Archive for July 20th, 2008

Sri Lanka Army’s 58 division and the Commando regiment brought the town of Illuppaikadavai under their control today (20th) after a prolonged firefight with LTTE cadres in the region. Illuppaikadavai housed a large LTTE base which was used for multiple purposes by the tigers including land and sea operations. Regular infantry units from the 58 division as well as small groups of army commandos had surrounded the area by yesterday and moved ahead of their positions early morning today. LTTE retreated further north after suffering casualties at the hands of advancing forces. Illuppaikadavai is located around 10km north of Viduthalaithiv, where the tigers lost control of a major sea tiger base recently.

As reported earlier, the Air Force has been continuously targeting LTTE cadres who retreated from Viduthalaithiv. A sea tiger boat movement was attacked by SLN patrol craft and by SLAF bombers today evening just 3km south of Nachchikuda. 3 boats were confirmed to be destroyed while another 3 more are believed to be damaged. Nachchikuda, where LTTE maintains another sea tiger base, is located a further 15kms north of Illuppaikadavai. It is believed that a large number of LTTE cadres who fled Viduthalaithiv are currently stationed in this base. It can be assumed that the 58 division will soon lay siege this base, considering the fact that they have already advanced two more kilometers north after the capture of Illuppaikadavai.

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Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) leader, the controversial Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan alias Karuna, who returned from England after being in custody for immigration violations, in an interview said that he is the sole leader of the TMVP and that party problems have been settled. Excerpts of the interview

Ln: Have the policies of the TMVP changed after you were deported to Sri Lanka?
VM: There was no such change. The main aim of the TMVP is to help the Eastern people and secure their liberty from the clutches of the LTTE. We want to bring prosperity to the lives of the eastern people. Policies of my party will not change just because I came from the UK. We must support the people who wish for our success.

Ln: That means you expect a bright future for the TMVP?
VM: Yes, yes. We are doing the groundwork to contest the next general election. Actually we are preparing for that now. We are planning to get at least 10 MPs from our party elected.

Ln: Can you indeed achieve this goal because the TMVP did not receive any overwhelming people’s support at the recently held Eastern elections.
VM: Eastern people have confidence in our party. That is proven with the local government and provincial council elections. Nobody can undermine the votes we received. People who have never voted in their lives voted for us. The rejection rate of the votes was high as people had made mistakes when voting.. Basically Eastern people are with us. There was a lot of misunderstanding about our party in the part of Trincomalee people. Now police have uncovered the truth behind certain acts. If our party men are involved in such acts, we will apologise to the people and seek future endeavours in democratic politics

Ln: There were so many changes in the Eastern province when you were in England. How did you feel when you returned to Batticaloa?
VM: I spent about one week in Colombo after returning from England. I went to Batticaloa last 14th. Thereafter, I visited the Thoppigala and the Meenagam bases. I met police officers, government servants and many others in the last few days. The Eastern people say that they enjoy freedom. Earlier they could not get on the roads after 6.00 pm. Now people plough their paddy fields. Some engage in fishing. I saw it with my own eyes. Actually that is what people want. Their main problems are abductions and difficulties faced at checkpoints. I will take up these issues with the government. I am sure the government will look into all this. I will also visit the Ampara and Trincomalee people. I must thank them for the victory they gave us at the past elections. Now my duty is to address their grievances.

Ln: Are you satisfied with the development work of the government in the East?
VM: The TMVP has joined the UPFA alliance already. We are really happy about the work of the government on behalf of our people. When I met government officials they educated me about the future plans for the Eastern province. The education, agriculture, fisheries, health and basic infrastructure aspects in the eastern province should be improved. We have to improve the quality of lives of the people. The government helps us a lot to assist poor families. The TMVP is cordially working with the government. I must specially tell you that President Mahinda Rajapaksa likes my leadership. That could help him to serve the Eastern people.

Ln: Did you have a leadership crisis when you left the country with Chief Minister Pillayan? Has it been ironed out now?
VM: You must understand that the TMVP is a political party like other parties. As usual we also have differences of opinion. That is the truth. It is not a crisis. I am the sole leader of the TMVP. Nobody in our party is against it. Before my departure to England I advised my party seniors how to run party affairs. I had no objection to Pillayan getting elected as the Chief Minister as I did not want get into the Provincial Council. What I want is to get into parliament and serve my people.

Ln: Do you have the support of the majority of the Politburo of your party?
VM: The TVMP created two administrative sections to take decisions, allowing a secondary leadership to emerge. The main politburo has 15 members and the Working Committee has 21. With the support of these members we are planning to strengthen the party and embark on a new path.

Ln: Though the Eastern province was rescued from the clutches of the LTTE, still there are attacks by LTTE cadres. How will that affect the future of the TMVP?
VM: Few LTTE cadres are still in certain places in the Eastern province. I don’t say it is untrue. They carry out some attacks on the Army and Police officers. But one thing I assure you is that the LTTE will never be able to gain control of the Eastern Province again. They can’t organise and attack the Eastern province on a large scale. Some people still support them for money.

Ln: Some newspapers reported that you got caught in an Immigration trap of the Sri Lankan Government. What do you say about it?
VM: I went to London to visit my family. The British Police arrested me for a precaution I took in the interests of my security. The Government has no link to this incident. I did it for my security purposes. I don’t believe there was such a conspiracy. I told British Police that after my sentence, I want to return to my country and that I don’t like to live in another country. That is why I returned to this country and went to the East as soon as I got here.

Ln: The Army is now engaged in the Vanni operation. How do you assess the LTTE strength?

VM: The Government troops captured Vedithalthivu in Mannar. That is the nerve centre of that area. Now the troops can move forward on the A-32 road. I believe the LTTE is in a real mess after losing the Vedithalthivu. The present crisis in the LTTE is the dearth of
cadres though they have enough arms. The Army has blocked armed supplies from one side and manpower from the other side. The LTTE is also not getting enough foreign assistance. So, I believe that the Army will recover the Vanni soon. The TVMP cadres are not involved in the Vanni operation. The Army does not need our support. The Army has improved in strength and strategies.

Ln: Do you provide proposals to the APRC. How is TMVP’s participation there?
VM: Our Batticaloa Mayor Shivagitha Prabhakaran participates in the APRC meetings. In addition to her, we will try to send two more participants. We will take that decision on Tuesday.

Ln: There was a rumour that you will rejoin the LTTE. What is the truth?
VM: When the LTTE gets weaker and weaker they spread this kind of rumour as a psychological ploy. There is no truth to it. We are not going to arrest LTTE cadres in the East. The security forces are doing it. We are a political party now.

(Lakbima News)

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Troops push further northwards as Tigers prepare for showdown in Thunukkai

Few in military circles believed that the Tiger cadres would give up Vedithalthivu, the main sea Tiger base in the north western coast without a fight. Not long ago that a senior -most commander in the military acknowledged that a swift assault on the sea Tiger base would cost 200 troops and an equal number of Tiger combatants. Therefore, the military strategy was to encircle the Sea Tiger camp, cut off the supply routes and forces the defending cadres to vacate the camp.
By Thursday, that strategy appeared to have worked out. The reports from the Mannar front revealed that the Tiger cadres were deserting the Sea Tiger Base. But, the pull out appeared to have been pre-organized. According to senior military sources citing intelligence reports, the sea Tigers had moved boats to Pooneryn. A boat was found abandoned in the deserted sea Tiger base, which functioned as the main launching pad of the sea Tigers in the north western coast.
True to its strategic importance, the Vedithalthivu Sea Tiger Base was heavily fortified. A trench was built from 2 km south of Vedithalthivu on the coast to Paramarayankulam, which is located 10km east of Vedithalthivu. That trench line functioned as the primary defence of the sea Tiger base. This defence line had been fortified with eight feet high sand dunes and the vicinity of the camp and its access routes had been heavily mined with anti personnel mines and booby traps.


Inside the trench line aka primary defence line, the secondary defence line was located. Bunkers had been built in close proximity to each other and battle hardened Tiger cadres of the Charles Anthony Brigade had been assigned to front line duties.
Vedithalthivu had been under the control of the LTTE since the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in 1990. In 1999, the security forces engaged in operation Ranagosa and attempted to seize control of the sea Tiger base, but in vain.
The military operation to capture the Vedithalthivu base gathered momentum after the clearing of the Rice Bowl area of the size of 152 km2. With the capture of the Rice Bowl area, the security forces succeeded cutting off the supply routes to the Vedithalthivu sea Tiger base. On June 30, the two military divisions – 57 and 58 Divisions- who are inching into the Tiger hinterland of the Wanni linked up in Pallaimadu, west of Vedithalthivu.
Early this month, 10 Gajaba Regiment and 12 Gajaba Regiment attached to the 581 Brigade began to advance further northwards from 12th mile post on the A 32 Pooneryn Sangupiddy- Mannar road. The two battalions were supported by the fifth armoured corps.
On the southern flank, troops of 6 and 8 Gemunu Watch pushed further northwards. From the eastern direction, two other battalions – 9 GW and 12 GW- advanced towards the sea Tiger base. Second commando regiment was deployed in small teams to engage in reconnaissance duties, ambushes and sabotage attacks on the enemy logistics. Some military officials told this writer that the Tigers appeared to have believed that the defences in
the Vedithalthivu base were impregnable for the moment. Yet, on July 3, three small groups of four -man commando teams shattered the perceived impregnability of the camp. This swift assault during which four commandos lost lives had been a turn around in the battle for Vedithalthivu. The capture of about 200 meters of the southern perimeter defence of the camp killing at least 28 cadres- according to figures provided by the Army- had been the prelude to a series of daring small group operations which were to dominate the Mannar front during the last two weeks.
For the first two weeks of this month, commandos operating in small teams had been carrying out surprise attacks on selected strategic locations in the LTTE defence line. Small groups of commandos approached the camp in every direction, mainly conducting reconnaissance missions on the LTTE build- up in the area.
One such group, code named the Alpha team attacked a group of Tiger cadres killing seven. Five bodies of the slain Tiger cadres were retrieved by the commandos. Two other teams, each consisting of eight commandos approached the Tiger base from the direction of Paramarayankulam tank and Uvilanundiya Aru.
Both teams reached their assault positions by Tuesday. Based on information provided by the commandos, the army bombarded the identified LTTE positions using multi barrel rocket launchers and artillery guns. By Tuesday noon, the LTTE began to pull out from the camp.
Based on information provided by the Delta team which was engaged in reconnaissance operations, the army bombarded a team of about 150 Tiger cadres who were on a hasty withdrawal from the camp.The Tiger contingent came under ground and air attack as they were moving through a Teak jungle located in Thaddampiddi.
By Wednesday, troops monitored the Tigers pulling out. Water tanks which supplied water to the main sea Tiger base were blown up in the morning. Commandos ambushed two Lorries which were heading to the Tiger camp, apparently to transport military hardware from the besieged camp.
By Wednesday noon, the troops were in control of the Vedithalthivu town and the sea Tiger base.
As troops closed in on the sea Tiger base, Tigers moved their boats to Pooneryn.


The MI 24 attack helicopters were called in to target the sea Tiger boats. Fighter jets of the Sri Lanka Air Force also conducted several sorties against another sea Tiger camp located in Vallaipadu, north of Vedithalthivu
The only casualty in the military mission was Lance Cpl Kumara of the Delta team of the 2 commando regiment. He was caught in a booby trap as he stormed an LTTE bunker. On Thursday, Army Headquarters announced the capture of the Vedithalthivu sea Tiger base.
Vedithalthivu, located 20 km from Mannar is the main sea Tiger base in the North Western coast, which also functioned as a smuggling hub for arms and ammunition from Tamil Nadu and earlier from the ships anchored in the Arabian Sea.
Last month, sea Tigers staged a surprise attack on a naval outpost in Mannar. Sea Tiger boats were launched from Vedithalthivu.
By the end of last week, troops were advancing towards Illupakadawai. The air force carried out several raids in LTTE positions in the area.
Further northwards, the 57the Division of the army is pushing towards Thunukkai. Thunukkai, which is also the entrance to the Tiger- stronghold of Mallavi, would like to be the next flash point in the Wanni front.

(Lakbima News)

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The 58 Brigade that captured the Rice Bowl in Mannar spread over an area of 152 sq kms, after LTTE domination of more than 23 years, proceeded to Vidattaltivu. Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka entrusted the task to General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 58 Brigade Brig. Shawendra Silva.

It was of significance that 57 Brigade under Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias that set off from Vavuniya on the day following the capture of the Rice Bowl (June 30) met 58 Brigade at the Pallemadu front. They launched the operation to capture Vidattaltivu on July 1.

The 10th Gajaba, under Lt. Col. Sarada Samarakoon, and the 12th Gajaba under Maj. Saliya Amunugama of 581 Brigade under Lt. Col. Deshapriya Gunawardene was advancing from the 12th-milepost on Pooneryn (A32) highway. The 5th Armoured Corp under Lt. Col. Nihal Samarakoon joined them.

583 Brigade under Lt. Col. Suraj Bangsajayah, 6 Gemunu under Lt. Col. Kamal Pinnawala, and 8 Gemunu under Suminda Jayasundara advanced with 581 Brigade.
582 Brigade under Col. Sanjaya Wanigasinghe, 9 Gemunu under Lt. Col. Lal Chandrasiri, and 12 Gemunu under Lt. Col. Nandana Dunuvila advanced from the east of Vidattaltivu. The 2nd Commando Regiment under Lt. Col. Jayantha Balasuriya that advanced from the same direction was in the forefront.

The LTTE had erected a 10-km Forward Defence Line (FDL) from the sea about 2 kms south of Vidattaltivu up to Paramarankulam, east of Vidattaltivu. It was reinforced with a rear defence line and covered with earth up to about 10 metres. They had laid booby traps and dug trenches around the FDL and erected bunkers at every 150 to 200 metres.

While the LTTE overestimated the strength of their FDL, the 2nd Commando Brigade advanced from the south of Vidattaltivu and the west of Paramarayankulam. The Light Infantry Regiments of 582 Brigade joined the advancing forces.
The 581 and 583 Brigades were planning to break into the LTTE FDL from the direction of Nedunkandal. Commander of the 2nd Commando Regiment, Lt. Col. Jayantha Balasuriya was ready to launch a surprise attack on the LTTE FDL.

Bravo platoon of the 2nd Commando Brigade under Capt. Bandara Subesinghe, made up of three 4-man teams under Sgt. Asitha Kumara, Cpl. N.V. Wanasinsghe and LCpl Indika Kumarage, burst upon the LTTE FDL and gunned down 28 LTTE cadres. This led Mannar LTTE leader Laxman to reinforce the FDL by deploying 46 cadres.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Commando Brigade that removed the booby traps, advanced from another direction. 58 Brigade launched attacks on strategic locations from July 1 to 10. More than 100 LTTE cadres were killed during the period.
The Army Chief ordered Brig. Shavendra Silva to go ahead with the main operation to invade Vidattaltivu. The 8-man team of the 2nd Commando Regiment was prepared for the operation from last Thursday (10).

The team was approaching Vidattaltivu from all directions. A stretch of the Mannar-Pooneryn Road was under observation by the 8-man team of Lt. Marasinghe of Delta group under Maj. Jaliya Dehideniya. Alfa group of 2nd Commando Regiment under Maj. Samantha Kodituwakku attacked an LTTE bunker in Walimarandamadu area on July 13. Following day, a group of terrorists erecting a bunker came under attack by the 8-man team of Sgt. Sanjeewa. Seven terrorists were killed in the confrontation.

Meanwhile, Echo group under Capt. Sha Hameed and the 8-man team of Cpl Rajakaruna were advancing from the direction of Paramarayankulam, east of Vidattaltivu.
Capt. Nalin Soysa was the acting Officer Commanding (OC) of Bravo group under Maj. Ratnayake. The platoons under Lt. Thusitha Kumarage and Sgt Kumarasinghe(Rodney) were advancing along the Uvilanundiyaru canal bank in Vidattaltivu. Lt. Marasinghe’s and Cpl. Chandralal’s teams were about 600 metres behind them. The 8-man teams of Echo group under Capt. Sha Hameed and the 8-man groups of Sgt. Rodney, Sgt. Bandara and Lt. Thusitha Kumarage advanced from several directions and joined them.

They had reached the target area and were ready for the operation. Meanwhile, Brig. Shavendra Silva, and his staff under Lt. Col. Harendra Ranasinghe were busy making arrangements for the operation.
Col. Weerawardene was in charge of coordinating the attacks of the Artillery and Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) Regiments.

Director Operations, Brig. Udaya Perera was in charge of the overall coordination with the Officers in the battlefield.
Director Operations, Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), Air Vice Marshal Harsha Abeywickrema in close coordination with the GOC 58 Brigade deployed MI 24 Gunships under Flt. Lt. Sameera Gunawardene to coordinate aerial attacks in the battlefield.
By last Tuesday (15) LTTE cadres had been deployed at regular intervals of 150 metres on access roads to Vidattaltivu and Pooneryn.

Maj. Kanchan Seneviratne, Capt. Nishantha Bandara and Capt. Ganganath backed by Commandos, launched artillery and mortar attacks.
The Tigers, realising that Vidattaltivu was under siege, started to retreat by Tuesday afternoon.
Cpl Chandralal’s team that climbed up a tamarind tree got at their targets accurately. The fugitive LTTE cadres transporting their heavy weapons by tractors and Canter lorries came under artillery attack in Thaddampiddi teak plantation losing at least 50 of them.

By Wednesday morning (16), the terrorists destroyed their vehicles and the main water tank in Vidattaltivu. They blasted the buildings and the vehicles one by one. Meanwhile, Echo group of Capt. Sha Hameed lay in ambush to target vehicles leaving Vidattaltivu base. They gunned down two cadres attempting to flee on a motorcycle. The soldiers immediately hid the bodies and prepared for the next attack.

The soldiers noticed two trucks moving towards Vidattaltivu. When they opened fire, one truck sped off despite gunshot injuries to its driver while the other ran off the road and turned turtle. One of the cadres was captured. The two trucks had come to move camp at Vidattaltivu.

Sgt. Bandara, Sgt. Kumarasinghe and Lt. Thusitha Kumarage proceeded toward Vidattaltivu by the west of the main road. LCpl. Priyantha and his team joined them.
Bravo group was advancing from the east of Vidattaltivu and Delta group from the southeast. When the four groups met, they were about a km. ahead of Vidattaltivu.

Alpha group under Maj. Samantha Kodituwakku entered from the direction of the town and Echo group from the direction of the lagoon. Bravo group entered from the east.
The 581 and 583 Brigades broke into the FDL from the direction of Nedunkandala. 6 Gemunu broke down a part of the FDL. The base, earlier manned by about 200 LTTE cadres, was deserted in the face of the military operation.
The advancing Commandos, under LTTE gunfire, broke into the LTTE stronghold. Vidattaltivu town fell to the security forces by Wednesday afternoon. They painted over “Welcome to Vidattaltivu Sea Tiger Base” on a board at the entrance to the camp with “Welcome to Commando Base”, hoisted the Lion Flag and celebrated their victory.

Meanwhile, three fugitive Sea Tiger craft and Sea Tiger base at Walleipadu, north of Vidattaltivu, came under air strike.
“It was a successful operation. Our forces marched steadily and intensified their attacks after July 14. LTTE leaders Bhanu and Luxman lost control of their forces. Our soldiers fought valiantly and broke down the most formidable LTTE FDL. The Tigers fled from the area faster than they did during the attack on the Rice Bowl. Their leaders had nowhere to turn,” said Brig. Shavendra Silva.

The Engineering Corp undertook the most arduous task of defusing the booby traps and anti-personnel mines.
Only LCpl Kumara, who got caught to a booby trap, was killed in the operation to capture the LTTE base.
The security forces consolidated their positions up to a distance of three kms. from Vidattaltivu.

The largest and the most strategically important Sea Tiger base in the western sea belt was the one at Vidattaltivu. It was located in an area similar to a natural harbour. The ferry was used by the LTTE ever since they started the Eelam war. The area was occupied by the LTTE after the IPKF left the country in 1990. In 1994, an unsuccessful attempt was made to capture this Sea Tiger base used by the LTTE to smuggle arms and ammunition from India. The LTTE forces in the Vanni received their supplies through Vidattaltivu, where the LTTE extorted from traders transporting produce from the North. After the capture of this economic nerve centre of the LTTE, they will be compelled to find alternative sources of income.
The Light Infantry Regiments are now advancing towards Iluppakadavai, their next target. A rendezvous of the LTTE cadres at Iluppakadawai came under air strike on Thursday (17)

572 Brigade under Lt. Col. Senerath Bandara was advancing towards Thunukkai. 3 Gajaba under Maj. Sanjaya Fernando had attacked LTTE cadres and captured their truck. Meanwhile, on Friday, three large Sea Tiger craft transporting cargo, came under air strike in the sea off Mullativu. One of the craft was destroyed at sea while another on shore. Air Force Media Spokesman Wg. Cmd. Janaka Nanayakkara said that several lorries and tractors were waiting for the Sea Tiger crafts to transport them. The vehicles also came under aerial attack.


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* Gains in Weli Oya also as troops make headway further north
* A commission of Inquiry may probe killing of Indian fishermen
* Tightest ever security since NAM summit as tense Lanka prepares for SAARC

There was a great sense of elation in the security establishment, quite justifiably, over the Army’s re-capture last Wednesday of the coastal village of Vidattaltivu in the Mannar sector.

It was the location of a major Sea Tiger base. Its importance grew after Security Forces launched an offensive in this sector since July 2 last year. After losing the coastal areas of Silavathurai (south of Mannar) in October 2007, for Tiger guerrillas Vidattaltivu became a landing point for military and medical supplies. This was across the Gulf of Mannar from “safe houses” in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

There is also a lesser-known fact in Wednesday’s Army success that adds to the elation. Whilst troops re-gained control of the areas around the base, their colleagues continued their advance further northeastwards seizing more territory. Yesterday, troops re-captured the coastal village of Iluppaikaddavai located further northwards. They were positioned outside the town area last night. This gives greater depth and protection to Vidattaltivu. The troops are were now some five kilometers away from Thunnukai.

The final moments before the fall of Vidattaltivu were without any confrontation. Two soldiers, however, were injured after they stepped on “Battas” or improvised mines. Air Force Mi-24 helicopter gunships fired at fleeing guerrillas. The original aim of the offensives in the Mannar sector, since July last year, was to gain control of areas in and around the Madhu Church, sacred to Catholics. Mid way, a second aim to re-capture the Sea Tiger base was included. Two columns of troops advanced northwards, one from west of the Giant’s tank and another from the east. In April, troops re-gained control of the church area. Thereafter, during their advance, the two columns merged and headed for Vidattaltivu.

The success there, no doubt, is a credit for the Security Forces personnel who laid down their lives, were wounded and those who fought against all odds. It has been a practice for the guerrillas, more often than not, to offer stiff resistance and back out when they come under heavy military pressure. The aim in such circumstances is to inflict damage to troops whilst they dismantle and remove most of their infrastructure except immovable items.

This happened when the Army launched “Operation Riviresa” (Sun Rays) in October 1985 to regain control of the Jaffna peninsula. Whist offering resistance to troops, the LTTE moved a sizeable volume of its armoury and other assets across the Kilali lagoon to the Wanni. There have been some exceptions, too. One was when “Operation Jaya Sikurui” (Victory Assured) was launched in May 1997 to regain control of the land mass between Nochchimodai (Vavuniya) and Kilinochchi.

This was to link the Jaffna peninsula with Vavuniya, both sectors under Government control. The guerrillas assumed a conventional posture to resist the troop advance. This offensive became the costliest for the military both in terms of human and material losses.

“Operation Jaya Sikurui” was called off in late 1999 on the orders of then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Similarly, Army’s onslaught at Vidattaltivu prompted the guerrillas to shift base from there before the final assault came.. According to intelligence sources, they had moved to Nachchikuda, where another major Sea Tiger base had functioned for many years. However, that will not make things easy for the guerrillas. From their earlier base at Vidattaltivu, it was a straight run smuggling military and medical supplies across the Gulf of Mannar. This was using fishing trawlers. The shallow seas there have restricted the movement of Naval craft in the Gulf of Mannar.

A longer course across the sea and continued naval patrols will entail more problems in using their base at Nachchikuda. Making it difficult for the LTTE to smuggle in logistics supplies is not the only gain from the Army’s success at Vidattaltivu. In extending their control of the coastline northwards from Mannar until that village, the troops have effectively placed a barrier against the outflow of refugees to Tamil Nadu.

At present more than 120,000 Sri Lankan refugees are housed in camps and cared for by the Government of India. Almost the entirety of them had crossed the Gulf of Mannar, some paying large sums of money to boat operators. Successive governments have also accused the LTTE of promoting or even arranging for an exodus of refugees to Tamil Nadu to exacerbate Indian Government’s concerns.

As the troops, continue their advance in the Mannar sector, what their next aim here is not clear. Even if its known, media reportage would only constitute advance information to the enemy – which is one among a few taboos in this new century that has ushered in a communications revolution that has impacted immensely on how wars are fought.

However, Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told Thursday’s news briefing that the next aim of the troops would be to re-capture Kilinochchi, now the heartland of the LTTE. For reasons that are now too obvious, the pros and cons of such a move cannot be examined. So are the analytical aspects arising out of them.

The second thrust of the Army, north of the Weli Oya sector, continues. Troops advance into the jungles ahead of them, before the LTTE’s main fortifications, weeks ago led to their seizing the once renowned 1-4 base. This is a camp complex where LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was known to be hiding before and during the period when Indian Peace Keeping Troops (IPKF) were in Sri Lanka. Thereafter, it had been abandoned. Troops also captured the “Michael Base.” The guerrillas had weeks earlier abandoned this base after blasting some of the buildings there. Army sources say guerrilla intelligence cadres who were scouting around the area occasionally used the 1-4 base. At the time the troops seized the base, they found fresh evidence of a group of some eight to twelve cadres having cooked meals there.
If the re-capture of Vidattaltivu and its domination by the Security Forces would lower if not prevent altogether the exodus of refugees, an irritant in Sri Lanka-India relations, there are other issues at sea that are causing equal if not more concern in New Delhi. The latest is the killing, allegedly by the Sri Lanka Navy, of two South Indian fishermen from the coastal town of Nagapattnam and the wounding of another on July 11. The incident is said to have taken place on the Indian waters off Point Calimere (the Indian coast across Point Pedro). The move has triggered off pressure from the Tamil Nadu state Government on the Central Government in New Delhi.

So much so, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is scheduled to arrive in Colombo next month for the summit meeting of leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) in Colombo, is to raise the issue with President Mahinda Rajapaksa during bi-lateral talks with him. Mr. Singh’s Congress Party Government is facing a trust vote in Parliament on Tuesday raising an element of uncertainty on his visit if the motion is lost.

The Sri Lanka Government has strongly denied allegations that the Navy was involved in any shooting incident. The Foreign Ministry in Colombo issued a detailed statement. The move appeared to underscore the seriousness of the situation.

Here are edited excerpts from the statement commenting on Indian media reports:

“When reports of this nature are received, a rigorous procedure is instituted by Naval Headquarters in Colombo, in keeping with the firm resolve of the Government of Sri Lanka to deal in a humanitarian manner with fishermen apprehended in Sri Lankan waters. The procedure includes Naval Headquarters ascertaining from the Area Commands as to whether any vessels of the Navy were involved in operation in the area of the alleged incident, as per the reported date and time. The preliminary findings in this case are that there were no Naval units operating on the Sri Lanka side of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in the area off Point Calimere on 11th July.

“However, there was an incident that same night at 21.10 hours at a completely different location, namely approximately 8 NM (nautical miles) East of Point Pedro when two Sri Lanka Navy fast attack craft deployed on a routine patrol detected on their radar, a boat moving in a suspicious manner at high speed of around 34 knots.

“The night vision cameras of the Navy vessels further discerned the suspicious craft as having the configuration of an LTTE low profile boat. The video pictures of the suspicious boat as recorded by the cameras are available with the Sri Lanka Navy, which it is willing to share with the Indian Naval authorities, along with other relevant information. When the suspect boat failed to respond to warning to halt, the Naval craft were constrained (sic) to open fire.

“It was not possible for the Navy vessels to assess the outcome of the action taken by them and accordingly the possibility of the suspect boat having continued on its northerly course cannot be ruled out. The attached map (Annex 1) (Note: This was not released by the Foreign Ministry to the media) provides the maritime location of the action taken by the Sri Lanka Navy vessels at 21.10 hours on 11th July. It is clear that the incident took place well within the Sri Lankan territorial waters and around the sensitive area of Point Pedro, from where the LTTE Sea Tiger wing has frequently engaged in terrorist activities, including attacking cargo and passenger vessels operating to and from the Jaffna peninsula.”
The contents of the official statement were formally conveyed to Indian authorities through diplomatic channels. In addition, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in New Delhi, Romesh Jayasinghe, also met Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherji this week to explain the Government’s position.

Despite Sri Lanka Government’s repeated assertions, the same sources in New Delhi said, the Indian Government has raised issue with Sri Lanka at the highest levels. As a result, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has agreed to appoint a Commission of Inquiry in Colombo to probe Indian allegations. This is besides the Government’s own investigations that are already under way. There was, however, no official confirmation so far in Colombo. Senior Government officials contacted by The Sunday Times declined comment. The modalities of the proposed commission including its terms of reference, composition and mandate are yet to be determined, the same sources said.

Amidst this controversy, other issues have also cropped up. The Sri Lanka Navy said one of its patrols had apprehended an Indian national whilst returning to Tamil Nadu by boat from Tiger guerrilla-dominated Wanni. He was apprehended and handed over to the Indian High Commission.

It is in this backdrop that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherji , among others, are scheduled to visit Colombo for the SAARC summit. This week, two high ranking officials of the Indain’s Prime Minister’s Special Security Group (SSG) were in Colombo to further examine security conditions in the city and the immediate suburbs. Heightening Indian concerns are fears of any possible attacks by Tiger guerrillas.

The Sri Lankan Government has shared the same concerns. So much so enhanced security measures have been taken weeks in advance of the summit. The same consideration has led to using the Parliamentary Complex at Kotte-Sri Jayawardenapura as the retreat for the heads of State and Government. There, they will take part in a lunch on August 3 that is being restricted to the leaders, their Foreign Ministers and the Secretary General of the SAARC numbering only a maximum of 25.
SAARC events will begin on July 27 with a meeting of officials. On July 31 and August 1, the meeting at Foreign Ministers level will be held at the BMICH. A dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Rohita Bogollagama will take place at the same venue on the night of July 31. The summit level meeting will be held on August 2 and 3. An event for wives of the visiting dignitaries is to be held at the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

The Government is expected to declare August 2 a public holiday on account of SAARC.
All heads of State or Government arriving at the Bandaranaike International Airport will be flown by helicopter to their respective hotels. Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries will be escorted into the City by road for which one segment of the Colombo-Katunayake dual carriageway will be closed.
Contrary to media reports, there will be no large Indian military contingent from India. The maximum number of security personnel to cover Premier Singh as well as Foreign Minister Mukherji and their entourages will not exceed 125, according to official sources. Besides a helicopter for use by Premier Singh and his entourage, India is also providing another VIP transport helicopter at Sri Lanka Government’s request for use by visiting dignitaries.

The case of two Indian Navy vessels remaining berthed outside the Colombo harbour is also still under consideration, according to same sources. “We have to respond to some procedural matters raised by Indian authorities,” a defence source declared. During the period, India is also to deploy Naval vessels on its side of the IMBL in the Palk Straits.

Since the Non Aligned Summit Conference in Colombo in 1976, this is the first time security considerations have become a nightmare for the defence and security establishment. From now until the summit is over, there will be many a nervous moment. And more than the visiting dignitaries, it is the Sri Lankan public who will be forced to bear the pressures imposed by the need for even stricter security. Under military pressure, the threats posed by guerrillas, particularly outside the theatre of conflict, remain high.

(Sunday Times)

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The delegation of European Parliamentarians had to forego a meeting with Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan following security issues.

The delegation headed by  Robert Evans told the media last Friday that it was a mystery to them that they were not allowed to fly to Trincomalee, which was the main purpose of their visit.

Evans stated that everything was in order for them to fly to Trincomalee but added they were told that they would not be able to go to the airport.

The delegation had planned to meet Chief Minister Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan during the visit.

“The last minute cancellation and a catalogue of chaos and confusion meant that the delegation did not fly to Trincomalee. Despite repeated assurances, endless complications resulted in the party being turned back from Ratmalana Airport, destroying months of preparation, time and expense,” the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) in a statement said.

The MEP also said that though the TMVP had joined the democratic mainstream, they were also reported to be recruiting child soldiers.

The MEP expressed concerns over “the lack of a timetable for weapons decommissioning.”

The delegation was in Sri Lanka from July 20 to 25.

(Sunday Leader)

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TMVP’s armed cadres will not be used for the campaigning activities of the party in preparation for the upcoming North Central Provincial Council polls.

TMVP candidate in the Polonnaruwa District, Mangalam Master said that the party has already begun campaign activities for the upcoming elections which are to be held next month.

Master stated that TMVP armed cadres were not present in the district and would not be involved in political campaigns.

“Only our political cadres are involved in our political campaigns. We are carrying out our campaigning activities without hindering the activities of other political parties contesting in the area,” he said.

Denies claims

Master denied claims that he was appointed as the PA candidate in an effort to use the TMVP’s armed cadres to shift the votes in Welikanda area, especially in the Tamil villages.

“These are baseless allegations. There are no cadres of the TMVP roaming in Polonnaruwa.”

He also stated that there was no need for the armed cadres of the TMVP, as there were no threats from the LTTE in Polonnaruwa.

But, TMVP Spokesperson Azad Moulana on a previous occasion said that the intelligence wing of the LTTE was partially active with the help of those loyal to the organisation, who remained in the east.

Master however said there was no security threat and added he has been provided with two police personnel for his security.

No security threat

“There is no issue about security here. I have been provided security. And I have not requested for more security as the security provided to me is adequate,” he added.

Master also added that no additional offices of the TMVP were opened specifically for  election campaigns. There are 10 TMVP offices functional in Polonnaruwa, he said.

“There are 13 Tamil villages in the area. All these offices are situated in Tamil areas and all of these were opened at least three to four years ago. We haven’t opened new TMVP offices specifically for the provincial council polls,” he added. He also stated that no armed cadres were stationed in these offices for security purposes.

The TMVP however has stationed at least two to three armed cadres in its offices, mainly in Batticaloa.

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