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Archive for April 29th, 2008

Two decades after it booted the soldiers of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) out of the country, Sri Lanka is preparing to unveil a memorial near its Parliament for Indian soldiers killed battling the LTTE the web site Sify.com reported.The names of around 1,500 men, almost all of them from the Indian Army, are to be etched on black marble and topped by an eternal flame as part of a long-pending project now being executed by the Sri Lanka Navy.

It will be the first memorial dedicated to the Indian soldier outside India.

Final touches are being given to the memorial and it will be ready to be declared open on May 22 or when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes to Sri Lanka for the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) summit this summer. The IPKF was deployed in Sri Lanka’s northeast following a July 1987 bi-lateral peace pact aimed at ending

Tamil separatism. But the troops ended up fighting the LTTE from October that year, losing nearly 1,200 men until the last of the soldiers left Sri Lanka in March 1990. Nearly 2,800 men were also wounded, many were maimed for life.

The roll of honour at the memorial, which will bear India’s National Emblem and will include names of Indian paramilitary forces, taking the total to some 1,500.

Before the IPKF saga ended, it was accused of killing large numbers of LTTE guerrillas as well as Tamils civilians in a bruising war that earned the force the derisive name “Innocent People Killing Force”.

For years, many in the Indian military have groused that Sri Lanka had not even bothered to acknowledge the role of Indian troops who died at the hands of the LTTE.

Work at the memorial began about six months ago and will be ready in another two weeks.

The military officer added that most Sri Lankans now appreciated the role played by the IPKF. But when its members were dying, it came in the firing line of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists who said its presence undermined their country’s sovereignty.

Lt Gen. Ashok Mehta, who served with the IPKF in the island nation’s east, said the memorial had been talked of for years but various excuses had been put forward regarding the delay in its construction.

(more…)

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Sri Lankans are surprised by an Indian newspaper report that India is to give Sri Lanka a loan of US$100 million to purchase arms to fight the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Most officials and defense writers here were unaware of the deal, and many doubted the veracity of the report. But the Sri Lankan Tamils said that, if the report was correct, it would mean that New Delhi had well and truly decided to help the Sri Lankan government commit “genocide” against them.

“I can’t say anything about this because I don’t know,” said Foreign Secretary Dr Palitha Kohona, when his comment was sought.

“However, I don’t think India is supplying weapons to Sri Lanka. It is supplying from some defense systems and provides training,” Kohona told this website’s newspaper.

Veteran defense correspondent of The Sunday Times, Iqbal Athas, said he was not aware of any such deal. The defense correspondent of The Island daily, Shamindra Ferdinando, said he doubted the veracity of the report as India would not give money to Sri Lanka to buy weapons from another country.

“If India wants to send arms it will do so on deferred payment basis. At any rate, such things will not be done in the glare of publicity,” Ferdinando said.

However, a possibility exists that some kind of arms aid is being planned, and that it was leaked to the media by an Indian insider opposed to the deal, he said.

Ferdinando recalled an earlier incident in which Indian intelligence had tipped off a newspaper about an elaborate list of arms the Sri Lankans were planning to buy from Pakistan.

“The idea was to pre-empt the purchase,” he said.

For Sri Lankan Tamils who support the LTTE, the report of India’s US$100 million aid to enable cash-strapped Sri Lanka buy more weapons, is further proof that New Delhi is brazenly assisting the Sri Lankan government prosecute the war against the Tamils and crush them politically.

“If the report is correct, then the Tamils and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which represents them, cannot but conclude that New Delhi is actively assisting the Sri Lankan government to commit genocide against them,” said Suresh Premachandran, a TNA MP from Jaffna district.

“India thinks that it can safeguard and promote its economic interests in the Tamil areas of north-east Sri Lanka by helping the Sri Lankan government crush the Tamils militarily. Since this is being done ignoring the plight of the Tamils there, they will not welcome Indian investments in their midst,” he warned.

Premachandran pointed out that the Indian government had agreed to locate the 500 MW coal-fired power plant in Sampur, in Trincomalee district, without caring for the fate of the 17,000 Tamils from 23 villages, who were uprooted by the Sri Lankan military operations in 2006-2007, and are still languishing in refugee camps and other places outside Sampur.

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A 81 mm mortar shell, fixed to a time device was detected and later defused at the Galgamuwa bus terminal yesterday morning during the rush hour, days after the LTTE exploded a powerful parcel bomb in Piliyandala.

The time bomb weighing at least seven kilos was in a parcel, when a commuter noticed it and informed the police.

Galgamuwa Police inspector, W.G.M. Chandrasiri said he and a Police party went to the spot and discovered the bomb. “I initially noticed it was a time bomb and immediately evacuated the people and defused the wire disconnecting the bomb,” who himself had experience defusing bombs when he was in the Special Task Force few years ago.

“The 81 mm mortar shell converted into a bomb, set to detonate at 7.40 a.m., but an alerted civilian had thwarted it by informing us before it exploded,” the OIC said.

After the incident, they had launched a cordon and search operation to check all long distance buses and the area with security personnel.

Meanwhile, military sources said this was the first time such a type of bomb was recovered from cleared areas.

The government asked the public to be more vigilant in the wake of the Piliyandala bomb blast.

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