The Sri Lankan Army advancing towards Kilinochchi in the Northern Province, where the headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) used to be located, and the LTTE cadres deployed for slowing down the advance have been engaged in a do or die battle since October 17, 2008.
2. While claiming that it continues to maintain its advance despite bad weather, the Sri Lankan Army has admitted that it has already suffered 33 fatalities in the latest phase of the battle that started on October 17 and has been brought to a temporary halt due to rains. In an attempt to explain the slowing down of the operations, the Sri Lankan Army has accused the LTTE of using poisonous gas against the troops.
3. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also indirectly admitted the slowing down of the operations. The “Daily News” of Sri Lanka has quoted him as saying at a function of the National Research Council at Colombo on October 20, 2008, as follows: “The battle against terrorism which we could convincingly win within a few days, is nevertheless prolonged due to the grave concern and the optimum caution exercised by the highly disciplined Armed Forces who are fighting under severe constraints, to cause no harm or loss to innocent, civilian human life.”
4. Thus, while the Army has attributed the slowing down to the alleged use of poisonous gas by the LTTE, the President has attributed it to the Army’s anxiety to avoid civilian casualties.
5. Intriguingly for the last one week, the pro-LTTE web site http://www.tamilnet.com, which used to give battle front news in the past, has not done so. One would have expected it to highlight the Army’s admission of having sustained 33 fatalities. It has not done so. For more than a week now, the Tamilnet has been giving mostly political news regarding developments in Tamil Nadu in support of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause and activities of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora abroad. If at all it gives operational news, it is generally about the Eastern Province.
6. While http://www.puthinam.com, a pro-LTTE Tamil web site, continues to give battlefield news, Tamilnet has not been doing so. The only news about the latest round of fighting is to be found in the web site of Puthinam, which claims that the LTTE inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing army.
7. Why the silence of Tamilnet? One has to look for an answer to this question as the fighting continues.
(South Asia Analysis Group)