Everyone wants to be a hero as the battle for plaudits
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Everyone wants to be a hero in the wake of the final
defeat of the LTTE, and now the branches of the armed
forces are locked in a battle for recognition as having
made the largest contribution in the war against the
much of the public’s adulation has been reserved for the
foot soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army, last week senior
officers in the navy claimed that it was the aquatic
branch of the armed forces that played the leading role
in toppling the Tigers.
Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda claimed that
the role the navy played by destroying 10 LTTE cargo
ships in 2008 paralysed the LTTE before major battles
with the land based security forces had even begun.
Navy Chief appeared to be a responding to comments by
the Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka which
suggested the navy had failed to perform adequately thus
prolonging the conflict.
the enemy been denied a sea supply route, the offensive
could have been completed sooner,” Fonseka said in an
interview last week.
According to him, the LTTE was able to ship weapons into
Sri Lanka as late as December last year.
Weapons captured by army
the weaponry brought into Sri Lanka from overseas and
captured by the army were one main battle tank, two
armoured personnel carriers, about 25 pieces of
artillery and a range of other weapons including 30 mm,
27 mm, 23 mm and multi-purpose machine guns.
Fonseka, quoting two LTTE cadres captured by the army at
Iranamadu, said the LTTE had a steady supply of arms,
ammunition and equipment until December.
the enemy been denied a sea supply route, the offensive
could have been completed sooner,” Fonseka said, in what
subsequently was construed by Navy Commander, Admiral
Wasantha Karannagoda as being a serious slight against
his forces who he insists not only fought a valiant war
but effectively prevented at least 10 LTTE weapons-laden
ships from reaching the Tigers.
Karannagoda in fact is on record saying this was “the
turning point of the war against the LTTE.” He adds
that this effectively paralysed the Sea Tigers.
According to the Navy Commander, among the weaponry
brought into Sri Lanka from overseas and captured by the
army were one main battle tank, two armoured personnel
carriers, about 25 pieces of artillery and a range of
other weapons including 30 mm, 27 mm, 23 mm and
multi-purpose machine guns.
Following General Sarath Fonseka’s interview, the SLN
Chief also in a post war interview on state television
said the glory of the military victory should be equally
divided between the Head of State, armed forces and the
people, and should not be vested with one individual or
a force. His comment appeared to be direct criticism
against General Sarath Fonseka.
rivalry between the two commanders is an open secret.
Long before the end of the war, General Fonseka and
Admiral Karannagoda have not tried to hide their acute
dislike of each other.
Karannagoda meanwhile, referring further to a statement
made by former LTTEer Karuna Amman, said the LTTE had
not brought in any heavy weapons to the country from the
sea. The heavy weapons and the tank used by the LTTE
according to Karuna, had been captured from the army.
However, certain spare parts for the tank and carriers
had been brought from outside the country.
navy turned the war,” he said.
War decided at sea
Referring to a statement made by Sea Tiger Leader Soosai
in October 2006 where he had said the Eelam IV would be
decided at sea, Karannagoda said, “Yes it was indeed
decided at sea and we made the decisive move.”
Explaining the LTTE’s grand strategy, he said the plan
was to capture Jaffna after neutralising the Trincomalee
naval base and harbour.
LTTE had a grand strategy,” he said. He explained the
first step in the LTTE strategy was to capture the
military bases in the eastern coastal belt. The Tigers
he said, as part of this strategy captured the
Through the capture of the eastern coastal camps the
LTTE had managed to surround the Trincomalee base.
Karannagoda in his interview exhaustively explained that
the LTTE had to neutralise the Trincomalee base to cut
off the sea route to Jaffna in order to capture the
2006, the SLN had been engaged in 21 sea battles with
the LTTE that had lasted for over 12 hours each time.
SLN, realising the LTTE’s motive had started to draw up
necessary counter measures since end 2005.
started to prepare from then on. We understood the LTTE
wanted to gain control of Jaffna. They also wanted to
destroy the country’s economy. Therefore, the Colombo
Port was a likely target,” Karannagoda asserted.
also said the LTTE needed to stock up on its weapons.
“That had to be prevented,” he said.
Referring to the capacity building at the SLN at the
time, Karannagoda said the navy took steps to develop
its human resources pool by providing them with the
necessary training and psychological development.
However, Karannagoda said the turning point in the war
was the destruction of the 10 LTTE weapons ships.
explained that one part of the LTTE’s grand strategy was
to maintain a continuous supply of weapons. The
Mullaithivu coast and the Silavathurai coast were used
for this purpose.
early 2006, the SLN destroyed 11 LTTE trawlers (eight in
Silavathurai area and three in Mullaithivu area). The
trawlers had tried to enter the country along with
several fishing trawlers.
Speaking of how the LTTE managed to procure weapons in
the international market, the Navy Commander said the
LTTE had made the procurements from an Eastern country
using an end user certificate issued by an African
SLN through various intelligence units had gathered
information that the LTTE weapons ships were anchored in
the deep seas known as the “common heritage of mankind,”
which does not belong to any country. Whenever the
necessity arose, the ships had sailed from this area to
about 400km away from the Sri Lanka coastline and
unloaded the weapons to LTTE trawlers that then brought
depositing the weapons in the trawlers, the ships would
return to the common heritage area.
Destroyed 10 ships
SLN destroyed 10 ships since 2003, which incidentally
was during the ceasefire period – Koi on March 10, 2003,
Koimer on June 14, 2003, an unidentified vessel on
September 17, 2006, Kiyoi on February 28, 2007, Seiyoo
on March 18, 2007, an unidentified vessel on March 18,
2007, Manyoshi on September 10, 2007, Scishin on
September 10, 2007, Koshiya on September 11, 2007 and
Matsushima on October 7, 2007.
According to Karannagoda, it was the destruction of the
LTTE ships that carried a large haul of weapons during
the end of 2007 that had made the LTTE realise it had a
massive problem without its arms supply.
LTTE started to fall back,” he said.
Displaying a graph depicting the LTTE’s weapons usage
during the interview, Karannagoda also pointed out that
its weapons usage that was at a high in 2007 had started
to drop towards 2008. The LTTE’s weapons usage according
to the graph had dropped by as much as 80-90%.
2007, the sea battles between the LTTE and the SLN had
reduced to 11 and in 2008 it had reduced to only three,
the Navy Commander said.