Heading towards eelam war IV – War on terror revisited: A passage through a political minefield
Posted on July 4th, 2012

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

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Having won the Nov 17, 2005 presidential poll with a narrow margin, President Mahinda Rajapaksa felt that nothing could be as important as political stability. He knew that political uncertainty would stand in the way of tackling the LTTE. He wanted to accommodate the JVP, which had played a pivotal role in his presidential campaign.

On the instructions of the President, then Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera formally invited the JVP to join the new Sri Lankan leader’s first overseas visit in late December, 2005. The FM invited JVP leader, Somawansa Amarasinghe, its parliamentary group leader, Wimal Weerawansa and another senior member chosen by the party to join the President’s delegation. The proposed four-day visit to New Delhi was scheduled to begin on Dec 27, 2005. The JVP unceremoniously rejected the president’s invitation. The JVP said it couldn’t either accept cabinet portfolios from the UPFA or join the presidential delegation until the government revealed its position on the LTTE issue. The JVP leadership felt that Rajapaksa, too, would carry forward the Norwegian initiative, like his predecessor, President Kumaratunga. (JVP declines to join President’s delegation to India””…”””…”The Island of Dec 18, 2005).

 

President Rajapaksa met the JVP leader on Dec 21, 2005 to discuss security and political situation. During the meeting, which was also attended by the then Foreign Minister, Samaraweera, Deputy Minister Dallas Alahapperuma, JVP General Secretary, Tilvin Silva, parliamentary group leader, Wimal Weerawansa and MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the President invited the JVPagain. (JVP determined to stay out of government””…”””…”The Island 0f Dec 25, 2005).

 

JVP tightens screws

 

The JVP used the Temple Trees meeting to step up pressure on the President. The JVP told him to terminate Norwegian Special envoy Erik Solheim’s role in the peace process. The JVP insisted that there couldn’t be any space for a further Norwegian initiative.

The President turned down the JVP’s request, as he, too, was committed to a negotiated settlement.

The President and Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa strove to achieve political stability which they knew was a prerequisite for an efficient strategy to counter the LTTE. They relentlessly pursued it in the wake of the LTTE resuming claymore mine attacks on the military.

The LTTE triggered two claymore blasts on Dec 4, 2005, targeting a tractor carrying a group of soldiers at Kondavil on the Palaly-Jaffna, road killing six of them and wounding four. The Kondavil blast occurred a day before the change of command of the Sri Lankan Army, with Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka succeeding Lt. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda. (Claymore blasts claim six soldiers in Jaffna””…”””…”The Island of Dec 5, 2005). The LTTE struck again two days later, killing eight soldiers. Except for Australia, no other government condemned the LTTE for those attacks, whereas the Norway-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) did not even hold the group responsible for the atrocities. (Army appreciates Australian condemnation of Tiger claymore blasts””…”””…”The Island Dec 9, 2005).

C.A. Chandraprema explains the circumstances under which President Rajapaksa promoted Sarath Fonseka to the rank of Lt. Gen. and appointed him the Commander of the Army (Gota’s War: The Crushing of Tamil Tiger Terrorism in Sri Lanka [Chapter 48]. The Chapter titled “ƒ”¹…”Gota Returns to Sri Lanka’ deals with the change of command, though the assertion that there was no war anywhere in sight at that time and the Defence Secretary simply wanted to give an old friend an opportunity to command the army before retiring, obviously is not accurate.

LTTE attacks Navy

While the President was preparing to visit New Delhi, the LTTE struck again on Dec 22, 2005, in the north. The LTTE targeted two navy dinghies off Pallimunai, Mannar, as it opened a new front.

The attackers approached the dinghies disguised as fishermen and killed three personnel and wounded another. As the navy struggled to cope with the Pallimunai incident, the LTTE struck again at Pesalai, Mannar, on the following day, killing 13 navy personnel and wounding three. The LTTE fired rocket propelled grenades at the targeted vehicle as claymore blasts ripped through it.

Instead of demanding an immediate end to attacks, the international community rewarded the LTTE again by sending a top diplomatic delegation to visit Kilinochchi on Dec 24, 2005. The SLAF flew the head of the EU delegation, Ambassador Julian Wilson, British High Commissioner, Stephen Evans, Japanese Ambassador Akio Suda and the Norwegian Deputy Ambassador, Oddvar Lugreid to Vavuniya. From there, the delegation moved overland to Kilinochchi. It was the first diplomatic visit to Kilinochchi by countries other than Norway, since the assassination of Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar on August 12, 2005. (DPL visit north upset military with strap-line “ƒ”¹…”We have rewarded terrorism again’-The Island of Dec 25, 2005).

The US embassy declined to join the delegation, though the decision to visit had been taken at a meeting in Brussels on Dec 19, 2005. (Co-chair shuns confab with Tigers””…”””…”The Island of Dec 26, 2005).

Much to the surprise of the international community and those who had portrayed President Rajapaksa as a hardliner, he continued to push for talks with the LTTE, even at an overseas venue. Regardless of severe criticism by the JVP, the JHU and other nationalists, President Rajapaksa tried to bring the LTTE back to the negotiating table. Instead of compelling the terrorists to cease operations, the Norwegians shielded them.

The LTTE blew up an Israeli-built Shaldag Class Fast Attack Craft (FAC) on Jan 7, 2006 close to Foul Point, Trincomalee harbour. Still the government persisted with its efforts to negotiate with the LTTE. Although the government had proposed that either Tokyo or Bangkok could be the venue for talks, the LTTE insisted on Oslo. Later, the government agreed to a venue outside Asia. It also proposed talks could be held at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). Unfortunately, the Norwegians and their international partners continued to mollycoddle the LTTE. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the civil society didn’t even bother to issue a joint statement, pushing the LTTE towards the negotiating table. They never interfered in the LTTE’s military affairs.

Norway clinched a deal on Jan 25, 2006 to bring the GoSL and the LTTE back to the negotiating table, in Geneva. Despite heavy criticism by the JVP and JHU, the GoSL made available VIP choppers to LTTE theoretician, former Virakesari staffer, A. B. Stanislaus aka Anton Balasingham and his Australian born wife, Adele, now a permanent resident in the UK, during their Jan 2009 stay in Sri Lanka. (Bala, wife get chopper ride to BIA””…”””…”The Island of Jan 29, 2006).

In the run-up to the GoSL-LTTE meet in Geneva, Prof. G.L. Peiris and Milinda Moragoda briefed those chosen by the President to represent the government. (G.L., Milinda share experiences with Mahinda’s peace team””…”””…”The Island Feb 9, 2006). Despite a rapid LTTE build-up in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the government continued as if the situation were normal. The LTTE continued to smuggle in weapons from overseas supply routes under the very nose of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. On Feb 11, 2006, the navy confronted an LTTE craft off Mannar. As two navy Fast Attack Craft approached the LTTE craft, those on board caused a massive explosion on board the vessel (LTTE boat explodes near navy vessels””…”””…”The Island of Feb 12, 2000).

President Rajapaksa found himself on an extremely bad wicket. The LTTE continued to step up attacks on the military, hence causing uncertainty and instability on the political front. The President realised that the Having failed to persuade the JVP to throw their weight behind him, a reluctant President Rajapaksa sought an understanding with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to pursue the Norwegian initiative.

Unlike the failed Mano-Malik talks during the tail end of the presidency, the deliberations between the government and the UNP paved the way for an agreement in February 2006. The agreement, the first of its kind involving the SLFP and the UNP, lasted just four months.

A move made by former President Kumaratunga in her capacity as the SLFP leader on Feb 13, 2006 sent shock waves through the ruling coalition. The SLFP leader made several appointments without consulting SLFP General Secretary, Maithripala Sirisena. An angry Kumaratunga asserted that she could continue for some time as the party leader, though she was no longer the President. Matale District MP Janaka Bandara reacted to Kumaratunga’s move. He said she should quit the party leadership without further delay. Much to the consternation of the new leadership, Kumaratunga engineered several crossovers, with the help of some SLFP MPs loyal to her. President Rajapaksa and his predecessor also crossed swords over the slain Kadirgamar’s vacant National List slot. The President’s nominee, Dallas Alahapperuma secured the vacancy. (CBK underscores lead role in leadership tussle””…”””…”The Island of Feb 16, 2006). An angry Kumaratunga on March 1, 2006 boycotted an SLFP rally at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, where President Rajapaksa was to address a large group of candidates contesting the local government polls (SLFP Gen. Secy caught in leadership battle””…”””…”The Island March 2, 2006 issue). Having caused chaos in the party, the SLFP leader left for Europe on March 4, 2006, as the SLFP headed for a mega leadership crisis.

CFA “ƒ”¹…”amended’

Having met the LTTE in Geneva over two days in late Feb 2006, the UPFA proudly declared that a joint declaration made at the conclusion of the confab was an amendment to the four-year-old CFA. Addressing the media at the Government Information Department on Feb 26, 2006, the government delegates claimed that the joint declaration would be an addition to the original agreement. They interpreted the change as an amendment. But the LTTE continued to cause mayhem. Forced conscription continued unabated, with the LTTE accommodating hundreds of youth in training facilities. The SLMM failed to intervene, though the military repeatedly pushed for tangible counter measures on the part of the peace facilitator and peace co-chairs. The JVP leadership on March 8, 2006 made representations to President Rajapaksa as regards the deteriorating situation.

JVP leader Amarasinghe and parliamentary group leader Weerawansa insisted that there should be a comprehensive review of the tripartite relationship involving the Rajapaksa government, the LTTE and Norway in the wake of two-day meet in Geneva. While the JVP was exerting pressure on the President in early March 2006, the UNP leader was in Oslo for talks on the peace process. Amidst the deepening crisis, both on the political front as well as the peace process, then Army chief, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka emphasised the need to strengthen the army. Addressing troops at Vanni Security Forces headquarters, he declared that the military should be prepared to face any eventuality, though they remained committed to the Oslo-led peace process. Lt. Gen. Fonseka highlighted the need to bolster the fighting capability in the face of the LTTE flexing its muscles. (Army Chief calls for strengthening army””…”””…”The Island March 19, 2006).

Navy clash with LTTE

Then the Navy and Sea Tigers exchanged fire outside Trincomalee harbour as the LTTE build-up continued.  Incidents continued unabated, with the LTTE indicating that it wouldn’t cease operations. The LTTE asserted that Tamils angered by the military presence in the Northern and Eastern Provinces had mounted attacks. Once, LTTE political wing leader, S. P. Thamilselvan claimed that civilians had blown up a Navy Fast Attack Craft off Foul Point, Trincomalee in January 2006. Although the government reiterated its commitment for a negotiated settlement, the country was rapidly heading towards a conflagration.

Against the backdrop of a deepening security crisis, President Rajapaksa received a big boost when the UPFA swept the March 30, 2006 LG polls in spite of the JVP contesting on its own. The President who led the campaign in the absence of Kumaratunga, reiterated his call for the leadership. Anura Bandaranaike escaped the President’s wrath by joining the campaign about a week before the poll. Having won the LG polls, the President consolidated his power in the party at the expense of Kumaratunga as the country headed towards an inevitable all out war.

(Next next installment on July 6 will focus on three major incidents leading to LTTE’s most ambitious offensive in Aug 2006)

13 Responses to “Heading towards eelam war IV – War on terror revisited: A passage through a political minefield”

  1. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    Taking a partial cue from our great king Dutugamunu, on one side we confront the Sakkilyas, the opportunists, both inside and outside Sri Lanka and the on other side the Ungulates of Suidae family, the Anglo Saxons especially the American vulture waiting to pounce and in the middle sits the fool who plays the conservative, safe game which has resulted in the mess we are in now.

  2. Sarath W Says:

    What Mahinda Rajapaksa did in a short time is a miracle when compared to three other presidents could not achieve in over two decades.Although Sarath Fonseka tried to get all the credit for wiping out Fat Prabha and his gang of murderers, it was the strong leadership of the Rajapaksa brothers who lead our gallant forces to victory. We always had good capable officers and brave solders to defeat those terrorist,but not strong politicians to lead them.

  3. May182009 Says:

    This analysis excludes many important things that changed the war during this time.

    On Christmas eve of 2005 TNA MP Pararajasingham was killed.

    He was the first pro-LTTE MP to be killed in the war that started in 1983. For 23 years no pro-LTTE MP died in the war until then!

    He was trying to patch up LTTE and TMVP. His death prevented this.

    Many LTTE terrorists were killed tit for tat for every army and navy patrol they attacked. Tamilnet has details about these attacks. Obviously we don’t mention these in the international forums but they changed the course of war. LTTE had a maxium of 40,000 fighters whereas we have 250,000. War of attrition can easily deplete the LTTE into defeat or extinction. Either way we win. This is what won the war. This is why LTTE “tactically retreated”. They didn’t have enough cadres to lose. And we knew it.

    It is important to document these because it will be these tactics that will win the war once again, not the sympathy or condemnation of the international community.

  4. May182009 Says:

    Sunil Vijayapala

    Our great king Dutugamunu complained across the Mahaweli river there were Tamil invaders and on the other side the deep blue sea.

    He successfully trapped Tamil invaders against the sea and exterminated them. Elara had his reinforcements from south India but it was too late due to the crossing of the sea. When they finally arrived we were ready to ambush them and exterminate them fully.

    This is what needs to be done today. Set off Tamil extremists against their friends in India, etc. and Jihad terrorists.

    Paul Harris a rare friend of Sri Lanka laid down the strategy to set Tamil Tigers against Jihad terrorists. Reading between the lines, it is not difficult to understand what he meant.

    He also saw the potential in Saratah Fonseka in 2002.

  5. May182009 Says:

    By 2014 Coalition troops leave Afghanistan leaving Taliban to grow and spill over again. Their easiest target is India the only non-Muslim country in the region. Indian expansionism in the island may not be spared. The point is not that they will actually do anything but that is a good excuse.

    The tripple threat faced by this small country can be overcome only by setting them against each other actually and through creative moves. By wayy of deceptionn thou shalll win the war.

  6. AnuD Says:

    Thamil Selvam had some mental problem. He could not show a genuine smile. He just shows his teeth.

  7. herman Says:

    writing short articles like this for instance does a lot of injustice to the many unsung heros that wiped out the LTTE. The Monks crucial role is not well documented but they however did provide the confidence for MR and the Rajapaksa brothers to pursue with LEADERSHIP, Courage and Determination to end the LTTE.

    I hope someday, someone will write an unbiased book about some of the positive contribution by JHU, Ranil, Chandrika, SF, UNP, JVP, etc for the demise of the LTTE. Off course history must not leave out the traitor premadasa!

  8. Leela Says:

    May182009,
    I do not disagree with anything what you wrote here except we didn’t have anywhere near 250,000 in our armed forces in Jan 2006. Our forces were bolstered aftermath, and credit for that too must go to Rajapakses. All SF did was what he was assigned (the ground war) nothing more nothing less. Therefore I am inclined to agree with Sarath W, and I must say profoundly.
    Leela

  9. AnuD Says:

    Any discussion about the war is highly politicized. Many want to prove that the war was just two peoples effort. That is true, No one has tried to give a full account of the war. In other places, there is literature available which shows the contribution of every one. I don’t think, until we forget everything any one will try to include everything in a book because of political reasons. In other words, that will go against some politicians.

    Herman and May182009 have included some points that others decline to discuss or deny.

    Avoiding discussion is nothing much when efforts have made to exclude General Fonseka completely from the picture. Buddhist monks had talked to leaders quite often about the severity of the problem and the need to militarily defeat the tigers. Those things are hardly ever quoted or discussed.

  10. Dham Says:

    Seruvila Sir,

    You are worng.

    It is India and Tamil bastard politicians who started this, followed by a barbaric , inhuman, stupid idiot called Parayaharan.
    Sinhala politicians played games until MahaRaja.
    It is under MahaRaja that even the flesh and blood of out sons and daughter were not vasted.
    I fully agree ultimately it is they who liberated the country. But to say “vulture politicians” is not correct.

    There were some vultures on both sides. But 90% of the vultures are tamil politicians.
    Even ordinary tamils become fools and wlaking bombs. Bloody idiotic race !

  11. May182009 Says:

    Dear AnuD

    There is no need to look from the party political point of view. Decisions will be made that way but military strategies should not.

    Even Chandrika had the courage to say no to demilitarization in the north in 2002 when SF came to the picture with a strong statement against any change to HSZs. There is no denying SF’s contribution to the victory. However, he should not have discredited the very army and the defence secretary that made him somebody.

  12. Fran Diaz Says:

    The important thing is that there are Lessons to be Learnt for the ordinary public of Sri Lanka from the tragedy with the ltte. The most important Lesson is that never to let the country fall into foreign hands again.

    All the troubles with the Tamil leaders and the ltte started with 500 yrs of Colonial Rule. Before that there was a proper ethnic balance in the country, and mostly peace reigned and invaders were thrust back. Generally speaking in Lanka there was a sense of peace and wellbeing in those times for the ordinary people of the land, considering the plight of the rest of the world. It was in Colonial times that Tamil low caste/Dalit origin poor were imported into near slavery from Tamil Nadu. This created a strong imbalance in the ethnic proportions in the country.

    Whilst we must all thank our armed forces, the President and his brothers, and all the intellectuals, media and ordinary people and others for releasing us from the ltte terror, we must now make sure that all Sri Lanka citizens are looked after. The Law of the land must be upheld at all times. All illegal migrants (and there are many), must be deported. If the Democratic system is to flourish in Sri Lanka, every Sri Lankan citizen must be held responsible for that goal.

  13. AnuD Says:

    Any discussion about the war is highly politicized. Many want to prove that the war was just two peoples effort. That is true, No one has tried to give a full account of the war.

    Above is a typing mistake.

    IT should be read as that it was not an effort of just two people.

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