  • During the weekend fighting nearly 80 Tigers had been killed and many others injured in a series of clashes
  • In the latest fighting in Madhu area the military advanced its defences from three main directions towards the Church
  • The LTTE leadership has made weapons training compulsory for most school children despite the objections by parents.

There was a lull in fighting during the last few weeks due to the heavy rains, despite some isolated clashes in some areas in the Wanni. However the sacred Madhu Church area has been held under siege by the advancing government forces.

Furthermore, the military continued to claim that they had eliminated some hundreds of members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the period when fighting was intense, causing heavy damage to the rebels.

With the arrival of the rainy season, air, ground and sea operations cannot be conducted effectively. The LTTE too did not go for any major attack on the security forces but continued to fire mortars and heavy artillery shells at the military camps in the area.Ground sources revealed that the military also continued to attack the rebels’ forward defence lines and thereafter returned to their original locations after killing Tiger cadres in the vicinity and destroying the entire bunker lines in the area.The military has claimed that since last the weekend they have killed more than 100 LTTE cadres due to fierce fighting in the region.

During the weekend fighting nearly 80 Tigers had been killed and many others injured in a series of clashes in Vavuniya, Mannar, Welioya and Jaffna areas. During confrontations on Tuesday, 35 Tiger cadres and two soldiers had been killed.

The LTTE combatants were killed in at least 17 different confrontations along the front lines in a series of clashes.

In the worst of the fighting that began on Monday night and lasted until Tuesday morning, five cadres were killed and 11 soldiers were injured during a battle in the war-torn district of Mannar, the military said.

During the week, rebels had increased artillery shell fire at several areas in Mannar and Welioya. In Mannar, Tigers had directed a heavy artillery barrage at the military controlled Thirukketheesvaram area.

The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website claimed that the Forward Defence Lines in this region had been broken by them. However the ground information revealed that there were no clashes in the area other than artillery attacks. In response to these attacks the military too had retaliated with heavy artillery. In an earlier instance too the LTTE had fired towards the area.The LTTE said that more than 60 soldiers had been killed during the last week in Mannar and Pallaikuli areas, but the military denied this claiming that there had been only isolated clashes between the military and the LTTE.

“Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) Operations Command in Mannar told TamilNet that 60 Sri Lanka Army soldiers were killed when the Tigers confronted three major attempts by the military to advance into LTTE territory in Mannar. At Paalaikkuzhi, a large ground push launched by the army was thwarted by the Tigers in which 20 SLA soldiers were killed and 63 wounded. Simultaneously, the military has suffered heavy casualties on another push, at Parappaangka’ndal.”

On the Welioya front, troops advancing towards the LTTE strongholds in Mulaitivu district engaged in several confrontations in the areas of Kokkutuduvai, Kadduttaddamalai and Andankulama during the past few days.

Madhu Church area surrounded by the military

In the latest fighting in the Madhu area the military advanced its defences from three main directions towards the Church– from Palalmpiddy, Peripandivirichchan, Murunkan and west of Monthai– thereby isolating the Church area.

According to the latest ground information, the Tigers had to further re-locate their defence lines amidst heavy pressure from the military. Though the military was capable of launching a sudden attack in the area they could not do so since the area had been declared as no war zone.

However, the Tigers used the Madhu Church premises as an artillery launching pad earlier, in order to prevent military artillery fire. The military was unable to retaliate since the Church would be damaged if they fired back at the Tigers, who were waiting for an opportunity to claim that the military had damaged the church.Later, the Tigers had removed the weapons from the site following the Mannar Bishop Rev.Dr. Rayappu Joseph asking the Tigers to take away their artillery guns.

A senior ground commander said that they are closing in on the area surrounding the Church day by day cutting off the entire supply line of the LTTE located between east of Adampan and Palampiddy to areas around Madhu Church

Tiger ‘yellow cards’ for teenagers

Following heavy pressure from the international community and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) not to recruit underaged children to the organization, the LTTE is now adopting a new method to recruit child solders in the Wanni region.According to civilians who had come to the cleared areas most of the school students are asked to participate in weapons training for a few weeks in LTTE camps .The LTTE leadership has made this compulsory for most school children despite the objection by parents.Once the training programme is over these children are issued a yellow card and then sent back to their homes. However they would be monitored and not allowed to go for private tuition classes or allowed to sit for the GCE Advance Level or the Ordinary level examinations. Soon after they finish their studies they would be immediately recruited to the Tiger force with or without their consent. The leadership has also informed that if an emergency situation arose, these students could be called to the battle field at any given time.

There were many instances in the Wanni region in the recent past, where a large number of bodies of underage children were found by the troops. Intelligence information revealed that the LTTE leadership had deployed a large number of such inexperienced school children in the battle field.

Several prominent international children’s agencies, including the UNICEF had repeatedly warned the Tamil Tigers not to recruit children as combat fighters. It is believed that over 2,000 children have been forcibly conscripted to the LTTE as combatants.

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The JVP yesterday called for the disarming of the TMVP and warned that the group would use the weapons they have stockpiled to win the Provincial Council election in the Eastern Province, as they did at the recently held Batticaloa local government polls.

Party leader Somawansa Amarasinghe told a news conference the government should disarm the group as it was bound to use weapons to win the elections through coercion and intimidation.

He said the government and some with vested interests had condoned this act for their own purposes.

“If the government wants a free and fair poll, it should disarm the Pillayan group before holding the Provincial Council election in the East,” Mr. Somawansa said.

He said the JVP was aware of Tiger-threat faced by the TMVP but he said the security forces were capable of providing sufficient security to the group and there was no need for the TMVP to carry arms.

“Every party contesting the elections in the East including us are having security concerns but will the government allow us to carry arms,” Mr. Amarasinghe asked and disclosed that EU members who met the JVP recently wondered why the government was not disarming the TMVP.

The JVP leader also alleged that India was trying to instil a puppet administration through the Eastern Provincial elections and had already taken over land in the East up to Pulmudai.

“Former Indian High Commissioner told us that India is hoping to build a power plant in Sampur to generate power and sell it to make profits. What benefit Sri Lanka will Sri Lanka get out of such transactions,” he asked.

Mr. Amarasinghe warned that the valiant effort of the security forces to secure the East from LTTE clutches will prove futile if Indian expansionism was allowed.

“We are not against the Indian people or the Indian government but only opposing this expansionism,” he added.

Mr. Amarasinghe said the JVP decided to contest the Eastern Provincial Council Election to defeat these anti national designs

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Military Intelligence sources confirmed that the LTTE has constructed a large trench to prevent Main Battle Tanks and Armoured Personnel Carriers from the Armoured Corps and the newly formed Mechanized Infantry Division from crossing into LTTE’s 2nd Forward Defence Line in Muhamalai and Nagarkovil.

The 1st FDL of the Tigers was captured in a combined operation launched by the 53 and 55 Divisions on 30th January 2008. On 31st January morning, troops from the Mechanized Infantry and Armoured Corp launched a second attack using MBTs and APCs. A total of 35 bunkers and 25 cadres were lost to the Tigers.

Meanwhile sources inside the Armoured Corps told that special training on crossing trenches and other techniques of tactical tank warfare are presently being imparted to the Mechanized Infantry Division units stationed in Jaffna.

In another interesting development, Military Intelligence sources have uncovered an order issued by Prabhakaran than effectively bans TNA MPs from contesting the forthcoming April 10th Provincial Council elections.

Addressing TNA MPs at a secret bunker immediately after MP Sivanesan’s funeral, LTTE leader Prabhakaran has informed the MPs that their contesting the elections would signal that Eelam has been given up. Prabha’s deputy, Poddu Ammaan had approached TMVP Supreme Commander Pillayan, soon after the eastern liberation, asking him to rejoin the Tigers.

Pillayan had previously been asked to kill Karuna in return for a large sum of money and asylum in a foreign country. In response, Pillayan had offered an even better deal to Poddu for killing Prabhakaran.

(http://defencewire.blogspot.com)

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S.L Gunesekera, the lawyer representing the Special Task Force (STF) in the Trincomalee killings case, hit out at the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) yesterday, asserting that foreign intervention was tainting the commission of inquiry.

“It seems like these proceedings are controlled by outsiders. The witness is taken out and brought back as they please.

The commission is set up here, and foreigners cannot control what happens here. This is gross arrogance and impertinence,” Mr. Gunesekara said.

This was after IIGEP officials expressed concern over his line of questioning, which dealt with the date on which the witness left the country and the witness’s legal status in the country of refuge.

At first, when the witness was questioned about when he left the country, IIGEP Investigation Advisor Dennis Milner intervened, pointing out that, as per the protocol that had been agreed upon by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI), questions on when, where or how the witnesses had left the country were to be avoided, as they might directly or indirectly lead to revealing the location in which the witnesses resided.

“No. That question is not withdrawn. I will not take orders from you. Have you the impertinence to order me not to ask that question?” Mr. Gunesekara retaliated.

While CoI Chairman Udalagama agreed that the protocol did not directly prohibit the questioning of a witness about when they left the country, the STF counsel was advised to terminate that line of questioning, following a request by IIGEP representative and Legal Advisor D. Urban

“If they are afraid of these questions, these independent people, we can proceed from it,” Mr. Gunesekera said.

This was, however, followed by a question regarding the witness’s legal status in the country of refuge – to which the IIGEP Victim Protection Advisor David Savage objected. The witness was removed from the room until the issue was sorted out.

After the second intervention by the IIGEP, Mr. Gunesekara said sharply that he would wrap up his cross examination, as he was “not allowed to continue with my cross examination due to foreign intervention.”

“In conclusion, I suggest to you, that being in a foreign country you have obtained a license to lie with impunity because you cannot be charged with perjury in a court in this country,” Mr. Gunersekera said, wrapping up his case for the defence.

“I suggest to you, in conclusion, that you told the magistrate what you knew or thought you knew while giving evidence at the inquest. Your statement to the IIGEP, where it differs from the statement to the magistrate, consists of fabrications uttered by you in the knowledge that you can not be penalised for perjury,” he added.

The witness Ponnuthurai Yogarajah, father of the deceased Yogarajah Hemachandran, emotionally said “I won’t accept this. My children have been killed. I am telling the truth. I am not lying here. I need not tell lies here.” He also said that “if I had told the magistrate what I have told here, my life would have been in real peril.”

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One police Special Task Force (STF) personnel was in a clash between LTTE and STF in Lahugala jungle, Ampara, yesterday. Both parties exchanged small arms fire in the clash which began at around 11.30 in the night. The STF personnel who was critically injured in the incident, succumbed to his injuries in Ampara hospital. There are no reports of LTTE casualties.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers deployed in the Mannar front continued to carry out limited offensives against LTTE targets in Adampan and Munakkathirichchi regions while braving bad weather conditions. Of all the SLA elements affected by bad weather, perhaps the worst affected are the armored corps. Heavy armor such such as infantry fighting vehicles and battle tanks are difficult to maneuver in soggy ground conditions created by continuous rain.

In Weli-Oya front troops of the army’s 59th division engaged LTTE targets in Kokkuthuduvai and Andankulama regions, killing at least 7 LTTE cadres.

Meanwhile the Pilleyan faction of TMVP has requested removal of all STF camps in eastern province before the provincial council elections.

(http://defencenet.blogspot.com)

(more…)

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