By P. K. Balachandran
Fonseka has denied any direct dealing with the Karuna faction, says P.K. BALACHANDRAN If there is no political solution, the LTTE (even if defeated) will definitely come up again. As for the Tamils, they had a choice, “either to follow Prabhakaran, or follow moderates
Colombo: SRI LANKAN Army Commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka says that in the past year, the LTTE has suffered significant attrition as a result of the “defensive” land, sea and air operations carried out by the security forces.
“In the last four months alone, 565 cadres were killed. Since the start of the operations (about a year ago) the LTTE has lost 1,400 fighting cadres. Among the dead is ‘Col’ Nagulan, the Number 2 in the elite Charles Anthony Regiment. The army, in contrast, lost only 45,” the General told the Hindustan Times.
“More than 200 have surrendered and 300 have deserted. Only the other day, six girls had surrendered in Batticaloa. Never before have so many surrenders and desertions taken place. The LTTE has 4,000 cadres in the North, but they are not its best. If they lose 2,000, they are finished,” he predicted.
In the recent Eastern operations, the LTTE lost two 152 mm artillery pieces and five 120 mm heavy mortars.
“It is now left with one 120 mm mortar and an Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) in the East,” Fonseka said.
This, despite the fact that the LTTE had increased its arsenal “10 to 15 times” using the 2002 Ceasefire Agree ment (CFA) when surveillance was lax.
The aerial bombardment of the North and East, which began on April 25, last year had been “dead accurate”, the General claimed.
Defending the Rajapaksa government’s controversial decision to acquire MiG 29s to destroy the LTTE’s flying club type aircraft, the Army chief said that the MIG 29s, equipped with 3D radars, could help locate the slow moving enemy. The LTTE’s aircraft had conducted four raids between March 26 and April 29, without sustaining a loss.
The flushing out of the LTTE from Batticaloa had ensured the security of Colombo, the General claimed. “Batticaloa had training camps for suicide bombers who used to strike Colombo regularly.” TAMILS HAVE A CHOICE The Tamils were “victimised” by the LTTE and “denied services and development”. The security forces had there fore conducted “humanitarian operations” to rescue them from the clutches of the LTTE. But they did have “political grievances” which needed to be addressed, if there was to be permanent peace, Fonseka said.
“We are convinced that there should be a political solution. Even in the East, which has been cleared of the LTTE almost fully, one cannot say that there has been a victory because there can be real victory, only when there is a political solution under which people can lead normal lives. If there is no political solution, the LTTE (even if defeated) will definitely come up again,” he warned.
As for the Tamils, they had a choice, “either to follow Prabhakaran and keep on fighting, or follow moderates like V. Anandasangaree and Douglas Devananda,” the General said.
“They should realise that if they don’t opt for peace, the war could go on for another two decades. Neither we nor the LTTE are going to give up.” President Mahinda Rajapaksa had already made a political proposal, Fonseka pointed out, referring to the devolution proposal made by Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). COVERT OPERATIONS The Army Commander maintained that his men had no “direct dealings” with the LTTE’s breakaway group led by Karuna, which is accused of harassing the people of Batticaloa at gunpoint.
On Karuna’s military camps being next to the army’s camps in Batticaloa, the General said that Karuna was in the jungles and that the establishments near the army’s camps were “political” offices of para-military groups like the EPDP and PLOTE.
“As political workers they cannot carry guns and the police have been told to take action in case of any infringement,” the General assured.
On the army’s alleged role in the abduction of Tamils in Colombo and Jaffna, Fonseka said that the army indulged in “covert as well as overt operations to break the terrorist network”. He attributed the rarity of LTTE bombings in Colombo to the success of these “covert” operations.
Hindustan Times (May 31, 2007)