Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The rebels have allegedly confessed they were either connected to LTTE or have directly or indirectly aided and abetted the LTTE's cause in the Jaffna peninsula, the Defence Ministry said.
Those who surrendered would have to be formally registered at the police station and then would be absorbed into a rehabilitation programme in the peninsula.
Meanwhile, in fierce clashes at Muhamalai in Jaffna peninsula, troops killed at least three militants while losing two of their personnel on Tuesday, the army said.
Separately, the security forces gunned down six LTTE cadres in Kallikulam in Vavuniya on Tuesday, the Defence Ministry said adding three rebels were killed in another confrontation at Parappakandal in Mannar.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Army Commander Sarath Fonseka means business when he says he will defeat terrorim on Sri Lankan soil.
The lion has risen to take the challenge of terrorism and will defeat those who seek to destroy our civil society
The well known tamil tiger terror tactics require Sri Lankan Defence Forces to focus on guarding civillian life at all times, a difficult task accomplished with distinction
Sri Lankan Rapid Deployment Force specializes in neutralizing terror attacks in an urban setting
[Photos : Yahoo.com ]
Monday, February 18, 2008
...War may be defined as punishment, which is one of the
functions of government. It was the profession of Chung Yu
and Jan Ch`iu, both disciples of Confucius. Nowadays, the
holding of trials and hearing of litigation, the imprisonment
of offenders and their execution by flogging in the market-
place, are all done by officials. But the wielding of huge
armies, the throwing down of fortified cities, the hauling of
women and children into captivity, and the beheading of
traitors -- this is also work which is done by officials.
The objects of the rack and of military weapons are
essentially the same. There is no intrinsic difference
between the punishment of flogging and cutting off heads in
war. For the lesser infractions of law, which are easily
dealt with, only a small amount of force need be employed:
hence the use of military weapons and wholesale decapitation.
In both cases, however, the end in view is to get rid of
wicked people, and to give comfort and relief to the good....
In contemporary Sri Lanka, the struggle to deliver the democratic and pluralistic majority society's aspirations and desire for peaceful co-existance has necessitated the use of military action towards disarming of the Tamil terrorist group LTTE. It is the duty of those who wish to see a peaceful settlement within Sri Lanka that would allow all communities to prosper, to support the government in its endeavor.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Q. Do you want to get Prabhakaran dead or alive?
A. Alive. For the crimes he has done, he needs to be tried and I would like to send him to India too for he killed a leader who would have changed the face of not just India but the whole region.
Q. Why did you decide finally to end the five-year-old Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) between the Government and the LTTE?
A. When the CFA was introduced in 2002, I was leader of the Opposition and the first one to speak out against it. When I became the President, I said I will try to negotiate with the LTTE, talk to them and achieve peace to settle the issue. But it did not mean that I approved of the CFA. But they went on a killing spree, not only attacking our army commander, the defence secretary, who is my brother, but also began targeting civilians and children. I wanted the killing to stop. They had violated the CFA so often that it had become a farce. So I decided to end it.
Q. What makes you so confident of taking on the LTTE in an all out war now?
A. Either the LTTE accept a political solution by giving up arms and terrorist activities or we will have to curtail their moves. The Government can’t kneel down to terrorists. Since I came to power we have cleared the eastern and western provinces of LTTE control.
They are now restricted to just one-and-a-half districts. From top to bottom the Government is committed. There is greater coordination between the Government and the defence forces which helps our cause.
Q. If the LTTE comes back to the negotiating table, will you talk?
A. Yes, only if they give up their weapons. They can’t have their cake and eat it too. Ceasefire will give them time again. We don’t want them to strengthen themselves and attack us. We want a final solution.
Q. If the LTTE doesn’t come around, how long will it take to wipe them out?
A. We would have cleared them out of the remaining areas long ago but we also had to ensure no civilians were killed. I would say, in a year and a half, we might be able to do it.
Q. The LTTE’s counter strategy seems to be to attack civilians.
A. It is a desperate move in the hope that the international community will put pressure on the Government. They can’t achieve anything.
Q. Inflation is running high. Do you think people are willing to pay the price of war?
A. People will understand. A recent survey done by a rival paper did show that they supported me on the development work that I am doing.
Q. So will there be no cut in the defence budget?
A. The money we are spending on defence is not high. It is 3.5 per cent of the GDP. I believe no country can afford to compromise on its defence.
Q. When you took over as President in 2005 you said that you expected India to do a lot. Has India lived up to your expectations?
A. India’s approach has been very positive and encouraging. Our relationship is now probably at the best of levels.
Q. But India is not willing to sell your Government offensive arms to fight the LTTE.
A. We can buy arms from anywhere, but we can’t buy a good friend. And that is what we need. India is a power in this region. It is very strong and can do a lot to develop the neighbouring countries. Not just Sri Lanka, but also others. India is with us and they have showed us their support.
Q. The EU and other countries have alleged human rights violations by your Government during the conduct of war.
A. There are a few allegations in the East. We enquired into all such allegations but no one was even willing to file a complaint to begin action. We have appointed a commission of eminent persons to look into all the allegations but we need a complaint, evidence and witnesses to do justice in such cases. We will take action.
Q. Coming to a political solution, the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) to go into a package to solve Tamil grievances has recommended the implementation of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution done in 1987 that wanted power to be devolved to the provinces. Why should the Tamils accept something that was offered to them 20 years earlier?
A. Why shouldn’t they? It was never implemented because the parties that agreed to it—the LTTE and the then government—fell out soon after that. I believe it is a good way to begin. We should first start something we can implement. I don’t need twothirds majority in Parliament to do it. So it’s a beginning. The APRC can then give me some new proposals and we can consider them too. But I don’t want to waste my time on solutions that are not practical just to satisfy the international community. They may look good on paper but will be burnt in Parliament. There will be riots.
Q. How quickly do you see the package implemented?
A. I have already appointed an Advisory Cabinet Committee. I am waiting for their report. As soon as I get the report, I will implement it.
Q. You had also said that you would give the Tamils more than just the 13th Amendment.
A. I am waiting for the proposals to be given to me by the committee to decide. Meanwhile, let us implement something that had the blessings of all—the then government, the LTTE and all other Tamil parties. Something that Rajiv Gandhi had helped get under the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987. In addition I have already started taking steps to ensure the implementation of the official language policy by promoting the learning and usage of Tamil in administration. I am also recruiting Tamils in the police. Don’t think we are only fighting the terrorists.
Q. Do you have consensus among the Sinhala parties to implement it?
A. How can the UNP oppose this when its own government had passed the 13th Amendment. Only the JVP (Janata Vimukthi Peramuna) is the problem. But let’s not forgot that the JVP has asked for more powers for the provinces and even participated in Provincial Councils.
Q. Why don’t you hold a referendum in the liberated Eastern districts to decide whether they should join the North as envisaged in the Accord?
A. Why should I? If you go now to places like Batticalao you would find they oppose it. I will not have this country divided.
Q. Why not have a federal system like India?
A. Federalism is out—just don’t talk about it. Historically the word is suspect and is linked with separatism. Maximum devolution under a unitary government is the mandate that I have got and I am going to implement that.
Q. Your party doesn’t have a twothirds majority in Parliament. Will you go for elections to implement it?
A. I don’t need two-thirds majority in Parliament for what has been proposed. When the need arises I certainly will.
Monday, February 11, 2008
February 9th, 2008
MK Eelaventhan nominated as MP on the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) national list has been deprived of his Parliamentary membership. Eelaventhan which means “King of Eelam” had been in Parliament since 2004. A Muslim lawyer from Jaffna, Rizwan Mohammed Imam, has been appointed in his place.
Eelaventhan lost his seat in Parliament because he was absent without leave from Parliament for more than three months last year. The septuagenarian was away in North America for some months.He celebrated his 75th birthday in Canada during October last year. Upon his return to Colombo in early december Eelaventhan found himself disqualified on this procedural technicality.
Apparently Eelaventhan had informed his Parliamentary colleague from Batticaloa district, Kanagasabai, to seek an extension on his behalf. Eelaventhan was to return on Dec 4th.
According to TNA sources this was not done because a Parliamentary official had informed them that Eelaventhan had attended Parliament in October. This was not correct as Eelaventhan had been absent from last August
Eelaventhan returned and attended Parliament for three days in December. He even voted. It was then that a TNA colleague “tipped” off a Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna MP about Eelaventhan’s illegibility.
The JVP which hated Eelaventhan’s obnoxious antics promptly made it an issue. The TNA national list MP forfeited his seat.
Initially the man ranted and railed in the Tamil media saying he would sue the Parliamentary staff for their lapse in misinforming his party. However it was not a major problem as the party could always have re - nominated him.
This did not happen. Later there was media speculation that a Muslim was likely to be appointed in Eelaventhan’s place.
Eelaventhan then went to the Wanni with his wife to plead his case before the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He returned after a few days and became silent.
RM Imam whose name was on the TNA national list in 2004 was appointed and became Jaffna’s first Muslim MP.
Why was Eelaventhan’s Parliamentary career cut short midway without him completing the mandatory five years that would have entitled him to a pension? Why did he become silent after his trip to the Wanni?
EPDP leader Kathiravelu Devananda alias Douglas is fond of saying the TNA stands for Tiger nominated Agents. This is because of the control and authority wielded by the LTTE over the TNA.
There was a time during the ceasefire when the TNA would regularly go to Kilinochchi and get orders from their political masters.
Eelaventhan’s downfall was due to the LTTE becoming annoyed. It was the LTTE that got Eelaventhan appointed as MP in 2004. It was the LTTE that wanted Eelaventhan out of Parliament four years later.
When it became clear that the LTTE was calling the shots in his case the man and wife went up to Kilinochchi to plead with the tigers.
At one point Eelaventhan’s wife got extremely emotional and argued strongly that her husband had been of yeoman service to the LTTE chief and that the tigers were being ungrateful. Irritated , the LTTE then informed the couple that their Pajeiro jeep was to be acquired by the movement.
Eelaventhan was one of the first TNA Parliamentarians to purchase a Pajeiro jeep. It was this vehicle that the LTTE now wanted for their own use.
The tigers then took the vehicle keys and vehicle - related documents. The dazed man and wife were curtly informed that the meeting was over. They were asked to make their way home sans the vehicle.
They were also ordered to return to Colombo immediately and keep mum. Eelaventhan returned to Colombo and enveloped himself in silence.
Interestingly the story of Eelaventhan’s discomfiture in Kilinochchi is being spread by none other than his erstwhile TNA parliamentary colleagues. At the Indian republic day reception Somasundaram Senathrajah alias “Mavai” Senathirajah was seen and heard regaling people with the tale of Eelaventhan’s downfall.
Eelaventhan is a maverick type of politico. He was an ardent supporter of the Federal Party but in 1968 - 70 broke ranks with the FP and supported V. Navaratna’s Tamil self - rule party. He returned to party folds and became president of the TULF colombo branch. He split again in the eighties and was a founder member of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Front (TELF).
Eelaventhan re - located to Chennai in 1982 with his family. He was associated closely with SC Chandrahasan the son of SJV Chelvanayagam. During this phase the man was opposed to the LTTE. After some years he fell out with Chandrahasan also. Thereafter he began drifting closer towards the LTTE.
He was jailed in 1997 in Madras on suspicion of procuring medicine and medical supplies for the LTTE and released later.
In 2000 Eelaventhan was forcibly deported to Sri Lanka from Tamil Nadu. He was charged of abusing his refugee status by engaging in anti - Indian and pro -tiger propaganda on Indian soil.
He began identifying with the LTTE openly after the 2002 ceasefire.
Diehard TULF supporters were angered by a reference in the statement which justified the killing of former opposition leader Appapillai Amirthalingam by the LTTE.
The loose coalition known as the Tamil National Alliance began playing a subservient role to the LTTE from 2001.The TULF, Tamil Congress, TELO and EPRLF came under the TNA umbrella. Only TULF President Veerasingham Anandasangaree refused to toe the LTTE line.
The TNA contested the 2004 elections on the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi ticket. Eelaventhan’s elder son in law is Prof. Rajendran an Indian national.
Rajendran an ardent supporter of the Dravida Kazhagham once paid a visit to Kilinochchi in connection with a book release. Rajendran requested from Prabakharan that his father in law be given a MP seat for services rendered to the Tamil cause.
Former LTTE political strategist Anton Stanislaus Balasingham and ex - political commissar Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan also supported Eelaventhan’s case. The tiger supremo gave the green signal. After decades of political activism the veteran Tamil nationalist entered Parliament for the first time.
Eelaventhan was also known for his absent mindedness. Once he mistakenly walked in to the chamber from the opposite side and sat down in the wrong seat on the side of the treasury benches. It took a while for him to realise his mistake. That too after jeering by some MP’s.
On another occasion he protested to the Speaker that Parliament had stopped simultaneous interpretation of proceedings into Tamil. Since that service had not been suspended Parliamentary officials were confused. It was later discovered that Eelaventhan had messed up with his ear phone controls. Though sheepish the man did not have the grace to apologize.
Being an impressive orator the man was much sought after by the Tamil Diaspora. He has travelled to many countries including Australia, South Africa, Malaysia and a lot of European Countries to address meetings.
One Country he wanted to visit badly was Canada where his sister lives now.Ultimately Eelaventhan’s fall from grace was due to his trip to Canada and USA.
Suresh Premachandran’s wife and children live here but he has been denied a visa. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam’s grandmother and aunts live here but he too is not given admission. People like Sivajilingam. Adaikkalanathan. Gajebdran, Padmini Sithambaranathan etc have all been refused visas in recent times.
The only TNA leader allowed to enter Canada in recent times was Trincomalee district MP R. Sambandan. He was given a special ministers permit in order to participate in meetings with Canadian foreign ministry officials. He was allowed to address a Trincomalee residents association meeting but debarred from participating in political meetings.
Against this backdrop it was indeed a wonder that Eelaventhan got his Canadian visa. He was invited as chief guest for a book release ceremony. The book was on deceptive practices in astrology.
Eelaventhan whose real name was Kanagendran had applied for his visa from Malaysia. He also travelled to Canada via a circuitous route through Japan.
There was a possibility that Eelaventha’s admission was a trial balloon. If he conducted himself well there was a strong chance of visa restrictions being eased further by Canada for other TNA members..
Eelaventhan however conducted himself in a shameful manner. He involved himself openly with pro - tiger activity. He spoke at many LTTE gatherings and accompanied tiger operatives on fund raising missions. He was also interviewed frequently by LTTE media organs.
In an interview given to the LTTE’s “Thamil Solai” radio a day after the tiger attack on the Anuradhapura Air Base, Eelaventhan described TULF president Anandasangaree as a “rotting leper”.
He also said that traitors like Sangaree had to be exterminated and quoted two stanzas from the “Thirukkural”, One spoke of the need to pluck weeds to let plants grow,the other stated that sugar crane had to be crushed into pulp to obtain tasty juice.
TULF supporters in Toronto took recordings of the radio interview to Canadian law enforcing authorities. The officials assured them that Eelaventhan had stated that he would be leaving Canada on Dec 4th.
Though Eelaventhan’s conduct irritated Canadian officials it would have by no means angered the LTTE. How then did he fall foul of the LTTE resulting in the tigers coming down hard on him?
According to informed Tamil sources two chief reasons are attributed. One was his trip to the USA where Eelaventhan had made irresponsible comments about Sri Lanka, India and Ranil Wickremasinghe. He had also openly asked Tamils to donate money to the LTTE through the TRO.
This had upset many Tamil professionals in the USA who were nervous about a US crackdown. Several Tamils including the local LTTE chief Kandaswamy Karunakaran are in custody.
There is also a freeze on the TRO. Eelaventhan’s antis added more fuel to the fire. Many US Tamils had complained to the LTTE about this.
The more important reason was that in the LTTE’s perception Eelaventhan had disobeyed, defied and deceived them.
The LTTE helped Mahinda Rajapakse become President in 2005 through enforcing a boycott in the Tamil areas. Among other things the LTTE thought that a hard liner being in power was more favourable to them than some one like Ranil Wickremasinghe.
With talk of a mass cross over from Govt ranks humming on the political grapevine the LTTE wanted all TNA Parliamentarians to vote against the Govt on Nov 19th during the vote on the budget second reading.
Eelaventhan in Canada was also instructed to return but the man dis - obeyed the diktat as he wanted to stay on till Dec 4th.. This was seen as defiance by the LTTE desperately trying to defeat Rajapakse on a money bill.
Aware that he had aroused tiger wrath, Eelaventhan tried to do some damage control. He made the cardinal error of trying to hoodwink the LTTE .
A news story was planted in overseas pro-tiger media about Eelaventhan having a one to one meeting with Canadaian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The news story stated that Eelaventhan had explained the Tamil problem to Harper and sought assistance. Harper had assured him that he would do all what he could.
For a few days the Tamil Diaspora in general and Canadian Tamils in particular were impressed by Eelaventhan’s feat. A one to one meeting with Prime Minister Harper to discuss the Tamil problem was a rare achievement indeed.
Even Kilinochchi may have for a while thought that Eelaventhan had done the right thing by staying on in Canada and meeting Harper.
But then the bubble burst! The truth was out!! What had happened was that Eelaventhan had gone with a few Canadian Tamils for a Conservative Party fund raiser banquet on Nov 8th. He was given 30 seconds to shake hands and pose for the camera with the Canadian PM.
Eelaventhan had used it to blurt out a minor speech very rapidly. A bewildered Harper could not even comprehend what this man was uttering at an incredible speed in English with a foreign accent.
At the end of it all Harper politely said he would do all he can and turned to the next in line for the photo opportunity.
This was all what happened. It was no big deal.
Eelaventhan’s deception was first exposed by California based entrepreneur and LTTE supporter Jayantha Gnanakone. Jayantha is the brother of Australia based Charles Gnanakone who was detained in connection with the Lakshman Kadirgamar murder and later released.
The tigers obviously were annoyed at Eelaventhan’s disobedience. But they were angered at the deception. Small wonder then that they wanted to penalise him by preventing his re- nomination.
The authoritarian LTTE does not tolerate defiance and when Eelaventhan’s wife spoke stridently on his behalf the vehicle too was seized as punishment.
So the :King of Eelam” is now in the doldrums. He is an avid reader and no doubt will spend his enforced leisure in reading books.
One book Eelaventhan may like to read is Goethe’s Dr. Faustus. It may help him to ponder over the fate awaiting those who strike bargains with the Devil for worldly success!.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Colombo, February 8, 2008
The Sri Lankan Army Headquarters in the heart of Colombo is among the most heavily fortified complexes in the country. To get to the office of Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka, commander of the army, one has to go through a confusing maze of security checks.
For good reason—a year and a half ago, a suicide bomb attack inside the headquarters by a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) saw Fonseka seriously injured and hospitalised for months.
Yet, that only steeled his resolve to wipe out the world’s most ruthless terrorist organisation, whose members parade themselves as freedom fighters for Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil population.
(Tamils form 23 per cent of the 20-million-strong population and LTTE has been waging a 30-year war for a separate homeland for them.) Since then, Fonseka and his 1.6-lakh-strong army have inflicted body blows on LTTE.
In less than a year-and-a-half, the army has wrested control of seven districts in the east and the west, which LTTE had previously controlled.
The Tigers now have effective control over only two districts—Killinochchi and Mullaitivu—in the north. This is a rump compared to the vast stretches of coastline where their writ once ran.
The armed forces also recently succeeded in killing two of LTTE’s toprung leaders—Tamil Selvam, the political head, and Shanmuganathan Ravishankar alias Charles, the military intelligence chief—in surprise strikes.
They narrowly missed striking the feared chief Velupillai Prabhakaran in late December, when the Air Force scored a direct hit on a bunker, known as X-ray, that he frequented.
When he didn’t make an appearance at Charles’s funeral, they suspected Prabhakaran was injured. Subsequently, intelligence believes that he is alive and in full command of his forces.
Fonseka and his army are not willing to allow that position to continue for long. With Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse formally putting to an end, on January 16, the tattered Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) that a previous government had entered into with LTTE in 2002, the armed forces have stepped up their campaign to tighten the noose they had thrown around the Tiger’s last bastion.
In a major offensive, Fonseka has lined up five of the 12 divisions of his army to engage Prabhakaran and the LTTE army in a decisive operation to wipe out the organisation.
The commander, who announced a policy of killing at least 10 Tiger cadres a day, boasts that of late, he has been able to double that number.With the LTTE army reduced to 3,000-5,000, Fonseka calculates that it can be wiped out in less than a year.
To ensure that he meets the target, Fonseka has brought under siege the dense Wanni jungles that act like a natural fortress to the two remaining districts under LTTE’s control.
He has spent a good deal of time and money in training and equipping his men to fight like the Tigers. Breaking up his battalions into deep penetration units adept at guerrilla warfare, he has surprised LTTE by the capacity of his army to inflict maximum damage with minimum casualties.
To stretch LTTE’s defences, he has launched a four-pronged attack coming in from all directions (see chart). While the Tigers engage in conventional warfare by firing mortar, Fonseka’s army moves in small bands of killer units, laying booby traps, gathering intelligence and destroying infrastructure like bridges and communication lines.
Fonseka, who is not willing to rush in and strike, says, “We are taking the territory inch by inch and foot by foot while inflicting heavy casualties on them. It’s only a matter of time before LTTE begins to wilt.”
Part of the army’s strategy is to step up attacks on all LTTE leaders, with Prabhakaran being on top of the list. As Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse—the President’s younger brother—says, “LTTE, being a monolithic organisation, will collapse if we strike at the head, allowing us to finish it with less casualties and destruction.”
The younger Rajapakse has been instrumental in transforming the way the Sri Lankan armed forces fought. A former lieutenant-colonel, who fought against the Tigers in the late-’80s and the early-’90s, Gotabaya believes “it is not the weapon but the man behind it that matters most”.
To make sure he has the best men, he has not only doubled the salaries of the existing rank and file in the army, but has also put aside money for equipping them with the latest weapons.
Having the President for a brother helped, as there was no political resistance when he jacked up the defence budget to $1.5 billion (Rs 6,000 crore) in 2007, a 100-per cent increase over the previous year’s budget. Most importantly, he let Fonseka and the chiefs of the other two forces have a free hand.
Fonseka used the unfettered mandate to radically restructure his army.
With photographs of lions adorning his chamber, the army commander speaks with a quiet confidence as he describes how he went about shaking up a moribund, ineffective and corrupt force into a fierce army that could take on the world’s most feared terrorist organisation. (See graphic: Lankan Army turns the tide)
He first appointed commanders who had proven themselves in military operations, brushing aside protocols of seniority. Fonseka, who pushed for extensive training of troops in jungle warfare and engineering, was given a carte blanche to buy weapons.
He also started a major recruitment drive that saw close to 40,000 being inducted into the army in the past year, raising five new divisions. “We now have 25,000 new bayonets pointing at LTTE, not to mention the reserve units that can be brought into play if needed,” he says.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Air Force and Navy, too, have begun to look smart. After the surprise bomb attacks on Colombo by two light aircraft that LTTE had smuggled in, the air force has imported radar—reportedly from India—to improve surveillance.
The Tiger’s survival plan
By withdrawing his army to the thick jungles of the Wanni, Prabhakaran is conserving his dwindling troops for a possible long battle.
If he can hold off the Sri Lankan army for a year, the war would become political and economically unsustainable for the Government.
Terror strikes wiping out important leaders would send the Government’s calculations awry and cause panic among the common people.
A whole squadron of MIG 27 has been added. With better ground and air surveillance and bunker-buster bombs, the air force has made successful precision strikes.
The navy, too, got its fair share of change, with better patrol boats and warships that have seen it destroy much of the Sea Tigers’ fleet and floating arsenal in recent months.
This has severely limited the flow of arms to LTTE from the sea, thereby diminishing their fighting capability. The Indian Navy has helped by quietly blockading the Jaffna seas and passing on critical information about movements of ships to the Sri Lankan Navy. US intelligence, too, has played a role in increasing the rate of successful interdiction of ships carrying weapons.
For the embattled LTTE, the options are dwindling. With the US and Europe designating it as a terrorist organisation, much of its illegal funding has been blocked.
The territories it had held in the east in the past had helped it get a constant supply of fresh recruits. With Karuna, a former LTTE eastern command chief, turning against Prabhakaran, the organisation is considerably weakened. (See graphic: Spreading terror)
Reportedly, the Tigers are now forced to conscript very young or middle-aged people not suited for fighting. It hasn’t helped that its top leaders are either in their forties or fifties, making it a middle-aged army— a far cry from the young, battle-hardened guerrilla force that could once strike back with great ferocity and win big battles against the Sri Lankan Army.
Prabhakaran himself is around 53 years old, has become portly, and is said to be suffering from ailments that possibly include diabetes. An accidental bomb blast left Soosai, the Sea Tiger chief, confined to his wheelchair and also killed his son. Balraj, deputy chief of the military, is also said to be ailing.
As the Sri Lankan Army’s bombings get more accurate, Fonseka takes delight in the fact that he is giving Prabhakaran sleepless nights, since he has to constantly change his hideouts. The Sri Lankan intelligence believes that there is no clear line of succession if Prabhakaran is killed or incapacitated in an attack.
Says Fonseka, “When a ship is sinking, there is no succession line.” Pottu Amman, Prabhakaran’s intelligence chief and the man who masterminded Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, is the closest to him and controls access to the LTTE chief. It was apparently a battle for supremacy between Amman and Karuna, which saw the latter leave the outfit in a huff. Of late, there has been talk of Prabhakaran passing the mantle to son Charles Anthony, but Fonseka dismisses him as “fat, lazy and incapable of taking over LTTE”.
Other reports say he is a computer geek and his father is using him to boost LTTE’s communications via the Internet. Colonel (retd) G. Hariharan, an Indian military expert, says that after Prabhakaran, Afghan-style warlordism may arise, with LTTE fragmenting.
Already, the Tigers are showing signs of desperation. They have unleashed a wave of attacks on civilian targets in a bid to take the pressure off them in the battle for Wanni.
On the eve of the Independence Day celebrations on February 4, they penetrated the tight Sri Lankan security. A suicide blast at the Fort Railway Station saw 12 people, including seven children, being killed. A bomb had also been planted close to the President’s Temple Trees office and only luck prevented what would have been an embarrassing blast for the Government.
LTTE’s plan to strike in different towns and not in Colombo alone is intended to stretch the Sri Lankan internal security forces and get them to divert some of the army units from the battle for the north.
The Tigers also want to trigger ethnic riots and get the international community to pressure the Government into ending the offensive. The other option is to maintain status quo in the north, where the battle rages, and to tire the people and the Government.
Already, inflation is running at over 20 per cent, and the cost of a loaf of bread has gone up from Rs 15 to Rs 35. If LTTE ensures a stalemate in the war, peoples’ patience for the Government may wear thin.
Meanwhile, President Rajapakse has to answer to the international community, including India. He has been told firmly that there is no military solution to the ethnic problem and that peace could return only if his Government came up with a credible devolution package for the Tamils.
So Rajapakse hustled the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), which he had appointed to look into the question of devolution, into submitting an interim report. APRC had recommended the implementation of the 13th Amendment brought in by the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord in 1987, which had advised the setting up of Provincial Councils with powers to run matters related to police, education, health and infrastructure.
Very little was done by successive governments to implement its recommendations. Now, the President promises to implement it in toto “as the first step” and has promised to consider any more demands that APRC may make. Meanwhile he has deployed brother Basil Rajapakse to go full speed in developing the east and forming its Provincial Council by March.
This has calmed the international community that has tacitly allowed Rajapakse to continue the war. But there are growing complaints from the West about human rights violations and media censorship. Internal resistance is also growing.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader of the Opposition and the architect of CFA, does not share the Government’s optimism about the war. Nor is he enamoured by the devolution package being promised to the Tamils. Wickremesinghe told India Today: “Apart from antagonising the international community by abrogating CFA, the Government still has not come up with a credible devolution plan for the Tamils.”
Tamil factions, too, are critical. S. Adaikkalanathan, MP and leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, says, “Unable to lay new eggs, the President is duping the Tamils, promising to hatch an egg that has rotted for 60 years.”
By staking his prestige on winning against LTTE, or “putting all his eggs in the war basket”, as a diplomat describes it, Rajapakse has narrowed his options considerably.
The Tigers may be down, but they are certainly not out. And given their past history, there is every possibility that they may bounce back and succeed in bogging down the Sri Lankan Army in a debilitating stalemate.
A terror strike on an important leader could also send the President’s calculations awry. People’s discontent over prices may boil over before the one year the President has asked for is over.
Rajapakse has embarked on a dangerous game of brinkmanship. If he succeeds in bagging Prabhakaran, he is certain to win the next elections and continue his reign. If he fails, well, the dustbin of history is never short of space.
@ Copyright 2007 India Today Group.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
I am surprised at these results, but here's what average Sri Lankans have to say to an independent poll.
"...President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the third best among Sri Lanka's leaders since the country became independent in 1948, shows a survey.
Conducted in January by Nielsen and the Sunday Times newspaper, the survey shows that Rajapaksa is number three, with 21 percent of the 519 respondents preferring him to other leaders, past and present.
President R. Premadasa, who ruled between 1988 and 1993, was marginally ahead of him with support from 22 percent respondents.
But the most well thought of leader was Sri Lanka's first prime minister, D.S. Senanayake, who got 31 percent of the vote, the highest. Senanayake is hailed as the 'Father of the Nation' as he fought for Sri Lanka's independence and helped the common man by rejuvenating the agricultural sector.
Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, father of the 1956 ' Sinhala Only' policy, which put power into the hands of the Sinhalese majority in the island and unleashed a revolution or sorts, scored only five percent. His wife and prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who put Sri Lanka on the international map as one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement, and who started many import substitution industries in the 1960s and 1970s, got even less - four percent.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who ruled Sri Lanka for 11 years winning election after election, got a mere one percent. The present leader of the opposition and former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also got only one percent.
Rajapaksa will be happy to note that 60 years after Sri Lanka became independent, most Sri Lankans have expressed satisfaction in being Sri Lankan. Ninety-two percent said that they were happy to be born in Sri Lanka and 70 percent said they would not want to migrate.
Asked if the various ethnic groups - Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims - would be able to live in harmony in the island which is now torn by separatism, war and terrorism, 81 percent said that they could. And 86 percent believed that peace was possible.
Asked about freedom of expression, in the context of the recent attacks on the media, 64 percent said that Sri Lankans enjoyed it. Sixty percent said that they had the freedom to live as they wanted.
And there is something for the international community too. Almost 60 percent felt that other countries were interfering in Sri Lanka's internal affairs..."
Unfortunately, due to the advent of the present gentleman without balls as the leader of the United National Party (UNP), Sri Lanka has been effectively without a credible opposition. That is a situation which forebodes a bad future for the country, given the historic propensity of our politicians to abuse power and escape without consequences even when they are finally out of it. The UNP rank and file needs to find a credible leader who can build the grand old party back to its past glory.