How the LTTE was military defeated: A Soldier’s view - Part One
In Gratitude to Late Lieutenant Colonel Lilith Jayasinghe WWV, RWP, RSP, SF, SLA
Written by Day
EXCLUSIVE TO SRI LANKA GUARDIAN
(April 29, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Lalith was fast asleep in his grave. All of sudden he was disturbed by the sound of knocks on his tombstone. He was quick to his 9mm strapped on his right thigh and drew it maintaining a pistol grip. He challenged the intruder in military manner “Who goes there?” The intruder replied “Sir, Corporal Kularatne.”
Then Lilith asked “What is going on?” CPL Kularathne replied “Sir, Sri Lanka Army is doomed; the internecine war is at its worst!” This caused Lilith to ‘turn in his grave’! Then Lalith decided to use ‘Challenge’ and ‘Password’ to confirm the identity or positively identify the intruder. Lalith identified, in fact, CPL Kularathne was none other than the Hasalaka Weeraya (Hero). Lalith leaves his grave and smartly salutes Corporal Kularathene (This may look odd to the reader. Lailth is a lieutenant colonel but Kularathne is a corporal. Something does not look right here you wonder. But in the US military if you are a Medal of Honor (MOH) recipient then it does NOT matter what your rank is, even a General is required to salute the private awarded with an MOH on seeing or meeting each other! In this case CPL Kularathne was awarded the parama vīra vibhūṣanaya (Supreme Heroism Decoration), which is the highest Sri Lankan military decoration equivalent to the British Victoria Cross, or US MOH. Lalith, who has undergone training in Fort Benning, Georgia, USA, was very professional and humble even in death and that is why we miss him so much!). The visibly upset CPL Kularathne assumed the position of attention and rendered a smart salute to Lt Col Lalith Jayasinghe. Lalith in his own endearing way calmed down the Hasalaka Weeraya and inquired about what was going on as Lalith‘s whole military life was spent in the Wanni jungles and did not truly know what was happening in the city. CPL Kularathne started to describe what he had seen when he went home to ‘watch over’ his family in Hasalaka for a while. He told Lalith that everybody was fighting each other to claim the credit for the victory; a general being dragged on the floor like a dead dog and locked up in a windowless room; top brass betraying each other in the media; high-ranking military officers being cashiered; transnational Drealamists relentlessly pressing for a UN inquiry for alleged human rights abuses in the humanitarian operations and the final war; Dr. Dutugemunu running amok…so on and on. Lalith said “Let’s take a stroll.” They started to walk a while, and Lalith could not believe his eyes or what he saw. A line of larger than life cutouts of the biggest rascals in Sri Lanka had been erected along the road. Lalith was thoroughly disappointed and disgusted. He said to the Hasalaka Weeraya “I have a good idea; these cutouts are ideal silhouettes for me to target practice! Let me do it right here and my quarterly 9mil refresher training required in 2SF (2nd Special Forces Regiment) for every operator is up.” He drew his 9mil (Chinese pistol) and doubled tapped, in rapid succession, right on the middle of the forehead on the cutouts of MR, SF, GR, Mervin, RW, WW, Sowansa, S’mbandan, Bahu, Mano G. even of JJ, one by one… bam.bam… bam.bam… bam.bam…making holes on the foreheads of the cutouts!
The sound of pistol fire woke me up suddenly. True that it was a dream……but the dream alerted me to something very important. Lalith’s birthday is around the corner. So I thought of writing this article in his honor and release on his birth day, April 29th. Moreover sometime back the SLG editor asked in an e-mail for my thoughts on the military defeat of LTTE. I am not a paid writer at all. I write articles to kill my free time in a warzone away from my family, and send them to Sri Lankan websites, some decide to publish, and some think they are rubbish. I have no political affiliations in Sri Lanka and I dislike the rough and tumble politics we have nowadays in the world.
I write this particular article as a soldier using my military background, know-how and knowledge. I use in the article extrapolations and deductions when necessary. My presentations of the situations, incidents, or outcomes may be true or assumptions or courses of action developed based on possible scenarios using ‘reverse’ battle appreciation or military decision making process (MDMP). I don't pretend to be privy to all the inside details that Combatant Commanders in the north and east have. I would like to own up that I was not in the Operations Room of any Battalion (BN) or Division (DIV) that took part in the colossal humanitarian operation and the final battle. But Been There, Seen and Done That!
Sometimes I digress from topic as I have a lot of information to put out, please be patient and read this article alpha to omega. If you like this article, please e-mail to your friends and family too. There is something I guarantee you will come to know or learn a lot of things from this very long article and be able to do some good for Sri Lanka as a patriotic Sri Lankan.
Truth Nothing but the Absolute Truth;
Winning a war, for that matter, a basketball match, is a total team effort, though the individual contributions vary. If Michael Jordan (MJ/Air Jordan) was the ‘franchise player’ that helped the Chicago Bulls to win the NBA world championship many a time, if Kobe Bryant the Black Mamba for the Los Angeles Lakers, or Tim Duncan the Scientist for the ST Antonio Spurs then it was none other than Late Lieutenant Colonel Lalith Jayasinghe, WWV, RWP, RSP, was the ‘Franchise Officer’ who was singularly responsible for the military defeat of LTTE, not a President or his siblings, not a Commander of Army, Navy , Air Force or CDC, not an IGP of police or a DIG of STF, some of whom now try to project themselves as ‘Balraj the master tactician of LTTE’, saying the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) invented or conjured up by them helped to win the war! I disagree; the military analysts who have had the inside knowledge would disagree. I will tell you why here in a minute.
If top brass and politicos have an iota of self-respect or a vestige of humility or selflessness left in them, it is not too late even now; they would cease forthwith claiming the lion’s share of credit! They shamelessly are clamoring and demanding for and crowing about the real credit that belongs to unquestionably to Lalith. But unfortunately this is Sri Lanka where a vast majority of her citizens behave like Alice in Wonderland; their behavior defies description; a Sri Lanka where success has many a father but failure a bastard!
Here is the analogous situation; the persons dying to claim the Lalith’s credit are like Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (UAV) pilots. True they fly planes, but remotely. True they fire weapons, but sitting in the well cushioned seats set up in a very well protected Air Operation Center (AOC) room of a desert air force base in the United States (US) which is monitored on the giant plasma screens installed on a well secured Coalition Air Operations Center (CAOC) in a Middle Eastern country, thousands of miles away from the actual battlefield. True they kill terrorists, but remotely by pressing the ‘Arm’ and ‘Fire’ buttons on the joy stick to release the payload on the target, there is no threat absolutely to UAV pilots’ lives, except possible cardiac arrest due to their very sedentary lifestyle they live in their careers!. But Lalith was like a Night Stalker (pilot) of the 160th Special Operations Air Regiment (SOAR) in the CH-47 Chinook (Cargo Helicopter) G (Golf)-model that went down in the Afghan Korangal Valley, dubbed the Valley of Death, while on a Search and Rescue (SAR) mission to retrieve the 4-man SEAL (SEa Air Land) reconnaissance team, lost for days. He, his bird, the elite operators, 16 in all, on the rescue mission and the crew on board went down in a hail of Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) and automatic gun fire directed at them by Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters, at an elevation where oxygen is low, air thin, visibility dangerously low, and the rugged craggy mountain terrain all around. They literally inhaled smoke and smelled cordite.
I think, now the reader is smart and bright enough to understand the vast difference between waging war from Colombo, being in the air-conditioned rooms and eating Chinese food AND the very risky nature involved in trekking the jungles of Oddusudan to ‘erase’ the top leaders of LTTE against all odds such as tigers on the prowl, snakes slithering in the grass, land mines and booby traps strewn around, treacherous double canopy jungles, Tamil civilians, oops tiger sympathizers out in the jungle for game or to fetch firewood, who could alert tiger cadres. I know you now feel like spitting, in total disgust, at the rascals who try to claim the undue credit or at their posters on the walls and cutouts along the roads! Isn’t it revolting or nauseating to see the shameless attempts to claim someone else’s credit? Aren’t you sick to the stomach? I am!
Here is why Lalith was ‘THE’ man who could have singularly claimed the responsibility if he was narcissistic or bumptious, but ask his friends, peers, subordinate, superiors or the workers of rubber state where his father worked. He was so humble and down to earth he never wanted to bask in glory, for Lalith it was part and parcel of duty, as far as the life or dangers or ‘situations’ he faced ‘outside the wire’, he just shrugged them off as if it was nothing but occupational hazards. He was a ‘silent professional’ in the right sense of the words!
I am telling you this ‘only’ because it is now in the public domain. A national secret that was sadly outed by the parties with self-interests or vested interests to claim personal glory. This should have been a state or national secret forever. At least in 2SF it was a jealously-guarded secret. Here it is; Lalith and his team delivered justice to Col Shankar of LTTE aka Vaithilingam Sornalingam on September 26, 2001 at about 1045hrs (10:45am) in the form of a claymore package. Lalith and team had followed to the letter and spirit what it says on every claymore; ‘FRONT TOWARDS ENEMY’, in the general area of Oddusudan, Wanni, Sri Lanka. The Mission Accomplished, and Lalith and team safely had arrived at base.
The singular importance of that operation could be gauged by the reaction of Prabakaran himself. The panic and fear had ‘really’ struck Prabakaran for the first time in his life. His blood pressure had risen and diabetes worsened. He had sweated a lot too. Madawadani, the wife of ‘Praba’, the unfortunate medical student who playfully threw water at the tiger chieftain or the psychopathic killer in a festival in India not knowing what was really in store for her, could see with her medical background that Praba would be the sick leader of LTTE and a new ‘normalcy’ had dawned for worse in their lives.
Prabakaran declared a virtual state of ‘emergency’ in the tiger controlled regions of Wanni in the aftermath of one of his ‘closest’ associates and senior leader Col. Shankar being killed by Lalith and his team. He went into total recluse, and had started to worry and get angry and annoyed about the slightest or trivial things, started to distrust loyal and close associates. Simply put, since then he was said to have had very bad nightmares! The Shankar’s death created a siege like situation in tiger held areas. The LTTE chief needed to get to the bottom of this issue to get a handle on. Many were taken in for interrogation on suspicion and some of whom were never seen alive. They had died a violent and brutal death at the hands of LTTE interrogators, some ended up in the barbed wire, open air prison cells getting bitten by mosquitoes and beaten and tortured by the barbaric or bestial tiger interrogators.
The usual suspects were or the suspicion fell on sympathizers of anti-tiger groups or a dissident faction supporting former LTTE Deputy Leader Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya who was executed on charges of treason. It was believed monetary gain, or just retribution for Mahathaya’s violent death was the motivation.
Prabakaran ordered the deployment of LTTE's special commando unit known as "Leopards" and the civilian militia called "Ellaippadai" for intensive combing out operation in the jungle areas in the Wanni in order to kill or capture the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP-Pronounced ‘lurp’) team members of SLA.
The master tactician of LTTE, Balraj was vested with special powers by Prabakaran to take all measures necessary to eradicate or prevent the selective assassination campaign conducted against close associates of the tiger chief and the very important leaders of LTTE allegedly by members of a ‘Deep Penetration Unit of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA)’.
The express tasks from the tiger chief to Balraj were:
1. Prevent infiltration into tiger-controlled areas by the army 2. Track down LRRP (DPU) members in the jungles 3. Identify all suspected informants and collaborators among Tamil civilians and bump them off in ‘show’ killings.
The Implied tasks were:
1. Increase the number of bodyguards assigned top very important tiger leaders 2. Allocate more vehicles to the tiger leader motorcade to reduce the probability and vulnerability 3. Hardened the vehicles with armor plates and reduce the visibility with tinted glass 4. Change the routine 5. Wear civilian clothes 6. Increase or heighten awareness of OPSEC (operational security) 7. Maintain a low profile etc.
Did all these measures taken work? Please ask ‘Charles’ aka Shanmuganathan Ravishankar, but one has to wait till he meets Charles in the other world. The operators were patiently waiting for him for the Central Bank bombing and the death of Krishna Mohan, a basketball player (who worked in the Central Bank and died in the blast). The Special Forces operators also did not forget Charles’ spearheading the Bandaranaike International Airport Attack that destroyed the good number of aircraft in the inventories of national carrier and Sri Lanka Air Force, reducing the SLAF to air ‘FARCE’ the way they had defended the only international airport in Sri Lanka and the biggest air force base in Sri Lanka . The SLAF Base Commander at that time, an air commodore named RAA was relieved of his duties.
Tamil terrorists need to remember this always, Sri Lanka Special Operations Forces (SLSOF) avenge the deaths of good Tamils; likes of Dr. Thiru, Kadir, IP Bastiampillai, Krishna Mohan. Sometimes, it takes some time to catch up with the ‘bad guys’! But the SLSOF will. The unofficial of motto of 2SF, I think, should be ‘We do bad things to bad guys!’
Tigers would have been the most lethal terrorists (or the best but bogus freedom fighters) in the world but 2SF are the best anti-terrorist operators in the world, JVP may have been the best but spurious revolutionaries (insurgents) but 2SF are the best counter-revolutionary (insurgency) experts in the world. It has been proven beyond an iota of doubt. The trans-national Drealam terrorists need to accept that fact grudgingly at least and note the following saying as well if they have ‘plans’; if they still wish ill-will towards Sri Lanka; if they do not want let bygones be bygones; ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy, Twice Bitten Shy for Life!’
The single most important live-wire or operational commander in the LTTE terrorist outfit with vision, technical training and know-how and tertiary education was none other than Colonel Shankar though Pottu Amman aka Shanmugalingam Sivashankar who gained the notoriety for brutality on own tigers or the smiling tiger aka Suppayya Paramu Thamilselvan though they held military and political highest posts or designations respectively.
There were other charismatic LTTE operational commanders too, like Victor Oscar (VO) Marcelline Fuseless, a very handsome LTTE leader who was said to have been appointed by Prabakaran as the leader of the female tiger wing to attract young female recruits as there would be no sexual misconduct by VO with LTTE women cadres as he was believed to be gay. He was the LTTE Liaison Officer (LO) to South Indian politician Nedumaran during his illegal visit to Wanni.
Victor Oscar was subsequently killed in Adampan in October 1986. After a skirmish he just appeared around a corner of a street, not knowing soldiers might be present. A soldier just opened fire felling him, but they did not know they had just killed Victor Oscar!
It reminds me always how Lt Col Yonatan "Yoni" Netanyahu (March 13, 1946-July 4, 1976) was killed. He was the commander of the elite Israeli army commando task force, from Sayeret Matkal, that mounted the famous and successful rescue mission called ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ at Entebbe, Uganda, the elder brother of current Israeli prime minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu. The Operation Thunderbolt was over, all the hostages had been rescued and they were rejoicing on the Entebbe tarmac then all of a sudden a Ugandan soldier fired at ‘Yoni’ from the control tower fatally wounding him. It was so sad ‘Yoni’ was the only casualty and he was the Task Force Commander. It is also said that ‘Yoni’ was having sex with his wife when he was alerted by telephone to skyjacking and he had stopped immediately what he was ‘doing’ and reported to his unit for a situation update briefing. That is the level of dedication one can expect from true and silent professionals.
Balraj aka Balasegaram Kandiah was another brilliant leader rather the best tactician or strategist ever in the LTTE top rung. He was never trained in a formal ‘military academy’ in Sri Lanka and/or abroad. He was much better than majority of the ones Sri Lankan military has ever had, by the way, some of whom have also undergone advanced training at US Army War College, National Defense College in India or The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Surrey, UK.
Fortunately or unfortunately for Sri Lanka Balraj did not get a formal military training locally or abroad. My goodness, what if he had had! Your guess is as good as mine. Or shall I say Sri Lanka would have been in ‘deep sh**’ for sure.
To be continued….