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Focus

   

LTTE debacle at Aanandapuram: Top Tiger leaders killed


Army's firepower has been
too much for the Tigers

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj 

Then out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the gate:

To every man upon this earth

Death cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers

And the temples of his Gods

— Thomas Babington Macaulay

The 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 politico-military journey.

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 and quantitatively.

In 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.

More 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.

Silent

The LTTE keeps “official silence” over the debacle and its propaganda networks keep ‘mum’ but the bad news is spreading slowly yet surely.

LTTE 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.

Among the fallen Tigers “Col” Theepan (presumably promoted posthumously as Brigadier) is perhaps the single biggest loss to the movement.

This LTTE veteran with 25 years of experience hails from Kandawalai in Kilinochchi District and served as overall commander of the LTTE northern front fighting formations.

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 children.

Top four gone

Along 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 been killed.

An unconfirmed report states that women’s wing political commissar Thamilini has also been killed.

Among other senior Tigers killed were the special commander and commander of the Jeyanthan infantry brigade, Keerthi and Nagesh. The Jeyanthan brigade is raised from Eastern Province cadres.

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 commander earlier.

Both 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 hegemony.

Huge loss

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.

Later 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.

He was 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.

The 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.

An 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 killed.

Top rung

Among 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.

All 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.

There 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.

The 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 power.

Confined

The 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.

The 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 8 km.

The 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 forces.

Holed up

Apparently the Tiger leaders were holed up in Aanandapuram along the Puthukkudiyiruppu-Iranappaalai-Puthumaathalan road busily planning a major counter-attack on the armed forces.

The 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.

More 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.

What 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.

The 58 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.

Heavy fighting

There 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 reported killed.

The 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.

This 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.

The 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.

Trapped

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.

In a 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.

This did not materialise as the navy maintaining strict vigil engaged the flotilla and beat back the Sea Tigers, thus preventing the boats from landing.

The 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 a truck.

Most 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 process.

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 2.

Bhanu who goes a long way back with Theepan wanted to carry Theepan with him, but the fighter known for leading from the front refused.

He 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.

The 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.

The 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 wilt.

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.

116 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.”

From midnight on April 3 the nature of combat changed. Massive aerial bombardment through planes and helicopters was done. Continuous artillery shelling was also done.

It appears that more than 30,000 shells were fired throughout April 4.

It was all over on Sunday, April 5 and the soldiers began gradually recovering LTTE bodies and identifying them.

By 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.

Bloated bodies

About 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.

At 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.

Some 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.

Some 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.

These 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.

The US in Falluja, Iraq, Russians in Grozny, Chechenya, Israeli’s in Beirut, Lebanon have all been accused of using these incendiary devices.

Not chemical weapons

The US has used them in Korea and Vietnam while Saddam Hussein has done so against the Kurds. These are not classified as chemical weapons.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

This 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.

Turning point

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.

Had 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 never recover.

D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached on dbsjeyaraj@yahoo.com

(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

An 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.

Worse, according to the authorities, the members of the previous administration have not handed their assets declarations still.

Sri Lanka 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 of 1988.

While 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.

There 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

Under 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.

 “This 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 adds.

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.

Under 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 regarding assets.

Check declarations

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 acquitted. 

In the 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 Finance.  

It is 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.

The 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.

The Ministers declare their assets to the president and parliamentarians to the speaker of parliament.

Assets declared

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 recent ceremony.

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.

“If 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.

PA 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.”

JHU’s 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.

Skeptics

Then 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 declaration.

He 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 politicians.

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 law.”

The OPA also proposed the non-employment of family members as personal staff of ministers.


 

 
 

 

      More Focus Articles....

 

   The assets and liabilities law needs
       amendment and implementation

 
 
 
 
 

 

 


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