The Sunday TimesFront Page

26th May 1996




Surrendering rebels to get amnesty

More than half the war over, says Army Chief

By Iqbal Athas

The Government will grant an amnesty to Tiger cadres who have surrendered during the re-capture of the Jaffna peninsula, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Rohan Daluwatte, announced yesterday.

"The Government is working on the details. Those benefiting from the amnesty will be rehabilitated," he told The Sunday Times. He declined to bare the numbers involved but added it was substantial.

Lt. Gen. Daluwatte said that more than half the ongoing separatist war was now over. Asked for his response on LTTE re-locating itself in the Wanni, the Army Commander retorted, "For how long?"

Here are excerpts from the interview with The Sunday Times:


My main priority since assuming office is to win the war and bring peace to the country. In achieving this objective, a few shortcomings which exist have to be straightened out.

One such matter is the shortfall of troops, a subject which is being given urgent consideration. We want to recruit 10,000 more soldiers. The sooner we can got additional troops, the sooner we can finish the war. The additional strength required is to fill existing vacancies. I am not asking for strength to raise newer units. Once the new recruits are enlisted and trained, I am confident we can achieve our objectives.

On re-capture of the Jaffna peninsula

I was always confident of achieving this objective. I have the ground knowledge and know the capabilities of the terrorists. I had plans ready. I was confident they were workable. More importantly I had the full backing of the President and the Deputy Defence Minister.

I would say the ground situation in the peninsula is stable. Mopping up operations are underway in certain areas. When these are completed, the civil administration apparatus will move in there too.

On infiltration and attacks by LTTE

They will definitely try to do that. You cannot eliminate everything. We are on the lookout for infiltrators. We have succeeded in rounding up a few of them. In this respect, the public are fully with us. They are giving their fullest co-operation. We succeeded in rounding up the infiltrators after the public volunteered information and identified them.

Civilian response

The civilian response is very good. They are now seeing things in different light. They have seen through LTTE's propaganda play of branding the troops as oppressors or men of evil. There have been no complaints of human rights violations. The troops are now being treated as liberators, and friends. The suffering people underwent in the hands of the terrorists are clearly manifest in the way they behave. They want to live in peace. The Army is doing its best to help them enjoy a better quality of life without fear, intimidation and harassment. With the full restoration of civil administration, things will improve further.

On the LTTE

It would be correct to say they have been over-rated. Perhaps, this is partly due to their psy-ops campaigns. We were made to believe they had large camps in the territories they dominated. We were made to believe they had large numbers concentrated in those areas. But the three phases of "Operation Riviresa" revealed those claims to be nothing but myths. There are lessons to draw from this and measures to be taken. But I cannot detail them out. I do not believe in discussing any future plans.

Situation in the Eastern Province

It's again blown out of proportion. If one studies the figures, it is quite clear that the situation is not too bad. Some 400 terrorists and 100 soldiers have died since the launch of "Operation Riviresa I". That is a high casualty rate for the terrorists. You only see a few terrorists dying in a few skirmishes. But when you add up, its quite a lot.

During the guerrilla war in Vietnam, American troops went on for days before they could kill two terrorists in an encounter. It is wrong to say that the civil administration in the East is destroyed. Almost 80 percent of the Eastern Province is jungle. The most populated areas are in our control.

We have proved that the re-capture of the Eastern Province is a matter of very short time. It has happened before. When "Operation Riviresa I" was just over, we moved to the East and evicted the terrorists. They fled.

On the separatist war

More than half the guerrilla war is over. The LTTE has lost a large number of its cadres. They have lost their political base (Jaffna City), their recruiting base, their economic base and more importantly the population they terrorised. Conceding all this has been lost, how could one say the LTTE is strong? They have lost a lot of their middle rung cadres.

The LTTE suffered a bad beating in terms of cadres during "Operation Riviresa I". The other two phases of the operation were focused on liberating the people.

On LTTE activity in the Wanni

As I said before, I do not discuss any future plans. For how long can they go on in the Wanni? Sooner or later they will have to meet reality.

Funding for LTTE

Many of their sources have dried up since the capture of the peninsula. One case in point is the boat service they operated across the Jaffna lagoon, the so-called Kilaly route.

On discipline

Discipline is one matter on which I will not compromise. I have emphasised to all field commanders that they should be disciplined. I expect the leaders to lead and set an example. Disciplinary action must be taken against wrongdoers. They must not go scot free.

A great deal of re-organisation has been done to make the Army a professional outfit. Today, there is a great deal of professionalism in all ranks. It is my endeavour to further develop this.

Strings attached to Jaffna visit

by Shelani de Silva

Five Tamil political parties are scheduled to visit Jaffna within the next three days but the government has imposed restrictions on them.

Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva on Thursday at a meeting with Tamil party leaders gave the green light for the visit but imposed conditions. The members will not be permitted to carry any weapons nor will they be allowed armed cadres for protection. They have been assured that the security forces would provide adequate security.

The delegation will be air lifted from Colombo but they will not be provided with food and lodging on their three-day visit. The party leaders have agreed to these conditions.

EROS Chief Sudakar told 'The Sunday Times' the parties were hoping to make the trip on Tuesday or Wednesday. They would look into the welfare of the civilians and examine the possibility of opening party offices in the liberated areas.

"It will be a three-day visit. Though it is a short period we hope to make the best of it. We would visit civilians who have settled in their homes. The difficulties and their future plans would be discussed. But most of all we will study the situation and see if it is possible to open offices. I think there will be no problem as the areas are controlled by the security forces", he said.

Mr. Sudakar said the refusal to provide food and shelter to the delegation was unreasonable but added that it did not pose a problem as most of the leaders' homes are in Jaffna.

According to Mr. Sudakar the Defence Ministry has specifically told the delegation to visit the liberated areas, unarmed. "Some leaders asked whether they could take with them, pistols which are licensed for their personal protection, but they were refused. We were told that the army will provide security", he said.

Suresh Premachandran of the EPRLF said they would look into the specific needs of the civilians and decide what to do.

EPDP leader Douglas Devananda and PLOTE leader S. Siddarthan will skip the visit but send their representatives. Mr. Devananda told 'The Sunday Times' he was not going because he felt it was unreasonable for the government to impose such restrictions.

WB: war prevents Lanka's faster growth

From Lakshmi Pieris in Los Angeles

The continuation of military operations against Tamil separatists dampened private sector dynamism and held growth to an estimated 5 percent in Sri Lanka during 1995, the World Bank has said.

In a report titled Global Economic Prospects and the Developing Countries the WB said Sri Lanka had the highest inflation in the region and did not meet the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility criteria to draw on final loan installments.

Following in the footsteps of East Asia, South Asia was the fastest growing developing region over the past decade, with gross domestic product growth averaging 5.1 pre cent, the report said.

The report projects continued long-term growth for the region averaging 5.4 per cent in the next decade, reaching close to 6 per cent in later years. "To realize their untapped potential, the countries in South Asia must continue to pursue the reforms initiated in the early 1990s", the Bank said.

"South Asian policy makers must grapple with tough challenges if they are to sustain the rapid pace of growth and integration of recent years. These include dealing with infrastructure bottlenecks fiscal deficits and inefficient public sectors as well as further reducing, trade and investment barriers and extending the scope of competition in domestic markets", said D. Joseph Wood, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region.

International trade activities in South Asia remained vigorous as a result of trade reforms, exchange rate adjustment, and buoyant world demand. The boom of recent years in South Asia's trade continued with both exports and imports rising by 10 to 15 per cent. Intra-regional trade moved a modest step forward with a preferential regional trading agreement but trade between South Asian countries remains a low level, comprising only 5 per cent of the region's total trade. In 1994 South Asia's exports totalled U.S. $ 38,992 million with Sri Lanka's share being $ 3,210 million and India's $ 25,000 million.

The report which emphasizes that integration with the world economy and growth go hand in hand said Sir Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan fell in to the fast integrators' category while India and Bangladesh were ranked as moderate integrators. This "speed of integration index" is an average derived from changes between the early 1980s and early 1990s in four indicators, the ratio of real trade to GDP, the ratio of direct foreign investment to GDP, institutional investor credit ratings, and the share of manufactures in exports.

The report said, South Asia is currently receiving only three per cent of private capital flows to developing countries and that there is significant untapped potential for help in financing growth. "The relatively low cost of English speaking labour throughout the region and the large size of domestic markets are likely to attract foreign direct investment in the years to come. Aided by already buoyant capital inflow most South Asian countries have replenished their foreign exchange reserves, with India's amounting to several months worth of imports."

Big bills to follow blackouts

The Ceylon Electricity Board has more bleak news for millions of people who are suffering under the black-outs.

According to Energy Ministry officials, the CEB has incurred a loss of about Rs. 4 billion during past two months because of the power-cuts and it would have to make good these losses by increasing electricity rates. Again innocent people will be hit.

They said the CEB had incurred an additional expense of Rs. 150 million so far because it had to use thermal power.

Brigadier wants to clear his name

Brigadier Ananda Weerasekera, Director Training of the Army has sought permission from the President to present himself before the commission probing the assassination of Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa.

Brig. Weerasekera in a letter has said that he wants to present himself before the commission to clear his name as allegations against him had been made by one of the witnesses.

The witness told the Kobbekaduwa Commission that she had known Brig. Weerasekera and he arranged transport for her to come to meet former President R. Premadasa while serving as co-ordinating officer in Welioya in 1988.

"I was co-ordinating officer at Ampara in 1988 and have never seen or known this witness", he said.

Rains today

Pre-monsoon rain will be experienced in Western, Sabaragamuwa and southern provinces today, the Met. Department said yesterday.

However, it would take a few days for the monsoon rains to begin, it said.

During the 24 hours ending yesterday morning, catchment areas received only slight rain with the maximum of 11.66 mm of rain reported from the Canyon area. The Victoria, Randenigala and Rantembe areas received no rain.

Cooray's son apologises

by Ratnapala Gamage

Ajith Cooray, son of the former Minister of Housing and Reconstruction B. Sirisena Cooray, yesterday told the commission inquiring into incidents which occurred at the local government polls in the Eastern Province in March 1994 that no responsible person had been at home when summons on his father were served.

Mr. Cooray tendered an apology to the commission saying that the summons had been returned to it due to the ignorance of those who were present at home. The commission earlier required Mr. Sirisena Cooray to give evidence before it.

The commissioner asked Mr. Cooray's son to provide the commission with the telephone number and assessment number of his father's residence.

The commission was told that Mr. Cooray would come back to the island from Australia on June 25.

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