Archive for July, 2006


Senior Sri Lanka rebel says war back on

July 31, 2006

By Simon Gardner

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s two-decade civil war is back on, a top Tamil Tiger told Reuters on Monday, as five soldiers and three rebels were killed in the first army advance on rebel-held territory since a 2002 ceasefire.

S. Elilan, head of the Tigers’ political wing in the restive eastern district of Trincomalee, said army troops had resumed a bid to advance toward land they control in the east and had fired artillery and mortars at their territory in the north.

"The ceasefire agreement has become null and void at the moment," Elilan said by telephone from Trincomalee, adding government troops were continuing an advance toward their forward defense line in the east in a water supply dispute.

"The war is on and we are ready," added Elilan. "The war has begun. It is the government which has started the war … Militarily, we have decided to fight back if the Sri Lankan army enters our area."

Elilan is not the Tigers’ main spokesman, but he is one of their top officials and their political head in Trincomalee. He has repeatedly warned of a return to war.

The military said five soldiers were killed and six injured during a ground battle in the east. The Tigers dismissed army reports that dozens of their fighters were killed, saying three had died in a multi-barrel rocket attack.

The Colombo stock market was 1.5 percent lower in afternoon trade in the wake of the Tiger statement and fresh violence, said Eranjan Kulatunga, an economic analyst at brokerage C.T. Smith.

The rebels, angry at President Mahinda Rajapakse’s outright rejection of their demand for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in the north and east, have pulled out of peace talks indefinitely and have been cranking up the rhetoric for months.   Continued…


LTTE reinforces defence lines • After last week’s confrontation with army

July 19, 2006

The LTTE has begun to reinforce its forward defence lines (FDL) in Vakaneri and the surrounding areas after last week’s confrontation with the army.

Visitors from the area said that bunker lines on the main Chenkaladi-Maha Oya highway too were being strengthened. The main line near the Black Bridge where the handover of bodies took place last week too was being strengthened on the day the exchange took place.

LTTE offices in Karadinyanaru confirmed that work was being done on the bunker lines but eastern political head Daya Mohan was not available for comment.

Twelve soldiers and four LTTE cadres were killed in the confrontation on July 15. The Tigers have accused the army of infiltrating 5 km into their areas while the army has refuted the charges saying that the troops were on a routine clearing patrol.

The LTTE has been building new bunker lines at Vavunathivu as well, west of Batticaloa. The LTTE eastern intelligence head Ramanan was killed while inspecting the new bunkers and camps at Vavunathivu.

Soon after last week’s attack the LTTE wrote to the SLMM warning against future attacks if the army forays into their areas.

"Hostile forays by Sri Lanka Army (SLA) into Liberation Tigers controlled territory in Batticaloa district are serious acts of military aggression and have the potential to trigger a major destructive war," Daya Mohan said in the letter.

"SLA soldiers have been firing mortar and artillery rounds indiscriminately from Thursday night into residential areas of Vadamunai and Vakaneri inside the areas of LTTE control. A group of SLA soldiers have Thursday night clandestinely entered into villages past Vakaneri further towards Kulathumadu into LTTE controlled areas and mounted attacks.

"Residents have fled these villages due to fear of further violence. We regard the hostile action by the SLA not only as a serious violation of the Cease Fire Agreement, but more critically as an act of provocation to trigger a major war. This incident exposes Sri Lanka’s President’s reliance on advancing his military agenda while initiating a duplicitous All Party Talks on power sharing to placate the international community.

"We urge the SLMM to take immediate and urgent efforts to prevent the SLA from entering Tamil homelands in the future and to work towards bringing normalcy to people’s lives in affected areas.

"We again strongly condemn the SLA attacks and point out that SLA has seriously violated the CFA," the letter added.

The Morning Leader


Having a heart for the heartless

July 14, 2006

Even if Prabhakaran were to ask for medical assistance, we believe, he should be brought for treatment. Perhaps, Angoda or Mulleriyawa will be the best place for him.

LTTE spokesman Daya Master was rushed to Colombo on Wednesday, for treatment following a severe cardiac arrest, with the help of the security forces. The government was right in having positively responded to a request from the LTTE to escort him and facilitate his hospitalisation. In a civilised society, the sick must be looked after, irrespective of who or what they are. While seeking the government help to remove its spokesman, the LTTE, true to form, carried on its killing spree. Two policemen were killed in a mine blast in Jaffna.

How can the LTTE, which is not at least capable of looking after a senior cadre with a heart condition claim to run a de facto separate state? In a terrain devoid of basic healthcare facilities, what will be the situation of the ordinary civilians if war breaks out?

The LTTE is said to be ruthless but we consider it more shameless than anything else. Otherwise, how could it ask for an escort within weeks of the assassination of Lt. Gen. Parami Kulatunga in Colombo and within months of the brutal killing of SSP Charles Wijewardena in Jaffna, let alone other assassinations like that of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and the attempt on the Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s life.

What the Sri Lankan governments have been doing is in stark contrast to the way the so-called five star democracies are dealing with their terrorists. When the US invaded Iraq, it unleashed hell on that country; even the chemicals used for water purification were banned and as a result thousands of children have died of dysentery and allied infections. Would Washington have ever allowed an Al Queada leader to be escorted by the US troops for treatment in Iraq or Afghanistan? Would Britain have escorted a terrorist involved in 7/7 attacks to a London hospital for treatment? We pose these questions to those who pontificate to this country on human rights.

India, too, expresses humanitarian concerns whenever clashes erupt here. But how did it treat its terrorist, Veerappan, who was partially blind and seriously ill at the time he was finally trapped? He was done to a cruel death. Given his condition, any decent person would have expected India to rush him to hospital. India, it should be recalled, refused Anton Balasingham passage in 2002, despite his plea that he was seriously ill, as the LTTE had killed former Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi. Here, the LTTE has killed an incumbent President (Ranasinghe Premadasa) and almost succeeded in assassinating another President (Chandrika Kumaratunga). But, Sri Lanka helps the LTTE leaders receive treatment in Colombo, which they have bombed many times. Apart from escorts, we have had a Defence Secretary-Austin Fernando is his name-visiting a senior LTTE combatant in a Colombo hospital with a basket of apples!

The survival of the LTTE has been possible due to the humaneness of the much maligned state. It is dependent on the very state it is hell bent on destroying. While living off the food and medical supplies the state sends to the areas under its control, the LTTE has to concentrate only on procuring arms, abducting children, extorting money from the war affected, manufacturing bombs and assassinations. The outfit won’t have a cat in hell’s chance without supplies from the state. Terrorism thrives, as we have pointed out in these columns, in a democracy. It fizzles out when it meets its match in an equally ruthless political regime. The well established Italian Mafia ceased to exist under Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship. That’s why sympathizers of terror groups become ardent champions of democracy to prevent states from resorting to ruthless counter terror. Let it be immediately added that we don’t advocate either sanctions or counter terror, lest our comments should be misconstrued.

James P. Grant, the visionary Executive Director of UNICEF, who declared war on ‘global silent emergency’ (read deaths of millions of children from preventable diseases) considered Sri Lanka’s conflict a ‘civilised one’ in that the state feeds the LTTE and wounded LTTE cadres receive treatment in state-run hospitals. The Tigers have been biting the hand that feeds them.

Being humane and democratic is not without problems. But a civilised society has no alternative. The government has come under heavy fire from some quarters for its magnanimous gesture. While the consternation of anti terror activists could be understood, it should be realised that a democratically elected government of a legitimate state cannot act like a terrorist outfit and deny medical or surgical care to the sick. Even if Prabhakaran were to ask for medical assistance, we believe, he should be brought for treatment. Perhaps, Angoda or Mulleriyawa will be the best place for him.

-Island Editorial


Give those cars to military officers

July 8, 2006

If the many consignments of armour-plated cars are counted, we should have around fifty vehicles which were ordered in haste and air freighted at tremendous cost to the tax payer to be distributed among members of the Cabinet including the President who were considered under threat from the LTTE.

It is evident from the recent attacks on the Commander of the Army and the Deputy Chief of Staff that the LTTE considers the top rung of the service command as prime targets for assassination. In the past, the LTTE successfully hit the leadership and those of the second rung who were likely to resist their demands.

It appears that the LTTE seeks to undermine the strength of the armed forces by taking out senior experienced officers, whose absence will leave the Army, Navy and Air Force under the command of relatively junior officers. It is not my intention to cast aspersions on the capabilities of officers to assume command when the need arises as it must under operational conditions.

It would be correct to conclude that the threat from the LTTE falls on the high command of the services and not on those presidents and ministers along with their entourage who enjoy the safety of armour plated Mercedes limousines. Some of the dangers that these politicians face might arise from the wrath of citizens who are burdened by the intolerable cost of living and their incapacity to handle the LTTE. -U. L. A. Gunasekera

Will the politicians who run these limousines consider the priorities and surrender the cars for the use of the service command before the LTTE hits their intended targets who go about their duties in tin boxes which are easily destroyed?



July 4, 2006

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Lieutenant General Parami Kulatunge RSP USP

July 3, 2006

"Though with the last arrow gone,

My blood dyes heaven and earth,

My spirit shall return, shall return

To defend the Motherland"

(Poem by Japanese Lt Gen Ushijima just before he died in 1945)

Lt. Gen. P. S. B. (Parami) Kulatunge, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, along with his driver Sgt. Gomez and bodyguard Corporal Buddhika paid the supreme sacrifice to the motherland on 26 June 2006 at Pannipitiya. They were killed by a LTTE suicide bomber.

When the LTTE killed Parami they killed a man who worked positively to help bridge the divide between the majority community and the minorities. It was among the Tamils he did best. He counted many Tamil friends while in school and in Jaffna and Vavuniya during his tours of duty. The insane LTTE murdered an exceptional officer and gentleman who bore no malice and harboured no prejudice. While he carried out his duties fearlessly he held fast to his beliefs that decency and humanity mattered very much especially in war. His death is a great loss both to the country and the Army he served with pride, distinction and dedication. It will certainly be one more murder that Prabakaran will most certainly have to answer to all the people of this land at the correct time.

Lt. Gen. Kulatunge was the much loved youngest child of Lionel Kulatunge, a former MMC, and Leela (nee Talwatte) and beloved brother of Samantha, Indu and Lumbini. He was born in Lewella, Kandy on 9th October 1951. He had all the qualities of those indomitable hill men whose courage protected the Kandyan kingdom from the ravages of colonial incursions over 300 years. He also represented the gentle and well mannered Kandyan way of life which has an abiding respect for elders and the traditions of the Sinhalese which they guard unobtrusively but with pride.

Parami was a typical product of Trinity College, Kandy. Joining the Army in1971 he received his initial training at the Officer Cadet School at Diyatalawa, precursor to the SL Military Academy. He was commissioned into the Gemunu Watch, (King DutugemunuOwn) in 1972. He first served as a platoon commander in B Company under Major Anandasunderam when Lt. Col. A. W. Thambirajah (later Brigadier) was in command. He also attended many courses in India mainly. The high point of his training was in the US Army War College.

Parami was a devout Buddhist. He tried as all Buddhist soldiers must to reconcile his duties in the Army with the Buddhist precept that prohibits taking life. It was especially difficult to do so when fighting a terrorist organisation that knows no limitations to brutality when it was one’s duty to also protect the lives of one’s countrymen. Instead to the last he with touching innocence and very strong faith believed that a person who bore no ill will nor harmed another human being should fear nothing.

Parami lived without ostentation, loved children, and always had time to interact with his soldiers, officer colleagues and friends. He was well known to the highest in the land almost from the time he started his career but it was not of his own seeking.

Lt. Gen. Kulatunge was an amiable giant of a man standing well over 6 foot with broad shoulders, weighing many pounds more than recommended. He was also magnanimous, generous and straight forward and honest. He rarely if ever lost his temper or spoke in anger. In his junior service when chastised he would simply keep quiet rather than seek to get away with an explanation. He had an enviable record of service showing excellent qualities of leadership both in the field and in the staff He "fought in many a fray and fought and won" including the gallant and epic relief of Elephant Pass in 1990 when he commanded the 6th Battalion. As 52 Division Commander in the battle for Jaffna following the reverses at Elephant Pass in 1998 he turned back the marauding LTTE at Varaani. They never came back again. In between he commanded 22 Brigade and later 11 Division. He was also at different times Security Forces Commander of Jaffna and recently of Vavuniya. He held staff appointments with distinction from the rank of Captain to Major General.

Although we were from same regiment and played rugby together, we first worked as a team only when I was appointed Officer Commanding (OC) Troops in Jaffna in 1980. He was a captain and the G3 staff officer and had been there the previous year when the situation was very tense there. Parami met me at Jaffna railway station around 5.30 am and took me straight to Pallaly where HQ Task Force One our superior HQ commanded by then Colonel, (later Major General), Gratien Silva was also located. The slightly senior staff officers in Task Force One were rotated during the year and included some of the best young officers of the time such as Majors Udena Gunawardene, Harin Malwatte, Mangala Ratnayake, Abdul Zaheer and Neil Dias (Later Maj. Gen. and Army Chief of Staff). They held Parami in great affection and humoured his methods of getting things done. He was a veteran of Jaffna!

Parami though quite young at the time had gained a lot of experience working with many future Army Commanders. What was very important was that he had an excellent rapport with the important officials, civil and religious dignitaries and many members of the public in Jaffna. The Task Force had also started teaching spoken Tamil to all troops. Parami set an example by attending all the classes. I’m sure it stood him in good stead later on. It was to be the last year that there was no terrorist violence in Jaffna.

Whether it was operational training to hearts and minds efforts, Parami ensured all arrangements were done on time and effectively. The PR efforts certainly brought us many friends. The Pallaly officers’ mess was always full of delightful Jaffna folk on many occasions. We had blood donation campaigns in the Jaffna General Hospital. The first to donate blood was the priest in charge of the Kankasanthurai (KKS) Temple, Rev. Mahinda at his own request. The KKS temple was never attacked by the militants ever as the priest was the saviour of any Tamil who thought he was in danger. The lady doctor in charge of the blood bank finding out probably from Parami that the OC Troops was present took me to task for not sending B positive donors that were on her list at a time when there was an urgent demand for blood. Parami very gently told her that the soldiers in Jaffna were routed (transferred) regularly every 6 months. He had personally checked our list before he sent what the Army calls a nil return. That intrepid little lady was not overawed either by the OC Troops or his engagingly handsome 6 foot staff officer. That is the Jaffna I knew where you gave way to the cyclists, often school girls, riding abreast. We respected their tradition built over 50 years.

Another occasion was when a donation was made to the Illaveli Girls’ Orphanage with the collections received from the always generous troops serving in Jaffna but organised by the staff officers with Parami. At the orphanage we were entertained by the orphans to a programme of singing and oriental dancing after which one very pretty little girl made a speech in English saying that she never thought that the Army would help them as they believed we had "iron hearts". They had instead been pleasantly surprised more so because the Mother Superior had told them how generous was our contribution. Everyone clapped and we all stood up to go. Parami without any warning announced that I would speak. I had no time to think. I mumbled that we were delighted to help and overwhelmed by the reception we were given. I then blurted, not without some trepidation as were in a convent, that never before in my life had I seen such beautiful little girls. This was translated into Tamil by the Mother Superior and even though they were very small girls they nearly brought the house down. That was the only time Parami had abandoned me!

We went on detachment visits which included Madagal, Vellvatithurai, Elephant Pass, Mullativu and Vavuniya and had a great time testing their battle readiness called Fitness for Role (FFR) in the Army. Parami, I believe, thought the OC had a pathological belief in being ready for war. Sadly it was he and most of the others then in Jaffna who had to face the music when things heated up as I had retired from the army by that time.

Nevertheless he and Captains Malik Deen and later Hiran Halangode also prepared the first SOPS ever issued. They were considered at that time only as items to be collected. Also issued amid some controversy were the white and meant to be yellow cards which informed the troops of their obligations before opening fire and after arresting persons found violating the law. The instruction not to open fire if some one ignored an order to halt at check points was criticised. The staff officers loyally defended the measure knowing that the chance of a pregnant woman who was being taken past a check point being shot was not an option. In May 2006 this could have been considered treason after the AHQ suicide attack! Another controversial measure was the one that required the troops to inform the next of kin (NOK) where arrested suspects would be held. Here too their loyalty was worth more than a ton of cleverness that some of the detachment commanders displayed in criticising these measures.

At the end of the year I left Jaffna and I believe Parami went to Trinco. I left the army in 1981 for reasons that have no place here. We met again when the Gemunu Watch Ex Servicemen’s Association (GWESA) was formed and then regularly on our periodic visits to the Regimental HQ at Kuruwita. We saw how much Parami has done for the troops especially the disabled who have a wonderfully well maintained swimming pool. The renovation of the Officers’ Mess and the Library are examples of the super self help efforts he made. He was also the moving force with Maj. Gen. Patrick Fernando in the recruitment drive that quadrupled the intake to the GWESA. Parami also took pains to ensure that new members’ subscriptions were collected regularly. This has helped very much to enrich the coffers of GWESA. We had looked forward to welcoming him on his retirement in 3 months time. It was not to be.

On a personal note I wrote to Parami a week before his untimely death officially thanking him for helping GWESA.

Though the letter was official I for the first time in a letter wished him and all ranks of GW the blessings of the Triple Gem. Everyone knew the dangers they faced. Unfortunately he tempted fate.

May the country in this time of peril remember with gratitude and pride, the devotion and courage of Parami, Sergeant Gomez and Corporal Buddhika and all our brothers and sisters who while playing their part in establishing peace, goodwill and justice among the people of our land, have made the supreme sacrifice. Their efforts will not be in vain. We will not forget them.

May his stay in Samsara be short and may he attain Nibbana.

Lalin Fernando
(Late Gemunu Watch)