Thursday, October 16, 2008

Seige of Lankan Tamils of Kilinochchi and crocodile tears of Tamil Nadu parties.

Seige of Lankan Tamils of Kilinochchi and crocodile tears of Tamil Nadu parties.

Sadanand Menon: Who speaks on behalf of Lanka's Tamils?


Sadanand Menon / New Delhi October 17, 2008, 0:56 IST

The LTTE, by all accounts, seems to have been lassoed. The dreaded militant outfit fighting for an independent Tamil state within Sri Lanka, is said to be engaged in a last ditch battle from its encircled base in the Vanni region in Jaffna. The Lankan army claims to be a couple of kilometres short of the LTTE’s administrative headquarters in Kilinochchi.

Reporters who have covered the decades-old nationality struggle in the island know that, in Jaffna, being a ‘couple of kilometres’ away really means nothing. The LTTE is the world’s deadliest deployer of World War-II vintage Claymore mines. Almost twenty years ago, the commander of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, Lt Gen Harkirat Singh, had told reporters that after a 48-hour gun-battle, the IPKF would succeed in flushing a building across the road which had been occupied by LTTE snipers, but that to cross the road and occupy the building could take up to a week or more, as they would have mined every square inch of access to the building.
So the din in Tamil Nadu the past days by political parties, many known to be fronts for the LTTE, for Indian intervention in Sri Lanka to prevent the “genocidal attack on the Tamil race” seem orchestrated by an invisible agency. The Centre has been served two-week’s notice to ensure a ceasefire on the island, failing which the all-party meeting chaired by Chief Minister Karunanidhi on October 14, has threatened that all 39 Lok Sabha MPs from the state would resign their seats.

For at least a quarter of a century, crocodile tears over the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils has irrigated political arterial wells in Tamil Nadu and given heroic legitimacy to a section of its leaders who, otherwise, have no other constituency. MDMK’s Vaiko has, for long, built his political fortune in the name of speaking on behalf of Lanka’s Tamils. That he simultaneously bats for a ruthless and near-fascist organisation like the banned LTTE has not disturbed anyone in particular, as he continues to forge opportunist alliances with more mainstream parties.

So too are the dubious claims to ‘Tamil interest’ expressed by one of the most undemocratic formations in Tamil politics is recent times, the PMK of Anbumani Ramadoss. Through the past twenty years of its growth, it has only exhibited caste sectarianism of the worst kind, so as to disqualify it from ever being able to speak on behalf of ‘Tamils’ as a whole.

One has not come across any of these parties pleading the cause of a genuinely democratic political process in Sri Lanka, especially among the Tamils, which they consider their own undifferentiated constituency. Never once has the brutally militarist and supremacist ideology of the LTTE been questioned. The parties in Tamil Nadu have only obediently echoed what the master ventriloquist across the Palk Strait has made them repeat.

While there can be no two opinions that Sri Lanka is today some sort of a rogue state and should be restrained from assaulting unarmed Tamil civilians, I am personally unable to categorise the move of the parties in Tamil Nadu, and the claims on behalf of Lankan Tamils, as anything but hypocritical, as I have been witness to one of the cruellest chapters in this saga which saw the marginalising, pauperisation and death of the almost 750,000 repatriates (people of Indian origin) from Sri Lanka during the ’70s and the ’80s.

In two phases, under the Shastri-Sirimavo Pact of 1964 and the Indira-Sirimavo Pact of 1974, three-quarter of a million ‘stateless people’ of Sri Lanka — the descendents of the 19th and early 20th century indentured labourers to the tea plantations — were lock-stock-and barrel repatriated to Tamil Nadu in one of the most infamous instances of human engineering in recent times.

The reception they had from fellow-Tamils was less than human. It has been documented that they were rapidly dispossessed of their meagre belongings. A few found ‘jobs’ in the exploitative special ‘rehabilitation’ schemes created by the state government. A conservative estimate by a fact-finding team surmised that at least 25% died within the first three years of landing in India, of starvation.

It is a memory that cannot be erased. The claims now by Tamil Nadu’s parties on behalf of Lankan Tamils, rings hollow.

Sri Lanka steps up air strikes on rebels, food convoy blocked

9 hours ago (17 Oct. 2008)

COLOMBO (AFP) — Sri Lanka's military on Thursday stepped up attacks against suspected Tamil Tiger positions in the island's north and accused the rebels of blocking a UN-escorted food convoy.

The UN's World Food Programme was escorting a convoy of trucks taking essentials for hundreds of thousands of people in rebel-held areas on Thursday when it fell victim to a roadside bomb attack, the defence ministry said.

"Reports state the LTTE has also launched an artillery attack at these unarmed lorries," the ministry said, referring to the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
No one was hurt and the convoy returned to the government-held town of Vavuniya, the ministry said.

The UN office in Colombo said separately "that a major food convoy into the north of the island has been forced to turn back due to fighting," without explaining the nature of the problem.

The UN office said it would immediately seek "renewed security assurances from the two sides" before attempting to send the 50-truck convoy carrying 750 tonnes of supplies.
Earlier Thursday, the rebels accused the military of bombing bridges in rebel-held areas in a bid to block food reaching civilians.

Most international aid agencies have quit the troubled region after a government order, leaving only the International Committee of the Red Cross. The WFP's action was a one-off, and they no longer have a presence in the area.

Meanwhile, the military said it had used jets to bomb an arms store and an LTTE command centre in the north, the ministry said.

It gave no details of any new casualties.

The latest air strikes by government forces came as ground troops were battling to capture the rebel political capital of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (210 miles) north of the capital Colombo.

Security forces say they are on the outskirts of the town.

Troops have killed 7,553 rebels since Sri Lanka pulled out of a Norwegian-backed truce in January, according to the ministry. During the same period, 748 soldiers have been killed in combat.

The figures cannot be independently verified.

Forces march to final victory with strong political backing
Daily News, Colombo, 17 Oct. 2008 Ranil Wijayapala, Defence Column

Troops are at the peak of their morale as they brave the adverse weather conditions and stiff resistance from the LTTE while observing the sucesses of their months-long effort to weaken the LTTE to their lowest ebb.

The months long efforts of the LTTE to stop the advance of the troops into their strongholds in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu are now becoming futile, with all their huge earth bunds falling to the Security Forces in all three major battlefronts in the Wanni, compelling the LTTE to give serious thoughts about their existence in the remaining areas they control in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts.
What is left for the LTTE is to engage in delaying tactics, to delay the certain defeat they are going to face in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu in the final battle now on in the Wanni.

That was why the LTTE is trying to hang on to the Tamil Nadu politicians who are trying to score out of the Sri Lankan situation to strengthen their Tamil vote base for the upcoming general elections in India, to come out of the situation.

Though it seems that South Indian politicians are pressurizing the Centre to urge Sri Lanka to stop the military thrust on the LTTE in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, at a time certain defeat is looming for the LTTE, the same type of pressure is also there on the Indian Government not to bow down to the politicians backing LTTE terrorism which had a major impact on the Indian politics during the past two decades. As President Mahinda Rajapaksa very clearly stated in his recent media interviews, military offensives are not at all aimed at the Tamils but against the LTTE which had become an obstacle for ethnic amity and the development of the country.

He has also communicated to the Indian Government that all precautionary measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the Tamil civilians entrapped in the Wanni and also urging the Indian Government to urge the LTTE to enter into mainstream politics as all avenues are now open for them to settle for a political solution.

The type of pressure to the Central Government of India by disgruntled politicians in Tamil Nadu can be understood once we go through the ground realities in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu battlefronts.

The LTTE is confronting a situation akin to the situation they faced during the Vadamarachchi operation in 1987 in which the LTTE was about to crushed by the Security Forces on all fronts. The Indian intervention in the North East conflict in 1987 came amidst such a situation.

But things have changed so fast under the present context as for the first time the Government has taken steps to restore democracy in the Eastern province with the establishment of the Eastern Provincial Council which saw the election of militant turned politician Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan as Chief Minister.

Apart form that one time militant renegade LTTE Eastern commander Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman has also been appointed as a Member of Parliament representing the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance Government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also invited Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to lay down arms and join the democratic path at the All Party Conference held on Saturday, focusing on finding a political solution to the North East conflict.
So, on the part of the Government a conducive atmosphere has been set to go for a political solution to the North East conflict with all avenues open for the LTTE to enter into the democratic path giving up violence and without sacrificing more cadres to the battlefront in the face of certain defeat.

The pressure should be exerted on the LTTE but not the Government of Sri Lanka as it is engaged in eliminating one of most ruthless terror outfits which is ready to use its cadres as human bombs violating the basic human rights of the Tamil community which they represent.

What the international community and the Indian Government should understand at this juncture is that the LTTE is ‘concerned’ about the plight of the Tamil civilians entrapped in Wanni and exerting pressure on Tamil Nadu politicians to raise their voice about the civilians as there is no other way for them to escape certain defeat.
On the other hand they have been isolated internationally with all Governments extending their support towards the Lankan Government’s efforts to eradicate terrorism.

The Government of Russia also extended their fullest cooperation to the Government’s effort to eradicate terrorism when a Sri Lankan defence delegation lead by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa visited Russia last week.

The Sri Lankan Defence delegation met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Defence Minister General Nikolai Makarou and the Russian Intelligence Chief during this visit.

The discussions had focused on sharing military intelligence and military training and the implementation of existing defence cooperation agreements.

The Sri Lankan delegation has explained the current situation in the country and the Russian Government has given an assurance that they will stand by the Sri Lankan Government in their efforts to eliminate terrorism from Sri Lanka.

The Australian Government has indicated that they are also seriously considering banning the LTTE as a terror organisation when Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama met his Australian counterpart this week.

Amidst the LTTE losing its international support except for a few elements which had been misled by the LTTE, it is also now on the verge of facing certain defeat in the Wanni with troops advancing from all three fronts to crush them in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts.

The Task Force -I or the 58 Division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva made a major breakthrough on the Nachchikuda front in the west of Kilinochchi district. The efforts the LTTE had taken for the past few months creating huge earth bunds to delay the troops have become futile with the capture of the Earth bund from Pandiveddikulam to Vannerikulam.

Following the break of the earth bund from the Karambakulam area a few weeks back the troops attached to the 583 Brigade under the command of Colonel Suraj Banshajaya have now advanced nearly four and half Kilometres northwards from the massive earth bund in Karmabkulam.

Task Force-I or the 58 Division captured 5.5 Kilometres of the Nachchikuda Akkarayankulam Kokavil road from Pandiveddikulam to Vannerikulam. It was from that stretch the troops attached to the 583 Brigade had advanced northwards.
With the capture of this relatively high ground connecting Pandiveddikulam to Vannerikulam troops are now in control of tactically important locations to control Tiger movements in Kilinochchi West.

The advancing troops have captured Mannikulam village which is a five way junction four Kilometres north of Karambakulam area. Mannikulam is a vital LTTE location from which the LTTE could control many areas in the Western flank of Kilinochchi.
The five roads leading from Mannikulam connect to the A-32 road 11th and 12th mile posts and to the Pooneryn - Paranthan road from the North and to the Akkarayankulam road from the South.

With these advances, the LTTE is making desperate attempts to defend this territory by inducting their well trained cadres into the front using all their resources. Two vehicles bringing such Imran Pandyan cadres have been targeted by the troops operating in the Mannikulam area last Saturday on two occasions killing 18 cadres.

The LTTE had moved in without knowing that troops have moved into the area.

Apart from this the troops have also advanced towards Jayapuram village located west of Pandiveddikulam reaching close to the A-32 road from the north of Nachchikuda.
Troops attached to the 58 Division are poised to cut off the A-32 Mannar Pooneryn road from north of Nachchikuda to isolate the Nachchikuda Sea Tiger base.

With these developments the Tigers now entrapped in Nachchikuda are apparently withdrawing removing all their positions. Intelligence reports indicate a hive of activities in the Nachchikuda area within the past few days.

They have been confused as many Tiger movements along the A-32 road north of Nachchikuda have been targeted by commando troops last week. Once the Military gains the A-32 road the LTTE automatically loses Nachchikuda which has been defended by them for months having constructed huge earth bunds.

Once troops hit the A-32 road from the North of Nachchikuda the LTTE will be left with only Valaipadu and Palavi jungle areas. Once troops move into the jungle patch in Palavi they can easily control the Tiger activities and also Sea Tiger activities in the Valaipadu Sea Tiger base from which the LTTE had unloaded a consignment of arms and weapons to be transported to the Kilinochchi side.

Therefore, the LTTE is now undergoing a confusing situation as they cannot take control of the troops movement in the western part of the Kilinochchi district as gateways has already been opened for the troops to march towards Pooneryn direction.
This move has become vital at this decisive moment in which the LTTE is trying to get the maximum political pressure on the Government through the volatile political situation in Tamil Nadu as such a move will enable them to control supplies from the South Indian side to the north western coast.

These developments on the battlefront have compelled the LTTE to seriously consider their defence system as more than 10 of their earth bunds so far have been captured by the 58 Division during their operations in the Mannar Rice Bowl area and in Viddathalthivu, Iluppakadavai, Vellankulam and Mulangavil.

Even in Kilinochchi south west the LTTE is trying to delay the troops advance by constructing a huge earth bund. But troops are now in control of the section of this earth bund in the south west of Kilinochchi and frequently confronting the LTTE there.
By this time the LTTE is once again trying to save their well trained cadres having inducted junior cadres without proper training to the Kilinochchi south front. But this proved futile as many of these cadres have started to flee the Tiger forward defences in Kilinochchi south without obeying orders of senior Tiger cadres.

It was a clear signal that the LTTE is fast losing control over their cadres and also the civilian population as they are well aware that the LTTE trying to exploit their lives for an unwinnable war at this stage.

Amidst this situation the troops operating in the South of Kilinochchi are making progress though they have not shown a rapid progress within the past few days. The troops are now preparing for the final stage of the battle as they are moving towards a built-up area in the Kilinochchi town after passing jungle terrain.

The 574 and 573 Brigades under the command of Lt. Colonel Senaka Wijesuriya and Lt. Colonel Prathap Thillekeratne are overlooking the LTTE movements on the A-9 road. They have been able to control LTTE movements along the A-9 road as they have taken the stretch of A-9 road from Mankulam to Murikandi.

For the past one week the troops have been able to attack eight Tiger Tractors moving along this stretch of A-9 road.

The troops attached to the 59 Division too are making steady progress towards Mullaitivu having captured half of the area coming under Nayaru lagoon and a huge earth bund constructed encircling the Kumulamunai and Alampil areas.

Air Force fighter jets and gunship helicopters are providing close assistance to ground troops taking on to LTTE logistics and military bases frequently. One such Tiger facility where the LTTE had a large number of their earth moving equipment came under attack of SLAF fighter jets.

Therefore troops, with the strong backing of the political leadership who are firmly standing behind their action without succumbing to local and international pressure, are now in a strong position to face the final battle to crush the LTTE on Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu fronts to see an end to the two and half decade long conflict in the country. Is the Eelam dream over? Sheela Bhatt.

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