The Sunday Times Editorial

9th March 1997

47, W. A. D. Ramanayake Mawatha Colombo 2. P.O. Box: 1136, Colombo 2.
Telex: 21266 LAKEXPO CE
EDITORIAL OFFICE Tel: 326247,328889, 433272-3 Fax: 423258, 423922
ADVERTISING OFFICE Tel: 328074, 438037
10, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo 2. Tel 435454, 548322

Who's fooling whom?

The attack this week on vital military installations in the East comes just three days after Army Commander Lt. Gen. Rohan Daluwatte's claim that the LTTE is a weakened force.

He told 'The Sunday Times' in an interview last week that "you can very clearly say it (the LTTE) is weakened." That same Sunday, in an interview to another newspaper, the Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force, Air Marshal Oliver Ranasinghe, gives a different impression.

Asked to comment on claims that the "enemy force moves light", he replied, "That shows the insufficient knowledge of the people who say these things. You say they are moving light. How come about 3,000 to 4,000 Tigers can come and attack Elephant Pass? They have even artillery now".

There is clearly a contradiction here. The indisputable fact is that the final intelligence assessment is made by a single agency although information comes from many and varied sources including the intelligence arms of the armed forces.

Intelligence assessments at the apex by more than one source only creates confusion. How come then there appear to be diverse views on the LTTE capabilities?

That the LTTE is a weakened force was also stated after the three phases of "Operation Riviresa" that led to the re-capture of the Jaffna peninsula. In the aftermath of this, none other than Lt Gen. Daluwatte, himself declared in an interview with a Sunday newspaper that the LTTE no longer had the capability to carry out large scale attacks.

But the worst debacle in the history of the separatist war at Mullaitivu followed by the major LTTE attack on Paranthan then put to rest the theory of a weakened LTTE. Now, again it is a repetition of the same claim.

Could confident assertions by the Government politicians of ending the war within specific timeframes, many of which have lapsed uneventfully, be a result of some intelligence misdirection?

Who is fooling whom? Is it self-delusion by the defence establishment or is it pitched to bolster public morale? If such were the intentions, they are grossly miscalculated.

The aim of any war poses the same problem of how to use one's strengh to exploit the enemy's weakness and so overcome him. Thus a correct estimation of the enemy is a sine qua non.

The Government's strength is in its superior armed forces, weaponry and its access to material resources and finance. Its weaknesses are socio-political and economic, the latter to the extent that though it is an asset, the economy is vulnerable both as military and psychological targets.

The guerrilla finds his strengh from the freedom of territorial and material commitment, has mobility and a relationship to a discontented populace. His weakness is military as he lacks both arms and manpower to risk a military decision.

The guerrilla, therefore, is forced to militarily wear down the Government forces, maximise state expenditure, ensure loss of funds, material and manpower required to suppress the revolt. In doing so he intensifies the political crisis within the Government system.

The guerrilla's aim, will be in military terms to over-extend the army and in political terms to make the Government unpopular. In economic terms to make the war expensive to sustain.

So long as the LTTE is capable of doing so, it cannot be considered a weakened force. To think so is to underestimate the enemy capability and so get blurred in formulating political and military strategies to defeat him.

The contradictory statements by two of the service chiefs give the impression, to say the least, that there is some confusion in assessing the enemy.

This does not give the public any confidence nor does it help the Government obtain their support for the conduct of this war.

Go to the Political Column
Return to the Editorial/Opinion contents page

Go to the Editorial Archive