Archive for June 25th, 2008

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Counterstrike is an integral part of war; get it right and it can reverse the course of a conflict and save the homeland, get it wrong and it can mean a quick defeat. Counterstrike has been the preferred battleplan of aggressive commanders who finds themselves fighting on their own territory. Such battleplans are littered throughout history – Robert E Lee in Virginia in the mid 1860s, Napoleon towards the end of his career while defending France are some of them.

The first and classic example of a counterstrike in the 20th century: the Battle of Tanenburgh

The plan for a counterstrike implies that you know the enemy is going to attack which relies on intelligence. The importance of intelligence was seen in the 20th century’s first and classic example of counterstrike; the battle of Tanenburgh on the eastern front during WWI. In September 1914 the Germans faced their greatest fear; a war on 2 fronts against France and the allies on the west and Russia from the east. The German battle plan relied on intelligence estimates that Russia will be slow to mobilise. But Russia mobilised 2 large armies in just 2 weeks. They advanced into the German eastern province of Prussia in a pincer movement threatening to cut off the single German army left to defend the region. The combined strength of the Russians amounted to 375000 men vastly outnumbering the Germans. The German intelligence misreading of the situation put their country in huge peril. But they made good of their blunder by an extraordinary intelligence cue, they intercepted a message from the General of the northern Russian army saying he can do nothing to support any action of that in the south. Even though they are still vastly outnumbered this new intelligence gave the confidence to the Germans that they could use the full force to destroy the Russian southern army without fear of attack.  Germany’s great WW1 leadership team Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff had picked off the opportunity to take on the Russian southern army on its own. They moved quickly one core of their small army South by railway to take up positions on the west flank of the advancing Russians. A 2nd core was moved to the North East of the Russian advance. The Russians were totally unaware of these moves. Then the Germans struck. One core slashed across the Russian rear while the 2nd pushed down to link up and squeeze the Russians back. The threat to Germany’s eastern border, thus ended.

As much as intelligence holds the key to a successful counterstrike, so is one’s force strength – translated in military terms as force ratio which is your strength compared to that of the enemy. The strength is calculated not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of factors such as sophistication of equipment, training and morale. The importance of force ratio is clearly seen in Joseph Stalin’s counter strike against Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. Even though Stalin held sufficient intelligence on the impending German offensive towards Russia, Stalin decided against a pre-emptive strike or a counterstrike once the Operation Barbarossa had crossed the Russian Eastern border. It was at the earliest stages of the operation the Germans at their weakest. If the Soviets were going to launch a counterstrike it had to be in those early stages. But the Soviets opt not to. In just over 2 weeks the panzers cut more than 300 miles into the Soviet Union opening up the routes to Leningrad, Stalingrad and Moscow. With the soviet winter fast approaching by December the Germans were just 19 miles off Moscow with the golden towers of the Kremlin within their sights. The main reason behind Stalin’s decision to withhold any counterstrike in defence was he did not meet the required force ratio to meet the German challenge. In 1930s Stalin had wreaked massive purges in the red army. Before he can do anything to confront Hitler he had to build up his army again. Further, at outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 both Hitler and Stalin shared the same fear; war on 2 fronts. In Hitler’s case it was war against the allies at the west and the Soviet union to the East. For Stalin and his generals it was Hitler on their western border and against Japan on their eastern. They cannot throw all its forces against operation Barbarossa because they have to keep an substantial force in the east to cover a possible attack by Japan. So in the summer of 1941 as the Germans moved deeper into the Soviet Union the balance of force ratio at the west is beginning to shift in Germany’s favour. It is at this stage the Russian spy in Japan Dr. Richard Sorge passes on the intelligence Stalin had been waiting for. Sorge confirmed Japan will go to war, not north and west towards Russia as Stalin feared but South and East giving Stalin the opportunity to mobilise his 40 Eastern and Siberian Divisions to the West to meet the German threat thus meeting his requirement of force ratio for a successful counterstrike.

The land that eluded Jayasikurui

When Operation Jayasikurui was inching ahead along the A9 with heavy casualties the Tamil Tigers prior to recommencing their ceaseless waves series of attacks, carried out a series of six devastating counterattacks on SLA defences. These operations were less known since they did not involve holding land, but to incur maximum damage to the foe and to stall the main advance and drive the focus of the battleplanners away from their main objective.

The first of the series came on the 9th of June 1997 where the Yearlong Jayasikurui campaign began – Vavuniya’s THANDIKULAM entry/exit point and NOCHCHIMODAI defences- while 55 and 53 were on the verge of an all-important link-up at PULIYANKULAM. Karuna and 600 of his men/women stormed the defences flank West from 3 points between THANDIKULAM and KOKKUVELIYA cutting off 55 from its rear support base. They held onto a 3Km stretch between NOCHCHIMODDAI to THANDIKULAM for one whole day. It was not until Wednesday when troops backed by commandos managed to link up the lost stretch of the A9. The casualties added up to over 200.

The second counter offensive came on the 24th of June. This time the offensive broke through the Eastern flank of the 55 division at PANNIKANIRAVI isolating 551 from the rest of the Division. Simultaneously to this attack, the Tamil Tigers struck at PERIYAMADU to pin down the 53 division thus preventing it from sending reinforcements to the 55 Division. Since the two divisions were yet to link up at PULIYANKULAM, the Tamil Tigers exploited the gap between the two divisions to manoeuvre its fighting units to strike the Eastern flank of 55 despite 53 positioned on a wider eastern flank to 55. The Tamil Tigers who breached the Eastern flank then went onto breach the Western flank to make their exit, leaving a trail of destruction. Casualties on this occasion added to over 100. The third counter strike saw defences between PULIYANKULAM and OMANTHAI fall on 1st of August 1997 leaving over 70 casualties. By this stage, the Jayasikurui campaign was yet to bring PULIYANKULAM under its control.

By September the commanders realised on how futile it has been to strike PULIYANKULAM head on. Instead they decided to make 55 bypass the town and emerge at the A9 North of the town linking up with 53 in the process. By doing so it would envelope the town cutting off supplies. Towards the end of September 55 achieved its objective by holding a small stretch of the A9 just North of PULIYANKULAM. However, as planned 53 failed to link up due to the 4th Counter offensive by the Tamil Tigers. 53 came under attack at KARAPPAKKUTTI – North East of PULIYANKULAM leaving over 50 casualties. With this set back 53 continued their thrust on a wider flank encompassing PULIYANKULAM and cutting off supply routes from MULLATIVU to PULIYANKULAM.  While one column of troops were moving parallel to the A9 at KARUPPUKUTTI, 53 were moving ahead from NAINAMADU towards KARUPPADDAMURIPPU. This was the setting for the 5th Counterstrike that took place on the 5th of October 1997. 533 commando brigade and 552 both came under fire at South of KARUPPADDAMURIPPU. This initial strike was a diversion to the main strike that took place further South of KARUPPADDAMURIPPU at KARUPPUKKUTTI and SINNA ADAMPAN. Fighting continued for 3 days and as before, caused the troops positioned South of KARUPPADDAMURIPPU to be isolated from the supporting columns further South. The casualties were over 50 on this occasion with a huge haul of military hardware falling into guerilla hands including the air conditioned mobile command post (MCP) of GOC 53 division.

The 6th Counter strike came on the 4th of December barely 3 weeks after the Jayasikurui campaign finally managed to capture PULIYANKULAM (on the 14th of November 1997). Troops broke out of PUTUR and moved towards the strategic MANKULAM junction/town. The strike took place at KANAKARAYANKULAM just North of PULIYANKULAM that led to over 140 casualties mostly of which were commandos.

The big hallmark of each of these counterstrikes has been the extensive use of mortar/artillery fire to support the forward columns of the Tamil Tigers. The intelligence estimates suggested by 1997 the Tamil Tigers had extensive stocks of shells for 81mm and 120mm calibre mortar/artillery. The 81mm were mostly courtesy of the 32400 mortars it managed to divert from Zimbabwe Defence Industries, while the Mulativu defence complex housed over 6000 120mm shells when it was over run in 1996. This is in addition to the regular shipments it received during the same period continuing onto 2000. In addition to the vast volumes of indirect fire, the primary reason for SLA’s failure during these years has been its inability to counter/suppress such fire. One such contribution towards this inability has been the lack of sufficient platforms in SLAF’s arsenal. By the year 2000 SLAF were in possession of only 5 Kfir C2 aircraft with only two combat worthy. More effective ground attacking platforms such as the Kfir C7 and the MIG27Ms saw service within the SLAF only in July 2000. In addition to superior platforms SLAF have also been strengthening its array of available munitions particularly to target large numbers of loose formations of combatants. Prior to 2000 SLAF only used unguided low drag iron bombs and unguided rockets on such loose formations/waves which is very ineffective.

When SLAF for the last 6 years have slowly increasing its capabilities to counter mass waves of Tamil Tigers and its support fire, so has the SLA with almost triple the amount of artillery assets and fire locating radars than it previously had during the late 1990s and early 2000. The most notable of the additional assets has been the RM-70 MBRL with its superior rate of fire it can suppress enemy fire and movement for a considerable period. The lack of any successful military campaign since the capture of EPS in early 2000 especially the battles to capture Jaffna in September 2000 and August 2006 speaks great volumes of the effectiveness of the new fire power of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The other dimension to the Tamil Tiger failure on such a counterattack has been its lack of leadership and SLA’s pursuit of eliminating key Tamil Tiger field operatives. Not all commanders have the ability to lanch a counterattack battleplan. As much as a commander that leads an offensive into enemy territory needs to be dynamic and bold, the commander who launches the counter strike needs to be even more dynamic and even more bolder often because he himself has just suffered a defeat and he’s just got to take on an enemy that’s just won a victory and exploit a certain success that might not be eagerly apparent to him. What he needs to do is to move quickly, he needs to be fast and above all, he needs to throw caution to the wind. With the Tamil Tigers losing its premier commanders with the likes of renegade Karuna, Balraj, Charles, Thamil Chelvan etc it is unlikely that the replacements will be able to emulate and deliver the same dynamic bold feats and charisma of these late commanders.

The Sri Lankan armed forces with its multi-pronged approach to Wanni since the liberation of the Eastern province has surely put the pressure on Tamil Tiger battleplanners to turn the tide in its favour. With no successful offensive since the year 2000 Ceaseless Waves III coming forth and with three bloody noses – twice in Jaffna (2000 and 2006), once in MUTHOOR/TRINCOMALEE in 2006 – the onus is on the Tamil Tigers to fulfil the aspirations of its ever dwindling Diaspora support base. Only time will tell…

(The Long Ranger)

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With Task Force 2 officially launching their first mission in the Wanni operation on the 17th of this month, there are now 5 divisions of the SLA laying the siege to Wanni from the southern border. The first offensive mounted by the Task Force 2 (TF2) was a success; the attack on the LTTE frontline on Mundirippu left 7 LTTE cadres dead where 2 bodies of slain cadres were recovered. Two brigades of the 61 division have also been deployed to battlefield.

The Special Task Force (STF) was able to arrest the leader of a credit card scam (identified as Nesanayagam Muruganayam) in Wellawatte last week. The suspect has confessed to have earned more than Rs 500 million from credit card fraud, of which the majority of the money was ‘donated’ to the LTTE. After the STF made the bust, the investigations were handed over to the CID. However the future of these investigation is not clear as suspect’s links with several senior police officers in Mount Lavinia and Moratuwa have been found. There senior officers are allegedly discouraging the progress of the investigations. As we reported earlier, corruption on the part of  some high ranking police officials in Mount Lavinia and Moratuwa has only made LTTE operations in Colombo easier.

Meanwhile another senior LTTE operative was arrested in Colombo last week. This individual, who was once a director of the Film Corporation, is suspected to be a key figure behind all major LTTE bombings in Colombo in the recent past. Several more arrests were made following his confession, of which more details cannot be posted as of yet.

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On this my first visit to what has now come to be known as the Tamil homeland of Canada, I have been in for many surprises. Some strange guys rule the roost especially in Scarborough, Toronto with terror threat generated from Wanni. Canadian bureaucrats, for too long a time, thought this was one of the features of Tamil culture. In multicultural Canada anything strange and peculiar can also be seen as cultural norms and therefore have to be accepted and protected.

Some Canadian politicians too love the adoration they receive as the superior beings, the Anglo-Saxon angels and saints. It is said a Federal Member of Parliament of Greek origin is often seen in fancy clothes adorned with kumkum and sandal paste in some temples along with his Tamil hangers-on. He must be loving all that adulation. People I have met had wondered whether for those hangers-on the deity comes first or this clown.

So much so even an American lawyer is in town convinced the Canadian Tamil community is a mine that could be dug further for diamonds. He parades as the current Anglo-Saxon deity. Even temple premises are being opened to him and with his arrival the term “Fund Raising” has assumed a dimension. There is nothing faint about Bruce Fein that is the lawyer’s name. In the US, attorneys are popularly known as ambulance chasers and they will seek clients by any means they could design.

It is unfortunate many great intellectuals of the Tamil community have been killed by the very forces that are seeking some humdrum Anglo-Saxons to take up their cases.  Bruce Fein may have impressed some suckers through the smart guys of the community that he can bring the curtains down on President Rajapakse and his brothers. While this will be a dream that can never be realized, how will this help to solve the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka? Why cannot some of the Tamil lawyers in Toronto take up this issue instead of most of them doing hardly any court work but spending their time largely with guys who buy and sell houses?

Raising funds in the name of the LTTE is firmly entrenched in Ontario; may be in other provinces too. Though most people are against it yet many support it through fear. The community is being held in ransom. There are many homes that keep their curtains closed especially during the weekends. Children have been told not to open them or even answer the telephone or the door bell. They have had enough of the callers at the door who have long ceased to be polite collectors of funds.

They arrive at the door like tax collectors of a tyrant kingdom and their demands are precise and particular and are also told about the consequences of not paying up. The Canadian Tamil community is treated as vassalage of the guy living in the hole in Wanni or whatever power that is running this evil contraption. The Fund Raisers have been told by the Wanni authority to pay a certain sum of money to them by the end of the year. Whatever they collect over and above that, they could keep for themselves. Many of these collectors have mansions mostly in the Markham municipality and live in utter splendour. Brand new white vehicles, almost always an SUV is the symbol of their arrogant authority. In Sri Lanka too this is the much feared vehicle today.

Some of these fund raisers are paid commissions ranging from 10 to 30 percent and their gas bills are met as well. They are allowed to have vadai, valaipalam and coffee whenever they needed refreshments. Some order packed breakfast from a popular Take-Away in Scarborough that venerates the man from Wanni on par with Lord Muruga; even Lord Ganesha has to accept that demeaned stature. Lord Kandasamy’s seat in Toronto is used as the under cover hub of the LTTE public activities and that was where, the new Anglo-Saxon deity called his durbar the other day,

Word has it that a Mr Sakthi Sangary now metamorphosed as Gary Sangary is splitting angry that the World Tamil Movement has been banned in Canada. This was the guy who cried foul when the Human Rights Report was published and shouted at the author, “How dare you?” and earned for him the forename for life “How dare you Sangary?” Name change is very much on his track. When he applied for a university loan he was Sakthi Sangary! There are many interpretations as to why he Anglicized his first name to Gary. But this is a small matter even if he has gained a few dollars as a result. Some Toronto Tamil guys seem ashamed of the names given to them by their parents and have opted for the Anglo-Saxon types. Nathan has become Neighthan! What a miserable horse laugh!
The Grand Tigers of Canada, apologies to the Grand Masons, are “How dare you” Sangary and Mr Poopalapillai alias Pillaivarl wanted in Batticaloa by his clients who inquired from him about immigration to Canada by the second route. Sangary thinks with Bruce Fein by his side, even God has to support him. It is understood regular worshippers at Canada Kandasamy Koil are concerned that some weird guy may even propose the temple till boxes should also be taken over by the Tiger fund raisers.  But then the temple itself is being run by the LTTE having seized it some years ago from a committee from the public.

In the meantime, a popular story is having its rounds here in Toronto and also in Sydney, Australia. The LTTE hierarchy in Australia in collusion with their Toronto counterparts invited the well known Carnatic music artiste Pon Suntharalingam and his daughter to perform a vocal concert in Australia to raise funds for the LTTE or WTM. What does it matter LTTE or WTM; they are same just like the four-footers whether they are from Bengal or Siberia. The gentleman that he is, he obliged but the cads they are, they left him high and dry in respect of travel fare and even hospitality in Australia. He is now down at least by $5,000 hard earned by him as a teacher of Carnatic music.
The aging head of the World Tamil Movement in Canada, Sitha Sittampalam, now that he is without a job and also faces certain dire consequences, seems confident that the ban against the WTM will be lifted and if not, the courts of the land could be directed to lift it. His hopes have been placed heavily on Bruce Fein which will also stimulate further the fund raising tactics of the LTTE.

What is so tragic about the Tamil community is that they have not the confidence to search for answers themselves. They have for too long a time come to believe that only the Anglo-Saxons can lead them, a bad habit they evidently learnt in Malaysia and promoted it in Jaffna when they returned soon after the war. Walk into any court in Toronto and one will see the spectacle of Anglo-Saxon lawyers appearing for Tamils and yet Toronto has many Tamil lawyers.

The Tamil cause must have a Tamil mind, a Tamil spirit and a Tamil vision and this has not yet dawned on the largest Tamil community outside Sri Lanka even if Tamils from Tamilnadu are included in this count. A spirit of nationhood must be founded on our own culture that is rooted through generations over hundreds of years. What is prevailing in Canada among the Tamils is a kind of shallow fad culture dictated by over-enthusiastic profit for the self at any cost motivation.

Even the deities – Hindu and Christian – have been pressed into this pursuit, for so numerous are the places of worship. One of my contacts told me that all the deities from Jaffna are now in Toronto and the priests who serve them are millionaires. Every summer astrologers and readers of the future known as kandam experts from South India visit Toronto and raise fortunes for themselves. Since many people are regularly consulting psychiatrists and also the priests to help ward off evil spirits, one guy is planning to bring a “Devil Chaser” to Toronto. Whether he would apply to Immigration Canada for an entertainer or an exorcist is yet to be seen but certainly he has a better chance as a cultural entertainer of a sort.

Amidst all these, US lawyer Bruce Fein keeps good company and the common factor here is all about raising funds, and the LTTE backers and others feel they need Anglo-Saxons, kandam readers and devil chasers. Canada is a revelation and from my seat in Colombo after my Wanni term I could not have been able to analyze what really ticks life in Toronto for the Tamils without experiencing it myself even if it was only for a few days.

(Sri Lanka Watch)

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