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Archive for June 29th, 2008

“We lack road, water, and housing facilities. Our children are unable to attend school regularly as there is no proper transport service. We don’t have any facility and leading the same life even now as same as 18 years ago”.

This is a cry of an Internally Displaced single mother from Jaffna, A. Shahula who chewed betel and shared her agony. She is living with her two kids in Saltern 2 welfare camp in Puttlam.

Most of them are still leading their lives in welfare camps, and lack the normal living standard of a person. A large number of internally displaced persons from Jaffna are living in Thillaiyady, which is called “Little Jaffna”. These Internally Displaced Persons feel that, there is a discrimination between the Internally Displaced Persons from Jaffna and Mannar. They are frustrated about the long delay in distribution of services and goods.

The People’s Revival Front was inaugurated in order to fulfill the needs of the IDPs, who languish in the welfare cam[s for nearly two decades. They say that, they have been cheated by the politicians, and they want a political representation for the Internally Displaced Persons from Jaffna.

“Our people have lost many of their rights. We want to make a difference in their lives and restore their rights. We like to resettle them back in their own places and solve their hardships. These are the main reasons for us to start a new political party. Starting a new  party was a long due, we must have started this party 10 or 15 years ago” says M. M. Kuthoos, the President of People’s Revival Front as a call for prayer was called in the evening.

There were 20,000 Muslims, who got evicted from Jaffna district in 1990. The number and the needs have doubled during  nearly two decades. There are about 15,000 registered voters among the Jaffna Internally Displaced Persons in Puttlam.

The part of the trouble that has developed in Puttlam is between the IDPs and the host community, there aren’t enough jobs and resources for both.

“We are living with a lot of hardships in the welfare camps. There is no job opportunity, rations are not given at regular intervals. We receive the rations after four or five months” lamented S. H. Mansoor, who is running a small grocery shop adjoining his thatched house in Saltern 2 camp.

The members of the host community in Puttlam believe that, the beginning of a new party such as People’s Revival Front is a good move to meet the needs of the Internally Displaced Persons.

“When the minority political parties contest along with the majority political parties, there are injustices such as poll rigging” said  S.R.M.Muzammil, the Chief Trustee of Puttlam Grand Mosque and a member of the host community as her relaxes and supervises in his coconut grove.

Internally Displaced Persons are hopeful that the People’s Revival Party will be able to solve their problems in the future. According to the President of the People’s Revival Front that, they are planning to register it in the near future.

Puttlam is situated on the coastal belt of North Western Province. According to a survey carried out by the District Secretariat of Puttlam, the total population of the district is 8,14,000. Sinhala population is 5,85,000, Muslim population is 1,49,000, and Tamil population is 80,000. There are currently 75,000 Internally Displaced Persons from Northern Province in Puttlam.

(Ground Views)

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French charity Action Against Hunger (ACF) has began to approach international donors to Sri Lanka to establish an international inquiry into the killing of 17 of its local staffers in Muttur in August 2006, ACF officials in France said.

France, it is learned has already come out in support of the initiative.

Head, ACF communications, Lucile Grosjean told The Sunday Leader that coinciding with the launch of a new campaign over the Muttur murders on June 17, the organisation had first made its appeal to France.

“As the event on the 17th was the official launching of the campaign aimed at obtaining an international inquiry, ACF requests the support of France, European Union, Co-chairs of the Tokyo conference at this specific moment. We decided to go step by step asking first for the support of France,” she said adding that the French government had reacted positively. “As requested by ACF, we are going to explore with our international partners the possibility of setting up an international commission of inquiry,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in Paris on June 17 according to transcripts made available by the French Foreign Ministry.

Grosjean however said that the organsisation had only received the French response and was however not aware as to how the other countries would react to the idea of an international inquiry.

France will be taking over as the head of the European Union on July 1 and incidentally Kouchner was an original member of the International Independent Eminent Group of Persons (IIEGP) that was set up to assist the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry. He resigned when he was appointed as the Foreign Minister of the Nicolas Sarkozy administration. The IIEGP pulled out of Sri Lanka in March that was followed by ACF that had maintained a single member presence in the country to handle the matters relating to the COI proceedings on the Muttur massacre.

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A government official was killed in a roadside claymore mine attack in northern Sri Lanka as at least 41 rebels and two soldiers were killed in fighting in northern Sri Lanka.

The government officer, an assistant government agent identified as Nagalingam Nanthakumuar, 36, was killed in Thunukkai, Mullaitivu, 350 kilometres north east of the capital when his motorcycle was targeted in the attack, the government agent fo the district, Emilda Sukumar said.

The pro-rebel Tamilnet website said the Sri Lanka army’s deep penetration unit had carried out the attack which took place in a rebel-controlled area, but the military denied the allegation.

On Saturday fighting was reported from four areas in the Wanni district, more than 240 kilometres north of the capital, military officials said.

In one of the incidents in the Vavuniya area, 20 rebels were killed and 13 others were wounded, as security forces confronted pockets of rebels while advancing into rebel-held areas, they said.

Two soldiers were killed in the same clash, the military said.

In Mannar, located in north-western Sri Lanka, seven rebels were killed and three more wounded. In the Welioya area in the north-east, 14 more rebels were killed on Saturday, military officials added.

Government troops have vowed to recapture rebel-held areas in the north before the end of the year.

(Monsters & Critics)

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A confident Janaka Perera, UNP’s chief ministerial candidate for the North Central Province (NCP), claims that he is a reluctant politician, but one who is willing to serve his country in any way he is called upon to do.

In an , Gen. Janaka Perera said that he considers the opportunity to run for political office to be an extension of the service he rendered, first as a military officer, and then as a diplomat.

A former army chief of staff and a decorated officer, Perera said that if elected, he would consider it his top priority to ensure security of the NCP, a province under threat and to improve educational standards.

Commenting on the war effort, he said it was impractical to give deadlines but noted, if the government’s claim of 5,000 LTTE cadres killed is true, it is a worthy achievement. Calling for the elimination of terrorism, he said the political question still has to be settled through negotiated peace and those who advocate peace should not be labelled as traitors.

As for the government’s call to probe the massacre of 600 policemen by Karuna in 1990, he said the newly elected Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, Pillayan, should also be made to stand trial. Excerpts:

Q: You have decided to run for the chief minister’s post in the North Central Province (NCP) under the UNP. What prompted you to take this decision?

A: The reason is that I have always worked in the east, the north and also the North Central Province during my days in the army. I was involved also in the developmental work of these areas.

Take Weli Oya for example. It is the northern most outpost from Anuradhapura. I built Weli Oya from a refugee camp status to what it later became. That took two years. That work began in 1986.

In two years, I built irrigation tanks, constructed canals, roads, hospitals and schools. I helped the people to rebuild their lives completely. It was pleasurable work.

I helped them rebuild their homes and significantly, built a grama arakshaka force as well as teachers from within the area.

Weli Oya became a vibrant area then. So I understand the predicament of the NCP which is buffered between the north and the east.

The needs of the NCP are the same. The threat is the same. In 1995, when the LTTE attacked Weli Oya, if I had failed in that battle, the threat would have come directly on Padaviya, Kebethigollewa and Horowapathana.

Then in 1999, when Mannar was about to fall after the fall of the Wanni, I once again went on the instructions of the commander of the army. I stabilised along with the troops there. I restructured the place to prevent a further fall.

If Mannar had fallen in November 1999, the threat would have come to Thanthirimale and Medawachchiya. Then, Anuradhapura would have gone. There had been systematic attacks on Anuradhapura like the Sri Maha Bodhi attack and the nasty attack on the airbase. These things do show that security is of paramount importance to the NCP.

Then in 1998, when I was in charge of Polonnaruwa, Minneriya, Hingurakkogoda, Batticaloa and Ampara, I transformed the guard battalions and the grama arakshakas into fighting units to stop the incursions of the LTTE to Dimbulagala, Welikanda and the surrounding areas.

So to me it is nothing new. I have been doing developmental work, been building tanks and culverts and helping people to get back on their feet.

Today, NCP has a huge education related problem. Then there is the need for the restoration of irrigation facilities and the need for better healthcare. There is many a burning problem.

I initially had no interest in entering politics. But the government decided to dissolve the NCP and the UNP invited me to run as the chief ministerial candidate. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to go back and serve the people in an area close to my heart.

Q: The UNP is accused by its detractors of compromising national security especially during the 2002-2004 period. How can you be identified with such a political outfit?

A: Some people accuse the UNP of doing that. There are pluses and negatives in that peace process. The undeniable plus is that Karuna Amman broke ranks because he got exposed to the international facilities and to the sophistication the outside world holds. That brought about the change and it was beneficial to the Sri Lankan state.

The negative point is that the period was used by the LTTE to smuggle in things and they consolidated their position.

Like everything else, this too can be argued in both ways.

As for my joining the UNP, all I can say is that the general belief is that terrorism needs a hard answer and must be eradicated. Both the President and the Opposition Leader are of the view that there should be a political solution to the conflict. So there is no conflict of interest here. My stance has always been the same.

Q: Are you confident that it is the UNP that holds the answers to the twin crises faced by the country – on the security and economic fronts?

A: On the security front, if eventually a UNP government were to be formed, I will be in charge of defence and security. I know how to handle it. There are two aspects to security. One is national security to ensure that sovereignty and territorial integrity are safeguarded. The other is personal security or the security of the individual.

With my experience, I am very confidant that not just in the NCP, but also the country could be made secure. I bring in a reservoir of experience which I can put to good use.

As far as the economic front goes, I think we need a strong economy to develop and even to sustain the war effort.

The Malaysian concept was that one needed a strong economy to ensure strong security. Because security does cost a lot. These are interrelated.

Q: Why did you decide to enter politics from the NCP? Is there some significance?

A: As I said earlier, because of my experience in Weli Oya and the sudden opportunity provided when the government dissolved the NCP made me take this decision.

Q: How conscious are you of the security threats to you during the campaign?

A: I am conscious of the threat because the LTTE will definitely want to target me due to the intense damage I have caused them in the many battles and campaigns. They will never forgive me for the ferocity with which I have waged war.

There will also be other interested parties who also wish to harm me. I have taken some precautions. There is a large number of people from the ex-services who have rallied round me. I have requested security from the government as the chief ministerial candidate of a democratic political party as well as a General who is under threat from the LTTE. With these two factors combined, I am confident that whatever threats could be marginalised or minimised.

Q: The war no doubt will emerge as a high priority in this election with the government using it as its main plank with the people. How do you seek to counter this?

A: There is nothing to counter. Everyone is of the view that the war must be properly executed and the LTTE must be defeated. As much as the government says it, so will I. After all, I am someone with a proven track record. I have always believed in the theory of maximising the LTTE causalities and in minimising our own. I engaged in battles based on that principle.

To me, the most important thing is minimising our battle casualties when in combat. Our wealth as well as the strength remains the soldier, sailor, airman, policeman and the grama arakshaka. And it is the duty of everyone to look into the welfare of their families for they are fighting for the country at great risk.

Q: What is your assessment of the progress made of the war so far, considering the fact that the government claims it has killed 5000 LTTE cadres to date?

A: If the government claim is true, it is a very good thing. But without knowing the details, it is difficult to comment. If I am given an opportunity by the government to make a proper assessment, then I can make a proper comment.

Q: There are conflicting reports on the real progress made on the ground with some experts stating that the government is claiming to capture territory that has either been captured much earlier or areas abandoned long years ago, with the One Four Base cited as an example. As a decorated officer who has commanded troops in the north and the east, what is your view on this?

A: As regards the One Four Base, I think it was in 1991 under our hero, late Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa, that we launched an operation coded as, Operation Thunder Strike to capture One Four Base.

This base, before and after the IPKF, was the command area and command complex of Pirapaharan. It was called so because it contained 14 bases. The main base, command base, logistics base and satellite bases including the training bases.

The 14 bases came, I believe, because Pirapaharan believes in numerology. But we went in, fought for some 31 days and destroyed that base. I was the task force commander and Gen. Sarath Fonseka was my second in command.

After that, according to my knowledge, they shifted. Because once that base was destroyed, the LTTE knew that we had the knowledge and the ability to breakthrough their satellite camps and get in. They shifted I believe to Kilinochchi or towards Oddusudan if I recall right.

I am of the belief that the One Four Base is now jungle because it was completely destroyed. Of course there maybe some structural remnants. I don’t think it was rebuilt. I personally don’t think it would have been a command complex, they would have wanted the structures again put in place for that also lay between Janakapura and Gajabapura, closer to the Sinhala settlements though located in the Nitikakulam jungle.

Q: Various time tables have been given for the conclusion of the war effort with the latest being December 2008. At the risk of being called a traitor despite your long years of service, is this feasible?

A: The shifting of the goal post I really cannot understand. If it is a particular battle, when the LTTE attacked Weli Oya, I never said we would finish it off in so many man-hours. You simply fight till the last bullet is fired.

If you are doing a campaign, you continue till the objective is achieved. To my knowledge and experience, giving timetables is not feasible.

For example, when the Allied Forces carried out their campaigns in World War II, they did not give a timetable but simply went on till the war was won. Even in Afghanistan and in Iraq I don’t think there is any mention of timetables. They are doing their best to achieve their objectives.

Instead of announcing timetables, I believe that is a much better way to conduct a military campaign.

Q: We find battle hardened decorated officers who faced the LTTE head on advocating negotiated peace. On the other hand there are some armchair critics and ‘patriots’ overseas and in Colombo who claim that the LTTE can be defeated militarily and there is no need for a political solution. Do you think this is realistic? If not, why?

A: Until and unless we bring the LTTE to a state of disarming, I don’t think peace can be achieved in real terms. I do believe that terrorism must be given an equally strong response. The need to eliminate the LTTE is in the minds of everyone.

But it needs to be understood that this cause has erupted due to reasons and feelings within the Tamil community over political rights. The President and the Opposition Leader are both committed to negotiated peace. That position has not altered and there is no dispute there.

Just look at Northern Ireland. Eventually they had to reach a political settlement. Look at Mizoram and Nagaland in India or Mindanao in the Philippines. The recent most examples emerged from Nepal when Maoists were brought into the mainstream. Eventually all these conflicts reach a political stage and are settled through political means.

Q: Would you, as an officer who has fought the LTTE tooth and nail call those who advocate a peaceful dialogue as traitors. If not, why?

A: Certainly not. People are entitled to their own views and calling for peace should not lead to tagging anyone.

Q: The government has called for a probe into the massacre of 600 policemen by Karuna Amman in 1990. Do you think this inquiry is timely or politically motivated?

A: The July 1990 massacre was a gruesome one. But it is important to remember that the two people who led the massacre were Karuna Amman and Pillayan, no less. If the government is serious about this, then the newly appointed chief minister of the Eastern Province should be made to stand trial as well. There cannot be any other way.

Q: At the time you were fighting the LTTE in the north and the JVP in the south, incumbent President Mahinda Rajapakse as a human rights defender in 1990 went to Geneva and campaigned for the linking of aid to human rights and urged the international community to build pressure to respect human rights. Do you think it compromised your war effort? Was Rajapakse a traitor then, for doing so?

A: He was a champion of human rights and fundamental rights. He was then known for that and that was his strength.

In any case, in a democratic country, human rights and fundamental rights are very important. Why do we carry out battles? That too is carried out to neutralise or destroy the people who are dabbling in terror in a bid to restore democracy and the freedoms and rights of the people.

Q: There is a lot of heat generated over the reporting on the war effort. With the Defence Ministry going so far as to say that those who criticise it are traitors. Do you also feel that the media, civil society and the political parties in the country should not question the government’s war efforts even if there are questionable military procurements and battlefield losses?

A: My approach was always different. Even after the battle for Weli Oya where we destroyed the biggest ever number of LTTE cadres in one battle, 503 in number, certain media personnel were brought in by the government. They freely photographed the battlefield.

When we were stabilising the east in the 1992-1993 period, media personnel had free access to Tharavikulam, Napthavillu, Kadiravelu and all the camps. Some articles commended our effort while some picked holes.

Even when we were fighting to save Jaffna and there were such prophets of doom, the then Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera asked me whether he could send a batch of journalists to cover the war effort from the very fields of war. Not only did he send local journalists there were many foreign correspondents too.

The war effort was given wide coverage by the group of journalists and they asked some hard questions. They kept on asking me that ‘you are the only one who says that Jaffna can be saved and the Unceasing Waves can be turned back.’ They actually did a surgical questioning of my strategy and my concepts. We had no problem with that.

I also can recall that during the UNP administration and much later during President Kumaratunga’s time, when Iqbal Athas was threatened for writing disparaging articles against an army commander and a SLAF commander, the government took a strong stand, those who committed the offence were investigated and the matter was brought to justice.

Media freedom is something that is part of the freedoms we are bound to ensure, however, it does not mean that they can do anything and everything.

Just to give you a small example, when I was high commissioner designate to Australia, a tabloid paper published an article on me calling me a ‘war criminal.’ There was an outright attempt to criminalise my victories secured on behalf of this country. All I did was to simply call and speak to them. I also supported my claims with facts and figures. After that, it stopped.

Q: What would you describe as ‘military secrets’ that would compromise national security and the war effort?

A: Military secrets are a few. If you are purchasing a highly technical and a sophisticated weapon and that gets exposed, then it gives an advantage to the enemy. Or if a major offensive or a secret deep penetration operation is being planned and they get exposed, then the security of the operation as well as those who are taking part in the mission are compromised. That should never be allowed.

However, when a battle is over and the dust has settled on what was waged, there is no secret in that. It is then an event that had already taken place and what is our problem if someone analyses it?

In fact I can recall that in 1991 with the Operation Thunder Strike Gen. Kobbekaduwa sent a media person who stayed with us right throughout the operation. Not just the Thunder Strike, during the many phases of the Riviresa Operation there were media teams.

Q: Did they have free access?

A: Yes, they were in the front line with us. What better access would a journalist want but to see it with his own eyes and report? We allowed that.

Q: Would not the failure to point out mistakes in strategy and to question military procurements of a dubious nature by the media in fact amount to actual treachery and strengthen the hands of the LTTE?

A: It would be a failure on the part of the media not to indulge in constructive criticism. My personal opinion is that journalists should point out shortcomings. Others may have a different take on this but I believe in transparency. Then only can we correct ourselves if we did something wrong to ensure that mistakes are not repeated again. Also, it helps us understand how our military efforts are being assessed by the general public. That’s a positive outcome.

Q: Did you yourself not question the procurement of thermobaric weapons by a former army commander as chief of staff on the basis that it was not considered in the best interests of the military? Did that make you a traitor?

A: It really should not make me a traitor for raising my voice on behalf of the armed forces and the country that we seek to defend.

It is necessary to minimise military expenditure because that’s an important aspect. More important is the minimising of battle casualties.

Even when I was serving the army, I used to do that. After all, we are serving the best interests of the country and our soldiers. It is a huge responsibility. We owe it to ourselves, to the forces and to this country to take well informed decisions.

Q: In fact you reportedly put your views down in writing. Would that make you a traitor?

A: I did because I felt that was required of me. We serve this country with commitment. It is a duty not taken lightly. We understand the responsibility that rides on us.

Q: One of the senior commanders who spearheaded the campaign to militarily capture the east, Major Gen. Parakrama Pannipitiya has challenged his transfer by Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka in the Supreme Court citing numerous instances of harassment he was subjected to. It then became a public document. The Defence Ministry says that one should not question transfers or appointments. Does this render Maj. Gen. Pannipitiya also a traitor?

A: That would be absurd to call a hero a traitor but I think nobody did so.

Let’s get to the core issue. Why did this officer go public? What happened to him? Obviously, the chain of appeal failed within the military structure. He went before the Supreme Court because he had a serious grievance.

When it becomes a court document, there is no confidentiality and it becomes a public document. What is placed in the public domain will be treated as such. There should not be a quarrel with that.

Q: How long did you serve the Sri Lanka Army (SLA)?

A: A little over 34 years, close to 35.

Q: Why did you not opt for retirement after 20 years as we learn that it is permissible to do so under military procedure?

A: Because I felt that I ought to serve my country. I joined the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) in 1966. In 1989 I notched 20 years. That’s when I was appointed as a coordinating officer in Weli Oya. At that time I held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

So I took over refugee camps. There were no settlements for me to take over at that time. The LTTE had killed so many and villages were destroyed. It was a huge challenge for me to push the LTTE out of the territory and to help establish civil administration through helping create conditions of normalcy.

I helped people to get back on their feet. I was instrumental in renovating tanks, building bridges, culverts, cleaning up schools and hospitals and even their very homes. It was a very rewarding experience to help them recreate their villages from the rubble.

The army participated in the huge effort to restore infrastructure and to transform refugee camps into settlements yet again.

In 1987 there was turmoil in the south right up to 1990. At the same time, the LTTE once again went on the warpath and heavy operations were launched by the armed forces. Through it all, whatever that I had to do, be it commanding from the front line or helping restore villages or cleaning up culverts, I did all that with dedication. It was my way of serving my country.

In fact, in 1995, I was officiating general officer commanding Five Three Division, the strike division. But because I disagreed with the then minister and the then army commander, when they said the war can be finished in six months, specifically on May 3, 1995 and I disagreed, I was penalised for speaking my mind.

I held the view that we needed to restructure, retain and have a proper strategy and a battle plan. I also said that it would take two to three years to achieve our objective and it was not possible to achieve the same in such a short time.

They continued to rely on the six months deadline and declared that they will bring Pirapaharan’s head to celebrate with champagne in December.

Because I opposed their viewpoint, I was removed and sent to Weli Oya, as a demoted officer to command the Weli Oya brigade which I commanded years ago as a Lt. Col. But despite the demotion and the humiliation, I did not throw in the towel. In any case, that won’t be me. I fight to the very end. To me, it was a cause and a commitment, to my country and my people. That is how I look at life.

Q: Is it a very common practice for soldiers to go on pension after 20 years, considering that they would still be in their 40s?

A: Most people try to serve. If they feel that they don’t have a future beyond that, then they leave. Some people leave due to personal problems.

Some due to the fact that they find the strain far too great to handle. Also, some people leave to better their prospects financially.

I think officers who want to make a better life elsewhere, they leave early rather than be committed for a cause.

Q: If all officers decide to retire after 20 years of service, how would it impact on the army and will it compromise the war on terrorism?

A: There is no need to overemphasise that while a second and third layer are created, the top layer must stay to hold things together. It is not only applicable to the army, but to anything else, when the cream and the seniors leave, that would impact negatively.

Q: Is it an automatic right to retire after 20 years or does it require special dispensation, and if so, by whom?

A: In the army, one can submit papers for retirement at the completion of 20 years. If you are bonded, then you require special dispensation.

The army would then instruct the party to pay part of the bond or pay the amount to secure release. Especially if you go for training courses etc.

Of course one can leave, even prematurely.

Q: If elected as chief minister, what would be your priority issues to be addressed in the NCP?

A: I have two priorities. The first and the foremost is the security of my province. Because the north central lies between the north and the east, it faces unique dangers. The threat can come from anywhere, as it has come in the past.

I want to create a foolproof network amongst the army camps, the police and the grama arakshakas to enhance civilian security. That’s priority number one. From there, a network that could ensure that our people remain safe and their security guaranteed to the best of our ability. We will do our utmost to ensure this happens.

Priority two is to improve the educational system. This is not secondary but as important as the first priority for here we speak about our next generation and their future.

Health agriculture and development come together thereafter.

I have conducted surveys and we find the education standards dipping. For example, we find at the O’Level examination this year, the Anuradhapura results were the worst.

In the fifth standard scholarship examination, the lowest performers were from Vavuniya, next were Trincomalee and Anuradhapura.

This means there is a serious problem where education is concerned. NCP is known as Raja Rata or the land of kings.

If we can’t get our education sorted in the land that ruled this country for so long, then there must be something radically wrong.

Whatever political hue we may belong to, our children’s education is a top priority and there can’t be any compromise on that.

(The Sunday Leader)

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A Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldier was killed while he was engaged in setting up a Claymore mine in Vannearikku’lam in Karaichchi division of Ki’linochchi, Sunday morning around 9:30, Tamileelam police officials in Ki’linochchi said.  The site of the explosion located on Akkaraayan Jeyapuram road.The SLA DPU team that hurriedly withdrew from the area, had left behind the dead body of the SLA soldier, 2 km away from the site of the blast. Police said a bus carrying civilians was approaching the area when the explosion took place.

(Tamil Net)

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Making a major and geographically important breakthrough in the ongoing humanitarian operations to free besieged people in and around MANNAR, valiant troops of the Sri Lanka Army by Sunday (29) afternoon completely brought the “Rice Bowl” that covers so many agriculturally fertile MANTHAI, MANTHOTTAM, ADAMPAN, PALLEKKULI, KURUKKANDALKULAM, VELLANKULAM, VADAKKANDAL, ALANKULAM, ANDANKULAM, MARATTIKANNADI, ALAKADDIVELI, PARAPPAKANDAL, PARAPPAKADATTAN, TENVEDDIYAN, MINUKKULAM, VILAYANKULAM, PAPPAMODDAI and ODDUPPALLAN areas.
Those areas with the famous GIANT TANK (YODHA WEWA) which pumps water to above villages and 153 more small lakes that provides water through irrigational canals are popularly regarded as the MANNAR “RICE BOWL” area for generations.

The entire area that fell to the troops includes about 120 sq km in extent and is considered one of the major victories recorded in the ongoing theatre of operations.

Highly-defended and well-fortified Tiger defences were found in ANDANKULAM, VELLANKULAM, ALANKULAM and KURUVIL village areas.

With the loss of the stretch of about 13 km along the costal line, terrorists are deprived of their access routes for smuggling and other illegal activities.

The capture of about 12 km along the MANNAR – POONARIN main road offers a severe setback to the Tigers in connection with their logistic and other administrative work.

The area recorded the best-ever paddy harvest in the year 1991, but all those fertile paddy-fields had been filled with LTTE bunkers, sand banks, defence lines, and trenches.

The area captured today (29) has not seen any light of development for the last twenty years or so except for tarring of a road that leads to one of the LTTE cemeteries. All the road lamp posts had been demolished and their iron rods had been used by Tiger terrorists for construction of their hideouts, bunkers, etc.

Sri Lanka Air Force with its fighter jets and helicopters lavishly and effectively contributed to the success of these operations that centred on MANNAR ‘Rice Bowl’ throughout the entire period.

Statistics reveal that 2058 Tiger terrorists had been killed and another 1208 injured after the operation for liberation of MANNAR commenced in September 2007.

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Making a major and geographically important breakthrough in the ongoing humanitarian operations to free besieged people in and around MANNAR, valiant troops of the Sri Lanka Army by Sunday (29) afternoon completely brought the “Rice Bowl” that covers so many agriculturally fertile MANTHAI, MANTHOTTAM, ADAMPAN, PALLEKKULI, KURUKKANDALKULAM, VELLANKULAM, VADAKKANDAL, ALANKULAM, ANDANKULAM, MARATTIKANNADI, ALAKADDIVELI, PARAPPAKANDAL, PARAPPAKADATTAN, TENVEDDIYAN, MINUKKULAM, VILAYANKULAM, PAPPAMODDAI and ODDUPPALLAN areas.
Those areas with the famous GIANT TANK (YODHA WEWA) which pumps water to above villages and 153 more small lakes that provides water through irrigational canals are popularly regarded as the MANNAR “RICE BOWL” area for generations.

The entire area that fell to the troops includes about 120 sq km in extent and is considered one of the major victories recorded in the ongoing theatre of operations.

Highly-defended and well-fortified Tiger defences were found in ANDANKULAM, VELLANKULAM, ALANKULAM and KURUVIL village areas.

With the loss of the stretch of about 13 km along the costal line, terrorists are deprived of their access routes for smuggling and other illegal activities.

The capture of about 12 km along the MANNAR – POONARIN main road offers a severe setback to the Tigers in connection with their logistic and other administrative work.

The area recorded the best-ever paddy harvest in the year 1991, but all those fertile paddy-fields had been filled with LTTE bunkers, sand banks, defence lines, and trenches.

The area captured today (29) has not seen any light of development for the last twenty years or so except for tarring of a road that leads to one of the LTTE cemeteries. All the road lamp posts had been demolished and their iron rods had been used by Tiger terrorists for construction of their hideouts, bunkers, etc.

Sri Lanka Air Force with its fighter jets and helicopters lavishly and effectively contributed to the success of these operations that centred on MANNAR ‘Rice Bowl’ throughout the entire period.

Statistics reveal that 2058 Tiger terrorists had been killed and another 1208 injured after the operation for liberation of MANNAR commenced in September 2007.

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Making a major and geographically important breakthrough in the ongoing humanitarian operations to free besieged people in and around MANNAR, valiant troops of the Sri Lanka Army by Sunday (29) afternoon completely brought the “Rice Bowl” that covers so many agriculturally fertile MANTHAI, MANTHOTTAM, ADAMPAN, PALLEKKULI, KURUKKANDALKULAM, VELLANKULAM, VADAKKANDAL, ALANKULAM, ANDANKULAM, MARATTIKANNADI, ALAKADDIVELI, PARAPPAKANDAL, PARAPPAKADATTAN, TENVEDDIYAN, MINUKKULAM, VILAYANKULAM, PAPPAMODDAI and ODDUPPALLAN areas.
Those areas with the famous GIANT TANK (YODHA WEWA) which pumps water to above villages and 153 more small lakes that provides water through irrigational canals are popularly regarded as the MANNAR “RICE BOWL” area for generations.

The entire area that fell to the troops includes about 120 sq km in extent and is considered one of the major victories recorded in the ongoing theatre of operations.

Highly-defended and well-fortified Tiger defences were found in ANDANKULAM, VELLANKULAM, ALANKULAM and KURUVIL village areas.

With the loss of the stretch of about 13 km along the costal line, terrorists are deprived of their access routes for smuggling and other illegal activities.

The capture of about 12 km along the MANNAR – POONARIN main road offers a severe setback to the Tigers in connection with their logistic and other administrative work.

The area recorded the best-ever paddy harvest in the year 1991, but all those fertile paddy-fields had been filled with LTTE bunkers, sand banks, defence lines, and trenches.

The area captured today (29) has not seen any light of development for the last twenty years or so except for tarring of a road that leads to one of the LTTE cemeteries. All the road lamp posts had been demolished and their iron rods had been used by Tiger terrorists for construction of their hideouts, bunkers, etc.

Sri Lanka Air Force with its fighter jets and helicopters lavishly and effectively contributed to the success of these operations that centred on MANNAR ‘Rice Bowl’ throughout the entire period.

Statistics reveal that 2058 Tiger terrorists had been killed and another 1208 injured after the operation for liberation of MANNAR commenced in September 2007.

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Clarification was also sought on a number of related issues concerning the war. Some of these hinged around issues of arms procurement necessary for prosecuting the war further.
India is already unhappy about Sri Lanka turning to countries like China and Pakistan. With the war escalating and expanding, where were the additional armaments coming from and more importantly how was Sri Lanka going to pay for them?

The Bible relates the tale of how three wise men of the east travelled more than 2,000 years ago to Bethlehem and paid homage to the infant Jesus with gifts such as gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In a replay with a twist, ‘three wise men’ of India boarded an Indian Air Force plane in New Delhi and paid a 36 hour visit to Sri Lanka.

The Indian wise men who arrived in Colombo were not seers or sages but experienced, senior bureaucrats from the upper echelons of Indian officialdom.

The Indian trio comprised M.K. Narayanan, the National Security Adviser, P. Shiv Shankar Menon, the Foreign Secretary and R. Vijay Singh, the Defence Secretary.
Narayanan led the delegation, as in terms of protocol the National Security Adviser position is of cabinet rank. Moreover, Narayanan has in recent times become the chief architect of Indian policy towards Sri Lanka.

Consultative visit
It is learnt that the mission itself was undertaken on the initiative of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself. The composition of the special high-level delegation assumed greater significance by the inclusion of Indian Defence Secretary R. Vijay Singh.
Thus, three important spheres – namely defence, foreign policy and national security, etc. – were interlocked on a mutually integrated mission.

The visit by itself was consultative in nature. The objective was to ascertain the exact position of Sri Lanka towards some issues that directly affect India. Through a frank exchange of views with different players, New Delhi hoped to obtain an incisive insight into the direction that Sri Lanka was heading.
In the process of consultative discussions, India once again emphasised through polite discourse some well-intentioned ‘advice’ on relevant issues of mutual concern.

The Indian trinity conducted a series of discussions with several people, including President Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the service chiefs, senior bureaucrats, Tamil political leaders like R. Sampanthan, Arumugam Thondaman, Douglas Devananda, D. Siddharthan and Mano Ganesan, etc.

The important ones, however, were the two meetings with President Rajapaksa, the meeting with the Defence Secretary, the meeting with the TNA Leader R. Sampanthan and the candid discussions with the heads of the armed forces.

Contrary to speculation in sections of the media or assertions made by politicians like Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratne, the Indian ‘trinity’ did not reprimand or order Sri Lanka to do anything.
Gung-ho diplomacy vis-à-vis Sri Lanka as in the days of the Jyothindra Nath Dixit variety is long gone. The Gujral doctrine of asymmetrical reciprocity is also of the past.

While little Lanka continues to remain in the sphere of Indian influence, the new style and approach seems to be that of ‘working around things’ quietly, rather than resorting to the ‘iron hand in velvet glove’ approach or megaphone diplomacy.
The sudden visit was basically of a fact-finding nature, where the Indian trio, through a process of interactive consultations at first hand, sought clarification on a number of important issues of mutual concern.

Security concerns
Chief among these concerns was the security situation in Sri Lanka and whether the climate was conducive for holding the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Colombo from July 29 to August 3, this year.
Of particular importance from an Indian perspective was the safety and security of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There were also political concerns about the violence and its possible impact on Tamil Nadu.

It appears that New Delhi is trying to explore ways and means of encouraging an undeclared de-escalation of hostilities that could bring about a comparative ‘lull’ in the violence before, during and after the SAARC Summit.
This columnist has referred to these issues in greater detail in an article published in The Nation’s sister paper The Bottom Line of June 25.

Apart from the SAARC Summit and ramifications, the Indian trio did try and ascertain firsthand the exact situation about the war and related violence.
Needless to say, there have been torrents of details in sections of the media about the progress of the war. However, in an environment where the free media is muzzled through many ways, greater insight is required from the ‘mouths of horses.’
Thus, to the Indian trio, the series of meetings were avenues to gain clarification and where necessary, amplification of issues. It was also an opportunity to ‘caution and advise’ Colombo about relevant issues in a spirit of benign friendliness.

The Indians were well aware of Sri Lankan sensitivities and avoided treading on toes. Still they did raise a number of pertinent queries, providing much food for thought in the corridors of power in Colombo.
If taken in the correct spirit and adhered to, the Indian ‘advice’ could alter the current course of war even if an ‘end’ is out of the question at this juncture.

Moreover, Colombo could move away from its ‘obsession’ about relying on military means alone to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and adopt a political project to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people.
Top priority was given in the discussions about the real situation regarding the war as opposed to the ‘Jayawewa’ news items in the media. The vivid presentations made by the service chiefs and the candid disclosures made by the frank and forthright Defence Secretary shed much light on actualities rather than optics.

Arms procurement
Clarification was also sought on a number of related issues concerning the war. Some of these hinged around issues of arms procurement necessary for prosecuting the war further.
India is already unhappy about Sri Lanka turning to countries like China and Pakistan. With the war escalating and expanding, where were the additional armaments coming from and more importantly how was Sri Lanka going to pay for them?
These are questions that would strike responsive chords in all patriotic Sri Lankans who love their country. The pseudo-patriots, however, would be miffed.

Several news stories and articles in the media suggest that Colombo is getting ready for a final push towards the Wanni citadel of LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.
This, however, entails heavy logistical input. Does Sri Lanka possess the military assets and resources necessary for such a broad undertaking? If not, how does it hope to close this deficit?

It must be remembered that a major area of concern for India about Sri Lanka during the J.R. Jayewardene regime was its pronounced tilt towards the West. India then feared the forces hostile to India ‘intruding’ into the South Asian neighbourhood under the pretext of helping Sri Lanka combat ‘terrorism.’

Some of the players have changed since then and India itself has shifted policy to the extent of being engaged in strategic partnerships with some nations perceived as the ‘enemy’ then.
Concerns, however, remain and now other perceived threats are there. So it is a legitimate exercise for New Delhi to seek ‘enlightenment’ from its southern neighbour.

A mighty military push would also bring about in its wake a trail of death, destruction and displacement. The inevitable fallout could be an influx of refugees to India. In such a situation does the Sri Lankan Government have contingency plans to deal with the inevitable humanitarian crisis that would surely follow military advancement?

The ‘conquest of the east’ demonstrated a lamentable lack of concern for the humanitarian dimension. Thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) still languish in makeshift camps.
Against that backdrop, the Colombo government must realise that it is responsible for the well-being of its Tamil citizens and act carefully and cautiously in pushing its military agenda. Who better than India to stimulate such thinking?

Tamil national question
There is also an issue of paramount importance that is being ignored in the single-minded pursuit of a military victory.
Let us assume that the LTTE is vanquished and Prabhakaran is killed. Where does that leave the Tamil national question? The LTTE and Prabhakaran are only virulent by-products of the long-festering Tamil problem. A military solution cannot resolve the ‘Tamil’ problem. Only a just political settlement could.

Does the Mahinda Rajapaksa government have a constructive political solution where the legitimate aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils will be accommodated and their long-standing grievances redressed?
It is in this respect that Colombo needs to think ‘beyond or outside the military option’ and also approach the problem politically.
It is here that the newly set-up Eastern Provincial Council (EPC) comes in. India is of the view that the EPC should be allowed to function effectively as a ‘genuine’ unit of devolution.

The Rajapaksa regime has a unique opportunity of demonstrating to the world at large that it has weaned Tamils away from separatism by making a showpiece of the Eastern Province.
Being multiethnic, it can also prove and show the world that all communities in the Island can live in amity, harmony and equality. This, however, requires a visionary, statesmanlike approach. The nation at large must come out of the claustrophobic confines of the Mahinda Chinthanaya.

Enhanced devolution must be provided via statutes and generous financial allocations to the EPC must be made. India will be only too happy to assist and aid the Sri Lankan Government to help make the EPC work.
If these were some of the salient issues transpiring at the high-level discussions, there was also a ray of hope during the visit for the Tamil people.

In the discussions with Tamil National Alliance Leader and Trincomalee District MP Rajavarothayam Sambandan, the question of the north-east merger was raised.
M.K. Narayanan assured Sambandan that it was still not an invalid option and reiterated that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has often gone on record about the importance of a ‘Tamil Linguistic Region.’ The TNA has also been invited to visit New Delhi for further discussions.

Indo-Lanka bi-national seminar
While the focus last week has been on the Indian trio’s visit, there was also another important development that has gone largely unnoticed.
A two-day Indo-Lanka bi-national seminar was organised by the India Centre for South Asian studies based in Chennai on June 18 and 19. The Convenor was Prof. V. Suryanarayanan, former Head of the South and South East Asia Studies Department at the Madras University.

The seminar was on the topic ‘The Deepening Political Crisis of Sri Lanka’ and held at Hotel Savera with around 60 to 75 participants. The Sri Lankan contingent included academics, politicians, peace activists, trade unionists and also representatives from two ‘Hindu’ organisations, namely the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayam Seva Sangh (RSS).
Both the VHP and RSS are aligned to the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) and referred to as being part of the ‘Sangh Parivar.’ It appears that the seminar was a BJP-related effort to delve deep into the deepening Sri Lankan crisis and formulate policy.

Among Indian participants was former Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Narendra Nath Jha. Jha is currently in charge of BJP policy formulation regarding foreign affairs.
Among other distinguished Indian participants were Dr. Chandrashekharan, Dr, Swaminathan and Col. Hariharan (retired).
Chandrashekharan and Swaminathan were the two senior Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) officials who handled the Tamil militant groups in India during the 80s and 90s of the previous century. Hariharan was in charge of military intelligence in Jaffna during the time of the Indian Peace keeping Force (IPKF) in 1987-1990.

All three are keen observers of Sri Lankan politico-military developments and often write informative papers about contemporary issues concerning Sri Lanka.
Among other participants were Ila Ganeshan, the BJP’s Tamil Nadu State Leader and Sugumaran Nambiar, the BJP’s National Treasurer.

Sugumaran is the son of well-known film actor M.N. Nambiar, who acted as ‘villain on screen’ to yesteryear stars like MGR, Sivaji and Gemini Ganesan. The genial Sugumaran Nambiar was the ‘host’ to Lankan participants at the seminar.
The seminar was also remarkable that the usual ‘Sri Lanka experts’ of India, both left-leaning and liberal, were absent. Many participating academics subscribed to the ‘Hindutva’ ideology.

Policy on Sri Lanka
Given the decline of the ruling Congress and ascendancy of the BJP in some recent state-wise elections, there is much optimism that the BJP would form the next government in New Delhi.
The BJP’s Ila Ganesan summed up the mood and also illuminated delegates when he asserted that the BJP was going to form the next government and that this seminar would help formulate policy on Sri Lanka.
After intense confabulations, there was consensus that no formal resolutions be passed but at least two participants told this writer about the general opinion.

There was no military solution for Sri Lanka’s ethnic crisis and only a political solution. Such a settlement could not be between the government and LTTE alone but should embrace all stakeholders.
At the same time no solution is possible without the LTTE and if the LTTE was to be excluded. A durable solution is only possible where all stakeholders, including the LTTE, are included.
During discussions, another point of view which found wide approval was that the LTTE should not be totally defeated or destroyed if a solution is to be reached. It was pointed out that the LTTE was both a ‘terrorist’ and ‘national liberation’ movement.

If the Tigers were to be done away on account of the terrorist dimension, then the other dimension would suffer, it was argued. It is, therefore, clear that the Sri Lankan issue would continue to be of interest and importance in India with the BJP showing greater attention.
If indeed there is regime change in New Delhi when elections occur, it appears that the abiding concern for Sri Lanka could take fresh forms.
This, however, does not diminish the role of the Indian bureaucracy, which continues to keep a ‘benign eye’ on Sri Lanka, regardless of whether overt policy is ‘hands on’ or ‘hands off.’ The Indian trio’s visit demonstrates that very clearly.

Let me conclude with relevant extracts from my earlier article in The Bottom Line:
A wise, humanitarian and statesmanlike approach towards the issue could be that of ushering in a climate of relative peace and violence free atmosphere before, during and after the SAARC Summit.
Given the commitment of the Rajapaksa government to wage relentless war against LTTE ‘terrorism’ and the ferocious determination of the Tigers in resisting it, there is practically no hope at this juncture of the war being called off.

De-escalation of hostilities
What seems feasible is to bring about a gradual ‘de-escalation of hostilities’ by both sides. Again there is little chance of such a ‘de-escalation of hostilities’ being a formal one. It has to be a de facto and not a de jure agreement.
What is in the realm of the possible is that both sides scale down their offensive operations on a staggered basis. If the levels of violence are brought down gradually, the SAARC Summit could take place in a period of lull without mishap.

While the Rajapaksa government would be reluctant to go in for an ‘official’ temporary ceasefire or de-escalation of hostilities, the prospect of an undeclared, unacknowledged scaling down of violence leading to a lull could be something it can live with.
Besides, there is the added incentive of being in the good books of New Delhi and deriving support in withstanding Western pressures.

More importantly, Colombo could stage a summit without any hitch with the Indian Premier attending. It is imperative for President Rajapaksa to don the SAARC leadership mantle smoothly.
If the government is indeed amenable to such a course of action, there is also the need to obtain LTTE consent to adhere to related parameters. Again, only India is capable of prevailing upon the LTTE to agree.

India has cracked down really hard in the recent past in more ways than one. A relaxation by India could be a welcome respite if not a reprieve for the LTTE. Having banned the Tigers, New Delhi cannot deal directly with the LTTE at this point of time. But other connections and back channels are always available.
Firstly, there is Norway, the India-approved facilitator. Secondly, there are Tamil Nadu politicians close to the LTTE and acceptable to Manmohan Singh like Vaiko.

Thirdly, there the unorthodox contact personnel handled by Intelligence agencies like a flamboyant Hindu ‘God man.’ Fourthly, there are also the more senior members of the Tamil National Alliance like Rajavarothayam Sambandan and others.
The meeting with Sampanthan alone in Colombo and the invitation extended for a TNA delegation to visit New Delhi are by themselves significant developments.

If India is able to persuade the warring parties to agree temporarily to an ‘unofficial de-escalation of hostilities,’ and if both sides implement it sincerely, a comparative lull in violence could prevail. This, in turn, could pave the way for the successful staging of the SAARC Summit in Colombo.

Peace process
While it would be premature to speculate now, such a lull could also be the first step on the long road to peace. There is no doubt that the coming days would pose an immense challenge to the diplomatic prowess of Kautilya’s land.

A Sri Lankan peace process that has India’s backing has the greatest chance of success.
Whatever the ultimate result of the Indian trio’s visit, one thing has emerged through the mission very clearly: India will no longer adopt a laidback stance regarding a durable peace in Sri Lanka. While it may not be a visible ‘hands on’ approach, it would not be ‘hands off’ either.
This, then, is a harbinger of good news for all those yearning for a just and durable peace in Sri Lanka.

(Nation)

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The 37th Intake of the Sri Lanka Army’s Elite Special Forces Brigade comprising 308 Special Forces soldiers (and two officers) passed-out at Maduru Oya yesterday in a gallant and action packed day of demonstrations of skill attended by high-ranking officers from the Special Forces and the family members of the men.

The large numbers being attracted to the Special Forces and the fresh influx of soldiers to the unit has moved the Military to form its 4th Special Forces Regiment. 4SF was formed and deployed recently at Maduru Oya comprising 2 Squadrons of 153 men each.

4SF will be a partial Regiment until the end of this year when around 400 more Special Forces are to join the unit. 600 men, including 10 Officers are currently undergoing training. 10 new officers from the SF joined the mother unit following last April’s passing-out.

A Special Forces Regiment of the Sri Lanka Army comprises of 4 Fighting Squadrons (One Battalion) of 153 men each and one Admin. Squadron. This unit draws, by far, the largest number of recruits in recent times.

((Defencewire))

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