LTTE debacle at Aanandapuram: Top Tiger leaders killed
Army's firepower has been
too much for the Tigers
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the gate:
every man upon this earth
cometh soon or late.
how can man die better
facing fearful odds,
the ashes of his fathers
the temples of his Gods
Thomas Babington Macaulay
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) organisation has
experienced many major setbacks during the course of its
33 year old history.
Despite misgivings expressed on these occasions by
prophets of doom, the movement has always managed to
withstand these blows and continue on its
Nevertheless the debacle it suffered in the Aanandapuram
area of Puthukkudiyiruppu AGA division, during the first
week of April seems to be different both qualitatively
what may very well be the defining moment of the on
going war the Tigers have lost a vast array of
illustrious fighting commanders as well as large numbers
of cadres in a single battle.
than 625 bodies of dead LTTE fighters have been
recovered and a special military intelligence squad was
busy identifying those killed. Some details are being
revealed in stages.
LTTE keeps “official silence” over the debacle and its
propaganda networks keep ‘mum’ but the bad news is
spreading slowly yet surely.
stalwarts are contacting close relatives of the Tiger
leaders who died at Aanandapuram and informing them of
what happened. The relatives are told to conduct
religious rites and funeral ceremonies on a low key.
Likewise different Tiger officials are informing close
family members of the other Tiger cadres also about what
had happened to their departed relatives.
the fallen Tigers “Col”
Theepan (presumably promoted posthumously as Brigadier)
is perhaps the single biggest loss to the movement.
LTTE veteran with 25 years of experience hails from
Kandawalai in Kilinochchi District and served as overall
commander of the LTTE northern front fighting
Sivatheepan Thavabalasingham alias Theepan was also the
de facto deputy military commander of the LTTE after the
demise of Kandiah Balasegaran alias Balraj.
Theepan’s communications code name was “Tango Papa.” He
is married to an ex-Tiger woman fighter. They have no
Top four gone
with Theepan, the top four woman fighter commanders have
also been killed; Vidhusha, special commander of
Maalathy regiment, her deputy and Maalathy regimental
commander Kamalini, Durga, special commander of Sothia
regiment and her deputy cum commander Mohanaa have all
unconfirmed report states that women’s wing political
commissar Thamilini has also been killed.
other senior Tigers killed were the special commander
and commander of the Jeyanthan infantry brigade, Keerthi
and Nagesh. The Jeyanthan brigade is raised from
Manickapodi Maheswaran alias Keerthi is a native of
Arasaditheevu in Batticaloa District and served as
intelligence chief for the east earlier.
Selvaratnam Sundaram alias Nagesh is a native of
Periyaporatheevu and has served as district military
remained loyal to Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran
and despite being eastern sons of the soil opted to
fight against Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna
after he revolted against the leadership citing northern
Another huge loss is that of Gaddafi also known as
Viduthalai and Amuthan. This native of Kotraavathai in
Vathiri, Vadamaratchy was at one time a bodyguard of
LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. When Prabhakaran
delivered his famous speech at Suthumalai after the
Indo-Lanka Accord was signed, Gaddafi was one of the two
bodyguards standing behind the Tiger chief.
Gaddafi was later a commander of the Imran-Pandian
regiment. He was in charge of an RPG unit at one time.
Gaddafi was one of a ten-member squad trained by the
Indian government in firing anti-aircraft missiles.
when the LTTE acquired some SAM – 7 missiles in the
’90s, Gaddafi became the ‘specialist’ in firing them.
Gaddafi has brought down several aircraft of the Sri
Lanka Air Force through his shoulder-fired missiles.
also a weapons expert and spent some months in Europe
undergoing special training. He was last in charge of
the Tiger training academy for special forces.
LTTE’s elite special forces division is named after
former Tiger leader Harichandra alias Radha. This force
was led by Silambarasan. He was killed. The deputy
commander of the Radha regiment was Anbu. He was
seriously injured and captured alive.
Likewise Asmi the leader of “Ponnamman” mining unit was
also seriously injured and captured alive. The fate of
these two is unknown. The leader of “Kittu” artillery
unit, Manivannan and chief of “Kutty Sri” mortar unit
Gopal were also killed.
unconfirmed report states that
S. Thangan, the deputy political commissar and administrative officer
under S.P. Thamilselvan is also no more. Seralaathan who
was in charge of the Tiger TV Nitharsanam was also
other senior Tigers killed who have been identified are
Ruben, Panjan, Nehru, Anton, Maankuyil, Amudha, Iniyawan,
Aadithyan and Chitrangan. A senior Sea Tiger Mahindan
has also been killed.
these top Tigers were killed in the first week of April.
But the military hostilities leading to their death
commenced on March 30. Another two senior Tiger leaders
were killed on March 31. They were Gopith of the Charles
Anthony infantry brigade, special commander and Amuthaab,
the commander of Charles Anthony brigade.
is much bewilderment about how so many top Tigers could
get killed in a single battle and why so many top
commanders got caught up in a single location. To
understand what had happened a brief re-run of preceding
events is necessary.
LTTE has been suffering a series of military setbacks in
the recent past. It has been a case of the army
advancing and Tigers retreating because the security
forces enjoy an overwhelming superiority over the LTTE
in terms of manpower, firepower, airpower and armour
military juggernaut has rolled forward relentlessly and
the Tigers are currently confined to a small littoral
strip of territory located between the A-35 highway (Paranthan
– Mullaithivu road) Nanthikadal and Chalai lagoons on
one side and the
Indian ocean on the other.
Soldiers numbering more than 50,000 from five divisions
and three task forces have besieged the LTTE. The Tigers
have been trying desperately to break out of this
encirclement and drive the forces back.
LTTE registered minor success in late March when it
launched a counter-strike led by senior commanders
Sornam and Lawrence. The LTTE pushed the soldiers back
by about 600 – 700 metres from their forward defence
line positions and then proceeded to the north for about
soldiers however rallied and fought back. They managed
to beat the Tigers back and regained original positions.
Both Sornam and Lawrence sustained injuries. Also,
Prabhakaran’s eldest son Charles Anthony also received
minor injuries on his back and shoulder.
Against this backdrop the LTTE planned to launch a
massive counter-offensive against the armed forces. The
idea was to conduct a meticulously planned operation
that would deliver a crippling blow to the security
Apparently the Tiger leaders were holed up in
Aanandapuram along the
busily planning a major counter-attack on the armed
road to Iranappaalai proceeds eastwards from the
Puthukkudiyiruppu junction on the A-35 highway. Another
road starts out from Iranappaalai east to Puthu (New)
maathalan along the coast. There is another minor
junction on this road at Pachaipullumottai from where a
small road goes to Palam(Old)maathalan.
Anandapuram and Iranappaalai are part of the
Puthukkudiyiruppu AGA division. Other areas belong to
the Karaithuraipatru AGA division.
than a thousand Tiger cadres converged at Aanandapuram
to prepare and launch a well planned counter-attack. The
defences in and around the
Puthukkudiyiruppu-Iranaippaalai-Puthumaathalan road was
in the hands of the Charles Anthony infantry brigade.
happened however was that the Army’s 58 Division
commanded by Brig. Shavendra Silva, 53 Division led by
Gen. Kamal Gunaratne and Task Force 8 led by Col. G.V.
Ravipriya mounted a successful military operation on
March 30th that yielded quick results.
Division proceeding south by south-east from northern
Puthukkudiyiruppu and the 53 and TF 8 proceeding north
by north-east from southern Puthukkudiyiruppu advanced
rapidly and linked up at Pachaipullumottai junction
along the Puthukkudiyiruppu road behind LTTE positions.
was very heavy fighting at Pachaipullumottai where Tiger
resistance was spearheaded by the special commander
Gopith and commander Amuthaab of the Charles Anthony
infantry. On March 31st both Gopith and Amuthaab were
Aanandapuram debacle was preceded by this incident which
proved to be a major loss to the LTTE. The loss of these
fighters who always led from the front has had a
demoralising effect on cadres.
loss of morale is attributed to be the cause of weakened
Tiger defences which in turn led to rapid breaching,
linking and encircling by the armed forces.
LTTE cadres in Aanandapuram who were engaged in
preparing for the major assault were suddenly and
unexpectedly marooned on land.
Realising that top Tigers were stranded in Aanandapuram
and suspecting that Prabhakaran himself may be there the
army moved swiftly and encircled Tiger positions. A
siege was in progress.
Prabhakaran was not there as he had left the place on
March 26. But the other important Tigers were ensnared.
The 4th, 6th, 8th, 12th, 14th and 20th Gajabahu
battalions, 5th Vijayabahu, 9th Gemunu Watch, 11th and
20th SL Light Infantry along with one special forces
and two commando units got into action.
Meanwhile a footpath from Ambalavanpokkanai to
Pachaipullumottai used as an emergency supply route by
the LTTE was also interdicted. Thus more than a thousand
Tiger cadres and leaders were trapped and encircled in a
2 sq km area consisting mainly of coconut plantations
and palmyrah groves.
desperate bid to break the siege Sea Tiger special
commander Soosai sent a contingent by sea to aid his
beleaguered comrades at arms. These boats began sailing
from Valainjarmadam and hoped to beach near Pattiaddy
and fight their way through.
did not materialise as the navy maintaining strict vigil
engaged the flotilla and beat back the Sea Tigers, thus
preventing the boats from landing.
Tigers also sent 120 cadres as reinforcements under
Lawrence who was already injured. The army using lethal
incendiary devices, scorched and destroyed two buses and
occupants in the three vehicles were killed and the
vehicles virtually reduced to cinders. A few survivors
escaped along with the other cadres in the two remaining
vehicles of the convoy. Lawrence also returned to
safety. Eventually on April 3 a sizable number of cadres
led by “Col” Bhanu succeeded in penetrating the cordon
and escaping to safety. Bhanu himself was injured in the
Refused to leave
Theepan the de facto deputy military commander of the
LTTE had an opportunity to escape along with Bhanu.
Apparently Theepan was injured twice on both April 1 and
who goes a long way back with Theepan wanted to carry
Theepan with him, but the fighter known for leading from
the front refused.
said that he won’t desert or abandon his fighter cadres
and seek safety. “If I come out I’ll come with the
cadres. Otherwise I’ll die with them,” he told Bhanu and
later informed Pottu Amman.
military intercepting this were amazed at Theepan’s
sense of loyalty to his cadres and his readiness to die
willingly. Theepan’s conduct came in for praise among
several officers from the army’s upper echelons.
Another intercept was an exchange between intelligence
chief Pottu Amman and woman Tiger leader Vidusha. She
was heard pleading for reinforcements and supplies
urgently. A thoroughly upset Pottu was virtually choked
up saying all his efforts had failed and that they could
not penetrate the blockade.
writing was on the wall for the besieged Tigers. Despite
his commitment to cadres, the rest of the Tigers under
the overall command of Theepan were not lucky as those
who escaped with Bhanu.
Call to surrender
Despite the dangerous situation the Tigers led by
Theepan continued to withstand the three day siege. The
Tigers were deprived of food, water and medical
supplies. Nevertheless the beleaguered Tigers did not
Appeals were made in Tamil through amplifiers to the
Tigers to surrender but the bulk of the Tigers refused
to heed the call to surrender.
Tigers surrendered to the army at various times. But the
others in the courageous tradition of the LTTE fought on
against the overwhelming odds preferring to “die on
their feet” rather than to “live on their knees.”
midnight on April 3 the nature of combat changed.
Massive aerial bombardment through planes and
helicopters was done. Continuous artillery shelling was
appears that more than 30,000 shells were fired
throughout April 4.
all over on Sunday, April 5 and the soldiers began
gradually recovering LTTE bodies and identifying them.
Monday around 525 bodies had been recovered and around
60 identified. Many Tigers had died by biting the
cyanide capsule and swallowing its contents. By Tuesday
a further 100 bodies were found.
60 of these were recovered in a bloated condition lying
in a field. Another 40 bodies were in a charred
condition inside two small buildings where the cadres
had sought cover.
least 18 – 20 injured cadres were captured alive. Some
of these are top rung Tigers. Three girls were
discovered hiding in a makeshift pit, covered by leaves.
The army released some pictures of the dead Tigers
including Theepan and Vidusha.
pictures of dead Tigers laid out in rows were also
released. The state of the bodies shown in the pictures
were in abysmal condition. This led to much suspicion.
Allegations have been made by pro-Tiger elements in the
diaspora that incendiary bombs and chemical weapons
including poison gas were used to overcome the LTTE.
Indian military analysts however were sceptical of such
allegations as the debacle seemed to be a classical
example of a successful outflanking manoeuvre. Other
informed sources ruled out poison gas but suggested that
“white phosphorus bombs” may have been used.
bombs are not banned from usage on the military front
but are strictly prohibited from use against civilians.
They are used in “siege conditions” to overcome
tenacious fighters who resolutely dig in.
in Falluja, Iraq, Russians in Grozny, Chechenya,
Israeli’s in Beirut, Lebanon have all been accused of
using these incendiary devices.
Not chemical weapons
has used them in Korea and Vietnam while Saddam Hussein
has done so against the Kurds. These are not classified
as chemical weapons.
pictures displayed of killed Tigers indicate that these
‘White Phosphorus’ bombs referred to as “Will Pete” may
have been used. The hasty manner in which the recovered
bodies were cremated has also fuelled suspicion.
defence establishment has flatly denied these charges.
The reason for the hasty cremation was the deteriorating
condition of the corpses it said. Apart from this
development, senior commander Sornam has sustained
serious injuries while another leader Lawrence has
received minor injuries.
Aanandapuram debacle also resulted in the LTTE losing
many weapons including three 130 mm artillery guns, one
85 mm pounder, five 81 mm mortars, four 12. 7mm
anti-aircraft guns and a multi 30 mm pedal gun.
piece of equipment has proved very lethal in previous
rounds of fighting as it can be used both as artillery
and an anti-aircraft gun. Four 30 mm barrels were fixed
on this and they could be fired simultaneously like a
multi-barrel rocket launcher. It can be fired stepping
on a pedal.
According to military analysts the Aanandapuram debacle
appears to be the major turning point in the defiant
last stand being put up by the LTTE. The armed forces
had been expecting a major counter-offensive from the
LTTE for quite a while now.
the envisaged counter-offensive occurred as planned the
army would have received a tremendous jolt.
Ironically, the tables were turned and the expected
offensive was thwarted by the army in a military move
amounting to a pre-emptive strike. In the process the
LTTE has been dealt a massive setback from which it may
D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
(This article appears on www.dbsjeyaraj.com)
The assets and liabilities law needs
amendment and implementation
J.C. Weliamuna, Shiral Lakthilleke
and Udaya Gammanpila
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
increase in the number of politicians in Sri Lanka has
certainly not resulted in transparency with the legal
requirement of declaring one’s assets and liabilities
being a rule flouted by most.
Despite the Western Provincial Council election drawing
near only a handful of politicians have declared their
assets. This includes two from the UNP and one each
from the JHU and the JVP.
according to the authorities, the members of the
previous administration have not handed their assets
has, to curb corruption in public life and otherwise,
three sets of legislation — the Bribery Act, the
Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of
Bribery and Corruption created under the 17 Amendment
and the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act No. 74
some argue that the available laws are inadequate,
others feel that the existing laws are adequate if there
is implementation and monitoring. According to reputed
lawyer J.C. Weliamuna, the assets and liabilities law is
one that is largely confined to the statute books with
no state initiatives to aid implementation.
are many categories of people including ministers,
parliamentarians, provincial councilors and public
servants who are required by law to state their assets.
But in practice, few do.
Right to call
Section 5 of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities
Amendment Act No. 74 of 1988 (Act No. 74), any person,
on payment of a prescribed free to the appropriate
authority, has the right to call for and refer to any
declaration of assets and liabilities. Also, on payment
of a further fee, shall have the right to obtain a
certified copy of such declaration.
Weliamuna who is also head of Transparency International
Sri Lanka (TISL) laments the nondisclosure of assets
being the rule than the exception.
piece of legislation needs to be re-looked at. The TISL
has recommended this before,” he notes, adding that less
than 10% of the required categories declared their
assets. “It is a shame. The declarations should also
take place at the relevant time and also annually,” he
Accordingly, it is only the Inland Revenue Department (IRD)
and the Bribery Commission that can call for the
declaration of assets. The sad fact is, it is done only
when there is an actual complaint and not otherwise.
the Bribery Act No. 19 Section 4 (2) the Commission to
Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption Law,
can take action only if it receives communication
Section 6 of the Act No. 19 of 1994 empowers the
Commission to check any person’s declaration to find out
whether the contents of the declaration are false or
truth. So far, action has been taken in the instance of
the Anuruddha Ratwatte Assets Case though he was later
present backdrop, Weliamuna is skeptical about the
Inland Revenue Department (IRD) taking the initiative to
ensure there is less corruption in Sri Lanka. Not
forgetting that the Department itself is under a cloud
and had lost public trust following the scandalous VAT
fraud, its hands are firmly tied as an institution
coming directly under the purview of the Ministry of
not only politicians and public officials who are
expected to make their assets known. Chairmen, directors
and staff officers of companies registered under the
Companies Act No. 17 of 1982, in which the majority of
shares are held by the state or by a public corporation
should also declare their assets. The purpose of this
legislation is to check their assets to monitor whether
they are involved in corruption or acts of bribery.
legislature’s track record is also not inspirational.
According to top parliamentary sources, less than 30
ministers and parliamentarians have submitted their
declarations by June 30, 2008 and the same pattern is
likely to follow this year.
Ministers declare their assets to the president and
parliamentarians to the speaker of parliament.
Meanwhile, a UNP provincial council candidate from
Colombo, lawyer Shiral Lakthilleke declared his assets
not only to the authorities but also to the public at a
Laktilleke declared his assets together with fellow
candidate Jinadasa to the Elections Commissioner as
required by the law — but went a step further and
declared the same to the public.
Laktilleke told The Sunday Leader he did it with the
hope of ‘giving a gentle push’ towards a more credible
and professional political culture.
elected, I invite people to scrutinise my assets
annually and at the end of the term. It is good for
politicians to place themselves under public scrutiny.
That prevents corruption from breeding,” he said.
General Secretary Minister D.M. Jayaratne said party
candidates declare their assets to the Elections
Commissioner before elections or within four weeks to
the provincial council secretary, but insisted, “There
won’t be any fanfare and declarations to the public.
That’s a populist move.”
top candidate Udaya Gammanpila too declared his assets
to the Elections Commissioner and considers it an
important measure in confidence building. “Politicians
are looked upon as dishonest people. If we want to
project cleaner images, we should become transparent.
Also, candidates must have a vision,” he said.
there are the skeptics like JVP MP Anura Dissanayake. He
said it was the JVP that had an inbuilt code to prevent
corruption within the party but noted declaration of
assets would not and so far had not, helped reduce
corruption in politics. “It is by now a formality and a
compliance with the law,” he said.
Western Provincial Council Secretary Lalith Kannangara
states that during the past five years, the members of
the former council had not handed over any assets
said advice had been sought from the Attorney General
whether it is legally required for PC members to declare
their assets but Weliamuna says the general definition
covers a broad spectrum including provincial
Meanwhile, there are some public-spirited suggestions
that the authorities should be proactive and not wait
for public complaints to implement the law.
A code of ethics not practiced
The UNP is the only political party to formulate a
code of ethics in 2003 but the ruling coalition does
not appear to be practicing it.
The code, drafted by the Organisation of
Professional Associations (OPA), identified the need
for financial discipline as well as absolute
transparency of members if public faith is to be
restored in parliamentary democracy.
The seven-paged document set out categories such as
public duty, personal conduct, public trust and
confidence in the integrity of parliament, law and
order, declaration of assets and liabilities, action
required by the government and rules of disposition
of complaints by the ethics/disciplinary committee.
Section 1.5 of the Code deals with the declaration
of assets and liabilities. It states: “Members shall
act in accordance with the law and declare their
assets, liabilities and interests of themselves and
their families before taking office and annually
thereafter. Parliament shall ensure that this law is
strictly complied with and the public shall have
such information freely available according to the
The OPA also proposed the non-employment of family
members as personal staff of ministers.