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Sunday, 14 June 2009

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International community changes tune


by Ranil Wijayapala

As the hues and cries by certain international media and international human rights organisations are fading away as they themselves were not aware on what basis they have made those allegations against the Sri Lankan Security Forces and the Government, the focus of the international community is now drawn towards the Internally Displaced People now housed in State run welfare centres in Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna districts.

That was because many international media, mainly in the Western bloc could not find any base for their false media reports which highlighted that more than 20,000 civilians had been killed during the last stages of the battle to rescue the last batch of civilians under LTTE detention.

Except for their assumptions and estimates, to prove their argument they did not receive any backing except from the LTTE proxies operating internationally to get the UN to probe into war crimes in Sri Lanka. So many people who had been adversely critical of the Sri Lankan Government and the Security Forces based on these false media reports, have had to change their tune when speaking about Sri Lanka.

That was why a person like David Miliband, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs changed his tone on Sri Lanka’s achievement against terrorism and had stated during his discussions with Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama that the defeat of the LTTE was a massive achievement by the Sri Lankan Government and none in the British Government would shed any tears for these terrorists.

It very clearly shows that even those who had shed tears over the LTTE had changed their attitude and accepting the fact that they were supporting a terrorist organization. What they were discouraged in persuading the UN to investigate in Sri Lanka was the strong support extended by the international community towards the Sri Lankan Government, rejecting all those false allegations by Western media.

The most obvious factor for the defeat of all those allegations was that either Sri Lankan Government or the Security Forces did not commit war crimes even at the last moment of the battle. So there was no reason for them to panic about those false allegations as they did their best to safeguard the lives of the civilians whilst fighting to defeat the LTTE.

If 20,000 civilians were killed during the last few days of the battle, they could have easily found the bodies of those civilians and can hear from each and every displaced civilian about it as the figure suggests that one out of eight people have been killed in the last few days of the battle as 85,000 people have reached military controlled areas within the last five days.

Above all, as a journalist who visited No Fire Zone in Puthumathalan, Vellamullivaikkal and Karayanmullivaikkal, as the battle was going in those areas I can guarantee that no such crimes were committed by the Security Forces against the civilians at any stage of the battle.

So the chapter about the false allegations about war crimes has reached an abrupt end as all those who tried to find evidence to prove those allegations have failed in those attempts once they realized the fact they have gone after a mirage, like Prabakaran, the Tiger leader who put the lives of the Tamil community in peril for over three decades.

However, the chapter on the displaced civilians still remains a challenge for the Government as many organizations are focusing their attention towards the displaced civilians now living in welfare camps in Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna districts.

According to latest count released by the United Nations’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance, between October 27 of last year and June 8 of this year, 280,812 people crossed to the Government-controlled areas from the conflict zone, including 3,194 who were registered last week.

According to UN statistics as of June 8, the UN World Food Program (WFP) had delivered nearly 880 metric tonnes of food to IDPs in Vavuniya.

The UN in its latest briefing on the Sri Lankan IDP situation, has expressed their satisfaction over the manner Sri Lankan Government is taking steps to provide facilities to these IDPs as Government has taken initiatives to clear more areas in the Vauniya district to expand the space for the welfare centres.

Currently, they are living in Kadirgamar, Ananda Coomaraswamy relief villages in Zone I, Ramanathan relief village in Zone II, Arunachalam welfare village in Zone III, and Zone IV and Zone V relief villages in Settikulam.

Government is in the process of clearing land to expand the area to establish relief villages in another zone. As of yesterday, Sri Lanka had received US Dollars 69 million for the Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Sri Lanka, out of the US Dollars 155 million required for this purpose.

The most challenging situation is that there are 90,000 children among 280,812 internally displaced civilians and the Government is taking every possible step to provide them with basic healthcare and food.

However, the Government, whilst taking steps to provide these IDPs with the mostly needed facilities, it has also started the resettlement of IDPs in the Mannar district after providing them with their basic needs.

More than 5,000 people were resettled this week under the second resettlement phase resettling in the Musali Division in Mannar district.

The challenge before the Security Forces, in the process of resettling these civilians, is to provide them with safer environment which is free of mines and unexploded devices. Apart from that, the Security Forces and the Police are also making arrangements to establish a better security network in the Wanni with the implementation of the redeployment plan for Security Forces and the Police for the two districts.

Arrangements

It was with that aspect in mind that the Sri Lanka Army established two Security Forces Headquarters in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu to coordinate the security arrangements in the two districts and dominate the area without keeping any room for the resurgence of terrorism in that region.

The two new Security Forces Headquarters came into operation with effect from June 5, 2009 with Major General Channa Goonetilleka General Officer Commanding (GOC) for Security Forces Headquarters, Kilinochchi (KLN) and Major General Nandana Udawatta, General Officer Commanding (GOC) for Security Forces Headquarters, Mullaitivu assuming duties at their respective offices.

They are responsible for the overall command, control and discipline of all ranks under their command. Roles and responsibilities of both Headquarters depend on operational requirements with expansion of civil administration in the respective districts. With the setting up of these two new Security Forces Headquarters the Sri Lanka Army has five Security Forces Headquarters across the island.

Apart from establishing these two new Security Forces Headquarters, the Sri Lanka Army will also go for a new redeployment plan in the two districts very soon. According to the proposed redeployment plan, the Sri Lanka Army seeks the approval of the Defence Ministry to form new Army Divisions for the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Security Forces headquarters apart from the existing Army Divisions. According to the proposed redeployment plan, four Army Divisions will each come under Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Security Forces Headquarters. With the implementation of this proposed redeployment plan in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, the possibility of terror activities in the Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi jungles which were the breeding grounds for LTTE terrorism will be totally eliminated if there is any attempt by racist organisation to form a terror organisation like the LTTE.

In the same manner the Eastern Province will also be dominated by the Security Forces deploying regular and volunteer battalions of the Army into the jungles in the Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts.

As a part of this redeployment plan, three regular battalions, 8 Gemunu Watch, 6 Vijayaba Infantry Regiment and 9 Armoured Corps battalions which were deployed in the Kilinochchci and Mullaitivu districts, were sent to the Batticaloa and Ampara districts. Apart from this, three Volunteer Infantry battalions were also redeployed in the East.

The Sri Lankan Air Force is also planning to establish two Air Force bases in Iranamadu and Mullaitivu to make use of the two seized LTTE constructed airstrips. The Sri Lanka Air Force believes that only the two airstrips in Iranamadu and Mulliyavali in Mullaitivu can be considered as original airstrips used by the LTTE although troops came across more than 8 small air strips during the Wanni liberation operation.

Therefore, the Air Force can only think of developing the Iranamadu and Mulliyavali airstrips for the future use of the SLAF as it would fulfill a long felt need in expanding its operations.

The SLAF, which played a keyrole in defeating the LTTE, by way of supporting the ground troops and conducting independent combat operations against the LTTE targeting their training and military bases, their logistic bases and their leadership, yesterday marked the culmination of air operations at the Air Force Base, Katunayake under the supervision of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Morale

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa paid a glowing tribute to the Air Force for its contribution towards the victory by boosting the morale of the ground troops by way of providing information about the enemy ahead of them. The Defence Secretary also commended the Air Force for its contribution to hold the ground captured by the ground troops along with the Sri Lanka Army.

The Sri Lanka Navy too will have to ready just their security plan to meet the future challenges as Sri Lanka is going to claim a sea area 23 times bigger than its land area very soon.

Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka this week stated that Sri Lanka’s proposals to claim the said sea area under Sri Lankan territory was handed over on the very same day the Army troops advanced from the South to North and from the North to South linking up at Vellamullivaikkal on May 16.

Therefore, the Sri Lanka Navy will be entrusted with a massive sea area to be patrolled in the future and will have to increase its blue water capabilities to match these requirements.

As the three Armed Forces are readjusting their structures to face the future challenges and to restore normality in the country, the Sri Lanka Police is also planning to establish 21 Police stations in the North to facilitate the restoration of civil administration in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. These new Police stations will be established in Mannar, Mullaitivu and Mankulam divisions in the North.

Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickremaratne has also proposed to establish a Tamil Language Training Centre in Kilinochchi which is a prerequisite in the process of deploying Police personnel to these two districts once the resettlement process has commenced.

The Police Department faced the same challenge in the Eastern province but overcame it after recruiting qualified Tamil speaking civilians to the Police Department to be deployed in Tamil speaking areas in the Eastern province.

Thus, Police Department will have to improve the Tamil language competency among Police officers to ensure that innocent Tamil civilians, who are going to be resettled in their villages very soon, will not face any inconvenience.

As Security Forces and the Police are laying a better security plan for the North and East, the intelligence sleuths attached to the State Intelligence Service are making further progress in their investigations into the suicide attempts on the lives of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka.The intelligence sleuths were able to uncover the links the LTTE had with Security Forces personnel to accomplish their suicide missions in Colombo.

The arrest of the Army Officer in charge of the Ratmalana Army Transit Camp following the information received from the Tiger cadre who committed suicide in May in an attempt to escape his arrest in Wellawatte area had revealed many attempts by the LTTE to assassinate the key persons behind these military successes.

Stringent

The most recent arrest of an LTTE mastermind, who had been operating with the support of several others in Colombo, revealed that all three attempts made on the lives of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had failed due to tight security network provided to them and the stringent Police arrangements.Information provided by an arrested Tiger, who had received special training in Kilinochchi for VIP assassination plans, has led State Intelligence Service (SIS) sleuths to find four LTTE suicide jackets, concealed inside the ceiling of a luxurious residential complex apartment in Wellawatte on May 14, 2009.

However, the Tiger cadre committed suicide after jumping from the seventh floor of the luxury flat he was residing when it was surrounded by the Police.

He was later identified as Thamodarampillai Sujindran and was a hardcore terrorist operating in Colombo for sometime.

Further investigations affirmed that a brother of the dead terrorist is one of the three shareholders of the Wellawatte residential complex, now living in London. Findings confirmed he himself was a hardcore LTTE operative who had been actively involved in the LTTE’s international network.

SIS investigators later on took his sister, mother and three more youngsters studying in a private school in Wellawatte area into custody for interrogation.

The first assassination attempt on the President, according to the arrested Tiger, had been made while he was attending a passing out parade at Diyatalawa military academy on December 20, 2008. A military officer, Lt. Colonel Ranjith Perera who was arrested for having connections with the LTTE, had been involved in the execution of those plans.

The second assassination plan on the President was to be carried out when he was participating in the “Deyata Kirula” exhibition at the BMICH on April 4, 2009. The suicide bomber, in the guise of a soldier, had sought permission to enter the premises in the company of Lt. Colonel Ranjith Perera, but the senior Police officer in-charge of security at the BMICH Gate-4 had strictly adhered to instructions of his superiors to the letter and did not allow the terrorist and the military officer to enter the BMICH premises where the President was to have visited.Thus LTTE’s second attempt on the life of the President has ended in smoke, the Court has been further told.

The third attempt to assassinate the President had also been boiled at the Colombo National Hospital as the suicide cadre was late to reach the hospital when President visited the hospital to see Minister Mahinda Wijesekera who was seriously injured in the suicide bomb attack at Godapitiya, Akuressa.According to investigations, the arrested Army Officer had assisted the LTTE suicide cadres to travel free in Colombo and suburbs and intelligence sleuths are investigating the links the Army officer had with the LTTE with regard to the assassination of Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and also the suicide explosion near the Air Force Headquarters on January 2, at the time President Mahinda Rajapaksa was addressing the nation.

Those startling revelations will definitely lead to the Tiger links in Colombo and will also clear the puzzles of the incomplete investigations into many incidents that took place in Colombo.

 

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