ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 20

Damage-control after disaster

President tells ministers, officials to visit funeral houses and the injured; full state assistance for final rites of Muhamalai heroes

As the nation mourned the deaths of at least 133 officers and men of the Sri Lanka Army in Wednesday’s military reversal, President Mahinda Rajapaksa set in motion a number of measures to ensure their final rites and the urgent needs of the next of kin are provided with State assistance.
Divisional Secretaries have been given the responsibility of visiting the homes of the dead in their areas of authority and personally checking on funeral arrangements, financial needs and other assistance required.

They have been told to make sure their funeral ceremonies are held with public co-operation and in a fitting manner.

The President is also to write individually to every bereaved family appreciating the contribution made by each officer and soldier in protecting Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Together with this move President Rajapaksa also detailed teams of Ministers and deputies to visit hospitals, particularly the National Hospital, Sri Jayawardenapura and the Base Hospital in Anuradhapura where wounded officers and soldiers are being treated.

This is in addition to appealing to his estranged political partners, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), for their leaders and members to visit funeral houses and the injured in hospital.

A major military action in the battlefields of Muhamalai on Wednesday morning by the Army turned out to be its worst reversal during the four-year-long ceasefire.

Within just over a period of two hours, an assault on Tiger guerrilla positions turned out to be a disaster. Whilst at least 133 officers and men were killed, another 483 were wounded. Military officials say at least 283 of them were serious cases. Main Battle Tanks, Armoured Personnel Carriers and other military hardware were lost in the battle.

The Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said security forces retaliated after it came to light that there was a major LTTE build up just outside their defence lines that straddle the one-time Entry-Exit point at Muhamalai.

However, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) accused the Army of launching a major offensive and declared it had complained earlier about such action.

The heavy fighting erupted just two weeks ahead of the resumption of peace talks in Switzerland. Diplomatic sources say the LTTE will attend the talks despite the heavy fighting on Wednesday. However, the guerrillas have not made any formal statement after the fighting and are expected to discuss the matter further when Norway’s Special Envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer visits Sri Lanka.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.