Archive for March 23rd, 2008

There has been a number of articles recently, e.g, Groundviews (Feb.22, 2008) on “Ethnos or Demos?- questioning Tamil nationalism, and various responses to it. Other news media have published other articles, e.g., that of Mr. Rohana Wasala (The Island, 18-March-2008), as well the comments made by the Island columnist Shanee, mainly touching on the Estate Indian citizenship act and its relatiuon to the Tamil question. Some clarity can be achieved if the historical settings to these issues were revisited.

A distorted picture of the Indian citizenship act (1948 and 1949) was launched by S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and others partly as a means of attacking G. G. Ponnambalam, who at that time held the leading position in Tamil politics. At the end of the Soulbury commission’s sittings, a sense of healing between the communities took place, largely because Senanayake had imposed a dignified silence, instead of a heated exchange between communities in front of the Soulobury commission. It was at this point that G. G. Ponnambalam, Arunachalam Mahadeva, Natesan and others called for “responsible cooperation” with the Sinhalese leaders and supported the new Senanayake government.

Chelvanayakam and others proposed the two-nation concept (instead of the failed fifty-fifty approach). One aspect of this proposal was to regard the Sinhalese as invaders of the Tamil homeland which had already begun to be defined, for example, with the formation of a society calling itself the “All_Ceylon Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jaffna”, coming into being in May 1940 (Hindu Organ, May 13, 1940). The Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchchi (ITAK) hoped to use the example from India, where the mass Satyagrahas finally drove out the British, as the weapon to unleash against the Sinhalese. This policy required a deliberate attempt to discredit the Seananayakas and others who stood for the “one-nation of Ceylonese” concept. Collaborators with the Sinhalese automatically became traitors or ” thurogis”. Thus it was how G. G. Ponnambalam was declared a traitor by the ITAK. With this turn of events, the ITAK was not a pan-Ceylonese party even for appearance’s sake. Its task was to destroy any bridges which existed between the two communities, and insist that the Tamils, with their grander history and destiny, are utterly different from the Sinhalese, and should seek its own “Arasu”.

In 1952 the language issue had not come to the front stage. Senanayake had indicated his support for parity of administrative usage for the two languages, but clearly did not wish to make this into a public issue. The burning battle that took place between the ITAK and the Tamil Congress (TC) in 1952 was over the Indian citizenship act. Ponnambalam and Natesan of the TC were contested by Chelvanayakam and Naganathan, and it was during this election that the highly distorted picture of the Indian citizenship act was presented to the Tamils of Jaffna. The ITAK as well as the Marxist leaders in the South went around building a picture of Senanayake as a sinhala racist who has rendered a million Tamils “stateless”. Senanayake’s citizenship act, drawn up with the help of leading Tamils (like Vaithiyalingam), and most probably with the advice of Senanayake’s principal constitutional Guru, Ivor Jennings, was actually an unusually liberal document, when viewed against the practices that existed at that time in other parts of the world. The Canadian “Indian” citizenship act, applied in 1952 to (native) Canadian Indians, required that an Indian be judged “civilized” by a white government official before he could enjoy the rights of schooling, health care and other basic amenities. Or else he had to remain shut out from the external world in “Indian Reserves”. Senanayake’s citizenship act required seven years of residence in Ceylon as a condition for citizenship. Compare this with the Hispanic workers in America today. The Hispanics were the original inhabitants of California, New Mexico and Southern Texas. But Spanish is not a recognized official language, and California does not attempt to reserve its borders to Hispanics as their homeland. The millions of Hispanic workers are so essential to the US economy that it would collapse if they were to go on a mass work-stoppage. And yet, a Hispanic worker cannot even get a “green card” without jumping through many hoops.

The ITAK had to build up a repertoire of original sins committed by the “Sinhalese invaders of the Tamil home lands”, if its political program of driving a wedge between the two communities were to succeed. Note that this is already in the period PRIOR to the arrival of “Sinhala Only”. I list the following which have become “accepted beliefs”, mainly among the Colombo Tamil intellectuals of the younger generation (i.e., those who grew up after the World War II).

The litany of sins began with the famous claim of “deception” of Ponnambalam Arunachalam (AP), by the Sinhalese leaders, in the early 1920s, in regard to the “Colombo seat”. At that time, all politicians, be they Sinhala or Tamil, were beholden to the Governor for their political positions. If the Governor had given even the slightest indication that he wanted AP appointed to the Colombo seat, the Sinhala leaders would have rushed to execute the Governor’s wish. AP himself realized that the Governor needs to be wooed, and that is why he invited the Governor to Jaffna, received him lavishly and presented a secret proposal asking that he be appointed. Unfortunately for AP, the Lake House press managed get a copy and to splash the “secret memorandum”, ensuring that the Governor turned against a highly embarrassed AP. Not surprisingly, it heralded the end of AP’s political career. AP claimed that two Sinhalese leaders who had promised to support him had deceived him, and left politics claiming to be “disgusted with such “deception”. And yet, this incident which reflect the vanity and political incompetence of Arunachalam Ponnamblam has become the primodial “origin sin” cited by Tamil Nationalism.

The next weapon of assault used by the ITAK was simply taken from G. G. Ponnambalam’s list of grievances that had been presented to Soulbury, viz., the discriminatory Sinhala colonization policy claimed to have been “set in motion” by Senanayake, and his predecessors under the aegis of the the Colonial Government. It is unfortunate that the Tamil nationalist movement continues to make the false claim that the 1925-1955 period was an example of Sinhalese land grab. Soulbury’s report as well as the analyses of most historians reject this claim. The claim forgets that most of the top civil servants who ran the Galoya board were Tamils.

We have already discussed how the Indian citizenship act was a god-send to the ITAK which was trying hard to build a political case for itself. However, the Jaffna electorate and the Tamil intelligencia of the early 1950s did NOT buy Chelvanayakm’s platform. The learned judges of the Ceylon supreme court, and the Privy council in London, both rejected a case filed against the Citizenship Act by the ITAK, and judged that no discrimination had occurred either before, or after the act. The strident cry that Senanayake was a Sinhala racist cut no ice at that time. Every one knew that in March 1939 it was Senanayake who moved to exclude the Sinhala Communalist extremists from the Ceylon National Congress. Senanayake and Francis de Soyza held that “the first plank must be nationalism against communalism. Ceylon for the Sinhalese is as a good slogan which will go down with the Sinhalese villager. There are those who say they are prepared to die for the Sinhalese. The sooner they die, the better it will be for the Sinhalese ” (Hindu Organ, March 6, 1939). It should be remembered that these were strong words in 1939, although they may sound tame in today’s context of the politics of Terror and Suicide.

Another weapon of assault is the so called “Mahavamsa mind set”. This was brought to the political front, at least as far as the Tamil public is concerned, by G. G. Ponnambalam. This rapidly raised his stand among Jaffna nationalists, but also invigorated SWRD’s counter campaigns of racial rivalry. The Mahavamsa had indeed been used by Anagarika Dharmapala (a sinhala Buddhist version of Navalar), mainly against Christian evangelism, but no one used it as well as GGP in rousing up the public, and calling for a “Dravidian” pride. The “Dravidian” concept soon gave way to pure Tamil nationalism. The latter has led to suicide cadre and political assisinations. Thankfully, the “Mahavamsa mindset” has only launched a set of political monks who may prove be the best argument against that mindset!

The ITAK came to the political fore-front only after the UNP, with Kotalawala at the helm, totally bungled the language issue. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (SWRD) swept the polls with his unmistakable jingoist cries. The ITAK could now add a genuine grievance to its litany of anger against the Sinhalese. This gave the ITAK an emotional basis for its “satyagraha” campaigns, within the concept that the Sinhalese are invaders of the Tamil homeland. This was, I believe, a grave error. Unlike the period 1925-1955, we now entered an era where the Sinhala leadership had NOT earned the trust of the minorities. Unlike Senanayake and others who had the disciplinarian mentality of estate superintendents, Bandaranaike and the Marxists believed in spontaneous uprisings of the masses where “normal justice” was replaced by some romantic, wild form of “justice”. The tamils would get “punished” for their “rapacious claims” by the ofrces of natural justice. Is that why SWRD did not enforce law and order when the riots irrupted in 1957? The Indian model of “satyagraha” against the invader worked because the party carrying out the Satyagraha was a vast majority (of Indians) against the British Colonial administration. The ITAK program merely exacerbated the already inflamed political situation, with the certain guarantee that Tamils will suffer violence in the hands of racial mobs as well as the state. The actions of Tamils led by the ITAK were no different from a small Tibetan minority trying to contest the Chinese state. Worst of all, the arrogant Queen’s counsels who led the ITAK were fool enough to believe that a Nationalist Sinhala government would simply hand over a coastline starting from Puttalam and going around the perimeter along the eastern coast upto Pottuvil, simply because they launched a program of civil disobedience! Their political blindness was caused by their nationalism which was as chauvinist as that of the Sinhalese extremists.

The ITAK activities further polarized the two ethnic groups and brought us to the horror that we have today. As feelings hardened, earlier nationalists were labeled “thurogi” and bumped off. A large body of post-war Tamil intelligentsia completely believe the distorted litany of grievances popularized so ably by Chevanaakam, A. J. Wilson and others. So I am not surprised by the contents of Shanee’s column in The Island. We had a small window of opportunity to grab the reality that the Tamils and the Sinhalese are nearly identical people in language, culture and religion. But we failed. Of course, the Colombo Tamil leadership was predominantly Christian and unaware of Tamil culture, except that the caste system endorsed their pre-eminence. It is interesting to note that the Batticaloa Tamil leadership had actually, even in the 1930s and 40s, followed a path very different to that indicated by the Colombo Tamils. Mr. E. R. Tambimuttu, coming from Batticaloa was the only Tamil to support the Donoughmore constitution and universal franchise. He opposed Ponnambalam’s 50-50 proposals and also objected to Ponnambalam’s attempts to speak on behalf of the Muslims (Hansard 1939, Column 1705). The modern dissociation of the politics of the Eastern province from that of the North, under Karuna and Pilliyan goes back to perhaps 1910.

The main grievance of the Tamils (and indeed, certain sections of the Sinhalese), at least as I see it today, is that they cannot be sure of their personal safety under a sinhala administration. This problem requires stringent enforcement and respect of the law, and creating conditions of trust between the various ethnic groups of the nation. The bridge building must come by noting the similarities and commonalities of all the citizens of the country. These constitute the core needs of employment, health, education and security. The two major ethnic groups are so close linguistically, culturally, and by consanguinity that what we have in Sri Lanka is nothing but a fratricidal battle.

We have to stop the round of accusations and counter-accusations, about AP’s deception, Senanayake’s citizenship act, Mahavamsa mind set, etc, etc., and find what we can do together. Black July should not be a day to beat up a lather of frenzy against the Sinhalese. It should be the day when we re-collect that Tamils killed Duraiappah and many other worthy leaders. Every Jaffna Tamil, when he makes it good, migrates to Colombo, and form thence even to foreign lands. Tamils have excelled in commerce, banking, the professions, worked and lived everywhere in the Island with all ethnic communities. This will happen again, when a new set of Tamil leaders and intellectuals, possibly coming from the Estate Sector, NOT wedded to the myths and litany of grievances of the Colombo clan, ecomes up from the ashes of today.

Read Full Post »

Troops face a new enemy: AP mines uprooted by torrential rain

When the Mechanized Infantry Regiment of the Sri Lankan Army was inaugurated in early 2007, the Tigers appeared to take serious note of the looming new dimension in the battle front.

The initial reaction from the LTTE has been several failed pre-emptive strikes against the emerging regiment, which, according to military officials, is slated to spearhead a major tank offensive southwards once the numbers in the Tiger ranks are depleted by the on- going attrition attacks.

Since then, the Tigers appear to have followed the military preparations closely and now military intelligence reports indicate that the LTTE has built a major trench line, running parallel to its secondary defence line in an effort to fend off the advance of the Infantry Fighting vehicles and Armoured Personnel Carriers.

The troops of the Mechanised Infantry Regiment are reported to be now brazing for the new challenge, and were undergoing manoeuvers in trench crossing.These findings are not without significance. The LTTE appears to be sticking to its strategy of a strong trench defence, rather than opting to the tactics of ‘Defence in depth’, which were successfully deployed against the advancing troops of Operation Jayasikuru.

‘Defence in depth’ envisages allowing the invading troops deep into the defender’s territory and attack as them as the operation looses momentum and the troops are stretched out.

Trench line

The popular perception was that the Tigers would opt to retreat deep into the Wanni in the face of a major offensive and fight a slow, long -drawn war to halt further advance of the troops- that has been the LTTE’s strategy against Operation Jayasikuru.

However, the report of a major trench line, which is being built several hundred meters from the front defence line of the LTTE, suggests that the LTTE had decided otherwise.

The open flat terrain southwards of the northern defence lines of the security force leads towards Elephant Pass and to Kilinochchi. This is an ideal ground for mechanized warfare.

The Mechanized Infantry Regiment was the brainchild of the Commander of the Army Lt Gen. Sarath Fonseka. The new regiment was formulated to enhance mobility of the troops and inject rapid tactical mobility to the security forces. Compared with “light” (foot) infantry or motorized infantry, mechanised infantry can maintain rapid tactical movement and (if mounted in IFVs) possess more integral firepower.

It has been observed in the past, that foot infantry units lacked mobility in certain phases of previous military operations, most notably in Operation Jayasikuru.

This also resulted in heavy casualties due to indirect fire of the LTTE. With the induction of the mechanized infantry, casualties are expected to be lower as troops would be protected by protective cover of armoured personnel carriers. The Mechanized Infantry Regiment comprises the following battalions: the 3rd Ceylon Light Infantry Battalion, 10th Sinha Regiment, the 4th Gajaba Battalion and a new addition of the 5th & the 6th Armoured Corps. The Mechanised Infantry Regiment has been a thorn in the eyes of the LTTE, even before it was formally inducted to the battle front.

There had been several pre-emptive attacks by the LTTE on the latest addition of the SLA On 14th February 2007, the LTTE shelled the Regimental Headquarters of the 53 Division located at Kodikamam as the ceremony marking the establishment of the Mechanized Infantry Regiment was in progress.

The Brigade Commander Lt Colonel Ralph Nugera Lt. Col. Sumith Atapattu, Major Harendra Peiris, and two staff officers were injured. Earlier in October 2006, while the plan for the setting up of a Mechanized Infantry Regiment was under consideration, Tiger cadres appeared to embark on counter measures.

In October 2006, several of Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Czech built T 55 Main Battle Tanks were destroyed during a failed offensive to capture the enemy forward defence line in Muhamalai—-Most MBTs and IFVs were stuck in a trench built by the Tigers to fend off troop advance.

Later, on 28 January this year, the Tigers shelled the Pallaly Military Airport and the high security zone when an AN 32 air craft with a high level delegation aboard, including the Secretary of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Army Commander Lt General Sarath Fonseka, forcing the air craft to fly back to the Ratmalana Air Port.

The military top brass were scheduled to attend a Medal Awarding ceremony of the newly created mechanized infantry brigade.-yet, the ceremony went on and barely two days after their graduation, the Mechanized Infantry Regiment sprung into action.On January 30, the troops supported by Main Battle Tanks decimated the forward bunker line of the LTTE, dislodging the Tiger cadres to the secondary bunker line.

Torrential rains

It has been observed during the recent limited operations conducted by the security that the primary defence line of the LTTE is sparsely guarded. A middle ranking officer stationed in Jaffna described this as a precautionary measure effected by the Tigers in response to regular small group operations conducted by the Special Infantry Operation (SIO) units of the SLA.

He said that the Tigers didnot fight to defend their primary defence line when it came under attack during recent military operations and retreated to their secondary bunker line.

Meanwhile, in the Wanni front, torrential rains lashed as troops inched towards the Tiger territory. Not only did inclement weather cripple the military operations and slow down troop advance, it uprooted buried landmines and scattered them on the ground, leaving more booby troops.
A senior military official told this writer that both the troops and Tigers have sought refuge in highlands, not yet submerged by rising water levels. The soggy soil in the Wanni has hindered the use of Infantry vehicles.

He said though military operations have not been suspended as a whole, progress had been slowed down with the increased threat posed by booby traps, AP mines and logistical dilemmas caused by inclement weather.
Anti Personnel mines are the main culprits for the large number of troop casualty. Yet, the troops, which conducted reconnaissance operations, have identified a greatdeal of mine fields laid by the Tigers. These mines have been uprooted and washed away by flood waters caused by heavy rain.

The dilemma is that the troops would have to start from scratch.
Meanwhile, troops captured an area of the size of one square kilometer between Parayankulam and Illanthevan in Mannar.

The Army said 22 Tiger cadres and four soldiers were killed in fighting. Sixteen soldiers were wounded. However, these figures could not be independently verified.

Last week I spoke to a retired senior military official about the current status quo in the battle front. He came out with high praise for the government for the support extended to the security forces. He said the troops appeared to have delivered results for the moment. “But the next 3-4 months would be perhaps the most crucial in fighting the LTTE,” he quipped.

The opening of multiple fronts, thereby forcing the Tigers to a defensive role on multiple fronts is the right strategy, he agreed, yet he suggested that military activities on other fronts have to be increased

War game

He suggested that the Tiger leadership appeared to have judged the strategy of the SLA and is concentrating its cadre in the Mannar sector, where the major security forces thrust is in progress. In the Mannar sector, troops are pushing towards Vedithalthivu, where a major sea Tiger base is located. “Perhaps, the Army needs to conduct a war game in which military commanders could put their minds together to judge enemy strategy and map out our counter strategy,” he said.

Though the video games of simulations of military operations are generally called ‘war games’, the professional study of war, which stimulates or represents a military operation, is also described as a war game. Though the most published mood of ‘war games’ is live military exercise or rehearsal, the other types of exercise include the TEWT (Tactical Exercise Without Troops), also known as ‘sand table’, ‘map’ or ‘cloth model exercise’.

This type of exercise (in recent years assisted by computer simulation) allows commanders to manipulate models through possible scenarios in military planning. This is also called warfare simulation, or in some instances a virtual battleground.

The emphasis of a tactical war games are often placed upon quantified “quality” factors such as troop experience, fatigue, morale, training, equipment performance (rate-of-fire, range, penetration, probability of single hit kill). In this kind of exercise, military commanders play the role of field commanders of friendly and enemy troops.
One side could stimulate military manoeuvres and the other could respond with a counter- manoeuvre.

This enables military commanders to look through the mind of the enemy and have a grasp in possible enemy strategy.The war is surely entering a crucial stage in the coming months. Despite, the recent set backs of the LTTE; the Tiger Supremo appeared to be confident of his strategy. Two weeks back at the funeral of the slain TNA MP K, Sivanesan, he was asked by a pro- rebel TNA MP whether he could hold ground. The Tiger Chief nodded and insisted that he will halt troop advance. Time will tell whether he could make his claims a reality.

Read Full Post »

* Dawn attack gives new dimension to Eelam War IV
* Heavy rain impedes progress of troops on two fronts
* A draft National Defence Policy but outcome of war overshadows it

If there was a lull in the battlefields of Wanni due to heavy rains, the fighting shifted to the high seas. Before dawn yesterday, six Navy Dvora Fast Attack Craft (FAC) were on patrol in the north-eastern seas in formations of two each. Two of the FACs were in the deep seas off Nayaru, which lies near the Tiger guerrilla stronghold of Mullaitivu. An explosion engulfed one of the locally-built Dvora (437) in a ball of fire. It sank immediately. The remaining Dvora rescued six sailors including its Officer-in-Charge but the fate of ten more on board the destroyed vessel is not known.

Navy officials suspect the Dvora was destroyed by a sea mine. This, they say, is not conclusive and add that it could even be a human torpedo. One form of human torpedo is a suicide bomber strapping explosives to ram a vessel. Another form is a diver directing a floating or submerged device with explosives at a vessel.

Last year, in the same general area, the Navy discovered sea mines. However, a senior official at Navy Headquarters in Colombo said, “we are yet to determine conclusively the exact cause for the explosion. Neither the crew of the second Dvora nor survivors from the one that was destroyed are able to say how it occurred. There was no exchange of fire. Nor do we have any electronic evidence.”

A further elaboration of this aspect, which would have helped one better appreciate the realities, is not possible due to serious personal constraints. Search operations in the high seas yesterday led to the discovery of a fiberglass shell, small pieces of plastic and burnt out polythene. The fiberglass shell has led to suspicion whether quantities of explosives were hidden in it. Navy officials hope these items would give them a clue in determining the exact cause for the explosion and sinking of Dvora 437, an FAC built by the Colombo Dockyard.

However, the Tamilnet website said the Dvora was destroyed after Black Sea Tigers attacked. This is what the report said: Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) elite Black Sea Tigers, engaged in a confrontation with a fleet of Sri Lanka Navy in the seas off Mullaiththeevu, attacked and sunk a SLN Dvora Fast Attack Craft (FAC) between Mullaiththeevu and Naayaa’ru at 2:10 a.m. Saturday, LTTE sources in Vanni told TamilNet. At least 14 Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) sailors were killed in the clashes, the Tigers said.

Three Black Sea Tigers were killed in action in the fighting that lasted for 45 minutes from 2:00 a.m. Saturday. Meanwhile, SLN sources said 10 SLN sailors were missing. Sixteen sailors were on board the SLN said. “Vessel number of the sunk SLN Dvora FAC was 438, the LTTE said. “Lt. Col. Anpumaran, Major Niranjani and Major Kaninila were the Black Sea Tigers killed in action.

“The SLN claimed that the FAC had hit a sea mine and was completely destroyed before it sank. Denying confrontations in the sea, the SLN said it had launched a search operation to locate the missing sailors.”

If the Navy’s suspicions that sea mines were the cause of the loss of the Dvora and uncertainty over ten of its crew members, it adds a new dimension to the ongoing Eelam War IV. The extensive use of such mines can impede naval movement in the high seas. That is not only confined to patrolling the seas. More importantly, the Navy provides the bulk of the security cover for movement of food and military supplies to some 40,000 troops and policemen deployed in the Government controlled Jaffna peninsula. They are transported from Trincomalee to Kankesanthurai. In addition, the vast majority of troops and police personnel are also escorted at sea by the Navy. However, such phenomenon is unlikely since sea mines have not been used in any other location in the recent past.

On the other hand, senior Navy officials say that the placing of mines in the seas off Mullaitivu had been resorted to by guerrillas for another reason altogether. They say it is to stall any sea-borne assault on the shores of Mullaitivu or a beach landing in that area, which is considered the centre of power of the guerrillas. It is known that key installations of the guerrilla sea-going arm, the Sea Tigers are located along that coastal stretch.

Heavy rains have further slowed the advance of troops in the main theatres of fighting in the Wanni. In the Mannar sector, where troops are advancing in two different flanks, one west and the other east of the Giant’s Tank, there were only sporadic exchanges of artillery and mortar fire by the two sides. On Friday two soldiers were killed when guerrillas, who had infiltrated Mannar, triggered off a Claymore mine. The incident took place in the South Bar area.

Troops attached to the Area Headquarters in Mannar had utilised three buses to bring members of the Buddhist clergy for religious ceremonies from a temple near South Bar because of Medin Poya. The Claymore mine missed the first but hit the second bus. A Captain and a soldier were killed on the spot. Six other soldiers were injured and four are in a critical condition.

In the Weli Oya sector where troops have seized considerable extent of “no man’s” land as a flank moved northwards, in the direction of Mullaitivu, heavy rains have converted the terrain into a marsh. Here again, sporadic exchanges of artillery and mortar fire continued. An Army official in the sector, who spoke on grounds of anonymity for obvious reasons, said in some areas the floodwaters were knee high. An unexpected development had been a sizeable number of troops falling sick with complaints of either dengue or Chickungunya. They have been hospitalised for treatment, he added.

These developments came as the Ministry of Defence was engaged in major re-deployment of troops in the North and the East. As part of this measure, personnel of the Police Special Task Force (STF) are being re-located from camps in the Ampara district to the Vavuniya district. Similar shift of troops from Trincomalee district are also to follow shortly. Details of how the re-deployment will take shape cannot be revealed. Officially, the proposed changes are being dubbed as routine and necessitated by changing ground situation.

In this backdrop, as the Eelam War IV continues, a formidable group of senior officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who are now retired, are at the forefront of a campaign to formulate a Defence Policy for Sri Lanka. They are made up of Retired Flag Rank Officers and others retired from the Armed Services. They have joined hands with the Organisation of Professional Associations in this endeavour.

Last Monday, the Mess Hall of the Sri Lanka Army’s Mechanical and Electrical Engineers (SLEME) in Colombo was the venue for a gathering of serving senior officers in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Some senior retired Majors General in the Army and one time top officials of the Air Force and Navy gave them presentations on different aspects. They were all enunciating the need for a Defence Policy. The fact that the Armed Forces officers had been seconded by their higher command to take part in the event came as official endorsement of the event though not the draft policy itself.

Circulated among those present were a set of documents including the 41-page draft of ‘A Recommended Defence Policy on Sri Lanka’ (in September 2007) fomulated by the Association of Retired Flag Rank Officers (with the help of other retired officers) for the Organisation of Professional Assiciations (OPA).
The draft report notes that Defence Policy is required to “determine the means by which, without impoverishing the nation, Security Forces could be deployed to fulfil the requirements of National Security.” It says: “The Armed Forces are an extension of the ‘political will’ of the government. Today military thinking tends to be politico military and Foreign Affairs should be militarily diplomatic. Policies have to be tailor-made…..”

The draft Defence Policy says “the security challenges in the future will become more diverse and multi-faceted and effect more countries and transnational in nature….” It cautions …”we must be aware of and be sensitive to the concerns of our neighbours, especially India, in our alignment with others…. It says
“India is unlikely to indulge in a military adventure across the Palk Straits, unless Sri Lanka pursues a military solution sans a parallel ‘hearts and minds’ campaign with the Tamil population in the North and East.

“An influx of refugees in large numbers to Tamil Nadu will encourage their sympathisers in that state to provide covert material and moral support to the LTTE. Such tensions may lead to India Navy/Coast-guard being deployed to deal with infiltration and intrusions, which could result in incidents of a military nature and strained relations,” the draft points out.
Here are some significant edited excerpts from the draft Defence Policy for Sri Lanka:

“Apart from the Defence Policy stated by the D.S. Senanayake Government in 1947, which was made non effective in 1956, (except the continuation of anti-illicit immigration operations until 1980) there has been no discernible “Defence Policy” enunciated by any government thereafter. “Ad Hocism” has been resorted to and some of the decisions, such as prevention of the build up of the Navy (personnel and equipment) for nine years proved disastrous in 1983 when RAW supported the influx of trained rebel cadres and ammunition to the Jaffna peninsula without a deterrent naval presence.

“There were ‘ad hoc’ decisions on various occasions such as the provision of arms and ammunition to the LTTE and the premature removal of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), which have been to the detriment of Sri Lanka’s security. If there is a national policy on defence accepted by Parliament, such unilateral decisions detrimental of the security of the nation would not take place.

“Even to date there is no discernible Defence Policy. The Defence of the Nation is left to the whims and fancies of those running the Defence establishments of the country whereas it should be of the highest priority for a government and the people who are sovereign must be made aware of the policy adopted for their security.

“Many countries have adopted a policy of Comprehensive Security i.e. encompassing a variety of subjects which can affect the Security of the Nation (National Security). A few of these can include food security; health security; environmental security; the brain-drain; labour unrest, corruption and many others which can have an adverse effect on the country’s stability.

“Apart from the dangers to National Security caused by military attacks from within the state or from outside, these threats must be assessed by the highest authority constituting the National Security Council (NSC) as and when such threats are envisaged, and remedial measures should be adopted. Intelligence on these matters must be collated and presented to the NSC. The NSC must not be confined to military security alone but to all possible threats to the nation’s stability and good governance.

“The NSC should comprise the highest authorities in the land. They are:

* Head of Government (President or Prime Minister)
* Leader of the Opposition
* Ministers of Defence; Finance; Foreign Affairs as statutory members
* Any Minister under whose purview that particular threat is perceived.

“The decision makers have to be advised by a panel of officials of whom the following should be permanent advisors;

* Secretaries to the Ministry of Defence, Finance and Foreign Affairs
* Secretaries of the affected Ministries (can be co-opted to deal with the particular problem such as Health, Food, Labour etc.)
* Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
* Chief of National Intelligence

“The NSC must be serviced by a Secretariat at the Head of States/government office and that organisation should include intellectuals (persons of eminence from outside the government with expertise on external and internal security, foreign affairs, defence and military affairs, science, technology
and economics) who could advise the NSC on the implications of the perceived threats and the remedial action to be taken.

“The National Security Council (NSC) system is the principal form for deliberation of National Security Policy issues requiring the Head of Government’s rulings. The NSC system provides the framework for establishing national strategy and policy objectives. The NSC develops policy options, considers implications, co-ordinates operational matters that require inter-departmental consideration, develops recommendations for the Head of Government and monitors policy implementation.
“When a military situation is envisaged the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discharges a substantial part of his statutory responsibilities as the principal military advisor to the government, the Service Chiefs should also be present in such a situation to tender specialist advice. The NSC prepares National Security guidance that should develop into policy. These policy decisions provide the basis for military planning and programming particularly in respect of capital equipment such as aircraft, ships and heavy weapons etc.

“There has to be divisions of the Ministry (of Defence), one with a Civilian head (Secretary) and the other with a Military head (Chief of Armed Forces). The proper designation should be Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and not Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a CDS should be a person who has worked in all three services and be familiar with tri-service operations etc. One should not be subordinate to the other and each has specific responsibilities and the existence of the Defence Council will help to sort out any differences, which should not, but might occur.

Chiefs of Staff Committee: The designation of the three Service Chiefs should be changed – The forces are now too large for a Commander to exercise direct command. He has to delegate to subordinate commanders and in this context the designation of the Service Chiefs (as practiced by most countries) should be:

a. Chief of Army Staff
b. Chief of Naval Staff
c. Chief of Air Staff”

It seems highly unlikely that the Government would be in a mood to formulate a Defence Policy, or for that matter, even effect defence reforms when it is now at war. Hence, the main priority will remain the conclusion of Eelam War IV. Whether a Defence Policy or reforms would then become as necessary as it is now will thus remain a key question.


Read Full Post »

Tamil nationalist leader Pazha Nedumaran and at least 164 members of his outfit were held here Saturday for staging a demonstration in support of the Tamil Tigers and against the Sri Lankan and Indian governments.

They were released at night. Nedumaran and members of his Tamil Desiya Iyakkam (Tamil nationalist movement) including a dozen women, had raised slogans in favour of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and for a “Tamil eelam” (Tamil nation).

Police said several “pro-Lankan Tamil groups”, including Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK-Dalit Panther) supporters, tried to stage a demonstration at the Memorial Hall near the railway station without permission.

The groups were also protesting the “sale of arms by India to Sri Lanka”. They also condemned firing by Sri Lanka’s navy on fishermen from Tamil Nadu.

Visiting Sri Lankan Minister for Highways Jayaraj Fernando, meanwhile, maintained that the frequent attacks on Indian fishermen were carried out by the LTTE and not by the Sri Lankan navy.

Read Full Post »

Ten Navy personnel were reported missing yesterday morning after one of the Navy’s Fast Attack Craft (FAC) was caught in what is believed to be an LTTE sea mine explosion off Nayaru, Mullaitivu, a Navy spokesman said. He said six sailors were rescued and a search operation was going on for the missing sailors.

The spokesman said this was the first time a navy craft was hit by such a sea mine explosion though such undersea mines had been detected earlier off Mullaitivu. However the LTTE claimed that it had mounted a suicide attack on the Navy’s Dvora killing 14 sailors and losing three Black Sea Tigers in the attack. But, the Navy disputed the LTTE version. (See Situation Report by Iqbal Athas on Page 5 for more details.)

Meanwhile heavy clashes erupted between the Army and the LTTE in Pirmanalankulam in the Mannar district. The military said they killed 15 LTTE cadres and lost two soldiers while capturing one square kilometre in the area. At least 11 soldiers were also injured. Meanwhile heavy clashes erupted between the Army and the LTTE in areas southeast of Adampan, Mannar.

A military spokesman said last night 22 LTTE cadres and four soldiers were killed in the clashes. At least 26 LTTE cadres and 16 soldiers were also injured in the clahses, he said. He said the troops overran eight LTTE bunker defences in the area.

A multi-pronged assault on LTTE territory was launched at 4.45 a.m. yesterday morning with the advancing troops directing heavy artillery and mortar fire at LTTE positions, the military spokesman said. He said LTTE cadres had run back to their defence lines in the Wanni. Reports from the Nagarkovil area last night said heavy fighting was taking place in the area with both sides firing heavy artillery.

Earlier in the day, the Defence Ministry said seven LTTE cadres were killed in clashes with the troops in the Muhamalai and Nagarkoivl areas. The security forces suffered no casualties, the ministry said.

FAC under sea mine attack

A locally built Fast Attack Craft (FAC) of the Navy came under a sea mine attack off Kokilai in the North-Eastern waters around 2.25 a.m. yesterday, Navy spokesperson Commander D. K. P. Dassanayake said.

Commander Dassanayake told the Sunday Observer that the Fast Attack Craft was caught in a LTTE sea mine while it was engaged in a routine sea patrol along with another FAC off Kokilai in the North-Eastern waters around 2.25 a.m. yesterday.

“The second FAC which was in the vicinity rushed to the scene and rescued six sailors including the skipper of the vessel when the explosion occurred. Sixteen sailors were on board at the time the FAC came under attack.

A search for the other ten sailors is being carried out by Navy vessels,” Commander Dassanayake said.

Locally built fast Attack Craft caught in an explosion

One locally built fast Attack craft out the two on routine patrol off Nayaru caught in an explosion in the wee hours today early morning around 2.00am, Sri Lanka Navy sources said.

According to the Navy, “the boat being caught in the explosion started to take in water making it difficult for the crew to manoeuvre it to safe area. The impending consequence was unavoidable peril leaving the crew with no alternative other than abandoning the craft. Then they got onto life rafts and started drifting. Six members of the crew have thereafter been rescued by other boats. A search operation is still underway.”

It is suspected that LTTE had unscrupulously laid sea mines in a bid of avenge due repeated losses in the recent past.

Meanwhile, fleeing from un-liberated area in Vedithalthievu, a family of five members consisting of 35 years old father, 32 years old mother, 12 years old eldest son, 05 year old son and the 01 year old youngest son sought refuge of the Navy by arriving at the Fishing Marshalling point at Pallimunai in Mannar, around 7.00 AM today (22Mrach), according to Navy sources.

The family, in desperate hopes of living condition in the un-cleared areas due to atrocities perpetrated by LTTE cadres and forced conscription, arrived on locally made boat known as Wallam fitted with 9.9 horse power outboard motor, even risking their lives.


Read Full Post »


Last week Sayant Khongton locked up his small grocery store for the last time. An unknown man on a motorcycle gunned down Khongton, who was also a local police officer, as he walked out the front door of his shop in the southern Thai town of Yala. He became the latest victim in a shadowy six-week campaign of murderous attacks against soldiers, police officers and other symbols of authority in Thailand’s underdeveloped, Muslim-dominated south. No one seems to know who’s behind it. “Take your pick,” says one police intelligence official. “Disgruntled Muslims, separatists, foreign Islamic terrorists–you could make a case against any of them.”

Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s uber-confident prime minister, took office three years ago promising to resolve decades of anger and perceived injustice among the south’s 1.8 million Muslims within his first three months in office. But since the violence erupted on Jan. 4, when dozens of gunmen simultaneously attacked a military camp and torched three police posts and 17 local schools in Narathiwat province, it’s clear the situation in the south has gone from bad to worse. Not only have the attacks on police and military units continued, but there now appear to be retribution killings of Muslims as well. And Thaksin’s heavy-handed pursuit of the perpetrators has many southerners feeling like targets.

Within hours of the Jan. 4 attacks, parts of Narathiwat and the majority-Muslim provinces of Yala and Pattani were under martial law. Thousands of Army soldiers and special forces have poured into the region. Authorities have arrested Muslim clerics on suspicion of murder, while soldiers have raided Islamic schools looking for weapons and suspects.

Thai intelligence sources say that a separatist group–or groups–numbering no more than a few hundred people is probably responsible for the death and destruction, which has claimed at least 15 lives. Clearly the Muslim community could be a vital ally in Bangkok’s hunt for the militants. But so far all Thaksin’s dragnet seems to be doing is alienating them. “Could going into [Islamic] schools with [trained] dogs, not taking off your shoes and arresting teachers be counterproductive?” one Western diplomat asks rhetorically. “Yes.”

It’s no surprise that Thailand’s southern Muslims view the government’s troops with some resentment. The Muslim community believes that it has been neglected for decades by a succession of Thai governments, which at most have taken a half-hearted interest in the southern provinces’ economic development. The monthly household income in Narathiwat is half the national average and infant mortality rates in the three southern provinces are as much as 40 percent higher than the rest of the country’s. “Without real human-resource development, these people will not have real opportunities,” says Surin Pitsuwan, a former foreign minister and prominent Muslim figure. “They have to feel they belong.”

If anything, the military’s brute force may be fueling sympathy for the militants. Instead of denouncing the attacks on soldiers, Muslim leaders are decrying Bangkok’s jackboot tactics. They also claim that the Thai government bears responsibility for the spate of retribution murders and kidnappings of Muslims–crimes that authorities allegedly aren’t pursuing with equal vigor. “The local people are living in fear,” says Nimur Makache, deputy head of the Islamic Yala Council. Their anger runs so deep that last week the Yala council, as well as its sister Islamic committees in Pattani and Narathiwat, temporarily broke off communication with the central government. “[The government] needs to be very careful,” warns Pitsuwan.

But Thaksin, who took direct control over the southern operations from his deputy last week, must also move quickly. Thai intelligence sources say that both homegrown and foreign terrorist groups have seriously stepped up their recruitment of young Thais. Their pitch: it’s far more honorable to work toward the creation of a Muslim state than to be loyal to a government that never cared for you in the first place. In response, the Thai Army is considering running a mandatory “patriotic youth” program for young Muslim men to promote nationalism. “We respect Islam,” says Lt. Gen. Jhumpol Munmhy, director of the National Intelligence Agency, “but we must say to them that… you can’t think about separatism.” It won’t matter what the message is, though, if the audience doesn’t trust the messenger.


Read Full Post »

Pooneryn defence complex until November 1993 overlooked the Jaffna/Kilaly lagoon and proved to be the nemesis for Tamil Tigers’ free movement/logistics activities. It also proved to be a hindrance for Tamil Tiger radio traffic between Wanni mainland and the Jaffna peninsula which, barring the PALAY/KKS HSZ, was under complete control of the Tamil Tigers. This was the primary reason for Operation Thavalai (frog) to take place to overwhelm this isolated defence complex. The secondary reason was to use the same T-59I 130mm howitzers the SLA used to shell the Tamil Tiger dominated Jaffna peninsula, for their own targets, i.e PALALY/KKS HSZ and any other target that falls within in its range spectrum.

Since the fall of the base the Tamil Tigers have put this sector to good use. The POONERYN sector has been used as a crucial launching pad for its sea tigers during its many assaults on Jaffna islets and during its failed Jaffna offensive of 2006. It is also being used as pointed out above to disrupt air traffic of PALAY base and for possible decapitation strikes against SLA top brass.

Out of these, intermittent shelling disrupting the vital air bridge and possible decapitation strikes against military top rungs are the main concerns springing from this sector for the SLA. There is much debate over over how to neutralise the howitzers in this sector especially among the lay public.

The first option is to use air recon and vector in the Kfir/MIG27 for air interdiction. During the Tamil Tigers’ failed 2006 Jaffna offensive, heavy 130mm barrages were directed at the PALAY and KKS bases to cut off the air and naval bridge linking the Jaffna peninsula to the Southern mainland. During this period an AN32B transporter was used as bait to lure the Tamil Tigers to fire the two 130mm howitzers positioned at K-point while Beech B200T SIGINT was on a recon mission loitering above. Soon as the firing began the Beech picked up the heat signature through its FLIR sensors. Two Kfirs were scrambled on the 19th of August 2006 and successfully destroyed the two howitzers. Since this strike the Tamil Tigers have used their remaining howitzers sparingly and intermittently using a network of underground bunkers/tunnels to avoid detection. This is quite a similar tactic employed by Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi’s Japanese during its siege of Iwo Jima during WWII. It was Iwo Jima that Japanese heavy artillery were concealed in massive chambers reinforced by steel doors built inside Mount Suribachi, to keep off projectiles from American bombardment.

The second option is to occupy the land and push back/capture the howitzers putting PALAY /KKS beyond its 27Km range. With troops currently operating in and around the Mannar rice bowl 54Kms South, the sole option for occupying the land is to insert troops in via the sea or air. With the POONERYN sector’s geography being a mirror of the MUHAMALE/NAGARKOVIL/PALLAI sector the same reasons I explained earlier on should SLA make a move on EPS applies here.

The land again is open and barren with little or no cover for any troops that would have landed in attempting to secure the beach head. The open stretch of land further necessitates the need for the armoured cavalry, which again needs to be brought in from mechanized landers. For it to be successful at least 100 such units are necessary and the deployment has to be in real quick time (Bear in mind that landing crafts of SLN can achieve only a max of 20 knots) to drive home the element of surprise and to ensure the beach head remains out of Tamil Tiger mortar range. Also worth to note is that the Tamil Tigers had positioned cadres loyal to its former political head specifically to defend this sector. Which means one should expect significant amount of defence along this coast making the need for armour ever more important since it involves breaking a fortified line.

However, what can be done is to reduce the defence in depth the Tamil Tigers possess in this sector. A small example:

The independent brigade led by late Brigadier (then Colonel) Percy Fernando landing at the Eastern coast of Jaffna to capture the jetty during Riviresa II. This landing took place while 532 brigade was moving from the ground towards Jaffna East and Air Mobile brigade had landed to secure the Jaffna fort. In this instance the Tamil Tigers were deprived the defence in depth for the simple fact that their defences was thinned out and just weren’t able to muster any anti-amphibious defences.

It is very easy to fall into the trap when planning an assault from sea. It is not just a case of getting troops to a coastal belt but also getting the troops to cross the shoreline and enter the hinterland. It is no good performing an assault via sea merely based on maritime supremacy. You need to break out and achieve the overall objective that led to the assault in the first place.

The battle planners must be 100% certain why the landing is being undertaken and what the immediate aims are. They must know what troops will face, not just enemy’s strengths and possible reinforcements, but also the terrain of the target area and local factors such as tides, beach conditions and mud flats which might impact on the landings. The importance of such intelligence was magnified during the successful landing of Incheon during the Korean war when “Trudy Jackson” led by Eugene Clark relayed detailed intelligence on enemy defences, sea tide ranges, whether the beach could hold assault vehicles back to General Macarthur. On the other end stands the battle of Dieppe where the lack of intelligence led to the allied armour being stuck on the soft pebbled beach.

After having sufficient intelligence the landing takes place followed by the lodgement phase to secure the beach head for swift reinforcements and supplies.

Once the intelligence is in place they must consider the approach to the target beach head. The sea crossing could be just a few miles from surrounding islets or all the way from KKS with full naval supremacy in place. Prior to the landing the enemy defence must be softened up and breached. Troops must have the right equipment to proceed from sea to land while under fire. Subsequent to the landing lodgement phase begins to secure the beach head against counter attack and to ensure vital reinforcements and supplies start flowing swiftly and smoothly. Finally the troops must break out from the beach head and begin the next stage of the overall battleplan. It is critical to remember that assault from sea is rarely a battleplan just in itself. It is intended to be part of a larger military campaign.

Soon after lodgement troops need to break out to move to the next stage of the battleplan to avoid being pinned down.

To conclude, the failed operation Thrivida Pahara to relieve a besieged MULATIVU base in July 1996 can be brought up to show the importance of achieving the aforementioned objectives during a coastal assault battleplan. A coastal assault was the only way to reinforce the besieged base since it lies in close proximity to the shoreline. Special forces were airlifted from Trincomalee under the leadership of Lt. Col Fazly Laphir to secure a suitable beach head for troops that were just dispatched from KKS. These troops were also carrying vital supplies and were 20 miles away from the target shoreline. Due to heavy guerilla resistance the Special forces team were forced to make a landing 5Km South of MULATIVU at ALAMPIL. From there the team had to track North amidst heavy resistance. The all important naval supremacy for the reinforcing troops failed to exist due to Tamil Tiger sea wing and its homicide wing. One of the homicide boats managed to ram itself against the Shanghai class FGB SLNS Ranaviru killing 36 sailors on board. Due to heavy resistance the naval task force managed their landing only 3 days later and reached the base 7 days later since the raid, which by then the time frame to achieve the overall objective – relieving the siege on MULATIVU with vital supplies – had long gone.

Like General Macarthur General Holland Smith, and Lt. Gen Kobbekaduwa (Operation Balavegaya), get the tricky coastal assault right and you secure a stepping stone to ultimate victory. Get it wrong and you achieve massive loss of life, political and military disaster.

This is by no means to say the Pooneryn sector is not earmarked. The A32 is a very good prospect and is ideal as a MSR from ILLUPAIKADUWAI, POONERYN to Jaffna across the Sangupiddy ferry till the A9 is liberated from OMANTHAI to MUHAMALE. Unlike the A9 the A32 route needs to be defended from only one flank (East), which is a major advantage.

Only time will tell…


Read Full Post »