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Archive for July, 2009

The Tiger leaders and all important Tigers who bolted from the organisation following the death of their supremo Velupillai Prabakaran, continue to reveal its hitherto hidden secrets.

On July 18, another 25 foot submarine belonging to the Tigers was found at Vellamullavaikkal sea on information given to security forces by a consultant to the Sea Tigers. Named “Kohuwlan 24-2008” and submerged 40 feet deep, the informant himself had dived and recovered it with the aid of a fishing net.

It is suspected that during the heavy fighting between security forces and the Tigers in this area, it could have been the submarine that the Air Force aircraft and army multi-barrel rocket launchers fired at after observing it from the air.

The submarine which could not be discovered by the Navy’s diving team was brought to the surface by this sea Tiger diver.

The intelligence and security men of 56 Division commanded by Brig. Priyantha Napagoda discovered the submarine and an underground tank holding 25,000 litres of petrol in the Anandapuram area. Theepan, the Tiger military leader and more than 600 hard core LTTEers were routed and killed in the same coconut plantation area in April. The plantation had been in use as a sea Tiger storage facility, and it is here these articles had been found. In addition to these, a stock of claymore bombs, along with thermo baric weapons were recovered from this site.

A lot of documents on Tiger informants and those who supported them, were also discovered by the 1st Armoured Intelligence Regiment at Vellamullaivaikal. Those whose names were found in these documents could be taken into custody in the near future.

It has been revealed by a member of Prabakaran’s personal guard, that Tiger military leader Banu died of bleeding through his ears, while hiding in the water, during an artillery attack on the lagoons.

While such information was rolling in, a Tiger colonel who had fled into the jungles after the death of Prabakaran and the rest of the LTTE leadership, came out this week with a white flag and surrendered to the Armed forces at Viswamadhu.

Later this Tiger leader was handed over to the Omanthai police for further investigation, and a lot of information had come out from him. The surrendered Tiger had been identified as “Kanga” one of the leaders of its Jeyanthan unit (Org.No AN 0024), one of its leading unit in the East.

Holding a similar seniority as Karuna Amman in the organisation, he had been in charge of supplies in Batticaloa before 2004. Kanga had moved to the North along with military leader Keerthi and a group of others, during the military assault on the East in 2007. He had been involved to the end with the organisation as a military leader and in charge of supplies in their camps during the Wanni war.

Kanga had been with the organisation for 26 years and in Vellamullaivaikal from the beginning of the final battle until May 16, 2009. Thereafter while on the move towards Batticaloa, his group had got split up, when they came under a military assault. Kanga who got separated from his group had been wandering in the jungles until Wednesday (22) when he decided to surrender to the armed forces.

survived
Until then he had survived on sweet potatoes, bananas, and other fruits and nuts gathered from the jungles. On information received from this Tiger leader more arms and ammunition were expected to be recovered.
It is now being revealed about the higher ups of the LTTE who were responsible for, and other details on the attack on the Anuradhapura Air Force base on October 22, 2007. Much of the information has been elicited from the prime suspect in the attack, identified as Ruben. He was taken into custody by a special police team from Kandy at a refugee camp in Vavuniya.

According to this suspect the LTTE was able to carry out the attack successfully, due to security forces not acting on information they were given by the Mihintale Police Intelligence two months prior to the incident about the route along which the Black Tigers were to advance on for the attack. The OIC Mihintale Police M.S. Mahanama in an intelligence report sent to the provincial intelligence division under DIG North Central on August 21, 2007 had intimated about the impending attack. The report had been prepared by Police Sergeant Priyantha Balasuriya and Police Constable Sanjaya Anuradha Yapa.

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The report mentioned the imminent danger the air force camp faced and the direction from where they would likely strike. The discovery of a group moving around the area dressed in army uniform prompted them to move in the matter, and they found out that the Anuradhapura Air Force Camp, the Kallattewa Army Camp, the Ranasevapura Camp and Gajaba Camp in Saliyapura were to be attacked.

Accordingly they dispatched messages to the relevant points on August 20, 2007 and inquired whether they were conducting night military exercises or operations with troops in these areas making clear the magnitude of the inquiry and requesting immediate reply. The Air Force Camp had informed that they had no such training programmes in that area. That there were groups that were hovering around the area and the fact that there could be the danger of an attack was not taken seriously. Affirming these reports on October 20, 2007 Daniel Appuhamy of Asokapura, Kunchikulama was mysteriously found murdered.

Details of this killing has now been revealed by Ruben. Daniel Appuhamy had gone into the jungle to collect some sticks and had met with a group dressed in Air Force uniforms. The group had been eating and Daniel had approached them striking up a conversation about their meal, and while sitting by their side he had seen some women approaching also dressed in Air Force uniforms, But he had been taken aback when he observed cyanide capsules hanging from their necks. In fear he had tried to get up. Knowing the consequences if they let him go, the Tiger cadres dressed as Air Force troops, killed Daniel Appuhamy.

According Ruben, Daniel Appuhamy had been shot four times in the head and the head had been detached from the body and stuck in a tree hole. The head with gun shots had been severed and hidden to mislead investigations. Ruben has confessed that they had moved via Parasangasweva and from behind the jungles near the Saliyapura camp got into Asokapura, section 11 Kuncikulama, Wijaya weva, and via the jungles of Arankulam weva and crossing the Anuradhapura – Kandy road and going through a roadway near Minister S.M. Chandrasena’s estate, got on to the bund of Nuwara weva and planned the operation. They had moved without any obstruction and unknown to the security forces over this entire route.

The Mihintale Police Intelligence unit’s information of the Tiger presence on this route which was not taken to consideration resulted in the massive attack and the resulting losses have been revealed today with Ruben’s first hand evidence. Although a CID investigation into the attack was conducted, nothing has been done about disregarding the Police warning. Now that everything is coming to light, those responsible for ignoring the Police warning should be found out.

General Sarath Fonseka, the new Chief of Defence Staff, on an invitation by the three commanders of the security forces officially met with them. On Tuesday (21) he met with the Commanders of the Air Force and Navy at their respective headquarters and on Thursday (23) he met Army chief Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya. On that same day the Navy Commander Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasingha also met the Army Commander.

Soon after his appointment the new Army Commander went to the Wanni on 19th and distributed aid to the IDP’s.

(The Nation)

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Reporting from the Mother base of The Hinds

Walk into the hangar of No.09 Attack Helicopter Squadron – a.k.a ‘The Hinds’ – and you are greeted by flying overalls, tech overalls and ‘pin heads’. The strength of the merger of green and shades of blue, keeps the gunships flying and the skies safe. The author, delves into the success of the Squadron and writes, “what mattered were – the ‘who’ in the team, the ‘how’ of the missions, ‘what’ the men thought and of course, the unusual spirit that bonded who, how and what… together.”

The Hinds

No.09 Attack Helicopter Squadron (a.k.a The Hinds) became a reality on 24 November, 1995 with the initiation of Mil Mi-24 “Hind” gunships into Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF). SLAF Base, Hingurakgoda is the proud Mother base of the squadron. The initial ‘No.09’ consisted of three (03) Attack Helicopters and thirty one (31) personnel (Pilots 05, Engineering Crew 26). At present the squadron is made up of fourteen (14) Attack Helicopters and three hundred and six (306) personnel (Pilots 21, Engineering Crew 249 and Air Gunners 36).

The squadron was formed to face the requirement for a dedicated air borne attack formation to support the National Military Strategy focusing on the theatre of conflict in the North of Sri Lanka. This challenge was countered when SLAF decided to procure a battle tested, dedicated attack helicopter platform which assured devastating fire power delivery while flying low. The Russian built Mi-24 also known as the “Devil’s Chariot,” “Flying Tank” and the “Flying Infantry Combat Vehicle” was thus inducted into SLAF. The gunship was heavily armoured and had the capacity to absorb a great deal of battle damage, yet remain operational.

The squadron’s main role focus on Counter Surface Force Operations and limited Counter Air Operations through the following functions: Close Air Support (CAS)/ Battlefield Air Interdiction (BAI), Air Interdiction (AI), Maritime Air Operations, Armed Escort Missions and Air Defence Operations. The squadron’s adaptability to face any demanding situation other than its main functions was illustrated by the special missions they carried out. Some of the special missions carried out by No.09 included – Search and Rescue Missions, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) Rescue Missions, Escort Missions for VVIP/VIP, Troop and cargo transport, Distributing leaflets over enemy area and Security of air corridors for transport aircraft. In recognition of its dedicated service to the Nation, the Squadron was bestowed with Presidential Colours in March, 2009.

Super humans they are not, but human beings with beating hearts. As some like to think they are not immortal; they too, hurt, bleed and die. They are an utterly reliable, dependable and sure-fire team, but not absolutely fail-safe – well, no team ever is. A few missions they carried out were bloody and they lost some of their best men and beloved gunships. Sometimes they slowly flew back to base in their battle damaged machines, cockpits cracked, shoulders wounded and arms bleeding. What is important in war and peace is a squadron’s come-back speed and here ‘Squadron 09’ was amazingly quick. Wounds taken care of, next mission planned, machines fixed, and munition reloaded, they jumped back on board, thumbs up and off they flew again!

The ‘who’ in the team

Successful squadrons cannot be bought nor are they gifted from above. They are the results of hard work, selfless sacrifice, dedicated service and willingness to serve of all team members. From the Commanding Officer (CO) who leads the squadron to the civilian that keeps the hangar and the adjoining offices neat, and everyone in between, pitch in with all they have towards the success of the squadron.

During Eelam War IV, in its excruciatingly tensed environment, the spirit of the squadron in totality played a huge role in its success and in turn contributed immensely towards the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Some would have felt that they were at the brink of their personal limits and about to fail. And if they did? The rest of the squadron would have had to take on their duties, in addition to their own overflowing days and nights. Here was when that spirit came in. One’s failure would add more burdens to the squadron and diminish its success and its glory and in turn affect the total ongoing war. This mental pressure and feeling of personal responsibility drove all to accomplish things they never would otherwise have even attempted.

Developing this spirit is the toughest ‘sortie’ any squadron is expected to execute. It is not created overnight but infused over time – built into its day in and day out activities. As part of No.09’s operations, building a dynamic team occupies a vital position. This results in the growth of a “can-do-no-matter-what” attitude that was behind the success of the squadron and the ability to sustain the ‘spirit of attack!’

The task started with a CO with his head firmly on his shoulders. He believed in not isolating a single man in his squadron. Thinking with his head and feeling with his heart, he had the steely knack to find the right man for the right place and vice versa. The men were given space to develop and the latitude to move. Leading from the front, he let his men grow. This resulted in a squadron full of self satisfied, confident individuals, who knew that the sky was the limit. Next in line are the Officer Commanding-Operations (OC Ops as he is generally called) and Officer Commanding Maintenance (OCM). OC Ops, the ‘live wire’ of the squadron, kept the CO, Officers and men on the same wavelength. Pulling from the front and pushing from behind he took pride in his bonded team and strove to keep it going, before, during and after the operations. The OCM took the entrusted responsibility of keeping the fleet of gunships ‘up and running’ in his stride. These two words implied a gamut of operations and tasks that were interconnected.

A disconnection would have immediately implicated the operational ability and the very existence of the whole squadron and the attack capability of SLAF. The CO, OC Ops and OCM worked with already moulded men who fit into their tasks admirably. The moulding to become a part of an Attack Squadron came, especially for pilots, through a Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI). The training that the QHIs of the Squadron for the past so many years have delivered has brought out this professional squadron of flying infantry – with the spirit and skill to take split second decisions, while flying in the line of fire.

Circumstances threw the team together at different points of time for long durations. So apart from fighting together, this made them live together for weeks at end. This ironed out differences, developed mutual understanding, close relationships and interaction. These very ingredients that made successful, spirited warrior squadrons became available and created a new learning culture within the squadron and this new learning added momentum. The pluses and minuses of missions were earlier discussed in the mission planning room. But as the battles became more fierce and attack squadron’s teams being deployed became more frequent in locations other than the mother base, the post mission feed backs were dissected on the move. As mission after mission was accomplished, relationships within the squadron strengthened, individuals matured and the squadron as a whole became more professional. As the pride of belonging to ‘The Hinds’ grew, the already existing cordial relationships transformed into a deep and long lasting camaraderie that immensely helped the squadron on its way to unprecedented success.

The ‘how’ of the missions

The Hinds never categorized their missions as easy or as tough. Each mission was a mission, performed under tremendous pressure and executed with precision and due gravity. For them no mission was too big or too small. For them a mission was a calling they carry out, not with sporadic bursts of emotion but with a slow and steady committed passion that lasts the lifetime of the mission and before and after. The CO received the mission, with only the targets specified – but not the ‘how’ of the sortie. The ‘how’ of the total operation was planned and pulled off within the squadron and in consultation with others included in the mission. This was where teamwork mattered. The camaraderie developed over a time and the confidence gained through countless successful missions motivated the whole squadron to focus their professionalism towards greater success.

The efficiency in which the ins and outs of the operations were handled during the final stages of the battle was, to say the least, dynamic. There were not many pilots and gunships to have easy manoeuvrability with rosters, it is amazing how the squadron flew that many sorties, with this few gunships and pilots.

How the Squadron amidst a formidable war tempo, managed to sustain the new training and refresher training to produce, for instance, the best attack pilots, was amazing. This is a process geared towards an unusual combination of intellectual, physical and emotional strength. An unclouded judgement, a high rate of IQ, a positive attitude, an excellent memory and a detailed knowledge of hundreds of policies, procedures and systems were some skills required to become a helicopter pilot. Honing these skills and mentally preparing the pilots towards ‘Attack!’ was a gradual transformation. Whetting and sharpening the pilot’s existent skills of manoeuvre, identification and engagement of targets, flying, communicating – all as real time skills- was the challenge that was countered and won by the Attack Squadron. The training process involved real-world, worst-case simulations to produce the most resolute of individuals and a fearless flying infantry.

It was not only the CO, OC Ops, OC Maintenance, the pilots and gunners who bore the brunt of pressure that came with the planning of the mission. The full squadron got activated for each undertaking. Everyone had a vital role to play. Regular checks were done on gun ships at required intervals and when necessary their lives extended. In conventional military flying, a battle damage on an aircraft is enough reason to abandon the mission and transfer the machine to those in tech overalls for a few days. For this squadron, bringing the machine down due to a ‘small’ battle damage was a hindrance towards duty. For them what really mattered were- how ‘small’ the damage was and how ‘soon’ the machine can be up, flying and attacking again. But at no point was the safety of the crew or the gunships compromised due to the urgency of the situation.

There were pilots who willingly flew mission after mission and placed priority on missions, not on free time they had a right for. There were pilots who were on standby at not very ‘happening’ locations breathlessly waiting for that ‘call’ to become airborne and ‘attack’. The squadron had the privilege to have technical personnel, who understood the urgency in ‘ASAP’ (As Soon As Possible). There were instances where, immediately after a mission planning and briefing, pilots sprung on board and had the engines revved, while armament fitters ‘armed’ the machine. There were technicians who made a difference to the total attack efficiency of the squadron. The team was once under pressure due to a malfunctioning of the dispense efficiency of the machines’ rocket system. The technician’s ingenuity proved to be the turning point for the better, when he developed a rocket tester that ensured the system’s efficiency ‘before’ the mission commenced. The missions aimed at destroying the target in the shortest possible time span. Yet, it also included the safety of the men and machines. Bringing men back to base was as important as flying out on sorties.

When the Mi-24 was used excessively in Afghanistan, it was called “The Vulnerable Hind”. In Sri Lanka too, this was the case in the initial stages. However, gradually the squadron made it ‘technologically and operationally’ less vulnerable, but more deadly. After the ground breaking technological advancements made to the machines, the gunships flown by No.09 Attack Helicopter Squadron were considered the world’s most sophisticated Mi – 24.

And ‘what’ the men think

Pilots “We have a great bond to the machine, we go hand in glove! There we were attacking enemy targets using our 2D inputs…but it’s a 3D environment out there and indescribable! We look at our tiny display and the eternally moving TD box (Target Designator) and then we have to dip, flip, sway to avoid enemy fire, focus and engage enemy targets and at the same time communicate with our ‘brother in the sky’ – the co-pilot, who is in the other cockpit and whom we cannot see. We always fly in pairs, so we have to communicate and guide the other machine and the other brothers and also be guided by them. We have been trained and shaped perfectly to fit into this frame of tension, but a lot has to be done with our sixth sense too. At the end of the mission, we fly back to base and we see the triumph and pride in the squadron…then we are ready to fly and attack again…day and night”

Air Gunners

“We are so proud to be part of a war fought against terrorists. To know that we were part of the missions, contributed our maximum towards its success and lived to see the victory from our own eyes is a great privilege. We never felt fear when going on an ‘op,’ and the successes led us to want to be part of more and more missions. Further, we were also part of the planning and briefing sessions. So we knew what and what not to do.”

Technical Staff

“We have immense pride in belonging to this squadron. We work as a team and it is enriching to know that the machine I maintained, the ammunition my colleague fitted and the tester that our technician developed, all were part of the squadron’s success in carrying out its role. Different ammunition is required for different ‘ops’. Sometimes we had to change the configurations many times over, under immense pressure, within a very short time. But our efforts were not wasted.” “Safety, motivation and speed – all are possible with team work. Working with ammunition is hazardous and on the speed we act depends part of the success of the mission. When working in a location other than the mother base, we operate with a minimum crew. So, if we do not operate as a team, no mission can succeed.”

The legend lives on… Reaching a zenith in professionalism and commitment to achieve unprecedented success require unending dedication, an ever burning passion and untiring willingness to serve. For the squadron it was not always ‘smooth flying.’ Similar to their sorties the squadron dipped, surfaced, swayed and flew high. There were triumphs and despair; triumphs in the battlefield and despair in the squadron- when the triumphant did not return. The squadron’s first Commanding Officer, eight other officers and twelve airmen made their supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. The contribution towards the success of the squadron by all such men who defended the Motherland not only with their gunships, their ‘ammo’ and but also with their lives – cannot be ever forgotten. The valour of the men who ‘attacked’, got shot at, flew through enemy fire, triumphed and survived to bring back to base his men and machine too cannot ever be erased or diminished. In another decade a snap shot of the Attack Squadron would doubtless portray different gun ships, different maintenance procedures, different communication equipment and different locations, tactics and strategies. But the ultimate weapon of the squadron – the spirit of attack of the individuals, will be no different than that of today. If what is palpable in the squadron today is anything to go by, it will become stronger, never weaker.


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As the dust settled down after the victory celebrations ended, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced a series of senior appointments connected with armed forces. To call it a shake up would be journalese but that is what it appears to be. All the three chiefs of armed forces were changed, a chief of defence staff (CDS) and a national security advisor were appointed.

The Chief of Defence Staff

General Sarath Fonseka, the military architect of the successful Eelam War IV, was made chief of defence staff. This was not unexpected particularly after the Chief of Defence Staff Act was passed in parliament last month, formalising and defining a loose arrangement that existed earlier. However, the speed with which Gen Fonseka was asked to assume office on July 15, with barely three days notice, was a little surprising.

General Fonseka’s professional skill and leadership provided to the army in the war has increased his national popularity. And probably he has more admirers cutting across party lines than any other political leader at present. He is a man who does not hesitate to say what he feels, mincing no words, whether it is calling Tamil Nadu politicians as jokers (that appears to be his view of politicians as a whole) or declaring that Sri Lanka was for majority population. He is also a man of strong likes and dislikes and has not hesitated to vocalise it. His differences with Admiral Karannagoda, the Naval Chief, are well known. Added to all this, Gen Fonseka’s political ambitions still remain a question mark.

So it is possible that the General’s style and growing public profile were making politicians in power a little uncomfortable. As CDS, General Fonseka would not be in direct control of troops as he would be involved more in providing strategic direction to them. And that should ease the politicians’ discomfort.

In Sri Lanka, Ministry of Defence, Public Security and Law and Order is a powerful one as it controls not only the armed forces, but paramilitary forces, the intelligence apparatus, and the police. (This is somewhat like combining the defence ministry and certain departments of home ministry into one ministry in the Indian government set up: a mind boggling exercise in chaos in Indian conditions!) The newly created Coast Guard adds further muscle to the Ministry. The post of CDS now will be a powerful one as has now been formalised, and made more accountable with clear cut responsibilities through an act of parliament. It provides General Fonseka a strong toehold in the Ministry of Defence and gives him the ability to influence decision making process on defence related issues including policy, procurement, expansion and probably even operational deployment.

According to the CDS Bill published on June 1, the President shall pick the CDS from among the serving chiefs of three services and appoint him for a two-year term; and he can be reappointed for any number of terms. The CDS will function “under the direction, supervision and control of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence.” Thus the chain of command and control of not only the CDS but also the armed forces have now been clearly spelled out.

The CDS’ duties include a whole gamut of tasks connected with providing strategic direction to the armed forces, development of doctrine for joint employment of the armed forces and facilitating the preparation of strategic plans for the armed forces. He also has responsibilities relating to the co-ordination of intelligence within the three services of armed forces. The CDS will also undertake operational assessments to facilitate planning, coordination, and implementation of joint plans in the three services.

The CDS Bill also provides for the establishment of a Committee of the Chief of Defence Staff under the chairmanship of the CDS with the three service chiefs as members. Presumably this committee has been constituted to facilitate the co-ordination of activities between the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence. But tucked in the bill is a significant sentence that says the President has “powers to appoint the Chief of Defence Staff as the Chairman of this Committee.” Does it mean the CDS need not always be chairman of the Committee of the CDS? Only the bureaucracy can explain this.

Army Commander

A comparatively junior officer Maj Gen Jagath Jayasuriya, an armoured corps officer, was appointed Army Commander in the rank of Lt General to succeed General Fonseka. Maj Gen Jayasuriya had served as commander, Security Forces, Wanni with distinction during the Eelam War from 2007 onwards. But what is important is that he superseded eight other seniors to become the new Army Commander. Lt Gen Jayasuriya had a few things going for him to become the chief: apparently he came on top of the Merit Scheme General Fonseka had introduced for promotions (under this scheme which caused some heartburn, promotions are based on battlefield performance and not on mere seniority).

Secondly, Lt Gen Jayasuriya can serve a full term as army chief as he is due to retire only in 2014. The seniors he superseded were either retiring this year or in 2010. With him as the army commander, Gen Fonseka would be able to implement in full his strategic plans for the army under one army chief. It would also indicate that the new army commander enjoys Gen Fonseka’s complete confidence.

With Lt Gen Jayasuriya’s appointment the merit scheme appears to have been accepted as the norm. It has set a clear precedence of performance over riding seniority for selection of senior appointments. While this will undoubtedly improve professionalism, it is going to make officer management within the army more difficult for commanders, particularly in peacetime. Traditionally seniority is an accepted as an essential criterion for promotion in armed forces. And when operational experience does not exist (as it is likely in the coming years in Sri Lanka), the merit scheme could be trivialised to include considerations other than professional excellence.

National Security Advisor

President Rajapaksa pulled yet another surprise with the appointment of the outgoing naval chief Admiral Karannagoda as National Security Advisor (NSA) to the President. Admiral Karannagoda had performed as the naval chief with great professional skill in crippling the LTTE’s logistic fleet which was a key element in winning the war. As he was senior to Gen Fonseka, he would have been the logical choice for the newly created post of CDS. On the other hand as commander of the army, the largest of the three services, Gen Fonseka’s appointment would have been a more logical step.

The admiral’s appointment as NSA has baled out the President from a potentially tricky and embarrassing situation when Gen Fonseka was chosen as the CDS.

As the NSA would be functioning under the President, the scope of his advisory might be broader and cover more areas. However, the NSA’s functions and responsibilities have not yet been formalised. Only when that process comes in place we would know the extent of NSA’s role as a senior member of the national decision making architecture as in India and the U.S.

Significance of the changes

The Sri Lanka government appears to be taking a total re-look at its national security setup. The recent appointments and structural changes in the national security set up would indicate that this process has already started. With the plans of modernization of navy and expansion of the army to a 300,000 strong force afoot, the creation of the post of CDS and appointment of Gen Fonseka as the first CDS are of significance to strategic security of the region. This is likely to be taken note of Sri Lanka’s neighbours and allies as Sri Lanka occupies a ringside seat in Indian Ocean security. A strong Sri Lanka army is of special significance for India’s national security as both the countries have very close relations on many issues including defence.

Sri Lanka armed forces are going through a transitory phase. The army was hastily expanded for the purpose of counter insurgency operations against a formidable insurgent force that had limited conventional warfare capability. Gen Fonseka as the new CDS is in a position to translate his ideas of building what was essentially a counter insurgency force into a regular professional army ready to face other armed forces on equal footing.

According to media reports the the new CDS will have a staff of 300 including seven major generals, one rear admiral, and an air vice marshal. The staff include Chief of Staff, a Director General Joint Planning & Defence Development, Director Joint Intelligence, War Assistant to the CDS, War Secretary to CDS, and Director Research & Development. The names of the new appointees have also been mentioned. The strength of the staff and scope of work indicate that the CDS will be fully functional in his new office. It will soon become clear what will be his priorities, particularly relating to intelligence, joint operations and planning.

The appointment of a NSA, if it is more than an expedience or stop gap arrangement, has the potential to become a powerful post when it is formalized. However, only when that happens, we will be able to assess how the NSA would impact the decision making process of the executive presidency in Sri Lanka, particularly on strategic security issues.

Talking of military appointments, the appointment of Major General GA Chandrasiri, who was Chief of Staff of the Army, as governor of Northern province, has the advantage of rewarding his service without making him army commander. It might be administratively smooth to have a military man as a governor in the province which has a very large number of troops operating. However, from the point of view of normalisation and increasing the security and trust of civilians in the government it is a retrograde step.

(Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90.He is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies. Blog: http://www.colhariharan.org E-mail:colhari@yahoo.com)

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The mastermind behind the LTTE attack on the Anuradhapura Air Base where a number of aircraft were destroyed has been arrested from an IDP camp in Vavuniya, police said.

The suspect had told police that he and 24 LTTE suicide cadres had taken part in the attack on October 22, 2007.

A senior police officer quoted the suspect as saying that he and three others had remained outside the camp to direct operations while the others had moved into the camp in small groups by cutting the barbed wire around the perimeter of the base.

The suspect revealed that he informed the Vanni LTTE headquarters by satellite phone after the groups entered the camp and it was then that the LTTE aircraft were sent to drop bombs into the camp.

He said that on three occasions several LTTE cadres had come with him to the Anuradhapura Air Base to gather information but the residents had not suspected them since they were dressed in uniforms similar to those worn by the military and spoke in Sinhala.

The suspect said his group had stayed in the forest near Nuwara Wewa and had photographed the Base using sophisticated camera equipment and thereafter they had created a model camp in the Vanni using those photographs and carried out mock attacks during their training.

Police said 24 LTTE cadres including 21 Black Tigers had arrived at the Nuwara Wewa Forest ten days prior to the attack and after concealing their weapons had moved about speaking in Sinhala and clad in military-like uniforms to prevent any suspicion among the people in the area.

The arrested mastermind said they had to kill a man who had come into the forest and after having spoken to them in Sinhala became suspicious of them after seeing the cyanide capsules around their necks.

The mastermind identified as Thabo Ruben (26) who hails from Jaffna said 21 LTTE cadres who entered the Base to carry out the attack were killed while he and the three others who were outside had escaped.

Police said he had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel for successfully planning and carrying out the attack and LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakarana had gifted him with a valuable clock with Prabhakarana’s photograph and a heroes award.

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A top Indian terrorism expert has said if Sri Lanka could defeat the LTTE after years of conflict then so can India in its fight against the Maoists rebels, the Tribune reported.Chhattisgarh’s top terrorism expert Brigadier (retd) BK Ponwar has said that despite a recent deadly attack by the Maoists on an Indian police team there is hope the terrorists can be defeated

According to the Tribune the recent defeat of the LTTE in Sri Lanka after a 30-year conflict has raised his hopes. “If Colombo can do it, we can also do it…the Bastar jungles are not that difficult,” he said.

Ponwar is heading Chhattisgarh’s first Counter-Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in north Bastar, 145 km from state capital Raipur. At least, 39 policemen, including the Superintendent of Police Vinod Kumar Choubey, were killed in a gruesome guerrilla attack by the Maoists (commonly called Naxalites) in Rajnandgaon district on July 12.

Maoists have become more offensive in Chhattisgarh as the state police recently breached the “Red Corridor” in its two northern districts, Sarguja and Jashpur, flushing out ‘red rebels’ from there. The “Red Corridor” runs through the dense forest belt from the Nepal border to Andhra Pradesh.

“If one does not follow traffic rules while driving, it may lead to an accident,” said Ponwar emphasising that “similarly, if the police will not follow the basics of jungle warfare, they will continue to meet the same fate as they did on Sunday (July 12)…the policemen had just walked into a booby trap”.

The incident had witnessed the highest-ever casualty that the security forces had suffered in a single day in the three-decade history of Naxal violence in Chhattisgarh. The tragedy has shaken up the police.

(more…)

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When I got entrance to a university to read for my doctorate studies three years back, I thought of accepting the invitation given that in my early life I had failed my A levels. Perhaps now I can make good for this early setback in my life. Pursuing this opportunity I looked backed at my work in British and American multinationals organizations over 15 years including winning a multitude of awards for marketing and business excellence. However, I felt it is my duty to work for the country for a tenth of the salary.

(Sunday Times)

Even though I have worked in some of the most dynamic organizations and managed some of the world’s powerful brands like Dettol, the excitement and challenges that I have faced in the last five years in my public sector life will be memorable. Working at the highest level in office, be it developing export strategy or driving economic growth, I found myself getting stretched to the limit. I also remember one brother in law once saying that until you get tested for honesty you will not know if you are honest and true to his words, I got this exposure and stood the test of time. I was proud of my strong family upbringing.

LTTE on the work table

Coming from a business background in 2006, I was selected by Dr. Palitha Kohona to be part of a broader team in the fight against terrorism and I suddenly found that the daily agenda included countering LTTE strategies. Travelling on military aircrafts became a way of life. Chartering vessels to carry essential goods to Jaffna after the closure of the A9 due to LTTE attacks, staging business exhibitions and trade visits for businessman to Jaffna and defying the LTTE ethos that nothing can stop the economy functioning was the ultimate challenge I have encountered. I remember when eating ice cream one evening in the popular ice cream parlour in Jaffna RIO – a chamber of commerce member in Jaffna pointed to a senior LTTE cadre who had just walked in. I froze but I remembered my father’s words “Pen is mightier than the sword.”

The support I got from the private sector was amazing. We proved to the LTTE and the world that business will continue. There were days I had to travel from the Palaly camp to Jaffna town in an armoured car or the unicorn as the security forces did not want to take a risk as I was seen to be a driver of the Jaffna economy in the eyes of the LTTE.

The adrenaline flow was so strong that I used to take time to pen articles on anti terrorism that got quoted in pro LTTE websites and subsequently a blanket death threat surfaced. Even this did not deter any of us in our efforts as we believed in the motto ‘country before self.’ The fact of the matter was that that LTTE is a banned terrorist organization in over 35 countries and is branded as the most ruthless and brutal force that invented the world’s first human suicide bomb. Beating this organization by the Sri Lankan security forces on their own turf can highlight many powerful lessons to the world. I felt it is my duty to capture some of them and by using data that has been published in interviews and my own analysis.

Lesson 1 – Stay in the game on ground

The Defence Secretary and the Army Commander are proven battle hardy soldiers. Both had survived a suicide attack by the LTTE. The Army commander has been wounded twice in the field which explains the experience he has to direct the troops if required. For instance when the forces were up against earth bunds that the LTTE had erected, he personally instructed the ground forces where to breach it and how to hold territory there after. This earned him the respect to lead not only at the strategic end but operationally too.

The implication to business is that a CEO of today must be in constant contact with those on the field while managing financial aspects like working capital management and new product development. Especially in today’s economic downturn, a CEO must keep moving down to the field level for decision making while working at the top on strategy.

Lesson 2 – Attack the strengths

The great Tsun Tszu advocates ‘attack the vulnerable points.’ However Sri Lanka’s strategy was to attack the most difficult points. For example, it took the army eight months to take Thambapanni which was just four km from the frontlines and many were wodering at that time if the army could actually win the unconventional war that the LTTE was waging. The army leadership did not change course but kept its focus on the bigger plan. The troops finally broke through the lines and created a psychological advantage. The enemy on the other hand became weaker due to this strategic loss.

The implication to business is that if you declare war on a competitor, then attack the key strengths but ensure sure you have adequate resources. I remember when Cloguard toothpaste challenged ‘Signal’ that red and white stripes has no link to the fluoride in toothpaste as one such instance, war was declared on a competitor’s strengths and the challenger brand went on to capture almost a 30% plus market share.

Lesson 3 – Manage the different actors

While the war on the LTTE was in progress, the President personally managed key stakeholders such as India, China and Japan so that global support was garnered. To my mind, this was pivotal to the overall victory. In contrast, between 1987 and 1990, the Sri Lankan army was just closing its net on the LTTE head when there was foreign intervention and the LTTE got away.

The lesson for business is that while the aggressive thrust on the sales front is in play, the key stakeholders like lobby groups, internal public, government and the media has to be managed. If this is not done it can lead to many issues like when a story leaked awhile back that a particular brand of milk powder had been exposed to radio activity and not fit for consumption. I was working in the field at that time and there was chaos at the retail end. Different actors need to be managed very carefully.

Lesson 4 – Pick your men, though unpopular

When the army commander was recently asked by a reporter what the key to the success on ground was, he answered ‘I selected the task force and Brigade commander’s not on seniority but on past capabilities on the battle field because when I was at the battle front, I had the opportunity to observe the performances of the officers. I also selected those officers who had confidence in me.’

The business implication is the same. Pick your team on merit and culture fit. DO NOT LET GO OF A GOOD MAN which is where the problem is when it comes to Voluntary Retirement Schemes (VRS) – the best people leave. A company must be careful when announcing VRS schemes in today’s environment.

Lesson 5 – Single command concept

The army leadership practiced a clear single command leadership of all divisions and task forces that were created so that there was synergy. Separately it was mentioned by the leadership that ‘No Brigade, Battalion or a Division can win a war in isolation and the back up facilities were carefully planned under one leadership.

The implication to business is that total leadership must be on the mantle of a CEO. Especially in today’s business environment where chaos is the order of the day, even a ‘Demand Forecast’ must be personally checked by a CEO. This is a best practice coming out of successful companies. Moreover, having a charged up sales force is not enough if the other departments are equally not charged.

Lesson 6 – Ruthless power

In 1983, Prabhakaran apparently had only 12 cadres with 20 shot guns but by 2006 the LTTE had aircrafts, tanks, submarines, missiles and a brigade of more than 20,000. In 2006 after the Mavil Aru anicut issue that the LTTE created, the army first sharpened its human capital, bolstered the necessary machine power and developed an efficient supply chain efficiency that helped outsmart the enemy on all fronts.

The lesson for business is that before engaging competition, check your resources as against your competitors. The best case in point was when Walls Ice Cream was launched in Sri Lanka, I remember Elephant House went off the media and allowed the bombardment to finish. Then it attacked strategically with ruthless fire power on the media and below the line activity focusing on the ‘home consumption’ segment. Within two years, Walls Ice Cream was history in the business landscape.

Lesson 7 – Get the media behind you

When the war became intense, we saw the strategic moves where all media rallied around the security forces and got the nation’s support. It is called building a visionary community that came from the President downwards.

The implication to business in my view is that conventional advertising will not get you anywhere when you are at war with a competitor unless you mobilize public relations (PR). If strong PR can be generated in addition to formal communication like the Api Wenuven Api’ campaign, you cannot actually make an impact on the consumer.

Lesson 8 – Strong Intelligence gathering

It is a fact that one of the key points to the success of the war was accurate intelligence that key decisions makers received. The Navy was able to sink almost 10 LTTE arms ships due to the information provided by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).

The aerial attack by the Sri Lankan air force that killed S.P. Thamilselvan is another classic example of the importance of intelligence. The business implication is that an effective intelligence mechanism must be in operation with the sales force at its core.

Lesson 9 – Finish to the kill

The final battle started in Villamulvaikkal at 2.57 am when 250 LTTE cadres had formed a ring around Prabhakaran and its top LTTE leaders. The Sri Lankan troops completed its task during that day and completed an initiative that started two years and 10 months back.

The lesson for business is that if you decide to fight the competition then fight to the end. It has to be fought at the sales end, advertising end and at the Managing Director’s table too. One such initiative that I personally know of is Munchee. The company engaged war at all ends and is today the market leader even though the competitor resorted to many negotiations as the LTTE did in the last day of battle.

Lesson 10 – Lead a simple Life

At a recent interview General Sarath Fonseka said that in the last three years he has been in the same place and the only satisfaction was the duties he performed. He was not into eating in five star hotels or living in large houses and he wants to continue that same life.

The implication to business is that it is not the cufflinks one wears or the flashy car one drives but it is the sheer performance in what you are committed to do that counts. This is especially in today’s environment where there is an economic downturn and cost cutting is mandatory.

Lesson 11 – Young blood

At the saluting parade the army commander commented that the war was won by the soldiers on the ground and if not for the youngsters that joined the army, this victory would have not been possible. Youngsters tend to have no inhibitions and past experience that may impede an’ impossible task.’
The lesson for business is that infusing young blood tends to bring in new ideas and fresh thinking that increase effectiveness and productivity. On a periodic basis, an organization must do an age analysis, particularly in the marketing and sales division to keep teams young and dynamic.

Lesson 12 – Get the top behind
In my view one of the key points in defeating the LTTE was that the security force commanders had the backing of the head of state and the defense secretary with a strong common understanding. This was the edge that tilted the coin as well and the whole nation coming together. It was one voice from the top.
The implication to business is that it is very important to get the Chairman and the Senior Management on your side, not only in trust but in a deep understanding of what one is doing to beat the competitor. Mistakes will be made and if the top does not understand, there can be a loss of confidence that ultimately affects your performance in the future, especially when it comes to mobilizing funding.

Lesson 13 – Political stability

Another key point that helped the country achieve freedom from terrorism is the management of the political stability when there was so much external pressure. This was very cleverly managed by the President so as to not impact the security forces. The implication to business is that in reality, all organizations be it small or big, has politicking and this has to be managed.

Conclusion

Hence we see that there are many lessons for the corporate world from the war against terrorism. Since the war has come to an end in Sri Lanka, the challenge is how we can make companies competitive so that as a nation we become strong. After all, 80% of Sri Lanka’s economy is driven by the private sector.
On the other hand the public sector must focus on developing the North and East together with the private sector on livelihood development.

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