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Archive for July 12th, 2009

Rather surprisingly, the Sri Lankan Army is expected to undergo massive expansion after the annihilation of its nemesis, the LTTE in a final decisive battle. That is quite an unusual step and there is hardly a precedent in the recent history in which the usual practice has been to downsize the forces after the major wars.

According to the latest expansion plan, the Sri Lankan Army which numbers 190,000 of rank and file would be increased to a whopping 300,000!

The defence officials who mooted the expansion plan claim that it would enable the Sri Lankan army to maintain a sufficient reserve at any moment. This would also enable soldiers to receive their due leave on time as well as pursue annual training sessions, thereby, maintaining the battle preparedness of the troops. Many of the afore mentioned arrangements are still luxuries to the soldiers, whose official leave has regularly been delayed, some times up to three months due to the shortage of troops. Same could be said about the training programs though during the lull in the peace process, the Army trained several thousand of Special Infantry Operation (SIO) troops, who played a key role along side with commandos and Special Forces in the liquidation of the LTTE.
The military planners claim the latest plan has taken note of the mistakes in the past. Highlighting the importance of maintaining sufficient reserves, they point to the early 80s, when the then Armed forces, who were largely ceremonial forces, failed to crush a several dozen of rag tag militants of the early days of the Tamil militancy.
Reason: there had virtually been no reserves at the time.

This compelled the police stations such as Chavakachcheri be abandoned after being attacked by the budding LTTE. This facilitated the rise of the Tamil militancy of which the LTTE took the supremacy by mid 80s. By 1987, Jaffna was out of bound for the security forces.

The LTTE expanded its tentacles by limiting the mobility of the Sri Lankan armed forces through the sporadic ambushes and bomb explosions targeting military patrols. Isolated and restrained, the military was forced to abandon camps. The thorn on the side of the Sri Lankan armed forces was the lack of a sufficient reserve which could be mobilized at a time of emergency.

LTTE operations

Later in 1990, when the LTTE laid siege to a dozen of police stations in the Eastern provinces, of which policemen surrendered and were massacred by the LTTE, the absence of a military reserve was felt more profoundly than ever before. Again, in the late 1990s, the security forces vacated some of the military camps in the eastern province in order to redeploy the troops in the then on-going military operation in the north; the Tigers expanded tentacles in the East and held on to the enclave of Sampur and Vakarai till the Army moved into these areas in a new phase of military operations in 2007. However, during the past three and half years, military planners addressed the shortage of troops through a rigorous recruitment drive.

All branches of the Sri Lankan armed forces underwent a massive expansion. Increased manpower and firepower enabled the troops to take an upper hand in the battle against the LTTE. The rationale of the past enlargement of the military is within comprehension; also, obvious are its gains. Commander of Army, Gen Sarath Fonseka at a book launching ceremony of the defence correspondent Tissa Ravindra Perera held last week, took time to reiterate military gains. He said, his forces killed 22,000 Tiger cadres and further 10,000 surrendered during the three years of fighting. 1000 hardcore elements would be charged, he said. As for the sacrifices of his troops, he said 5200 officers and other ranks made the ultimate sacrifice, another 5000 were wounded and permanently disabled. But, not in vain, he said, referring to the year 2000 when more soldiers than last year were killed while the army was in retreat.

The Sri Lankan Army has annihilated its enemy, the LTTE, thereby, brining an end to once existential threat to this nation.

What is, however, not so clear is the rationale of the latest military expansion after the end of the major combat operations. Simply put, what Sri Lanka supposed to do with a massive standing army of 300,000?

Equally important to note is the marked aversion of liberal democracies to massive standing armies though Sri Lanka’s liberal democratic credentials are sadly under dispute. Holding a land naturally requires more troops than it requires capturing it. As one senior officer told me long before that Sampur was captured by 2000 troops, but it would required 10,000 to hold it.

However, that was at the height of the LTTE, which retreated to the North at that time. Is the same imperative applicable after the annihilation of the LTTE as a military force is open to question?

Military planners are, however, apparently planning a major military presence in the North-East in an effort to preempt the rise of the Tamil militancy. Accordingly, as we reported last week, two Security Forces Headquarters would be set up in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu in addition to the existing Military Headquarters in Jaffna, Vanni and the East. Two Military Divisions- 53 and 58 Divisions – would be kept as reserves under the direct command of the Commander of Army.

Internal threat

As reported last week, the military doctrine, which hitherto focused on the internal threat levels would be transformed to include deterrence to an external threat which could come in the form of a mercenary landing funded by the Tamil Diaspora. Hence, is the recent bill to grant legal powers to the Chief of Defence Staff – which has hitherto been a nominal posting – to develop a doctrine in the joint deployment of forces.
The inter-branch coordination is paramount for the success of military planning and execution.

This has compelled some smaller armed forces, such as the Israeli Defence Forces and Singapore Defence forces to bring air, land and sea branches under a single command. The new bill passed by the Sri Lankan parliament two weeks back, would be a step towards this direction.

The apparent rationale for the expansion is to maintain a large troop presence in the former warzone in order to keep a tab on the Tamil militancy. This however, does not take in to account the economic aspects of military mobilization in the form of increased defence budget. Sri Lankan military spending for the year 2009 was 166.4 billion Sri Lankan Rupees (1.48 billion US$).

The economic impact of the military spending has been debated by economists, especially since Belgian defence economist Emile Benoit, took the development economists by surprise in the early 70s, arguing that the defence spending had a net positive impact on the economies of the developing countries. Benoit came out with his argument after a survey of a sample of 44 Least Developed Countries, testing the correlation between their annual military spending and annual economic growth rates.

The essence of his argument was that in the Least Developed countries, only a fraction of resources which were not allocated for the defence went to productive investment and that the most of the government budget was spent on the consumption and subsidies, which were not related to increasing the future production.

In contrast, money spent on military contributed to the civilian economy in indirect ways. In his seminal work, he admitted that “optimum civilian programs” would make a better contribution to the economy, but cautioned that one must compare defence spending with their objectively probable substitutes and not with their optimum substitutes.

Benoit’s argument has its origin in military Keynesianism, the theory which advocates that the government should devote large amount of funding in order to stimulate and accelerate the economic growth. This is a variation of Keynesian economic advocated by John Maynard Keynes. The advocates of this theory argue that the military spending would have a greater multiplier effect on civilian economy.

On the same light, one could also reflect that Sri Lankan economy has reordered a higher growth rate during the past three years despite an ever increasing defence budget. While, the war and deteriorating security had an obvious negative impact on the economy, one could not say the same about the increasing defence budget. Also, the expanded Sri Lankan forces would like to be deployed in the reconstruction and development programs in the North-East, which could provide an economic rationale for maintaining a larger than usual standing army.

But, that does not mean that expansion would provide deterrence against an external aggression from a state actor, which however is hard to come. In an era of the Revolution of Military Affairs and Network Centric Warfare, mass armies are fast becoming redundant as seen in the quick defeat of the Serbian forces by NATO in Kosovo and rout of Iraq army by the coalition forces in first and second Gulf wars. That requires the Sri Lankan Army to move ahead in a modernization program.

However, going by the inventory of the Sri Lankan armed forces, one could say that it would be long before it reaches the target.

(Lakbima News)

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More than a dozen barrels stashed with documents belonging to the senior leadership of the now defunct separatist Tamil Tigers were unearthed from a location deep inside the Mullaitivu district this week, senior officials said yesterday.

They said the documents were recovered along with LTTE stationery items and clothes which were apparently personal belongings of the LTTE leadership.

Military spokesperson Udaya Nanayakkara said investigators had found some documents but refused to elaborate on the nature or the contents.

Brig Nanayakkara said he could not comment whether documents of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was found.

In a related development, a 130mm field gun was also recovered at Puthukkudiyirippu on Thursday during clearing operations by the military, Brigadier Nanayakkara said.

(Sunday Times)

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Tiger leaders and cadres who surrendered during the final stages of the Wanni battle, are spilling the beans on their secretive organisation, and helping security forces recover more and more arms caches

On information elicited by Intelligence, the armed forces were able to unearth more heavy weapons and other items in the last LTTE stronghold throughout this week. Even Tiger leaders who fought until the last are fast volunteering information.

They have disclosed to Military Intelligence hitherto unknown details of the fledgling Tiger air wing. As a result, the Intelligence Unit attached to 56 Division, was able to get hold of pictures of the Tiger air wing leaders and recover important documents from Vellamullaivaikkal.

Dwaraka’s end

Details of Prabakaran’s daughter, Dwaraka’s death, so far unknown, were also disclosed by a ‘top’ Tiger.
Dwaraka had been with the ‘Sodia’ regiment along with other female cadres during the final battle in Vellamullaivaikkal, when she was killed by artillery fire, and they had performed her last rites in the same area.

According to this informant, she died on May 12, 2009, around 9:30 am. Before her death she had been made a ‘Lt. Col.’ of that regiment by the Tiger leader, to the utter dismay of its members, though they had not outwardly shown their disapproval.
Surrendees and POWs

General Sarath Fonseka disclosed that about 22,000 terrorists were killed and about 10,000 captured during the battles for Tiger fortresses in Wanni. He made this announcement during the launch of the book “The Final Great Wanni Battle”, by this writer, at the National Library and Documentation Services Board on Wednesday.

Of the 10,000 Tiger cadres captured by the security forces, 9,000 have been sent for rehabilitation, while steps are being taken to prosecute the balance 1,000. Those to be brought before the law are those who did not surrender, but taken into custody while hiding in welfare camps as IDPs. Among them are senior cadres who have served the organisation for 15 to 16 years, the Army Commander said.

Human cost of war

Although this victory is outwardly seen as one won with ease, but in fact was won with much dedication and sacrifice of life. “This victory cost the lives of 5,200 of my soldiers, while 19,000 others were wounded”, the Commander recalled.

Explaining the inside story that made the Wanni victory possible, he said that due to the President handling the political aspects without blemish and the President and Secretary of Defence giving the necessary backup and correct leadership, he was able to successfully lead his men to victory, and “nobody can challenge our success”.

Hunt for ‘rogue’ Tigers

The forces are now involved in taking on the few LTTE stragglers still haunting the jungles of the East. A few of the Infantry battalions that fought in Wanni battles and small contingents of Commandos and Special Forces are engaged in this final search operation for Tiger terrorists. This could be the end of the road for remaining terrorist leaders like Ram, Nagulan and others known to be in Yala, Buttala and Kandjikudichchiyaru jungles.

On the July 3, Mohandas, leader of Kirankulam in the East, was shot and caught while trying to escape across the Kirankulam lagoon. A soldier on the security ring died, while two others were wounded in this clash. This is the first death of a soldier since the death of Prabhakaran on May 19. Mohandas, a ‘Lt. Col.’, had been earlier assigned the task of crippling life in the East and South.

An air ticket, money and a cyanide capsule was found on him. It is suspected that his plan was to escape to a foreign country and get his family down later. Military Intelligence has been entrusted with the task of tracking down such remaining Tiger cadres in the East.

Meanwhile, an operation to disarm armed gangs in the East, was also launched under the leadership of DIG Edison Gunatillaka, who warned the gangs that none other than the forces are licensed to carry arms. Therefore, he reiterated that they should hand over their weapons while the going was good.
The disarming of the Jihadists and other armed Muslim extremists will be undertaken in this operation, along with those armed cadres that earlier aligned with Pillaiyan and Karuna

Clearance and resettlement

Meanwhile, Gen. Sarath Fonseka undertook a tour of Wanni this week to assess the requirements for implementing future forward field requirements.

Accordingly, by December, the west of the A-9 (Kandy-Jaffna) will be resettled by its former inhabitants.
The de-mining in the Madhu region and 10 liberated villages in the Weli Oya area is being carried out at present and will be resettled no sooner the tasks are completed. With the resettlement of people west of A-9 in Pooneryn and Mannar, the A-32 supply route is scheduled to be reopened next.

Deployment

Lt. Col. Kithsiri Liyanage who commanded 7 Sinha Regiment with distinction during Wanni battles, has been appointed Commander 67-2 Brigade under Task Force VII. This Brigade is scheduled to be stationed at Elephant Pass. Col. Hemantha Karanaratne has been made Commander 66-2 Brigade, which is scheduled to be based in Pooneryn.

Five Brigadiers promoted Majors General

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has approved the promotion of five Brigadiers to the rank of Major General this week. They are Military Planning Director Brig. Mahesh Senanayaka, Presidential Security Chief Brig. Jagath Alwis, Commander 22 Division Brig. Janaka Walgama, Financial Director General of the Army Brig. H.L. Weeratunga and Quartermaster General Brig. L.R. Wijetunga.

(The Nation)

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Two senior LTTE leaders, who are alleged to have helped more than 500 Tiger cadres to escape from Trincomalee and then to leave the country during the height of the military operations, were arrested by the Batticaloa police.

Police said Mutukumar Alageswaran and Thangarasa Thayalan had rented out two houses in Batticaloa to provide accommodation to LTTE cadres fleeing Trincomalee and later sent them abroad.

They said the two cadres had transported the escapees to Colombo in a Van before sending them to West Asian countries through a Foreign Employment Agency in Borella using money provided by the LTTE. Police said the Van which had been sold to a businessman in Kandy was also found by the police.

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All those in Colombo are not Colombians. It is only the superficial superlatives; some Colombians have sprung like jack in the box to become ardent Mahindians. There are still many in Colombo who stand on principle, refined to the core, constructively critical, tolerating no nonsense. Colombians come -lately with giddy minds, in search of upward mobility proselytized in their hunt to be associated with the winner looking for  possible advancement in silence or in secret, have made the over night crossing. It is a passing phenomenon. They will soon return to base.Yet Colombo at large is out of place in Sri Lanka. Out of Colombo, for them, is a mere place for a week end, for fun and relaxation. They go out to the sea and safari, cooler climes and green fairways, cut price hotels and country homes.

They fail to understand the mood and temperament of the rest of the country and still more, of its people. Like those marketing executives given a product to sell, reaches only the urban markets – due to infinite lack of local insight. Or enter a theatre to watch a comedy but cannot laugh if the joke is on them-fail to realise they are the laughing stock.

“Times are a changing” sang Bobby Dylan. So is with the Colombo Man. Far worse is the Colombo Woman. Not only is she looking at changing times, hopeful more of changing fortunes.

Many of the Hundred Sisters that signed the petition are observing an oath of silence or hoping for a place for their husbands. Doves of Peace have become Men of War. Those who alleged human rights violations before the end of the war speak of the gallantry of the Forces after the war. Many who searched for NGO types or embassy sort to rub shoulders at functions reach for uniformed kind in service or in retirement.

Fortunes favour those in retirement from the services in the Forces more than those in active service. Without restrictions or responsibilities they can spin more yarns.

An anthology of war stories- fact or fiction- is a crowd puller. Suddenly there is much demand for ex- military men for conversation, to entertain guests and to pick supposedly sensitive fantasy material for onward transmission by the Colombians to display their own importance.

Everybody knows somebody in the Forces, especially the society ladies. (“I know a Major, who told me how Prabha was hunted down. He was in that group, child!”) .

Indeed some know more of the war than those who fought it to entertain Colombo society. The moment has come for recruitment as consultant-entertainer for old soldiers.

No longer ago are they deemed violators of human rights, worse than the dirty dozen because the Colombians carry purification packs for instant cleansing, to suit their laundering. They need it more than any other.

Society Colombo is the noisy local Barmy Army or Wavy Navy as they are now, so ‘in’ with the Forces. Not long ago, calling themselves “Sri Lanka First” they held hands on the streets of Colombo, to stop the War and smoke peace pipes with Prabhakaran. Times are indeed changing –Prabhakaran is no longer in the talking vocabulary and the glories of the LTTE are a self imposed prohibition. How did these household phrases for 20 years extolled at length, fade so fast?

That is Colombo. From mantelpiece to dustbin the distance is short and the memory still shorter.

The Old Boys in the boardrooms with their hang over colonial neurosis, indoctrinated by the BBC wave length, converted after listening to the gospel of the peace missionaries who preached for their own benefit, aping the phrases of passing western humanitarians never imagined the end of the LTTE.

These opinion makers who change their tune according to the weather vane from the chambers of the private sector, merchants of fame and fortune, professionals of repute and standing convinced themselves, it is a war that cannot be won and the LTTE has to be appeased by talking peace.

That was the manufactured public opinion of Colombo which percolated to the influential politicians they sponsored, like those in Chandrika’s celebrated diners club.

Their misplaced philosophy delayed the defeat of LTTE by 25 years. Colombians have to take the blame for having lived with a nightmare they fabricated, by being disoriented and perplexed; misleading and misinforming themselves. Worse, make it infectious like swine flu.

Those captains lived in a strange planet among themselves by themselves. Their junior bimbos were compelled to follow suit. If industry or commerce suffered blame thyself more than another.

It is time the private sector despatches those old boys and birds to a sin bin wearing caps titled dunce and for an emerging enlightened intelligentsia with social consciousness take the helm, alive to the mood of the nation and not only of the capital. Colombo badly needs a new coat of paint and a breath of fresh air.

So many had to pay a heavy price; of so few being silly and stupid. Many watched in aghast at the antics of their superiors or contemporaries. They were compelled to be the silent minority.

To oppose was to incur wrath and dubbed a ‘nationalist’ or ‘extremist’ or ‘patriot’ or ‘war monger’. It was the Bush Principle: You are with us or against us! Bush was better- the ‘us’ he meant was his country; for the Colombians it was not the country or city but their silly selves.

Colombians deemed they were living in a Failed State because the International Community so said; local NGO intellectuals so preached. These Failed Fellows worshipped any altar or followed any gospel that ridiculed the country.

In mind and soul for style and show they portrayed themselves as a white man with a black name. They failed to pass the reality test that the so called Failed State has performed better than the so called Successful States in dealing with terrorism.

A country that lived on the grandeur of the past is now living on the glory of its present but celebrating beyond limits of tolerance and indulging in thanksgivings beyond forbearance.

Not only are Times changing, as said in the song, changes must come with Time.

If the old firm of disgraced dignitaries cannot walk hand with hand with the rest of the country and still desire Britannica to rule over our waves, they must be despatched to their drinking clubs or be nominated as candidates to the Constitutional Council – both comfortable homes for the aged to while their time.

They have let the country down and let them walk the plank of shame. It is take-over time for the emerging young after the last generation had led them astray.

The finest hour of Sri Lanka was reached by the sweat toil and blood of the state sector by the children in the wilderness.

Colombians contribution has been the participation in the celebrations or talking loud after the event; Colombians cannot show any other input or effort.

Did any die fighting the war coming from an International School?  There were yet many as individuals in personal capacity that did much within their might but away from the knowledge of their principals who listened more to their foreign principals. Listen to the Colombian talk; during the war and after the war- to learn of the twist and turns of the flexible Colombo doctrine.

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