situation in areas just off the Mannar
island has come full circle, and all
this took was 20 days.
Less than a
month back, in mid-August, the area
that had witnessed heavy fighting
since early July calmed down
considerably. Between August 10 and
16, a relatively fewer incidents were
reported — there was an attack on a
police post near Chettikulam at least
40 km east of the island and aerial
attacks had been launched at suspected
Tiger bases in Nedunkerni. In the
Tiger heartland, comparatively, the
week was the calmest in the last two
The traffic —
both human and vehicular at the
Uliyankulam crossover point increased
from a weekly average of around 1,600
to around 12,000 within the six days,
according to the ICRC whose officials
are placed as observers at the
crossover point. The western gateway
to the Tiger held areas was also kept
open five days of the week, up from
the usual three.
was due to the feast at the renowned
Catholic shrine in the country — the
Madhu Church, located 15 km from the
main Vavuniya-Mannar road. The guns
were silent in view of the August 15
feast. But it was the briefest of
By the time
the 7,000 or so pilgrims from the
south were making their way back
through Uliyankulam, signs were
already clear that violence was
simmering under the surface and
waiting for the annual feast to be
over to rear its head again. In the
week that followed the Madhu feast at
least 14 combatants were killed in the
area. Over 40 have died in the
fighting since, including 20 who were
killed in combat in the last 10 days.
The line of
control that runs along the
Vavuniya-Mannar district axis has been
active since March. Government forces
have tried to advance into Tiger
territory from Periyatamapanai, about
40 km east of Uliyankulam and north of
the main highway, and Iranilupaikulam,
further northeast. Clashes have also
been reported at Pullamoddai and
Tigers have also reported of attacks
and clashes with Deep Penetration
Units (DPUs). At least two DPU attacks
have taken place on the A9 road — one
at Mankulam last month that killed a
high ranking Tiger medical corps cadre
along with four others, and another
about 8km south of Kilinochchi town
three months earlier.
It was after
the fall of Toppigala to government
forces that fighting had remained
constant in the Madhu area,
discounting the break for the feast.
Clashes have been reported beginning
July 6, and till the break in August
at least 70 combatants had died.
the Tigers nor the military have been
candid on the reasons behind the
volatility. The government has been
sticking to its line that forces have
not been launching advances into Tiger
held areas but have retaliated when
provocative ground attacks or
artillery had been directed at them.
SLMM reports the Tigers had lost some
areas west of Omanthai early this year
but had regained them in late June.
say that the military has been
constantly trying to breach the line
of control and enter areas under their
control. The LTTE Peace Secretariat
said that one such effort had been
launched on August 31 in Vilataikulam
and a soldier had been killed.
But up until
August 31, the alleged push and
confrontations had taken place north
of the line of control. On the last
day of August (31), that changed, when
government troops began advancing
southwards from the Talliadi/Mantota
area. They were moving towards
Silavathurai, located on the coast
about 15 km south of Talliaddi.
formations were also moving towards
Silavathurai from Murukan, in the
northwest and from the south.
operation commenced, the Defence
Ministry said that it was a
humanitarian operation launched after
civilians in Silavathurai claimed that
they were brutalised by the Tigers.
civilians who had braved the crossover
to liberated areas have told the
security forces that they are
regularly subjected to forced labour,
torture, extortion and various other
harassment by the LTTE," the Defence
Ministry said. Initial estimates said
that there could be as many as 6000
civilians in the area.
There was no
indication of the Tigers putting up
any resistance to thwart the advance.
By August 1 afternoon, troops had
reached Silavathurai. Two days later
they had moved three more kilometers
south to Kondaichchi.
7, seven days after the initial launch
of the operation reports indicated
that government troops had moved to
Mullikulam, close to the
Puttalam-Mannar District border some
20 km south of Silavathurai.
said that there were no armed units in
the area but the Bishop of Mannar,
Rev. Rayappu Joseph had earlier in the
week written to President Mahinda
Rajapakse highlighting that over 800
civilians were trapped in Mullikulam.
recovered large hauls of weapons and
ammunition including 40 kg of TNT
explosives and 480 anti-personnel
mines. Twenty five dinghy boats, 26
outboard engines along with one
suicide boat too were recovered.
Ministry also said Silavathurai was a
strategic Sea Tiger base. Other
defence establishment sources revealed
that there was also suspicion that the
location was used to infiltrate boats
to attack the Colombo harbour and to
take cadres to the south.
was also believed to be used by boats
that were transporting fuel to the
had used the Kudirmalai point located
south of Silavathurai to attack naval
craft off Mannar. The military also
believed that the Tiger cadres had
been able to launch attacks on the
Mannar-Medawachchiya road by
infiltrating from the Silavathurai
area. On July 14, a claymore at
Chettikulam killed 14 soldiers and
injured over 10.
however dismissed any military
importance connected with Silavathurai.
Tiger spokesperson Rasiah Ilanthirayan
said that the government had carried
out a political stunt.
has never figured big in military
operations up until a fortnight ago
and in fact it was Kudirmalai Point
that was believed to be the main Tiger
staging point along the beach stretch.
The last occasion it was in the news
was during the Pongu Tamil
celebrations held there in 2002. Even
then the LTTE military presence was at
a minimum. The beach however was used
by fishermen. It was this cover of the
fishing community that was used by the
Tigers for their movements, according
to defence sources.
As has been
the case civilians found themselves
caught in the fighting with at least
3000 having fled the areas of fighting
and seeking shelter in Nanattan,
Murukan and other locations north of
Silavathurai. Around 1000 were living
with host families.
others, including three children were
not so lucky — they were among a group
of 14 that was fleeing southwards on
Saturday, September 1 morning, when
their van was the target of a claymore
attack around 8.30 a.m. at
Passanththenral between Silavathurai
reports said that three had died.
Later, the death toll was confirmed as
12 when the ICRC was called in to
transport the bodies.
blamed a DPU for the attack but the
military said that it was not
involved. Military Spokesperson Brig.
Prasad Samarasinghe said that the
Tigers may have activated the mine
during a case of mistaken identity.
officials who had travelled to the
area of the claymore attack after the
army informed them, found themselves
caught in shell fire. It was the
second such occasion during the last
weekend for the ICRC. Their officials
who had travelled north through
Uliyankulam to transport the body of
the soldier killed in the
Vilathaikulam confrontation faced the
same scenario — artillery and shell
fire and had to seek shelter in a LTTE
and the prevalent security situation
in the area prompted the ICRC to pull
out its officials from Uliyankulam,
closing down the crossover point
officials said that there was no date
fixed for their return to Uliyankulam
and assessments by other observers
indicate that the situation had
deteriorated despite government
assurances that there would be no
operations in the area.
"Confrontations between the security
forces and the LTTE were registered
throughout the week (August 27 to
September 2) in the northwest — first
in the Vavuniya area, then in the
Mannar District at the end of the
week. Casualties were reported on both
sides. These were the most constant
and longest period of exchange of fire
observed by the SLMM in the north
since the first weekend in June when
the LTTE recaptured the villages west
of Omanthai previously lost," the SLMM
said last week.
the Silavathurai operation, there was
a heavy buildup. Residents in Mannar
said that the Tigers and the military
were engaging in heavy artillery duals
in the Talliadi area before troops
commenced operations. The SLMM quoting
the Tiger Peace Secretariat said that
80 artillery shells had been fired by
the military on August 30.
delegation meets AI, HRW and ICJ
A HIGH high
ranking government delegation last
week held discussions with three
international organisations that
have been critical of Sri Lanka’s
human rights record in Geneva.
delegation led by Minister Mahinda
Samarasinghe met representatives
of Amnesty International (AI),
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the
International Commission of
Jurists (ICJ) — all of whom have
released critical assessments on
rights violations in Sri Lanka.
government delegation comprised
Attorney-General C. R. de Silva,
Secretary-General of the
Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP),
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha and
Permanent Representative of Sri
Lanka to the UN in Geneva, Dayan
consultations with International
the delegation met with the
representatives of the
International Commission of
Jurists, Human Rights Watch,
Amnesty International and Geneva
Call, and stressed the need for
accurate, balanced and nonpartisan
reporting," the Sri Lankan Mission
in Geneva said.
government delegation was in
Geneva between September 3 and 6
to brief the international
community on the human rights
situation in the country.
session of the UN Human Rights
Council will begin in Geneva
tomorrow and Sri Lanka is once
again likely to feature
AI called on the international
community to push for
international human rights
rights abuses in the context of
the conflict have increased, AI is
gravely concerned about a
persistent climate of impunity
reported by human rights activists
and other civil society actors in
Sri Lanka. A need for systematic
monitoring and prompt, impartial
and effective investigations
remains acute, made all the more
necessary by an extremely small
proportion of these human rights
violations ever having proceeded
to trial, or conviction of
perpetrators in the past," AI said
for an international human rights
monitoring presence to support and
augment the capacity of national
bodies tasked with human rights
protection. Amnesty International
is convinced that international
observers actively monitoring
respect for international human
rights and international
humanitarian law by all sides
would act as an effective
deterrent to abuses and would
contribute to a clear
identification of suspected
perpetrators. Monitors could
independently investigate claims
and counter-claims, reporting
publicly on their findings and on
the degree of cooperation (or lack
thereof) of the parties in
conflict. The scheduled visit to
Sri Lanka by the High Commissioner
for Human Rights in October can be
an important step in assisting the
Government of Sri Lanka to develop
programmes to protect human
rights, and must lead to specific
measures to protect the civilian
population," AI added.
Rights Commissioner, Louis Arbour
will be in the country on October
10 at the invitation of the
government. However details of her
visit have not been made public.
The last two high profile UN
visits — Allan Rock in November
2006 and John Holmes last month,
both resulted in controversy.
troops continued their push south
beyond Silavathurai, government and
non-governmental agencies were
scrambling to deal with thousands of
civilians who had fled the fighting.
that 3000 had fled the fighting in
Silavathurai and other areas west of
The UN agency
said that at least 2000 had fled areas
west of Silavathurai after shelling
from government forces.
families from the south of Mannar West
have made their way north following
government forces’ shelling. According
to the latest reports around 2,915
individuals (703 families) have
registered with local government
officials in the northern parts of
Manthai West," UNHCR said in a web
that though the situation was under
control there were concerns over
sanitation facilities as well as
possible food shortages.
several other concerns such as the
serious lack of water and the
impending food shortage due to the
closure of the Uliyankulam entry/exit
point. Limited assistance — both food
and non-food-relief items have been
provided to families, and more
assistance is being planned," it said
government and non-governmental
organisations have started to provide
IDPs with essential items and cooked
however said the civilians could not
return to their homes as the security
situation was not yet stable in the
Most of the
civilians who moved out of
Silavathurai and Arippu have been
sheltered in two main camps in
Murunkan and Nanattan.
agency sources said that 127 families
have been sheltered in Don Bosco
School while 236 families have
been sheltered in Nanattan Maha
according to aid agencies there are no
shortages of essential items at
"At both the
shelters — Don Bosco School in
Murunkan and Nanattan Maha Vidyalam
there are 6425 displaced persons.
There are people who have gone to
areas like Achchankulam and
Pontheevukandal," an official attached
to one of the humanitarian agencies
working in the area told The Sunday
Government Agent, A. Nicholaspillai
said there were no shortages for
essential items for the IDPs.
government has given each family Rs.
2000 and dry rations for a week.
rations are given according to the
number of people in each family,"
activities of the students attending
Nanattan MV have also been affected
due to the presence of IDPs.
officials in Nanattan said that
measures were being taken to conduct
classes for the displaced children.
"We do not have separate places. Even
a tree would do for the teachers to
have their classes," officials said.
Areas such as
Mullikulam and Manthai West were not
accessible until September 7 as they
are in the uncleared areas,
government officials, around 200
families were in Mullikulam.
said there were plans to take food and
essential items to Mullikulam from
Puttalam via Pookulam. However, the
possibilities are limited as both
these areas are controlled by the
government and the civilians would
have to cross the border.
Nicholaspillai said that all efforts
to gain access to the area were
futile. "The roads are also mined.
Therefore, it is very difficult," he
Manthai West have moved to Vellankulam,
Paliyaru, Muzankavil and Pooneryn. "We
have no access to them," he said.
The Bishop of
Mannar, Rev. Rayappu Joseph has
already written to President Mahinda
Rajapakse on the plight of the
civilians in Mullikulam.
The Sunday Leader, Rev. Joseph
said the government and the NGOs were
doing their maximum for the welfare of
the displaced civilians.
has also come to a halt. There are
plans to house some of the IDPs in
churches as well," he said.
people in Manthai West have been
affected due to the current situation,
officials however said there was no
possibility of the IDPs returning to
their homes as the security forces
have not given permission to do so.
situation does not look conducive for
the people to go back to their homes.
We do not know how long they will be
in camps," the officials added.