19th December 1999
Mend your ways or end your days
Point of view
In a democratic country the people have the right to know of abortive military strategies resulting from wrong political directives. The military censorship must be used to prevent sensitive information on future plans and ongoing military operations from reaching the enemy but never for the purpose of hiding facts about failure of operations due to political or military blunders.
Those who know such facts have a national duty to educate the ignorant masses and to create a public opinion that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for such mistakes to be repeated in the future.
In chapter 3 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka under article 14 (1) (a) every citizen is entitled to freedom of speech and expression including publication.
However, in article 15 (2) the exercise and operation of this fundamental right is subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interest of racial and religious harmony or in relation to parliamentary privilege, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
As what is written below does not infringe on these restrictions it needs to be published in the spirit in which it is written so as to enlighten those who are ignorant of the prevailing situation.
On or about November 6 the LTTE was successful in pushing back the Sri Lanka Armed Forces beyond their original positions that they held in Weli Oya before the commencement of the 'Jaya Sikurui' Operation in March 1997.
Both Gajabapura and Monarawewa in Weli Oya are now in enemy territory. With the capture of these two villages in Weli Oya the LTTE was able to direct artillery fire at the remaining villages in the settlement. As a result over six thousand five hundred refugees moved out of the Weli Oya settlement to Padaviya down south which is beyond artillery range.
The untold misery that these refugees have had to suffer in makeshift refugee camps that have been commenced in schools is difficult if not impossible to explain in words.
All the politicians and most people in the south are more interested in a stupid presidential election or on millennium dances than on the pathetic conditions of refugees displaced from the territory captured or threatened by the LTTE. These people in the south could be compared with Nero the Roman Emperor who was playing his fiddle while Rome was burning.
It may be difficult for many to understand how a victorious Sri Lankan Army that captured Jaffna from the LTTE could suffer such a humiliating defeat in the Vanni.
One reason for this defeat could be attributed to the efforts made by the government's Sudu Nelum Movement and several NGO's to undermine the efforts of brave soldiers who were fighting the LTTE to protect the unity and territorial integrity of our motherland for posterity.
Their sustained propaganda against the Sri Lankan Armed Forces had a telling effect on the morale of the fighting soldier. In addition the country too was never placed on a war footing by its political leaders. While they together with some military leaders made money on arms contracts most people in the south were enjoying life, leaving soldiers to defend the territory under trying conditions, sacrificing life and limb.
The other reason is attributed to the political directive given to take and hold the area extending from Mankulam to Oddusuddan when operation 'Jaya Sikurui' was called off. While the military complied with this political requirement of capturing this jungle terrain from the LTTE sans the required troops to man it they found it difficult if not impossible to hold this terrain.
With no option left the defence line was over-stretched in the forward areas by reducing the soldiers at each bunker from five to two. The bunkers that defend jungle territory should be constructed so as to enable them to mutually support each other.
They should also be constructed to provide all round protection for which purpose a minimum of five soldiers need to be deployed to a bunker and not two. A second line of defence should also be constructed to provide defence in depth. A good communication system with a sound command structure is also necessary. Finally logistical support to the soldier in the bunker should be maintained without failure.
All these basic principles of defensive warfare were flouted when the bunker line was over-stretched and thinly manned in the jungles of Mullaitivu situated in the jaws of the Tiger. The morale of the soldiers deployed under such conditions began to deteriorate rapidly.
When bunker lines are over stretched and thinly manned sans defence in-depth by soldiers of low morale, it is a matter of time before such a line would crumble to a sustained enemy thrust. This is what happened from Oddusuddan to Kanagarayankulam.
When the bunker line from Oddusuddan to Kanagarayankulam crumbled the eastern flank of Mankulam was left exposed and the soldiers in the Mankulam sector whose morale too was very low withdrew to Puliyankulam without facing a possible attack from the eastern flank.
The Army thus lost all the territory it had captured in the Vanni during nine months of battle in just over four days.
The LTTE was able to
continue their campaign for another two years or to attack and retake the Jaffna peninsula. With the onset of the northeast monsoon this month transportation by sea and air to the Jaffna peninsula becomes exceedingly difficult.
The attack on the Elephant Pass defences on November 11 may have been to probe the strength of the defences prior to a major attack. Besides the threat to the Jaffna peninsula, the instability caused by this withdrawal to the Yan Oya basin which could be referred to as the gateway to Eelam, is tremendous.
Unless the Sri Lankan Armed Forces are motivated to reverse this trend immediately the LTTE will recommence their attacks on Sinhala villages to ethnically cleanse this strategic area in the near future. If they succeed they will be able to link the northern territory now in their possession with the eastern territory and thus complete the first phase of the Eelam struggle.
When a military debacle occurred either the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces who is also the Minister of Defence or the Deputy Minister of Defence who could be held directly responsible should have resigned.
In the alternative they should have immediately appointed an Overall Operations Commander who has the charisma to rally the troops around. It is a well-know fact among the people of this country that the military does have such a leader who has the ability to turn the tide even at this late stage.
He has a proven track record having defeated the LTTE forces in a decisive battle at Weli Oya. He was able to kill four hundred and ninety eight LTTE combatants losing only two of his men in this confrontation.
This is perhaps one of the greatest achievements in the history of warfare. He was also the Overall Operations Commander who defeated the LTTE in Jaffna, Point Pedro and Kilinochchi. The soldiers love and respect him and will rally round him to vanquish the LTTE terrorists. However it is believed that the political leadership has side-stepped him because of his popularity both with the soldiers and civilians.
In 1994 the people of this country gave the incumbent President a six-year mandate. She is therefore entitled to continue in office for one more year. As she did not resign in her capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defence taking the responsibility for the military debacle she should have cancelled the presidential election and made every endeavour to unite the nation shedding aside all political differences.
The leader of the opposition too should have asked for a cancellation of the presidential election after a military debacle of such magnitude and given the necessary support to the President to defeat the common enemy. Both these leaders seem to be obsessed with hunger for power that they have even forgotten to think of the destiny of our country which is heading towards separatism while they are indulging in a petty political battle.
The right thinking people who are disgusted of this party political system that places a stupid presidential election above the security of our motherland will undoubtedly reject both these power hungry leaders if a presidential election is held as scheduled on Tuesday, December 21. In this connection I wish to quote once more the last part of my article in the Sunday Times of January 3.
"The majority will not remain silent much longer while these politicians play their stupid political games over the dead bodies of brave and heroic soldiers with the loss of valuable military equipment that would ultimately bleed this country and its people to a slow and agonizing death.
"The voice of the majority is now growing louder by the day against both the loss of their legitimate rights with the granting of more concessions to minority groups for political support to rule this country. CENSORED
"The voice in the distance long subdued due to political differences in the majority is getting louder with the majority sinking all political differences to unite for a single purpose, their survival.
"The political leaders unless they are deaf should now hear the voice of the majority which is now getting louder by the day saying, 'Mend your ways or end your days'."
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