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Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Could you explain the main objectives of operation Riviresa?
A: Before the operation 'Riviresa I' we were confined to a few army camps in the Jaffna peninsula. We had lost control in the Valikamam, Thenmarachchi and Vadamarachchi divisions. The LTTE had established its police stations and Courts. Therefore we had to move step by step to liberate the areas from the LTTE and operation Riviresa was launched for this purpose.
The operation 'Leap Forward' launched before 'Riviresa I' was useful to build the morale of the soldiers. At that time it was the view that we cannot enter the Tiger stronghold.
In Riviresa II we had three objectives. First was to make a climate conducive for the civilians who fled the Valikamam division to return.
Second objective was to liberate the Thenmarachchi division and the third was to take control of the Kilali lagoon and break up the Tiger link between Kilinochchi and the Jaffna peninsula. We achieved all these objectives.
Q: But the entire Thenmarachchi division has not been captured?
A: Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored. Taking control of Chavakachcheri area amounts to taking Thenmarachchi as the main base in this division is Chavakachcheri. Therefore we have taken control of the important places.
Q: By taking control of the Kilali lagoon area do you mean that the LTTE links between Kilinochchi and the peninsula have been completely cut off?
A: Kilali lagoon was one of their main routes while being the easiest. Now this has been blocked and they would have to take a deviated route. We have stepped up Naval patrolling and hence it would not be easy to use the Kilali lagoon.
Q: Is it correct to say that there are main LTTE Sea Tiger bases in the Vadamarachchi area which is not under military control? The Sea Tiger strength has not been reduced?
A: Censored, but since we have blocked their main routes the Sea Tigers would find it difficult to maintain themselves.
Q: The LTTE is known to have a strong intelligence network. Have these military operations had an impact on their intelligence operations?
A: It is difficult to say, but during operation Riviresa I a number of LTTE cadres of the intelligence wing were killed.
Q: But none of their front-line leaders were harmed.
A: Why not? Their Sea Tiger leader, Soosai was injured in an air strike and his leg was broken.
Q: Has this been confirmed?
Q: The LTTE recently had said they do not intend to hold on to land, but will continue the guerrilla type attacks to reduce the strength of the army?
A: This is not what they said earlier. They claimed they would not allow the army to move out from the Palaly Camp. But now have moved out.
Q: With the recent military operation how has the strength of the LTTE reduced and the impact on the Tigers.
A: We have been able to reduce the LTTE strength by 50 per cent (including those killed and injured), but otherwise their power has been reduced by about 75 per cent.
Q: In that case why have you called youth to enlist with the army?
A: That is because we want to end this war soon. Many ask when will the war be over, Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored Censored . We need the co-operation of the people.
Q: The LTTE has referred to peace talks again? and said troops should withdraw from the areas that have been taken control of.
A: That should be a government decision. But I do not think the government will get trapped in their ploy.
Q: How do you describe the situation in the east?
A: This is the picture given by the LTTE. We have figures to say that more LTTE cadres are killed than the number of security personnel killed in the east. It is difficult to carryout large scale operations, but we have our own plans. The LTTE has been able to be active in the east as the bulk of our troops have been withdrawn to the north for the operations. But their aim was to trap the army in the east and return to the north. Internationally they had wanted to show they held the north. That is the reason we broke their strength in the north. The LTTE power in the east will also be controlled.
Q: In your capacity as the Army Commander what steps do you intend taking to improve the welfare of the soldiers?
A: The best way to improve their welfare is to provide a better training to the soldiers. We are taking steps to provide the necessary training.
Scholars of various Universities worldwide in a statement condemned the deportation of Dr. Mrs. Jane Russel and called upon the government to take the necessary steps to ensure that she can return to Sri Lanka and continue with her academic research.
Dr. Russel who has been residing in Sri Lanka since 1970 was arrested on April 11 at Kadugannawa and detained at Bogambara and Welikada prison before being deported on April 17.
The statement has been signed by more than 30 scholars.
May Day this year was relatively peaceful, except for one ugly incident. It was not as colourful and vibrant as it used to be
It is a workers' day and not a politicians' day. Though there may not have been all the fire of previous decades, the role that the working class could play in resolving the ethnic conflict and building a bridge between the North and the South was powerfully communicated. Furthermore the Labour Minister and other government leaders vowed that the proposed Workers' Charter would become law soon despite pressure from various quarters to undermine or dilute it.
The only major incident this year was at the NSSP rally where the police used tough tactics and then used tear gas to stop the procession. The NSSP and it's 'older brother' the LSSP had decided to defy a police ban on processions for May Day.
The NSSP led by the firebrand Wickremabahu Karunaratne began from De Mel Park. Within minutes police surrounded the procession and asked the crowd to disperse. There were arguments and then a baton charge. Police were seen tearing up banners. A coffin carried by the demonstrators was also broken. Finally tear gas was used after stones were thrown at the police. NSSP members alleged that police used pieces of wood from their broken flag staff and coffin to attack them.
The LSSP procession was quite different. As the procession led by Batty Weerakoon and Vasudeva Nanayakkara left Campbell Park they were officially informed by a police officer that processions were banned. They were told to go in groups and they did - but they regrouped later. By the time they reached Maradana, it was a procession again. The ritual was seen all over again. A police officer formally informed them to break up and go in groups. But this time they defied or ignored the police. But no force was used to break up the procession.
At the Town Hall premises where the PA rally was held security was tight. Anyone wanting to enter the grounds was body-checked. The crowd at the PA rally was just a fraction of the sea of heads that we used to witness at the famous United Front May Day rallies in the Galle Face.
Away from it all, the main opposition party, the UNP, held its May Day rally in the bustling Kelani Valley town of Avissawella about 25 miles off Colombo.
Ceylon National Workers Congress leader S. Sellasamy, who was sacked from the CWC two years ago, alleges that an attempt on his life was made before dawn on May Day.
Mr. Sellasamy alleges that a gang linked to the CWC had attacked those who were preparing the stage for the CNWC rally at Nanu Oya. One person was injured and the stage was demolished. Mr Sellasamy said he had been scheduled to be present there at that time and he saw the attack as a bid on his life.Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - Rahula hits back, CWC not in Govt.-Thonda
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