LTTE getting stronger, army weaker

The government has allowed the LTTE to vastly increase its strength since the cease-fire was signed and peace talks begun while weakening its own security forces, the Sunday Times defence correspondent and consulting editor Iqbal Athas said last week.

Over a period of time the LTTE had been given the opportunity to develop capabilities it never had, he told the monthly meeting of The Sunday Times Business Club.

"The most worrying contrast is that while the enemy has been allowed to strengthen itself you have started to weaken your own security apparatus," he said making a presentation on security and defence-related issues in Sri Lanka.

There is a "massive credibility gap" between the ground reality and what the public is told.

In the 15 months since the truce came into effect not a single core issue had been discussed but the government had allowed the enemy to strengthen itself "to the point where the core issues become irrelevant," Athas said.

The LTTE had developed a "massive" infrastructure in the Wanni and was constantly training new cadres and smuggling in arms, including "top-of-the-range weapons".

The LTTE's strength had grown from 7,500 cadres before the truce to 18,000 in the north and east. The withdrawal of checkpoints had led to increased infiltration of LTTE cadres and weapons into Colombo and other sensitive areas.

"This is indicated by the impunity with which LTTE pistol groups are killing army informants," he said. This has raised the frightening prospect of whether the LTTE will "bring the war to Colombo" if it decides to break off peace talks and resume hostilities.

Recalling the manner in which the LTTE assassin Babu, who killed President Ranasinghe Premadasa in a suicide bomb attack, had infiltrated into the president's inner circle, Athas said: "Would it be wrong to ask if there are thousands of Babus today?"

The military's imports of arms and ammunition had been stopped with the result that when material is used for training they are not replaced to meet any contingency in the event of a sudden onslaught by the LTTE.

"This shows the security forces are not trusted by the government - if so the dangers ahead are much more serious," Athas said.

The police raid on the Athurugiriya safe house of the army's Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol had caused much damage to the highly successful special forces covert operations in enemy territory in which several LTTE leaders were killed.
Describing them as "very delicate operations" in which troops operated under cover, Athas recalled how on one mission a commando stepped on a landmine and severed his leg.

"This created a problem - how to get him out?" Athas said. Eventually the wounded soldier was evacuated by helicopter.

Athas' comments drew many responses from the audience of young professional managers seeking clarification on whether the peace process would work, what options does this country have for peace or about corruption scandals in the military.
This was followed by a presentation and discussion on stocks and how to invest by HNB Stockbrokers Ltd led by its General Manager Deva Ellepola and head of research Hasitha Premaratne.

The event was hosted by Trans Asia Hotel who also gave away dinner vouchers to two lucky members from the monthly draw. It was co-sponsored by Lion Brewery Ceylon Ltd. Two minutes silence was also observed over the death of Dieter Hamer, an active member of the club.

'Construct 2003' exhibition in July

"Construct 2003", Sri Lanka's largest ever construction industry related exhibition takes place from July 18 to 20 at the newly-opened Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial International Exhibition Centre in Colombo.

Organised by the National Construction Association of Sri Lanka (NCASL) for the third successive year, "Construct 2003", brings together all the players in the building and construction industry under one roof, with a view to disseminating and sharing knowledge in advances made in skills and technology in the construction industry.

Chairman of "Construct 2003" Mahanama Jayamanne said that the exhibition is expected to feature over a 150 local and foreign contractors while showcasing the achievements of Sri Lanka's construction industry. He was confident that this would be a vibrant networking platform and resource centre for all construction industry related players in the whole of the Asia Pacific region.

The main objective of the exhibition is to develop the construction industry in Sri Lanka by introducing world-class products, services and state-of-the-art technology.

According to Jayamanne, the exhibition will also provide an opportunity for exhibitors to display the latest range of products and services to the ideal target audience, enable them to make new and vital business contacts and gain access to new markets, increase brand awareness, review competitor activities, etc.

The organizers will assist exhibitors to obtain partners for dealership by arranging one to one business meetings with the business community in Sri Lanka and visiting foreign delegations. (QP)


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