“The people in Kilinochchi have already lost their own children and relatives because of the LTTE. The only hope that they have at present is the strong belief that the Security Forces will arrive in Kilinochchi soon, and rescue them from the grip of the LTTE.”
(August 22, Mannar, Sri Lanka Guardian) Commander of Task Force 1, Brigadier Shavendra Silva speaking to Sri Lanka Guardian said, “leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam , V. Prabhakaran has made the Tamil population prisoners in his fantasy Eelam regime. These people have sacrificed their children, property, wealth and labour for this illusionary Eelam regime”.
Our staff correspondent B. Veeman interviews Brigadier Shavedra at the War front during his visit few days ago. “Many of the soldiers are very cooperative when dealing with the people. They offer the people every possible support. Most of the time, the mistrust occurs due to the language problem and consequent communication gap,” he points out.
Here full text of the interview;
by B. Veeman
1. First of all, can you comment on your service experience?
My service is nearly 30 years. I have experience about the whole episode of the separatist movement of the LTTE since the beginning of the 1980 decade. I have achieved that great deal of experience by virtue of having involved in the operational duties and other related activities in those areas.
2. How do you view the present war situation through your experience?
The military operations commenced in 2006 had a different dimension from those military operations which were conducted in the past. These operations were launched on humanitarian grounds. Subsequent to the LTTE inhumane act of closing the sluice gates of MAVILARU irrigation canal, which was the life line of thousands Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim peasant farmers in the TRICOMALEE South, the Security Forces was compelled to reciprocate militarily on humanitarian grounds to restore the normalcy in the area. The Security Forces, after a long spell of restraint, was directed to resort to military action against the LTTE with the prime aim of exercising the Right to Protect (R2P) of the government. Thus, the operations were blessed with a unanimous national consensus and culminated in a series of victories liberating the East, MANNAR South and MANNAR North from the grip of the LTTE. In the meantime, the forward march of the government forces is being progressed along the axes of MANNAR-POONERYN Road, MALLAVI – THUNUKKAI and WELIOYA in WANNI, forcing the LTTE to abandon all its fortifications and flee from the areas. According to my experience, the superior military might and the superior tactics of the Sri Lankan Army have weakened the strength of LTTE ( An expert Tamil journalist and a military analysts, Mr DBS Jeyaraj has written an article on this situation to the Nation News Paper). During the past two years more than 8000 LTTE Cadres have been killed a big amount of heavy weapons of the terrorists including 152mm Artillery guns has been either seized or destroyed. As a result of this, the LTTE’s combat effectiveness has got blunted.
3. Is there any change, improvement or set back in the military capability or the tempo of the LTTE?
The LTTE gradually developed its military strength during the past three decades. The LTTE capitalized the peace accord signed on 22 February 2002 and manipulated its military machine and political activities towards constructing its fantasy Eelam state. During that period the LTTE made a steady progress in amassing weapons and other war like equipment. The ulterior motive of the LTTE was to capture JAFFNA and TRINCOMALEE by launching sudden attacks. But, this day dream of the LTTE got blotted because of the highly determined and well organized political and military leadership. Now the Security Forces have been able to shatter the myth of the self imposed unconquerable military might of the LTTE. Specially, the highly determined leadership and the excellent tactics of the Commander of Army are deemed to be very important in this respect.
4. What do you suppose to be the reason for that?
During the past period, there were many reasons which attributed to the circumstance in which the LTTE emerged powerful, out-powering the Security Forces. One of the main reasons was that the government’s acceptance of peace overtures orchestrated by the LTTE, whenever it was weak in the battlefield. During the periods of such peace talks, the LTTE was engaged in training, amassing of weapons and raising of funds. It was during the peace talks of 1989, the LTTE developed the Sea Tiger Wing. During the peace process in 2002, it raised the Air Tiger Wing. It is very important to note that, the government, through all those past experience has now realized that the theme of PRABHAKARAN is ‘ the peace talks is a breathing space for reorganization’.
5. Is there any development in LTTE weapons and tactics?
The greatest strength of the LTTE is its capability to destroy economic targets by the suicide attacks, acts of terrorism and assassinating those who are against the Eelam. Further, the LTTE used the funds it collected from the Sri Lankan Tamils who have migrated to the other countries in the world, and purchased weapons and other military hardware from the international illegal weapon dealers. The LTTE purchased ships to transport those weapons to Sri Lanka. The LTTE made all possible endeavors to convince the international community that it has a tri service, a police, a judiciary system and a governing system in North and East of Sri Lanka. Now, this situation has well been realized by the present government.
6. How is the morale of the Security Forces involved in the war at present?
Before we talk about the present situation, we must look back at the situation prevailed a few years ego. During the years of 1999, 2000 and 2001, the morale of the Security Forces had been adversely affected. Due to this situation, ELEPHANT PASS camp complex and the territory up to MUHAMALAI were fallen to the hands of LTTE. Specially, during the peace process, the Security Forces were subject to an enormous pressure. A Suggestion was brought up to remove the High Security Zones in JAFFNA. But, fortunately the present Commander of the Army repulsed it.
Nevertheless, this situation was changed in July 2006. Particularly, the army was headed by an exemplary leadership. The troops were felt the presence of an effective and belligerent leadership, and also provided with proper training and weapons. In this present context, the Security Forces could fight with the LTTE bravely since the MAVILARU Battle to the present day battles being fought in WANNI. This resulted in an unprecedented morale boost among all troops in the army. Furthermore, this phenomenon inspired resurgence in the public mass of the country. Commander of the army is constantly visiting the battle fronts and give orders to ground commanders encouraging them.
7. It is believed that the contribution of SL Army in military operations as a whole is higher than that of the other services. Is this a truth? In military operations, how is the contribution of your officers?
Most of the time it is army who get involved in the military operations. The other services and the police provide the army with a great support. During the last two years, the steps were taken to make the army much stronger. A few field fighting formations namely, 57, 59, 61 Divisions, Task Force 1 and 2 and a Mechanized Infantry Brigade were raised and presently deployed in the battle fronts
8. What is the nature of rapport and the support you get from the Tamil population who live in the areas where you have served or serve at present?
PRABHAKARAN has made the Tamil population prisoners in his fantasy Eelam regime. These people have sacrificed their children, property, wealth and labour for this illusionary Eelam regime. The Education of their children and all the property has been destroyed. PRABHAKARAN never allows them to step in to a new world. We have met a hundreds of thousand innocent people. We must sympathies them. They have already rejected the fantasy Eelam regime. They should be rescued from the grip of terrorism. As the fish live in water, the survival of the terrorism needs popular support. Hence, the people must be separated from the terrorists in order to facilitate the annihilation of the terrorism. The Tamil intellectuals who met recently told that the Security Forces in JAFFNA has become near and dear to the public and even render a great assistance to them in their day to day work.
9. Though you are aiming at only capturing KILINOCHCHI, it is informed that the people living there are in fear anticipating your arrival. What is your comment?
During the past three decades the LTTE was propagating that the Security Forces carry out atrocities against the general public. But, the present situation in the East and JAFFNA has made that disinformation ineffective. The people in KILINOCHCHI have already lost their own children and relatives because of the LTTE. The only hope that they have at present is the strong belief that the Security Forces will arrive in KILINOCHCHI soon, and rescue them from the grip of the LTTE. Further, it is very important to highlight that the way how the Security Forces so far have spared civilian lives and their property whilst waging a continuous war against the LTTE.
10. What action do you adopt in order to drive this undue fear away from the minds of the people?
The LTTE is using the innocent civilians of VIDATHALATHIVU, MADU, ADAMPAN, PERIYAMADU, VELLANKULAM, MALLAVI and THUNUKKAI as a human shield whilst fighting with the Security Forces. This situation may change after the future operations. When the LTTE would be more weakened and inactive in the future battles, the people will attack the LTTE and arrive in the controlled area. Subsequently, we will take the necessary steps ensure their security and wellbeing. As an example, more than hundred thousand civilians who got displaced from their homes due to the military operations in the East have already been resettled in their own homes at present.
11. Are you aware of the mentality of the people who live in the LTTE controlled areas and what difficulties they undergo at present?
When their grievances are listened to, a very emotional feeling is struck in to the mind. It is reliably learnt that these people seek safety in thick jungles even despite the deadly hunger in order to prevent their children being abducted by the LTTE for conscription. People are being deprived of their basic sanitation and medical facilities and, it is also said that the LTTE is looting the dry rations issued to the people for their mere living. Thereby it is obvious that the people live in those areas have been subjected to an enormous suffering.
12. What sort of training have you given to your soldiers to ensure that they respect the heritage of the Tamil people and win over their hearts and minds?
Many of the soldiers are very cooperative when dealing with the people. They offer the people every possible support. Most of the time, the mistrust occurs due to the language problem and consequent communication gap. Even when a terrorist is taken into the custody, they are treated humanely under the constant direction and supervision of the officers. As an example the most sacred Holly Madhu Statue was conveyed to VELLANKULAM for the protection. Nevertheless, the Security Forces handed over the Holly Madhu Shrine back to reverend priests only after the necessary renovations were duly completed. In the near future, Madhu Festival will be held gracefully with all the support and patronage of the Security Forces.
13. Is there any feasible way to separate the Tamil population from the LTTE?
There is no other alternative other than the elimination of the terrorism. It is believed that this problem can be only solved by eliminating the rest of the terrorists and subsequently offering an opportunity to the Tamil youths to come in to main stream politics as it happened in the East. In the meantime we must pay respect their cultural and religious affairs constantly. The steps must be taken to free the whole Tamil community from the undue suspicion of being a Tiger, and inculcate the mutual understanding between both ethnic communities.
14. How the people who leave the LTTE controlled area and arrive in government controlled area are looked after?
This is a core issue we have focused on. The government has devised a comprehensive approach to address this important issue. The basic needs of those people, such as food, accommodation and jobs have already been ensured. A carefully orchestrated mechanism is already in action to deal with the issue giving the priority to the above basic needs. As an example, the people who had been displaced in the East and arrived in the controlled areas for a safe passage were welcomed and taken in to proper care with a great sense of responsibility. Subsequently, their needs were well looked after and they were resettled back in their homes once those areas were cleared. Therefore, I assure that those who are willing to arrive in the controlled areas from WANNI also will be treated in the same manner with due respect to their rights and dignity as human beings. We are obliged to give them a safe passage and make their living much better in the future.
15. What instructions do you give to the people who like to escape from the LTTE controlled areas?
Our main aim is to offer you a safe custody and ensure you a promising future. The best example for that is the Eastern Province. The only request for WANNI people is to isolate those barbaric terrorists and join us for due security and a better future.
- Sri Lanka Guardian