The Defence Column

3oth June 1996

Riviresa and nightmare of the government

By Our Defence Correspondent

These days Tiger Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran is counting his lucky stars. Although the Tigers are exhausted, hopes of coming out of a no-win situation are not lost in their battered camps.

The Riviresa victory sent the LTTE close to annihilation and it seemed as if the retreating Tigers would be hunted down with no mercy. Tigers trapped in the forest cover of Wanni were being threatened at this point.

But then the unexpected!

By the end of Riviresa III, government troops had liberated the Jaffna Peninsula forcing the Tigers into the mainland. The government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga had achieved what seemed to be the impossible! Some top brass and politicians objected vehemently at the idea of a mass-scale offensive in Jaffna. Many would have agreed with them considering the outlook of the military plagued by a dearth of manpower and resources.

What happened since the appointment of Rohan Daluwatte as the Overall Operations Commander is now history. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and the role of Army Commander which goes with it, he has set his eyes on greater deeds like liberating the entire Northern Province.

The army meanwhile has an arduous task before it can chase the Tigers in the Wanni region.

Ironically, the current initiative is with the LTTE. Hoping to capitalize on the unexpected bonanza, Prabhakaran has ordered his field commanders to re-group and carry out sporadic attacks on army detachments and isolated posts in both the North and the East. Troops in Mullaitivu have observed a heavy Tiger build-up in the area where the army has a large base.

All military installations have been set on maximum alert with strict instructions and warnings that each installation should do well to protect itself

The government has awakened to the reality and has ordered the military to fasten the screws on the LTTE before long.

The army has a daunting task at hand. The shopping list for arms, ammunition and other logistics would bring nightmares to any government. How the government plans to find the money for the next phase of the war is anybody's guess.

The security forces have proved themselves once and the logistics should not prevent them from doing it again. The army needs at least another 20,000 foot-soldiers to keep up the momentum. The people, it seems, have not yet realized that the government cannot fight this war alone.

Fortunately, the backbone of the LTTE has been dealt a crippling blow and it would be difficult for Prabhakaran to reverse fortunes .

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