Battle of Pooneryn
Posted on November 19th, 2022

By Manohari Katugampala Courtesy Ceylon Today

Nothing is impossible for the brave warrior of the nation who was born to a heroic mother. Several heroic sons were born on this island to eradicate this menace from the ‘suppressed communities’ of terrorism. When the time where the country was passing ‘years of blue’, the region of Pooneryn was not prosperous with the fear of terrorism, which was instilled in every corner of the Northern area.

It was 14 November 1993 and the battle of Pooneryn took its fearsome form with its enemy. LTTE code-named ‘Operation Frog Leap’; was the battle between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan Military against this Pooneryn attack. The LTTE undertook a ‘surprise attack’ in the Pooneryn, invading the garrison and capturing military establishments. In the first phase of the operation, the Army and the Navy troops broadened their presence in the Pooneryn area establishing a permanent base in 1991 to counter LTTE movements across the Kilali lagoon from the Jaffna peninsula, which was under its control. At the time, the Army Camp in Pooneryn comprised troops from the 1st and 3rd Battalions of Sri Lanka Light Infantry, Gajaba Regiment, and 4th Armoured Corps. Due to this security circle, military bases in Pooneryn and Elephant Pass effectively obstructed LTTE movements between Wanni and Jaffna.

On 24 September 1993, the Army troops launched Operation Yal Devi and 108 soldiers were killed during the operation. Several weeks later, the LTTE launched Operation Frog Leap to destroy the isolated military base in Pooneryn. This was the time when the LTTE had begun to launch its brutal illicit activities, day by day. On 11 November 1993, the LTTE launched a massive ‘land attack’ by destroying the Nagathevanthurai naval detachment and the army defence lines in Pooneryn. The LTTE were able to capture the Pooneryn Camp letting the Army soldiers face an unexpected assault from the lagoon and all the defence lines thereby came under the control of the LTTE.

Not only this affected the Army troops but also the naval detachment and its installations, including a radar station, which were destroyed within hours by the brutal terrorists. Heavy fire from LTTE anti-aircraft guns prevented ‘air support’ dispatched by the Sri Lanka Air Force. Within another two or three hours, a vast area of the base was invaded. Due to heavy anti-aircraft fire from the LTTE, it was extremely difficult to provide ‘air support’. However, the destiny of the LTTE was not allowed to keep that ‘happiness’ for long. The Navy executed an amphibious landing on 14 November 1993 enclosing fire from fast gunboats with the support of the newly formed Special Boat Squadron.

Heroes never ‘wait as a mule’ before the threat. They are ready to exhibit heroism at any cost, no matter what. The LTTE withdrew by the evening of 14 November 1993 and the army re-established its base in Pooneryn once again. The military had to suffer heavy casualties. 8 Officers and 225 other ranks were killed, 17 officers and 545 soldiers were wounded, and 302 soldiers were ‘missing in action’ and since presumed dead.

Major T.T.R. De Silva of the 1st Sri Lanka Light Infantry was given a ‘field promotion’ for preventing the complete fall of the garrison. Two officers, Lt. A.W.M.N.M. De Silva of the 1st Sri Lanka Light Infantry and Lt. K. W. T. Nissanka of the 3rd Gajaba were posthumously awarded the Weera Wickrama Vibhushanaya, the second highest award for ‘combat bravery’, in 1996, Nissanka’s award was elevated to the Parama Weera Vibhushanaya, the ‘highest decoration’ awarded by the Sri Lankan military. Further, Lt. Nissanka, platoon Commander of the 3rd Battalion, Gajaba Regiment, which held the forward defence line till dawn, sacrificed himself.

At the time the country was hampered by terrorism that was spreading in every corner of the country taking several lives of innocents, many brave warriors had sacrificed their valuable lives for the sake of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Patriotic sons who descended from the generation of heroes, bade farewell to the nation, but their sacrifices shall forever remain in our hearts.

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