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Will Kilinochchi be the Stalingrad of Eelam War 4?

by S. Makenthiran, April 13, 2008

The Tamil Tigers have two constraints – manpower and supplies. If they overcome these two constraints, the fate of the Sri Lankan army is sealed. Even if the Singhalese army reaches Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass and Mullaitivu, the Tamil Tigers can carry out guerilla attacks indefinitely.  The ambushes at Thoppikal and Muhamalai are a warning of things to come.

At the beginning of this year 2008, I wrote an article “What the year 2008 holds for the people of Sri Lanka.” It is relevant now in mid year, to take stock of the present civil war situation. Singhalese chauvinists are raving over the ‘defeat’ of the Tamil Tigers, and the successful ‘liberation’ of the Eelam Tamils. The East has been subjugated by the Sri Lankan armed forces and a puppet administration established under Pillayan with a Singhalese governor wielding most of the powers.  The Mannar district is claimed to have been ‘liberated’ and  the Sri Lankan army is said to be within sight of Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass and Mullaitivu, the last Tamil Tiger strongholds.

In the ‘liberated’ East, the Tamil Tigers have carried out guerilla attacks culminating in the claymore mine attack on the army in Thoppikal [ Kudumbimalai], killing 24 soldiers and wounding five.  This is denied by the Sri Lankan government.  The return of Karuna to Sri Lanka from a UK jail can have unforeseen consequences for Pillayan’s provincial government in the long run. In the short run, Karuna is lying low out of necessity, but he is not going to forget Pillayan, his one-time second in command, for usurping his position. It is a revolt within a revolt. The Muslims and Hisbullah are also grinning and bearing the Pillayan administration. The Rajapkse government is spending large sums of money to keep the lid on the boiling East. We have to wait and see what will happen in the future in the East.

In the North, the Army was stuck at the Mannar border for many months. Suddenly, it has advanced within a few days deep into the Tamil Tiger homeland and occupied Iluppaikadavai and Vavunikulam, thereby bringing Mannar District under its control. The chauvinist Singhalese are jubilant and claim that Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass and Mullaitivu are within sight and Eelam War 4 is nearing completion.

Some of the reputed  international media even claimed gullibly, that the Sri Lankan army had victoriously entered Kilinochchi, and that they were looking for Prabaharan who is hiding there. Such is blissful ignorance and the effect of Sri Lankan propaganda.  President Rajapakse also thundered that he will force Prabaharan to kneel before him. Eelam Tamils know one thing with certainty.  Prabaharan  is not the type of man to surrender or be taken alive by the Sri Lankan army to enable this wishful thinking to materialise.

It is apparent that the Sri Lankan government is spending large sums of money to spread anti-LTTE and anti-Tamil propaganda among the international community, not without success. In the process, there are very few neutral powers left that can mediate a peaceful solution to the civil conflict.  There are an army of  journalists such as Mahindapala, Dayan Jayatileke, Dushy Ranatunga, Walter Jayawradena, Daya Gamage,  etc. serving the cause of the Sri Lankan government to influence international opinion on the civil war.

In the propaganda war, there have been ridiculous reports by anti-Tamil media that Prabaharan is long dead, that his leg has been amputated in Kerala, that his daughter held her birthday party in the U.K., that he is planning to flee Eelam, and so on.  According to figures published by the pro-government media and the Sri Lankan army commander Sarath Fonseka, they have killed more Tigers than the number of total LTTE  fighters. These sources have lost all credibility. Rambukwela has outdone Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief.

Anti-LTTE  media, including Asian Tribune and Tamil Week, who make it appear that they have inside information, have reported that the Sri Lankan army has brilliantly outmaneuvered the Tigers by infiltrating and penetrating their defences with pinzer movements and trapping them.  They report that the Tigers are a spent force and are no match for the Sri Lankan army.  Tamil Week went to the extent of expressing a strange opinion that the army is at an advantage in the jungle terrain. It is generally presumed that jungle terrain is more favourable for lightly armed guerilla fighters than for heavily armed conventional armies.

As guessed by me, the Sri Lankan army has chosen to advance through the A32 highway along the North West coast line.  They did not advance along the A9 highway as was done in the disastrous Jayasikuru operation.  The pro-Tamil media opine that Tamil Tigers have enticed the Singhalese army into the Tiger den to trap them and annihilate them.  Though it is premature to come to conclusions, there are persistent reports in recent weeks, of successful counter-attacks, and ambushes by the Tamil Tigers, inflicting heavy casualties on the advancing Singhalese army. The Sri Lankan government has prevented journalists from reporting anything about these attacks.

There is no hope of a ceasefire or peace talks as President Rajapakse wants the LTTE to surrender arms, and accept a unitary  form of government. Prime Minister Ratnasri Wickremanayake wants ‘terrorism’ eradicated before peace talks. None of these will happen.  We are in for a long haul.

Bruce Fein, an American Lawyer is pursuing action to get Sarath Fonseka, the Sri Lankan army commander, Gothabaya Rajapakse and Basil Fonseka, who are President Rajapakse’s brothers, all of whom who are residents or citizens of the USA, to be prosecuted as war criminals.

Sri Lanka is financially bankrupt. Inflation is at a high of 28 %. War expenditure has escalated.  Prices have rocketed.   Tourism is down. The EU is threatening to stop the preferential treatment for the Sri Lankan garment industry. Tamils are displaced and suffering.  The Singhalese common man is also suffering. About 18,000 men are reported to have deserted from the military.

Streetfighting in Stalingrad (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse has declared publicly that the Sri Lankan army will capture Kilinochchi by the end of this year.  The army commander Sarath Fonseka had also promised to win the war before he retires towards the end of this year. The lessons of the past and happenings in other parts of the world have not made the Singhalese leaders wiser.  The debacles of Jayasikuru, Agni Kela and the two subsequent forays into Muhamalai have not allowed them to learn from the past.  It is reported that a Tiger Deep Penetration Unit killed 21 soldiers at Muhamalai today.

Are the Sri Lankan forces advancing in Vanni, or are they getting bogged down in a fatal quagmire?   I am skeptical about the sudden advance of the army after the occupation of  Vidataltivu. Military analysts will ponder how it took about an year to advance from Mannar to Vidattaltivu,  but only a few days to reach Iluppaikadavai and Vavunikulam.  Are they reaching a point of no return ?

The Tamil Tigers have two constraints – manpower and supplies. If they overcome these two constraints, the fate of the Sri Lankan army is sealed. Even if the Singhalese army reaches Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass and Mullaitivu, the Tamil Tigers can carry out guerilla attacks indefinitely.  The ambushes at Thoppikal and Muhamalai are a warning of things to come.

By the end of the year 2008, we will know whether the Eelam War 4 has been won by the Sri Lankan armed forces, enabling the Rajapakse government to dictate their terms to the Tamils or whether at Kilinochchi they will meet with the ‘Stalingrad’ of Eelam War 4.  Readers will be aware how during World War 2, the mighty Nazi army  crashed through Russia's vast land and defences up to Stalingrad, Moscow and Leningrad till their massive surrender and their general, Von Paulas at Stalingrad, resulting in the routing of Hitler’s  mighty military machine.  The mighty Nazi army was at the suburbs of Moscow and Leningrad, but failed miserably to capture them.  The mightiest army of the time was defeated due to the fact that they were spread throughout Europe and Russia and a severe winter arrived.

It is difficult to foresee the future of  the civil war. The Sri Lankan government is running the risk of bankruptcy. They want to prosecute the war to the bitter end, even if it means the ruin of the Singhalese.  Let us wait and see till the end of the current year the outcome of the undeclared Eelam War 4.

On the international front, Tamil Nadu is getting agitated over the killings of the Eelam Tamils, and the Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan army and navy.  Action is being filed in the Indian Supreme Court to declare the cession of Kachativu by the Indian government to Sri Lanka as void. A change of government in India can result in India enforcing a Cyprus or Georgia type of situation.  Any peace talks should involve the Tamils of Tamil Nadu as an interested party. Any solution to the Sri Lankan ethnic problem should satisfy the Eelam Tamils and Tamils of Tamil Nadu as much  as the Singhalese.  The Singhalese cannot decide the destiny of Eelam.