Jungle Telegraph

19th December 1999

By Alia

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Mild ticking off

Former Security Forces Commander, Wanni and now Commandant of the Army Staff College at Batalanda, Major General Wasantha Perera, was in for a mild ticking off last week.

This was when he sent word that he was unable to appear before the Military Court of Inquiry now probing the battlefield reversals in the Wanni, on a day this week. He had said he was expecting a foreign visitor to the Staff College.

When the Court met, its Secretary, Colonel Jagath Jayasuriya, brought this to the attention of the three members. He was directed to ascertain whether this engagement was with the prior approval of the Ministry of Defence.

It was no difficult task for Col. Jayasuriya to find out. He is the Military Liaison Officer (MLO) in the Ministry of Defence.

Moments later, he reported to Court that no such permission has been obtained.

The Court then directed Col. Jayasuriya to summon Maj. Gen. Perera to appear that day and testify. He did so.

The Court is headed by Major General Lionel Balagalle, Chief of Staff of the Army and comprises Air Vice Marshal Donald Perera, Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Air Force and Rear Admiral Daya Sandagiri, Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Navy.

Wrong report?

Intelligence circles were buzzing with reports early this week that Sea Tiger leader, Soosai and Wanni "Commander" Karuna, who led the attacks on Wanni defences last month, were killed and injured respectively.

Adding weight to the reports were purported guerrilla radio intercepts a moderate Tamil group, helping the security forces had heard.

At least part of the report, intelligence sources learnt, was wrong. Karuna was heard shouting orders to LTTE cadres involved in the attacks on Elephant Pass-Paranthan defences.

Estimated figures

Wanted soon - a countrywide survey to ascertain what percentage of Sri Lankans believe in the casualty figures on the ongoing separatist war put out by the Op Hq of the Ministry of Defence ?

The Op Hq press release on the latest fighting at Elephant Pass on December 11 declared "over 230 terrorists have been killed_."

The next day (December 12) the Op Hq press release said "there is no change to the estimated enemy casualties reported."

The first announcement did not speak about an estimated figure. Nor did the last announcement at a news conference which placed the death toll at 480.

Official counts of guerrilla deaths for November and upto December 18 would exceed a 1,000 dead leave alone the "large numbers injured."

How much more cadres is the LTTE left with ? Does anyone really believe in the figures, which if totalled together for the past 17 years would exceed the population of Jaffna twice or thrice over ?

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