kept Kulatunga out of Army HQ
* Serious security lapses allowed terrorist
to get another top officer
* LTTE's grand designs emerging; theatres of operation likely to
* Tigers buy information from underworld and military men; Army
A leading United States expert on national security
once observed that intelligence warnings fail for three reasons:
because warning is not given at all, or is not given in time for
anything to be done about it, or is not taken seriously by those
with the power to do something about it. He adds that rarely are
these failures due to simple stupidity or irresponsibility.
His observations are quite aptfor Sri Lanka, now
on the brink of an all-out war. A close study of recent attacks
by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) raises the critical question
of intelligence. Was there a forewarning and, if so, what did those
who had the power to act do? Were their failures due to simple stupidity
Bringing the issue to the fore once more is last
Thursday's attack by a suicide bomber on the Deputy Chief of Staff
of the Army, Major General (promoted posthumously to Lieutenant
General) Parami Kulatunga. The third in command of the Army did
not pay with his life sacrificing a 35-year-long military career
due to a top secret operation becoming public only after it was
|All that remains of the car used by Lt. Gen. Parami Kulatunga
is the mangled body.
That the hierarchy of the Army was high profile
targets was well known. The State Intelligence Service (SIS), the
country's national intelligence network and the Army's Directorate
of Military Intelligence (DMI) had repeatedly issued warnings. The
subject had figured prominently during weekly meetings at the Joint
Operations Headquarters (JOH) - the unified apparatus of the security
forces and the police tasked to carry out counter-terrorism operations.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), armed forces commanders, the police
chief and senior intelligence officials attend this meeting.
Fears of such attacks were heightened after a
female suicide bomber successfully infiltrated Army Headquarters
on April 25. She made an attempt on the life of the Commander, Lt.
Gen. Sarath Fonseka. It failed but he is still recovering from the
effects of that attack in a Singapore hospital. It is now clear
the guerrillas have learnt lessons from this incident. Exactly two
months after, they enhanced the quantum of explosives to create
greater devastation when they attacked Lt. Gen. Kulatunga. If the
car used by Lt. Gen. Fonseka was partly damaged, the one in which
Lt. Gen. Kulatunga travelled was left with only the mangled body
frames. See pictures on this page.
The irony of Thursday's incident was the fact
that Lt. Gen. Kulatunga was aware he was a prime target. Many a
time a close friend, a keen student of guerrilla warfare, had warned
him quoting a pithy Chinese adage - the deer forgets the trap, but
the trap never forgets the deer. So be careful at all times, he
Though holding the number three slot in the Army,
Lt. Gen. Kulatunga epitomized the present dilemma of the military
hierarchy - how to protect their own lives in the wake of guerrilla
threats. Armed escorts, no doubt, are on hand. They are a powerful
deterrent and are useful. Otherwise, it would be an open invitation
to the enemy to attack. But, what else do they have and who has
the power or responsibility beyond that? What more have they done
to prevent the country's top military men falling prey easily to
Lt. Gen. Kulatunga wanted quarters inside the
Army Headquarters (AHQ) complex. He wanted to follow in the footsteps
of his immediate superior and close friend, Major General Nanda
Mallawaratchchi, Chief of Staff of the Army. The latter received
repeated warnings and was accommodated inside the AHQ complex in
March last year. This was done by former Commander, Lt. Gen. Shantha
In directing his request, the Deputy Chief of
Staff wanted to make it difficult, if not impossible, for an assassin
to get at him. But he did not get one. He neither asked for motor
cycle outriders nor was he given. The news that he was denied quarters
had reached even President Mahinda Rajapaksa this week. He raised
the matter during the weekly National Security Council meeting on
Wednesday. He wanted Maj. Gen. Mallawaratchchi to go into the case
and report back to him.
Among the buildings that remained vacant then
was the quarters inside the AHQ vacated by outgoing Deputy Chief
of Staff Major General Susil Chandrapala. The Sunday Times learnt
his request for this quarter did not meet with approval. In addition,
another building was fully renovated and furnished at great cost
for use by a senior official. He, however, made clear he had no
plans to go there. Hence, this fully furnished quarter has continued
to remain vacant.
|The partly damaged car used by Army Commander
Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka who was attacked by a suicide bomber
inside Army Headquarters.
A Major General who retired in January, this year,
continues to occupy his quarters inside AHQ. Funny enough, the reason
cited by him are threats from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)
though for many years now they have renounced violence and entered
the democratic mainstream. This is whilst others who became top
targets of the LTTE when in service have to make do without security
or accommodation. Some are still finding themselves helpless.
So Lt. Gen. Kulatunga had little choice. He had
to travel every day from his quarters in the Army cantonment at
Panagoda to Army Headquarters in Colombo, a distance of 28 kilometres.
That meant having to spend two hours a day on the road traversing
56 kilometres both ways. The fact that he travels to work every
morning along the High Level Road became a public secret. If meticulous
planning by the guerrillas had gone into the attack inside Army
Headquarters on April 25, the one last Thursday was relatively easier
for them. They had the wide choice of picking a spot within a 28
kilometre stretch to carry out the suicide attack. They chose a
point between Pannipitiya junction and Maharagama town.
The guerrillas were able carry out surveillance
on Lt. Gen. Kulatunga's day-to-day travel. That is disturbing enough.
More disturbing is proof, once again, that during the more than
four years of ceasefire, the guerrillas had established a stronger
network in the City of Colombo and suburbs. There are suicide cadres,
pistol groups, intelligence cells and other operatives. They were
communicating with ease with their leaders in the Wanni. They had
brought in sizeable quantities of weapons and explosives. The dismantling
of checkpoints after the February 2002 signing of the Ceasefire
Agreement and a halt to search operations paved the way. So did
the free movement of traffic from Colombo to the north and vice
versa which went largely unchecked. Whilst talking peace, the LTTE
followed the well known dictum - prepare for war.
Barely 12 hours after Thursday's suicide attack,
there was proof that the guerrillas were bent on targeting more
military officials. Two of them on a motor cycle were taking photographs
of the private residence of another senior Major General, known
to be high on the list of the LTTE. He lived not so far from the
scene of Thursday's attack. Three wheeler scooter drivers in the
area who saw this happen gave chase but they disappeared. Veteran
soldier Major General Shyaman Kulatunga, who was named to succeed
Lt. Gen. Parami Kulatunga as Deputy Chief of Staff has also been
cautioned of possible attempts. He was earlier Commandant of the
Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force (SLAVF). That post is now being overlooked
by Major General Lawrence Fernando in addition to his duties as
Director General - General Staff (DGGS) at the Joint Operations
Maj. Gen. Shyaman Kulatunga is also the head of
a tri services inquiry that is probing the death of five civilians
in Pesalai near Mannar on June 17. One of them died in a church
whilst four were killed on the beach.
The attack on Lt. Gen. Kulatunga came soon after
the LTTE failed to pull off what would have been a devastating incident
- the attack on the Colombo Port on June 16 or 17. Details of how
this was plotted were revealed in The Sunday Times (Situation Report)
last week. Rough seas prevented four Sea Tiger suicide cadres from
attaching bombs to the hulls of eight different ships in the port.
There were also plans to attack naval vessels. Here again, the State
Intelligence Service (SIS) warned of an impending attack on the
port and confirmed that the guerrillas had carried out surveillance.
The subject figured during meetings at the Joint Operations Headquarters
The guerrilla focus on attacking targets in Colombo
and suburbs assumes greater significance for many reasons. The LTTE
has not only been strengthening its military machine during the
ceasefire. It has also been appreciating, during the ceasefire,
the newer threats it would face should hostilities break out. Landmines
protected a war-scarred zone with buildings in ruins and abandoned
fields. Most of them have been removed. Some are still being removed
by international and local groups. These mines were placed there
during hostilities to prevent a security forces advance. Development
work under way had transformed the environment there, created a
new infrastructure and boosted economic activity.
Such a new environment, the LTTE was aware, allowed
the security forces unimpeded access and was vulnerable to attacks
in the event of a war. Hence, their plans had to include moves to
carry the war outside the areas they dominate, particularly the
City of Colombo and suburbs, if they were to achieve their final
objectives. The measures thus formulated to meet the new threats
perceived by them, will no doubt, see a change in the character
and intensity of a full-blown Eelam War IV. Whilst the LTTE grand
design is yet to emerge, some of the unfolding events give one a
Debilitating attacks on targets in the City and
suburbs, like the attempt on the Colombo port, would only necessitate
a greater security presence in the city. That means having to thin
out from the theatres of war in the north and east. Attacks on the
military hierarchy, which pro-LTTE web sites claim are retaliatory
for the purported "deep penetration unit" attacks on guerrilla
leaders, leads to a problem of morale in this backdrop.
There is a new facet to the LTTE moves. They have
privatized this new phase of the escalating separatist war. They
are bribing heavily civilians in the south to obtain intelligence
information to plan their attacks and secure help. Strong evidence
has surfaced during recent investigations.
In the murder of Lt. Col. Nizam Muthaliff on May
31, 2005 it came to light that an accomplice in the south was paid
Rs 1.3 million. At least three soldiers are under investigation
by the Military Police for alleged links with the LTTE for money.
The probe into the failed attempt on the Colombo Port has revealed
that large sums of money were paid to a wealthy Negombo fisherman,
his son and nephew. His house was used as a hide out. Nixon, a guerrilla
leader used a communications set, located in this house, to speak
to Sea Tiger leader Thillaiampalam Sivanesan alias Soosai. He was
overseeing the operation.
A more startling case of LTTE infiltration and
money in exchange for intelligence operation came to light last
week in Trincomalee. The Navy there arrested a guerrilla. Upon interrogation,
he disclosed that he was regularly obtaining valuable information
from an Army Captain, a volunteer officer. He met him regularly
and briefed him on various plans and actions by the security forces.
He had even shown the locations where some officers lived. Navy
interrogators set a trap. They got the guerrilla to telephone the
officer who was in his camp and invited him for a meeting. The Captain
turned up and was soon apprehended. The Navy handed them over to
the Army's Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) for a debriefing.
They are to be handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department
(CID) this week for further inquiries.
It has now come to light that the LTTE, which
had established links with Colombo's underworld and paid them handsomely
for killings, have gone a step further. They were using them also
on surveillance tasks and to obtain information about specific targets.
The question that begs answer in the light of these
developments is whether successive governments appreciated the new
threats that emerged from the LTTE building a stronger military
machine. That is during the ceasefire. Sadly, the answer is an emphatic
"no." If they did, it would not have been difficult to
put into effect some simple counter measures. One such case would
be to enhance accommodation facilities for senior officers inside
the Army Headquarters complex where adequate space is available.
In the alternative, if such a threat to officers was acknowledged,
a well-secured housing complex could have been built.
Whilst simple issues were not addressed, the more
complex issues like preparing the military to face the new threats
posed by the LTTE also did not receive consideration. This is besides
these new threats not being appreciated. The needs of the security
forces in the light of this were also not paid heed to. That left
the security forces and police at a very low level of preparedness.
As a result, like on past occasions, with the
threat of a full scale war looming large, hurried preparations have
to be made. New military procurements are rushed through, hurried
battle plans formulated to meet attacks and security preparations
enhanced for villages bordering guerrilla dominated areas. Security
forces were under Government orders this week not to refer to them
as "border villages" but only as "threatened villages."
Roads are closed and checkpoints have been established in various
parts of the country. If past experience over procurements is anything
to go by, such situations have led to widespread corruption that
spawned millionaires in uniform and outside it. It has also shown
that the capabilities of the enemy have often been underestimated
and consequently the response was equally underestimated. Above
all, it was the politicians, and not the military, that prosecuted
Amidst these preparations, there seems a marked
shift this week in the Government's approach to LTTE attacks. Unlike
on previous occasions, the suicide bomb attack that killed Lt. Gen.
Kulatunga did not see any retaliatory bombing raids by the Air Force
or artillery attacks on guerrilla positions in the north and east.
There was total silence in the battlefields. Among the many reasons,
The Sunday Times learnt, was international pressure including those
from the region following fears of the outbreak of an all-out war.
Sections of the diplomatic community were using this restraint to
seek a similar response from the LTTE but many questions remain.
Among them is whether the LTTE would agree. Another is whether such
a restraint could be maintained for long by the Government if LTTE
attacks continue. Intelligence sources fear it would.
As a journalist who witnessed the transformation
from moderation to militancy and covered the separatist war from
its very beginning, I am left with the feeling that successive governments
did not know the enemy adequately. Nor did they want to find out.
It is no different today be it on the peace front or in the battlefield.
With near two decades of fighting, and a shaky four-year ceasefire
that has seen the birth of a low-intensity war, both sides have
grown militarily. Hostilities continue amidst peace initiatives.
The words of Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu more
than 2,500 years ago ring true even today. He said:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need
not fear the result of hundred battles. If you know yourself but
not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in
|CJ cites ST report in restraining Sandagiri
The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained Admiral Daya Sandagiri
from functioning as Deputy Secretary to the Ministry of Defence,
Public Safety, Law and Order.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva
made the order following a fundamental rights violation application
filed by Charles Peter Wiggin of Gunnepana near Kandy. Other
members of the bench were Justices N.K. Udalagama and N.E.
The Court held that the restraining order will apply until
the hearings, which begin on October 30, are concluded.
The Chief Justice referring to The Sunday Times (Situation
Report - January 1, 2006) said in his order that the article
titled "SANDAGIRI GUN DEAL FIRED DOWN" was not merely
speculative. He noted that the deal had been fired down by
the Attorney General's Department. This report drew the attention
of the Chief Justice from among newspaper accounts on Admiral
Sandagiri filed in support of the application.
The article, an exclusive report by The Sunday Times, revealed
how the Government cancelled over a billion rupee deal where
former Commander of the Navy and then Chief of Defence Staff,
Admiral Daya Sandagiri ordered 20-year-old guns for the Navy's
Fast Attack Craft (FAC) fleet on the grounds they were brand
new and made an advance payment running into millions for
the weapons that were not in production. The report disclosed
that the Attorney General's Department has ruled after studying
the contract conditions that the 20 -year-old guns cannot
be accepted as "brand new." They recommended that
the deal could be rejected and a refund of the advance claimed.
Petitioner C.R. Wiggin has cited Admiral Sandagiri as the
first respondent together with the Cabinet of Ministers and
the Attorney General. He has said that he finds the ongoing
war between the defence forces and the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has on numerous occasions restricted his
full enjoyment of his fundamental rights. Among the other
points made in his application, supported by attorney at law
Wasantha Wijewardane are:
* The Petitioner (Mr. Wiggin) believes that corrupt actions
of some leading personalities of the defence forces have led
to the weakening of the fighting abilities and the morale
of the members of the defence forces. He believes this is
the main reason why the war has dragged on for so long.
* In the backdrop of this the Petitioner welcomed the appointment
by His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa of two Commissions
of Inquiry to investigate corrupt deals.
* One of the leading personalities being investigated, according
to the media, happens to be the 1st Respondent who during
his career has held the posts of the Commander of the Navy
as well as Chief of Defence Staff.
* On or around 13th of June 2006 the Petitioner came to know
through reliable sources that by a Cabinet decision the 1st
Respondent has been appointed Deputy Secretary of Defence.
* The Petitioner verily believes that this appointment will
have the effect of demoralizing and scaring off the would
be witnesses at above inquiries and furthermore act as an
incentive to other corrupt officers to further engage in putrid
deals thereby endangering the security of the nation.
* The Petitioner further believes that the Cabinet of Ministers
have no authority to make the above appointment since after
the 17th Amendment (to the Constitution) only heads of departments
come under the purview of the Cabinet of Ministers.
Counsel Wijewardane told Court Admiral Sandagiri has been
appointed to a non existent post. Under the Constitution there
were only Secretaries to Ministries and there were no deputies.
He said the Cabinet had no authority to create such a post.
The tax money the Petitioner pays, he said, would be utilized
in an illegal manner to pay for a person holding a non existent
Senior State Counsel Indika Dewmini told Court that a post
titled Deputy Secretary to Treasury existed. However, the
Chief Justice pointed out that this was an old designation.
In this instance, it referred to the Secretary to the Ministry
of Finance. The office was also referred to as DST or Deputy
Secretary to the Treasury but there was no such post in other
Admiral Sandagiri was appointed Deputy Secretary to the
Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order by a Cabinet
decision on June 8 2006. This followed a recommendation made
by President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is Minister of Defence,
Public Security, Law and Order. Defence Secretary Gothabaya
Rajapaksa had wanted to continue to retain his services.
Following the news of the Supreme Court ruling reaching
him, Admiral Sandagiri did not report to work on Thursday
afternoon. Until then he has been handling some important
subjects at the Ministry of Defence. That included chairing
top level conferences about security for parliamentarians
as well as dealing with key intelligence issues. Last Wednesday,
he attended the weekly meeting of the National Security Council.
This was in the absence of Defence Secretary, Gothabaya Rajapaksa
who is now on a visit to United States.