SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE EELAM WAR
Posted on June 16th, 2016

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Sri Lanka’s armed forces were praised and admired long before the Eelam victory of 2009. The US Pacific Command team which evaluated the Sri Lanka army in 2002 said the soldiers were well motivated and were confident as a team.  They were well trained, knew their weapons, and were proficient in the skills expected of them. ‘Maneuvers in close proximity to automatic weapons fire were rapid,’ they noted. Soldiers had a good understanding of LTTE warfare and knew how to defeat the LTTE. They had maintained a fighting spirit amidst tremendous hardships and it was this spirit that had prevented more drastic defeats.  The army would have succeeded better if the entire system were committed to that end, they concluded.

The deputy head of the Naval Monitoring team of the SLMM, Lars Bleymann was on board Pearl Cruiser II” when it was attacked by the LTTE in 2006. He wrote to the Navy high command   thanking the navy, from the bottom of his heart, for saving his life. He said that the officer in charge and his crew behaved in exemplary manner. The OIC was calm, collected, never wavered, and never lost coolness.   His crew carried out his orders. They are a credit to the navy and the Sri Lanka Navy is in very good shape, he said.

On another occasion, the head of the International Committee of Red Cross had written to Rajiva Wijesinha ‘Your men either at sea or on land, carried out their tasks in an exemplary manner. Whether it be to protect the state and its citizens or the care of the sick and wounded they displayed a strict discipline and respect for rules of engagement and at the same time a very respectful and kind attitude to help those in need.’

Geneva Convention (Additional Protocol II, 1977) is the only regulation that is of any use to a government engaged in civil war. This Protocol supports the right of governments to preserve national unity, protect territory, and maintain law and order in a civil war situation. This Protocol prohibits others from meddling in the war or interfering with any actions the government chooses to take on the matter.  Sri Lanka has not signed this Protocol and therefore cannot make use of these valuable clauses.  When asked why Sri Lanka did not do so, officials have no answer.  Observers ask, was it deliberate? The present trumped up ‘war crimes’ charges are due to this omission.  The Ottawa landmine treaty prohibits the use production and stockpiling of anti personnel mines. We have not signed that either.

The armed forces faced many obstacles when fighting this war, including sabotage. When the government negotiated to buy RM 70 multiple rocket launchers from Czechoslovakia, there was an attempt to scuttle the deal and the Czech manufacturers had to retain lawyers to proceed with the sale. The purchase was made but the plane carrying the launchers vanished after leaving Czechoslovakia. It was found in a former soviet republic. Sri Lanka made representation and the plane was allowed to take off. When the plane arrived in Sri Lanka, the Czech technicians in Colombo found that wires had been cut in both machines. They repaired the launchers with the help of SLAF technicians. The second aircraft carrying two more launchers was intercepted by fighter aircraft of a Middle Eastern country and forced to land in a military airport. It was held there for three weeks. An East European country had to make representation on behalf of Sri Lanka to secure the aircraft’s release. These rocket launchers were urgently needed by the army. LTTE fighting strength came primarily from their rocket launchers.

Some sections of the media also engaged in sabotage by publicizing arms purchases.  Specifications of the newly acquired fire finding equipment were published. Sensitive combat information was made public.  Navy said they could have targeted another LTTE vessel in addition to the ones they hit in 2003 if the media had not announced navy operations in advance. They charged that they could have destroyed at least four more LTTE ships in 2003 and 2006 if the media had not published sensitive information.

Military experts from UK, USA and India, three countries which opposed the war, were given an inside look at our armed forces. US Pacific Command invited by Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, carried out a comprehensive study of the armed forces, to see whether the government could defeat the LTTE. They assured, in their top secret report that this would not happen. The army did not have the necessary equipment. Air force    did not have a comprehensive air operational plan and lacked the equipment needed for surveillance and reconnaissance. They should acquire cluster bombs. US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was invited to advise on Sri Lanka’s intelligence. They used this to sit in on intelligence briefings.  Lt Gen Nambiar and Vice Admiral Jacob (India) were invited to advice on Jaffna high security zone and a special sea route for LTTE. General Rose (UK) came to advise on military reform.

When it became clear that the government was going to win the war, the western powers wanted President Rajapakse to stop the war. When Kilinochchi fell in January 2009 USA, UK, Norway and France followed by India and Japan tried to force this. These countries were trying to save the badly cornered LTTE. The pressure exerted on President Rajapakse was enormous. Representatives of UN, UNDP, ICRC together with the ambassadors for USA, India and European Union met the Foreign Minister. USA threatened to withhold the promised 9 million loan unless a ceasefire was declared and foreign intervention was allowed. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon sent his chief of staff, Nambiar to meet the President. UN wanted an immediate ceasefire.  USA wanted a meeting between the UN representative and Prabhakaran as well.

In the first three Eelam wars, Sri Lanka succumbed to international pressure and the military offensive was stopped when the army was about to win. The Rajapakse government refused to do this. President Rajapakse firmly stated that he was not going to stop the war. They were going to fight to the finish.  Nothing short of unconditional surrender could save the LTTE.  The UN was not needed. LTTE could contact the President through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

USA had also wanted President Rajapakse to offer a general amnesty to the LTTE. This coincided with the unilateral ceasefire declared by the LTTE when they found they were losing. President Rajapakse refused. The government could not offer an amnesty, he said. Even if the top leaders surrendered the government would go ahead with legal proceedings against them for crimes committed. It was also too late for the LTTE to negotiate a deal with the government.   President said that he would not accept Prabhakaran as party to any future settlement. Nothing could be more ridiculous than allowing LTTE to take part in negotiations when it had lost it fighting capability.

About two months before the final battle at Nanthikadal lagoon, USA had offered to evacuate the top LTTE leaders and their families. There were secret negotiations to take away Prabhakaran, Sea tiger wing leader, Soosai, intelligence wing leader Pottu Amman and their families, numbering over 100.  US wanted them to surrender to a third party. Sri Lanka insisted that LTTE must surrender to Sri Lanka and not to a third party.  Weerawansa said the west had asked Prabhakaran to lay down arms to a third party because if he was arrested he would tell the government how the west had helped him with the war.

9 Responses to “SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE EELAM WAR”

  1. SA Kumar Says:

    SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE EELAM WAR

    What war our First in Commander ( Kaddala Thalapathi ) Karuna Amma & Our International intelligent arms purchaser KP on the Eelam victory of 2009 ?

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    SA Kumar,

    KP is being investigated by the FCID. Having failed to get large World Bank and IMF loans to replace the Chinese loans, we speculate that the only hope of the Yamapalana Govt is to blackmail KP into negotiating a loan from the Tamil Tiger Diaspora. We all know that RAJ RAJARATNAM, temporarily a guest of the US Govt at a high security prison, has BILLIONS to invest in his Galleon fund. It will be a BREEZE to get KP to negotiate that loan …. if they treat him right and gift him one of the new Colombo Port City condos as a quid pro quo!

  3. Dilrook Says:

    It is not entirely correct to say the 2005-2009 government didn’t bow down to international pressure. It did. In 2008 it gave India the assurance that 13A will be implemented. The enemy of Sri Lanka is not the LTTE (1975-2009). The enemy of Sri Lanka is Tamil separatism. LTTE was just one part of it. India, USA and EU (all of them banned the LTTE as a terrorist organisation) were looking at ways to get separatism sans the LTTE. Therefore, they pushed 13A and Sri Lankan leaders succumbed to pressure. This advantage was not there before. We traded LTTE terrorists for 13A implementation. From the point of view of territorial integrity, I cannot figure out which is worse.

    There are good reasons for not ratifying treaties on anti-personnel mines. Even if we had ratified them, it has no impact on LTTE conduct as they are not bound by it. Our security forces will be bound by it and restrict their moves. We must keep the avenues open for us to use APMs as needed. We have also not ratified cluster munitions ban from use. A clever move. With delayed detonation option, cluster munitions can be used as APMs. Therefore, it makes sense we have not ratified these.

    The Chandrika government in 2004 agreed for the accession in September 2004 for the “Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects”. Thankfully, we have not signed or ratified it fully. Had we ratified it, certain very useful weapons would have been off limits for the army and the air force.

    Thankfully, we did not sign for Protocol II (2). Had Sri Lanka signed it, the war crimes responsibility would be much higher.

    Under protocol II, civilians are entitled to assistance from any party. It means not just India, but any party can provide relief to what they consider civilians. In that case, we would be legally bound to accept the Tamil diaspora “relief” ship and many other attempts to provide “relief” to “civilians”. It also bans combatants to pose as civilians. LTTE would not care two hoots about it, but our CDF would be committing war crimes for not wearing a military uniform at all times yet carrying guns. It also obliges us to seek wounded terrorists, care for them at all times or release them if we cannot care for them in the battlefield. That is ridiculous and thankfully, we didn’t sign it. Protocol II also bans the use of children in warfare. Karuna group also used children. It was essential to keep the East safe from infiltrating terrorists. In 2003, Ranil’s administration refused to sign the Rome Statute, which saved Sri Lanka from arbitrary externally imposed war crimes tribunals.

    Irrespective of political differences, Sri Lanka has done well to pick and choose Geneva Conventions and other obligations depending on the suitability. Unfortunately the same wisdom was not there as regards 13A. The idiots that (mis)advised the government since 2009 on war crimes, messed it up beyond restitution.

    Instead of avoiding all investigations and giving various development and devolution appeasements to Tamils, the government would have done a judicial independent investigation into the conduct of all parties – security forces, Tamil armed groups, Tamil diaspora, India, EU and Canada, Tamil racist political parties, rioters, NGOs, etc. That was not done. Well known war criminals including KP were not punished for war crimes but treated to VIP status. These foolish moves destroyed our credibility.

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dilrook,

    With regard to using Karunanidhi Amman and KP, I disagree with you.

    In politics and governance, we have to always to what is in the best interest of the nation and it’s people. If that requires using former enemies, so be it, within reason. That is a judgment call in the national interest.

    Lencouraging Karunanidhi to defect from the LTTE was a very smart move, that severely weakneed PRABHAKARAN because then best Fighters and the most of the fighters of the LTTE were easterners. After the war had ended, he was still useful as a foil against unrepentant Eelamists. That good treatment de.on started to other Eelam it’s that if you play straight with Sinhala Patriots, they will not later abandon you. That message is important for attracting more Tamils to a united Sri Lanka.

    The reasons for treating KP reasonably well were different. First, he offered the possibility of interdicting the vast funds and other assets of the Tiger Diaspora. Second, he could be used to gain intelligence on who they are and how they operate abroad. The MR Govt knew well that the Tiger Network abroad was intact and had to be still confrontdd; a convclusion that has now be ome eminently obvious. In return, he was given the opportunity to resume his family life and an opportunity to help rehabilitate his people.

    In my view, both of these were GOOD DECISION serring the natonal interest …that can be attributed to Gota.

    Other powers have done similar things in their national interest.For example, the Allies gave refuge and high status to Nazi scientists such as Whener Von Braun who created both the Nazi V1 and V2 rockets and the US space program.There are many other examples I can cite by chapter and verse!

    What is good for the Western goose should be even better for the Sri Lankan gander … provided it serves the national interest.

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    Oops!

    ….not Karunanidhi but Karuna …

    The cellphone word completion software is wreaking havoc with my spelling!

  6. Wetta Says:

    I also agree with Ananda-USA. War and post-war work should all aim for the “national interest”. There is no one common blind and straight forward method in any “smart” political maneuver.

    KP and Karuna are only “accused” of war crimes, so are Prabakaran, George Bush and Tony Blair too. But USA and UK did not, does not and will not treat George Bush and Tony Blair the same way as how they did to “Slobodan Milošević “.

    Somehow I noticed today that one pig-shit-eater has managed to include Mahinda Rajapaksha into the list of “Convicted war Criminals” list in Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_convicted_war_criminals). Is MR ever convicted? By which court of law? Wikipedia is not the same good old trust worthy Wikipedia anymore. This shows how subtle the international media and information web works according to their own narrow and selfish agendas.

    It appears “What is good for the western goose IS NOT GOOD for the Sri Lankan gander”

  7. Dilrook Says:

    Ananda, I didn’t complain against Karuna. Though his TMVP used children in war, it was essential that we had his support.

    But cannot agree on KP. All those could have been obtained from him as prisoner. Having done so, he and other terrorists captured or surrendered in the last stages of the war could have been tried for war crimes. That would have brought out the vast terrorist weapons networks around the world. Tamils collected money in the West but bought weapons mostly in the Far East. The world would have supported it. KP was in the thick of it. That is the way to use KP for national interest.

    What happened was he was appeased for petty personal political gains. At one point UPFA was even considering fielding either KP or the other terrorist Daya Master to contest for the NPC.

    What if this government releases KP as he has no conviction against him? He will get back to his old habits. If the new government wants, they can compel him to implicate Mahinda and others in exchange for freedom. The Nazi parallel is not relevant as the ideology died down. Tamil separatism is as powerful today as during LTTE time.

  8. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dilrook,

    I disagree wrt KP. If KP was just imprisoned, he would have just shut up and served his time waiting to be ultimately released. The carrot and stick approach was essential to get his cooperation. If the MR/UPFA GOSL had survived, KP would well have been useful for exposing and prosecuting LTTE networks abroad, and for deflecting UN war crimes charges.

    The Yamapalanaya GOSL will do the exact opposite and use KP to blacken MR/GOSL and the Armed Forces and help the Tiger Diaspora gain their ends.

    Ultimately, we are trying to second guess Gota’s decisions made on the basis of more facts and accurate facts than what you and I have. I trust his judgment to have acted in the best interests of our country.

  9. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dilrook,

    While disagreeing with your stand on KP, I strongly agree with your espouses of Sri Lanka picking and choosing which Geneva protocols to sign ….. with the NATIONAL INTEREST given the highest priority.

    Western Powers ALWAYS want to TIE THE HANDS of others while leaving free their own to do ANYTHING that serves their own agendas.

    For example, they want to deny nuclear weapons and even civilian nuclear materials proceasing technologies to currently non-nuclear nations …. in the name of non-proliferation …. while happily continuing to maintain and enhance their own nuclear arsenals in their national interest. On climate change, the USA refused to sign the Tokyo Treaty while pontificating to other countries on the urgency of reducing carbkn emissions. Not too many decades ago, it was the vetos of the USA that sustained South Africa’s apartheid government in power. The Western Powers weild war crimes charges against other nations while continuing to invade or bomb and destroy other countries at will using the most sophisticated and powerful of weapons.

    ALL OF THIS demonstrates the DOUBLE STANDARDS and MALIGNANT HYPOCRISY of the West.

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