5th December 1999
The sequence of events that led to the unfortunate military reversals in the Wanni is now being recounted in stages before a three member Military Court of Inquiry.
Senior officers and other ranks have been giving their own accounts of what happened and what in their view went wrong. Others have handed over long winding lists of losses and damages caused.
The ongoing censorship prevents any detailed references being made to these significant developments which will have far reaching repercussions on the ongoing separatist war – a subject which is of utmost public interest. The fact that every Sri Lankan contributes, either directly or indirectly, to the war effort is by no means a secret.
One can only say that the Court has been conducting inquiries, almost on a daily basis, both in Colombo and in Anuradhapura. It is headed by Major General Lionel Balagalle, Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army and comprises Rear Admiral Daya Sandagiri, Chief of Staff, Sri Lanka Navy and Air Vice Marshal Donald Perera, Chief of Staff, Sri Lanka Air Force.
If the Military Court of inquiry is focusing on fact finding, the once inactive Joint Operations Headquarters (JOC) under General Rohan de S. Daluwatte, has been busy strengthening the military apparatus to counter any further major rebel thrusts. His weekly Monday meetings with the service chiefs and the IGP have now become a close monitoring mechanism of the situation in the operational areas. For the upper echelons of the defence establishment, this has become a regular means of keeping in touch with the developing scenarios in the battle areas.
With only 16 more days to go for the Presidential elections, an equally worrisome scenario has begun to emerge in the political arena. That is the security threats posed by the LTTE not only to the two principal contestants – President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe – but also to other key personalities in the People's Alliance and the United National Party.
In the past few weeks, the Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DII), which has been closely monitoring security related matters concerning the polls has been sounding strong notes of caution.
High on the list, they have warned, is President Kumaratunga. In his "Heroes Day" speech, LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, has described her rule as the "worst form of tyranny" ever suffered by the Tamils – remarks which underscore LTTE's deep anger towards her. Security considerations in the wake of these threats have forced her to curtail her public appearances during the ongoing election campaign. Yet, she has defied security advice in some instances to be at important events.
Defence authorities have credible evidence that the LTTE leadership has detailed death squads for political assassinations. Some are said to have infiltrated the city with unidentified newer weapons to ensure their missions do not fail.
President Kumaratunga and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe have been identified as prime targets. Security for both has been stepped up in view of these threats.
Other PA leaders who have been confirmed last week as being on top of the LTTE hit list are Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, Ports Minister, M.H.M. Ashraff, Media Minister, Mangala Samaraweera and Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Prof. G.L. Peiris.
Last week, the Ministerial Security Division strengthened security for Opposition parliamentarian, Anura Bandaranaike, after reports that an LTTE hit squad had planned to attack him whilst he was taking part in election rallies in the South.
As a forerunner to planned attacks on political personalities, security sources say, the LTTE had also planned to trigger off a string of incidents in the city during their "Heroes (Maveerar) Week" from November 20 to 27. Stepped up security measures resulting in several detections stalled these moves.
Police say at Manampitiya, along the road to Batticaloa, constables who used a dog trained to sniff out explosives, detected 500 grammes of explosives concealed in a bus heading for Colombo. That came a week ahead of the "Heroes Week." It also saw a number of detections by Army and Police in other areas.
These detections came in the backdrop of the LTTE continuing attacks on economic targets like power transformers and telecommuncation installations, both in the City and other areas.
The LTTE offensive beginning with Ceaseless Waves 2 has been multi-faceted. The military offensive has been accompanied political and diplomatic initiatives as well as with planned sabotage on VIP and economic targets.
There is no doubting the fact that their planning has also been timed with the Presidential elections. The LTTE political strategy has unwaveringly been to influence the political outcome in the country and to exploit the bitter divisiveness in national politics both to their advantage as well as to influence the international community that in such a political climate see the minority rights in jeopardy.
Unfortunately the acrimonious nature of Sri Lankan politics not only makes the nation vulnerable to be so exploited but it also impedes solutions to political and economic problems of importance to the detriment of the nation's progress.
Increasing detections by the Sri Lanka Navy are leaving mounting evidence that the LTTE's use of the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu as a supply base continues unabated.
In the past weeks, Sri Lanka Navy patrols made a string of detections after intercepting guerrilla boat movements in the Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar.
On November 24, a Sri Lanka Navy patrol intercepted an Indian fishing trawler loaded with medical and surgical supplies to the LTTE. The trawler had been on its way to the Sea Tiger Base at Nachchikuda (in the north west coast) when it was intercepted off the Iranativu island.
Four Indian nationals on board the trawler were arrested by the Navy and handed over to the Police.
Two days earlier, Navy personnel on patrol in the Talaimannar area spotted a man walking towards the coast with a huge package. When he did not pay heed to their orders to stop, Navy men gave chase. The man dropped the package and escaped. It was found to contain 2,000 Indian made detonators.
On November 26, a Navy patrol in the high seas off the north eastern coastal village of Chalai (north of Mullaitivu), gave chase to two Sea Tiger boats.
One exploded in flames when Naval craft opened fire. The other escaped towards the coast. Navy officials said the boat was also carrying medical supplies and had crossed the Palk Straits to reach the north east coast.
It was only on October 10, this year, that these columns reported how a string of successes by Sri Lanka Navy patrols, both in the Palk Straits and the Indian Ocean, have bared a new significant development – the LTTE is stepping up its logistics runs to the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu.
The developments come despite claims that India had agreed to help Sri Lanka to curb Tiger guerrilla activity in the Palk Straits, Gulf of Mannar and the Indian Ocean.
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