Archive for August 24th, 2009

The Sri Lanka Army’s  strategy of acting  like  guerrilla organisation, the restructuring of the Army, ending corruption,  increasing its strength, firepower   and a direct chain of command that went  from the top to grass root levels,  forced the end  of terrorism in the country.

Chief  of Defence  Staff (CDS), General  Sarath Fonseka,  in  his first public appearance  nearly  three months after the  elimination of  terrorism in the country,  made these comments  at  ‘Counter Point,’  organised by the  PIM Alumni   on Friday.

Speaking  on ‘Winning  Military  Strategies – Lessons  for Managers,’   General Fonseka said that when he took over the Army,  the LTTE was acting  almost like a  conventional army  and was considered to be unstoppable. Like a conventional army,  they had to protect land, equipment and  armaments.

“From our side, we changed our tactics and strategies. We started  act ing like guerrillas,  making incursions   into their territories in small groups and carrying out daring attacks when the  LTTE challenged us in the jungles,” General Fonseka said.

He said that the decission of going for war  is a political decision. The Army,  together with the other military forces, concluded the war  according to political will.

General Fonseka was speaking on  how he prepared the Army to fight the Elam War Four. He said that  when he was  appointed  Commander of the Army on 6th December 2005, the  organisation  was  in need of  lot of changes, including enhanced   manpower, excellent training and better equipment.

“30 years of war had caused a lot of frustration to the people, who  had lost their  faith in the Army  and  their confidence that the violence could ever be contained. The war was started in August  2006  in Jaffna. My first task was to prepare the  Army for battle. For that,  I restructured the entire  Army deviating from traditional  methods. I appointed new people, new faces of  my choice to the battlefront, people untainted with corruption,  people  capable of  carrying their duties effectively. I dramatically increased the manpower of the Army with recruitment.  My strategy also included  the procurement of   arms and ammunition, battle tanks, armoured carriers, the best equipment could buy. I also changed  the strategy of  the battle  from  conventional tactics to guerrilla tactics.  For that,  I needed excellent  commanders  and   improved firepower. We started operating in  small groups  and  actively operated in the jungles. Earlier, it was the LTTE  who operated in the jungles. When we moved into the jungles,  they avoided  meeting us  at all costs,” he said.

The General said that during the war, the Army’s  main strategy was  to confront the LTTE’s strongest positions.

“During the Jayasikuru  operation launched to liberate Jaffna,  I observed through experience that  when we attacked the  LTTE’s  most formidable strongholds, they became very weak. With that in mind,  we  commenced our assault  from  the A9 road, the  Maddu road, Mannar and the  Mulativu  jungles. Sometimes it took us four to five days just to take control of  one or two kilometres. But the results were good for us. We minimised our casualties  and increased the losses of the enemy.  At the end of 2007,   we were operating 35 battalions on  all fronts and the LTTE  had to react  to our plan. We  were engaging  them every day, 24 hours a day, weeks and months on end. We maintained our assault  in all  conditions. In pouring rain and floods, in the hot sun and drought,  we kept the  momentum going until we  achieved victory,” General Fonseka said

Restructuring the Army made it necessary to stamp out corruption at all levels, corruption which was rampant from the lowest to the highest ranks.

“Every year,  the government   allocated lot of money to the Army, which is an expensive organisation to  maintain.  Because of corruption at every level, we were  not doing  what we  were asked to do. I  made it clear that not  five cents will be spent by the Army without  proper accounting. To that end, I implemented strict rules  and standards. I sat on  Tender Boards and  was  personally monitoring every detail. This  was not a function of the  Commander of the Army,  but  I personally  went through  every detail to ensure that the blight of corruption was eradicated from the Army.

General Fonseka also said that  in the past, there was a tradition that when an officer is  caught  making money illegally, he would not suffer any punishment, his service and seniority would not be affected, and his next promotion assured, as long as he paid back the stolen money in full. “I ended this tradition. The guilty received appropriate punishment.”

Speaking on new recruitments and  promotions in the organisation, the General said that he  deviated from   traditional methods  of awarding  promotions and  selected  all commanders  on merit and performance, and not on seniority.

“We recruited and trained 3,000 to 5,000 men  per month. We also promoted 1,500 soldiers from the ranks  of corporals and sergeants  to lieutenants. We achieved excellent results through these methods, as we made the best use of those with strong battle experience. My new methods of recruitment and merit-based promotions gave me the manpower to win the war, ‘ he daid

I  also implemented  a direct  chain of command  which goes down to grass root  levels in  the Army.   There were many instances when I had to remove commanders  from their jobs and appoint replacements. We had to have the correct men in place when the going got tough. And  there was  huge resistance from the enemy every day.  At one point,  we suffered many casualties and 130 troops died in a single day.  Whenever there was a  victory,  I used  to share that with  my officers and  when there was rise in casualties figures  I took the blame to my self without passing to anyone. In that sense I  my self was  under pressure all the times  but kept the momentum going” General Fonseka said

Speaking on Army  intelligence and  its performance  the General Fonseka said that  indigence was  back word in the  past.

“I removed  almost all the officers attached to it.  I found that most of them has been serving  that unit  more that 15 to 20 years  and  filled with new young faces. They were brand new set of people committed, sincerely  did their  part, a very good job. If you  take most of the Air Force targets, Navy ships targets  are taken  on Army intelligence unit.

Speaking on the support given by the other forces  General said that  Air Force, Navy and Police  did  splendid service  with Army to gain the victory in war.  The coordinated efforts  and close monitoring of the  battle  changing of the tactics became as a  daily routine.

“End of the day we had  difficult  time patience  endurance  demonstrating good results  in eliminating  terrorism from the country  which one point considered unimaginable concluded General Sarath Fonseka.

At the conclusion of General Fonseka’s remarks the audience at the ceremony gave him standing  ovation  which is  a rare sight.

(Daily Mirror)


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