The Defence Column

17th March 1996

Civilians Trapped in Wanni on Purpose

By Our Defence Correspondent

The war in Sri Lanka can be compared to a heavy weight boxing bout officiated by a biased referee. One moment the Sri Lankan troops (title holders for a unitary state) have the LTTE on the mat with a succession of crippling blows, and the challenger is on the verge of defeat.

The next moment the unsavoury economic and bureaucratic framework of a third world country, steps in giving a respite to the battle-scarred opponent. While a nation-wide audience waits in hope for a knock-out victory, the enemy suddenly finds breathing space and recovers in time for a protracted battle. And the war goes on.

The victory in Jaffna is now history and the people taking time to celebrate a cricketing victory, have somewhat failed to realize that nothing is happening on the war-front.

Instead of tightening the grip on the LTTE, the government troops have been forced by unforeseen circumstances to once more allow the enemy to reorganise and strike back with a vengeance.

The much-awaited and perhaps badly needed next offensive in Jaffna is still to come. The news is that the offensive has been further postponed - thanks to a rusty logistic machinery.

Reports say that the Jaffna offensive will have to wait till military equipment arrive from various arms-centres around the world. It's a foregone conclusion that Velupillai Prabhakaran's LTTE would have used the respite to plan a new counter-strategy.

By the time the government troops get around to launch its new campaign, it may well have lost the initiative and all the painstaking efforts put into it. Recent history shows this single-crucial malody has cost the country very dearly.

Meanwhile, despite the charitable recess allowed for them, the Liberation Tigers too, have a complex situation at hand. Knowing jolly-well that the government's victory in Jaffna will be brought to nought if the people fail to return, the LTTE has moved forcibly to hold back 400,000 civilians in the Wanni area - perhaps better put as Wanni jungles.

Interestingly, Wanni has been a least populated area until the LTTE decided to build new settlements.

Now the reason for Wanni to be uninhabited is the area's notority for lack of drinking water. The on-going drought hasn't helped the LTTE a bit. In fact, it's in the interest of the people to know whether Wanni has water to sustain the civilian population of war.

The Army is unable to exploit the situation and force the LTTE to loosen its grip on the civilians as a fresh offensive is yet to be seen in Jaffna. There's no doubt that the people want nothing but to return to their homes in Jaffna, and the expectations are high that the government troops would pave the way for their return.

The LTTE will be under pressure from the civilians and Velupillai Prabhakaran will find himself in a tough situation if the water situation continues to deteriorate.

The military planners wait anxiously so that the troops would soon be able to guide the people in the wilderness to the promised land.

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