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Is Muhamalli the Political Graveyard of Mahinda Rajapakse?

by Victor Ragunathan, April 25, 2008

With an urgent need of victory and a morale boost to the security forces in the Mannar front, the GoSL and SLA high command decided the D-Day to push and re-take EP to be none other than the eighth year anniversary of the fall of the EP garrison.

Ever since I wrote a news analysis on the second battle to capture Muhamallai titled “Once Bitten, Twice Shy, Are They Really?” many things have changed.

Firstly, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have given up conventional war fare in the eastern theater and reverted to guerilla warfare. This was perceived by many as a victory for the Sri Lanka Army (SLA)

Photo STR/AFP/Getty Images, courtesy Tamil Guardian

Then the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the LTTE was unilaterally abrogated by Mahinda Rajapakse’s government.  There are multiple undeclared or - in a better term - unnamed operations going on both the Southern and Northern borders of the LTTE-controlled Tamil Homeland in the Vanni sector. Of the many offensive operations undertaken by the GoSL other than “Operation Madhu” to “liberate” the Madhu sanctuary from the LTTE-controlled area, Muhamallai stands out in the history as it has seen four bloody battles arguably the place that has seen multiple and most bloody battles than any single town or village in the history of the Eelam war.

First battle

After losing the Elephant Pass (EP) garrison to the LTTE’s operation Unceasing Waves 3, then defense secretary and the self-promoted Colonel Anurudha Rathwatha started Operation Agnikehala with fanfare to capture the EP base just before the general election. It turned out to be one of the bloodiest, shortest and costliest battles for SLA . It left over 400 SLA dead and over 1000 injured in a span of 4-6 hours of fight. It turned out to be the last major offensive undertaken by the SLA before the signing of the CFA. This operation was planned purely for political mileage for then President Chandrika Bandaranayke Kumaratunga (CBK). It was not only a costly battle in terms of men and material for the SLA, but it was a costly battle for her political career. 

Second battle

In 2006, when both the GoSL and LTTE were asked to conduct negotiations in Geneva, the GoSL needed a quick victory to be in the driver's seat. Then again, the Army Commander Sarath Fonseka chose Muhamallai as the battleground. A well-prepared and well-entrenched LTTE expected such a move and confronted the elite forces of the SLA’s commando unit from the 55 Division in their own den.  In this few hours of battle the SLA lost nearly 250-300 elite commandos and removed nearly 800 of injured. Yet again, it was a politically motivated war with disastrous consequences. The LTTE handed over nearly 75 bodies of the SLA to the ICRC. Later in an interview to a Colombo news daily, Commander of the SLA General Sarath Fonseka conceded that this operation was a total failure and the casualty figures given at that time was half of the original numbers.

Third battle

In November 2007, when parliament was in session for the budget reading, the Government needed a quick victory to woo the ultranationalist Marxists to their side for the voting. Like in the SLFP convention in 2006, where Mahinda Rajapakse (MR) has reportedly given the first word that “We have Sampoor.”, he was planning on uttering the words, “We have EP.” Yet again, nearly 30 of the young SLA soldiers sacrificed their lives for the sake of MR’s political game. Here again, once bitten twice shy and three times any lessons?

Fourth battle

 As Eelam War 4 has entered a decisive phase, the SLA have attempted to break the will of the LTTE and Tamils who support the freedom of their homeland. They have played all sorts of dirty games, from extrajudicial killing and abductions to number games with bloated figures of LTTE casualties.

With the long-drawn-out military campaign to capture Madhu Sanctuary and parts of Mannar with few notable breakthroughs and sagging morale from the armed forces, battle fatigue and increasing desertions, the GoSL and SLA’s high command needed a quick victory. Besides this militaristic standpoint, MR needs a quick victory as his party is contesting in the Provincial Council elections in the East. MR’s expected victory in the Madhu area was snatched with a stroke of decision to remove the sacred stature of Our Lady of Rosary. The Holy land becomes hollow land with her joining the people who cared for her deep inside the LTTE-controlled territory.

With the assassination of Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, his trusted lieutenant, the removal of the holy stature from the holy land, and with no notable military victory to show the eastern voters that they are winning the war, MR needed a quick victory.

Both the SLA’s 53rd and 55th divisions have been preparing for the last few months for a land and amphibian assault on the LTTE-controlled territory. and some of them are night time operations.  In fact, they felt well prepared and well equipped with the newly formed Mechanized Infantry Division to capture both Elephant Pass and Poonagari.

With an urgent need of victory and a morale boost to the security forces in the Mannar front, the GoSL and SLA high command decided the D-Day to push and re-take EP to be none other than the eighth year anniversary of the fall of the EP garrison.

This battle, unlike the other battles, was started by a well prepared, well tested and well equipped elite commando unit (the air mobile brigade) of the whole SLA. The brigade was considered the best of the best in the SLA.

With over ten hours of intense fight, over 200 youths (nearly 175 of the SLA and 25 of the LTTE) made the supreme sacrifice in the land called Muhamalli. I call this the Battle of Muhamalli.

When we look at World War II, the Battle of Stalingrad was considered the turning point for Nazi Germany. It was the beginning of the end for Adolph Hitler and his relentless journey to conquer his world.

the Battle of Muhamalli is certainly the beginning of the end to MR’s quest to conqueur the Tamil Homeland. It will certainly be his Political graveyard. The Battle is just over, but the effects will reverberate in the coming days. By hook or by crock, he and his allies may win the Eastern Polls, but this battle will write the beginning of the end of his ambitious political career.

Mr. President, once bitten, twice shy, third time a lesson and fourth time dug your grave.

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