The gains by the military must be transformed in
to lasting peace
By Gen. Gerry de Silva (Rtd.)
was represented at the Non- Aligned Summit in 1976 held
in Colombo by its Foreign Minister, Colonel Juma Oris.
When asked about the Entebbe Rescue Mission he remarked,
“The Israelis were magnificent. We did not know what hit
us until it dawned on us long after.”
Pirapaharan and his Tiger leaders would be expressing
the same sentiments over the coup-de-main operation
launched by the 58 Division and a combination of
Commandos and Special Forces personnel shortly before
midnight on April 20, to relieve the siege on the
civilians taken hostage by the LTTE, by breaching the
DCB defences at Puthumathalan and Ampalavanpokkanai in
the No Fire Zone (NFZ).
Provisional estimates quote a figure of around 100,000
civilian hostages were rescued in 48 hours from the
clutches of the ruthless LTTE in probably the biggest
ever humanitarian rescue operation undertaken anywhere
in the world. A host of diplomats and foreign media
personnel were invited to Air Force Headquarters to
witness the events being unfolded through visuals being
transmitted from UAVs flying over the NFZ.
downright defiance and determination of the suffering
masses to escape into government-controlled areas were
over-whelming. The attempts of three suicide cadres who
killed 17 would-be escapees including women and children
and the small arms fire directed at them did not deter
the will of hordes of Tamil civilians in their march to
human exodus was unbelievable and must have gladdened
the hearts of the civilised world viewing the spectacle,
except of course the Tigers. These hapless people braved
the waters of the shallow sea and even the mud and
sludge of lagoon waters, perhaps also with the intention
of circumventing minefields planted, no doubt with the
design to kill and maim opposing forces on their axes of
unprecedented demonstration was ample evidence of the
hate, disgust and fear harbored by a people for nigh on
three decades imposed by the ruthless Tigers in their
reign of terror. The international community, at least
now, must surely be convinced of the bona fides the GoSL
and the military were attempting to establish for so
long over Tiger lobby claims of genocide against the
roles are reversed. The so called saviours of the Tamil
race and champions of Tamil nationalism have willfully
caused more deaths of their own people than any other
entity in this long drawn out ethnic imbroglio. As
Minister Douglas Devananda once stated, “The Tigers are
no longer interested in Tamil nationalism. They only
hanker after absolute power in the north and east
exercised through the barrel of the gun.”
Tigers have successfully destroyed their image as
freedom fighters and their movement with it, by creating
this latest human catastrophe. They have been exposed
for the cowards that they are and have always been. In
the circumstances, can they face their own people again?
Supporters who must have wished for a resurgence of the
LTTE and its fighting machine for reasons including
their own selfish designs and even survival -- which
encompasses certain countries in the international
community -- proposed engineering the release of the
hostages in the NFZ as a bargaining factor for
Pirapaharan and his leaders to escape abroad.
the Sri Lanka Army achieved apparently without firing a
shot (as reported in the media) exposed the inability
and ineffectiveness of the USA and other mighty powers
in the international community to pressurise the LTTE to
accede to their terms and conditions.
GoSL issued a 24-hour ultimatum for the Tigers to
surrender before resuming the military offensive. The
deadline has ended. The million-dollar question is, what
action will the Tiger Supremo resort to when the end of
armed Tamil militancy seems inevitable? Surrender?
clamours for his extradition to stand trial for the
Rajiv Gandhi assassination. We are in the era of war
crime trials. Will Pirapaharan want to face the ignominy
of exposure? Will he escape and live to design the
resurgence of Tamil militancy when the time is opportune
as many in the Tamil diaspora are wont to believe? Avoid
capture by taking cyanide?
is a parallel of the most infamous megalomaniac Hitler,
who committed suicide when the end was inevitable. The
answer may not be long before manifesting itself.
euphoria generated from the magnificent military action
witnessed in Puthumathalan and Ampalavanpokkanai must
not detract from ground realities.
escapees from the Wanni have taken on soft targets even
in the east and will resort to urban and jungle guerilla
tactics if only to keep the movement alive and detract
from the obvious disgrace they face from being a failed
terrorist entity. Most importantly they would still want
the sympathy and financial support of the Tamil diaspora.
Destabilisation of remote village life seems to be the
modus operandi with the intention no doubt of bringing
about another ethnic backlash -- a remote possibility --
in order to garner international sympathy and stop the
However, the south may not be inveigled into such
machinations of the Tigers. The carnage will continue.
Operating seemingly from their traditional jungle
hideouts especially in the Eastern Province.
Military occupation of these known LTTE bases could
pre-empt such strategy. This course of action was
resorted to in order to control Tamil militancy in the
Eastern Province which prompted Pirapaharan to state in
an interview with Asia Week in August 1992, that he had
‘lost the east.’
take, hold and dominate areas of control will require a
considerably larger standing army than we have at
present. Can the national exchequer sustain the
financial commitment? Meanwhile, the COL will snowball
with likely imposition of increased taxation and
increased cost of essential commodities. Demands for
higher wages and labour unrest are bound to escalate
once the current election fever has subsided.
development of war torn areas and rehabilitation,
reconstruction and resettlement of IDPs would take
priority. The sooner this phase commences the better it
would be to appease the international and donor
communities who would be involved in the 3R process.
Discrimination must end
De-mining will take considerable time and effort.
Appeals to foreign sources with the know-how will no
doubt figure in the equation to quicken the process.
have been informed that several Tiger cadres have
surrendered. Numbers are bound to increase when the
military action is over and confidence is built up
amongst others who would want to, for purposes of
rehabilitation, employment, security and education. The
South African model must be studied and implemented with
modifications to suit local conditions.
Winning battles and terminating the war will not solve
the factors that motivated Tamil youth to opt for armed
militancy in the first place. Discrimination must end.
Minorities must enjoy equal rights and privileges.
and until all Sri Lankans are able to live side-by-side
in trust and confidence, in peace and harmony, with
justice and dignity, there lurks the danger of a
resurgence of armed insurrection.
Progress back to square one must be avoided. This God
given opportunity for re-structuring sustainable
national unity must figure as a national priority.