Eelam war – again
Subjected to continuous outbursts by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), such as, “This is the last chance we give you. If you fail, we are prepared to wage war”, Anton Balasingham warned the Sri Lankan Government of impending disaster. Unfortunately, it failed to take adequate measures to prevent the situation from deteriorating and this resulted in the outbreak of war – the second Eelam war. This situation developed after the Minister of State for Defense, considered to be the most powerful minister, Ranjan Wijeratne, suddenly demanded that the LTTE lay down its arms. It was reported that the Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabakaran was totally disgusted with the approach of the Government and was waiting for an opportunity to resume war.
Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa continued to drag his feet on the dissolution of the Northeast Provincial Council, as well as on the issue of repealing the Sixth Amendment to the constitution. The President further compounded the problem by initiating and negotiating with the EPRLF and other non-LTTE Tamil groups. The Sinhalese parties also urged the Government to prevent the Northeast Provincial Council coming under the control of the LTTE. The opposition political parties carried out an intensive campaign against the LTTE and the Government. They intensified their campaign, demanding that the Northeast Provincial Council should not be given to the LTTE, and also that President Premadasa was betraying the Sinhala-Buddhist sector, and they vociferously called on the Government to disarm the LTTE.
The Sri Lankan military encamped in Batticaloa and in other parts of Jaffna, too, resented being confined to base. Tension between the LTTE and the army began to increase in the latter part of May 1990 and culminated in the early part of June. During this period, the army found to their utter dismay that the LTTE was constructing bunkers and implementing other defense measures close to their camps. When this matter was brought to the notice of the Defense Ministry, instructions were given for them to carry on as before – to eat and sleep inside the camps without interfering with the LTTE.
One noteworthy incident took place close to an army camp in Batticaloa in the first week of June. The army arrested two LTTE cadres and they were ordered to kneel on the road opposite their camp in the scorching sun for over six hours, amid bantering and other sorts of humiliation from the watching army personnel. One LTTE cadre bit his cyanide vial and died. Subsequently, the other was beaten and sent away. Incidents of this nature were reported to the LTTE leaders in Jaffna and they served to inflame the LTTE. Meanwhile, Sinhala and English newspapers in Colombo began to unleash a venomous campaign against the LTTE and against the Government for being soft with them.
The army, having quelled the JVP (Janata Vimukthi Perumuna) uprising in the south, was proud of its achievements. Similarly, the LTTE, which took on the mighty Indian army and which had been engaged in the duel for 20 long torturous months, was celebrating the final departure of the Indian army, so they were equally proud of their achievements. Gradually, tension began to mount between the LTTE and the army.
On June 7, a group of army personnel proceeding by vehicle from Vavuniya to Mullaithievu were fired on by the LTTE at Thandikulam. One soldier was killed and nine were injured. According to reports, the soldiers from the Gajabahu regiment did not retaliate, instead they complained of the incident to the authorities. They received instructions that the troops must be patient and not retaliate against the LTTE.
While these incidents were taking place, the indomitable Shahul Hemeed, the Government’s chief negotiator, was in Jaffna. Hameed flew to Jaffna with his delegation on June 7 and had discussions with the LTTE in a house just behind the Nallur Kandaswamy temple, Jaffna.
On June 10, 1990, in one fateful incident, a Muslim youth was found in a compromising position with a Sinhala woman, in a refugee camp in Batticaloa town. The enraged husband assaulted the youth before taking him to the police, who locked him up and tortured him.
The police were not aware that the arrested Muslim was a tailor, and that he stitched the uniforms of the LTTE. At about 9.30 in the evening armed LTTE cadres arrived at the police station, alleging that the police had assaulted the Muslim youth. The cadres demanded his release. The LTTE were told that the youth had been sent to hospital, but the LTTE did not believe this and they abducted two Tamil policemen who were on sentry duty outside. They also threatened that all the policemen in the station would be chased out if the tailor was not released immediately.
On the following day, at 6 am, LTTE cadres surrounded the Batticaloa police station and abducted three armed policemen. An hour later, nearly 250 armed LTTE cadres surrounded the station and occupied it. On the orders of the LTTE, the Sinhala policemen and their families were sent to the airport, where they were accommodated at the air force base. The Tamil policemen and their families left for St Mary’s Church in Batticaloa town. The acting Officer-in-Charge and four other policemen were detained. The LTTE also removed Rs 45,000,000 in cash, gold jewelry and a cache of firearms: 109 T 56 rifles; 77 T 84 S rifles; 28 light machine guns; 29 self-loading rifles; 65 sub machine guns; 78 .303 rifles and 78 SAR 80 guns.
On June 11, the Tigers ordered police personnel in the Eastern province to vacate all police stations with their families by 2.30 pm, or face the consequences. The information available was that police headquarters in Colombo instructed the policemen to surrender to the LTTE. But by noon hundreds of policemen and their families had streamed into security force camps and air force camps. In Batticaloa, the Tigers arranged refugee accommodation for Tamil policemen in a nearby school. Sinhalese refugees were taken to air force bases.
Meanwhile, a total of 899 police personnel were abducted by the LTTE. About 125 of them escaped from the LTTE. Subsequently it became clear that almost all the policemen had been killed by the Tigers in cold blood. They were lined up and shot with their hands tied behind. Assistant Superintendent of Police Ivan Boteju refused to surrender and kept on fighting the LTTE, until he was ordered to surrender. Police officers laid down their arms after being promised safe conduct and subsequent release.
In the Kalmunai area, a large number of policemen who had surrendered were driven off to an undisclosed destination. On 17 June newspapers quoted Ranaweera, a policemen who escaped with injuries, as saying that he and 113 of his colleagues from the Kalmunai police station has been lined up and shot at. The fact the there had been resistance in Kalmunai, together with Tiger casualties, may have influenced the conduct of the Tigers. This in turn would have influenced the conduct of the army when it re-occupied Kalmunai.
At Kalmunai, the Tigers engaged an army convoy, killing 10 soldiers. At Kalmunai and Kalawnachikudi police stations, fierce fighting raged before the policemen surrendered. At Kalmunai, eight policemen were reported killed. The LTTE also suffered casualties – two killed and 17 injured, according to reports.
Most police stations appeared to have surrendered without a fight. By the end of the day, the Tigers were in control of a number of stations, including Batticaloa, Vellaveli, Kalmunai, Valachenai, Kalawnchikudi, Samanthurai, Eravur and Akkarapattu.
According to reports, 324 of the police officers who surrendered were Sinhalese and Muslims and they were taken to the jungle in Tirukovil, blindfolded, their hands tied behind, made to lie down on the ground and shot. It became known that the LTTE abducted and killed about 600 Sinhalese and Muslim police officers from Batticaloa and Amparai districts. A further 78 were abducted from the Trincomalee district and murdered.
The LTTE cadres also stormed stations in the Jaffna district and ordered the policemen to leave, at stations at Kankesanthurai, Valvetiturai, Point Pedro, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Murunkan. On the same evening, the LTTE launched an attack on an army detachment at Vallavadi in Amparai. The army retaliated. Due to heavy LTTE fire, the navy evacuated the troops and Sinhala fishermen to Trincomalee. Also, a detachment at Kalwanchikudi was attacked. The Sri Lankan air force was summoned and planes fired at the attacking LTTE cadres. Three soldiers were killed due to LTTE fire. Similarly, a detachment at Kalmunai came under fire. Air and artillery fire support was made available. Two soldiers were killed in the attack.
On June 12, A C S Hameed, the chairman of the North-East Peace Committee, had planned to meet to meet LTTE leaders for another round of talks. Subsequently, on two occasions, June 13 and 16, ceasefires were agreed between the LTTE and Hameed. Both these ceasefire agreements, broke down shortly.
The ceasefire was arranged over the telephone at midday on June 13. The LTTE subsequently alleged that the Government did not maintain the ceasefire, while the Government claimed that the LTTE ignored the ceasefire regulations.
On the same day, the Minister of State for Defence, a planter turned politician, Ranjan Wijeratne, said from the floor of parliament, “Mr. Prabakaran has done Perumal. Perumal had to leave the country. I wish the same to Prabakaran.” He further added, “No person in this country, whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, will be allowed to establish a dictatorship in any part of this country, through the power of the gun. We shall meet this situation head-on if it come to that.”
Wijeratne emphasized, “It is not a party business” and he asked for the cooperation of all and he described it as, “a matter of national importance”. He further said, “All communities must be united. There are Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims here. This is not a fight against Tamils. This is a fight against criminals. There is no half way house with me. Now I am going all out for the LTTE. We will annihilate them.” It was said that Ranjan Wijeratne reflected the mood of the country when he spoke in parliament.
Nine policemen were abducted from a post at Mullaithievu town on June 13. Jeyakumaran, the Assistant Superintendent of Police and Jeyakumar, the Headquarter Inspector of Police, Mullaithievu, went to negotiate with the LTTE, but they too were detained. On the same day, the LTTE removed firearms, vehicles and radio equipment from the old police station at Vavuniya.
On June 14, the army detachment at Kilinochchi came under heavy attack. Troops fought effectively with artillery and air support. On the same day, around midnight, the LTTE attacked an army detachment at Thalaimannar old pier. Seven soldiers were killed and 11 reported missing. Also, the LTTE attacked a mobile army patrol sent out from Vavuniya, at Marathanamadu, on June 15. In the battle, five soldiers were killed and the driver of the vehicle reported missing.
On June 14, the LTTE captured the police stations at Mankulam and Odduchuddan. The LTTE continued to attack Jaffna Fort and encircled the Northern Security Forces Headquarters, the Military Complex at Palaly.
When the war broke out, the LTTE delegation was still in Colombo. It was lodged at the Hilton Hotel, with high security provided by a Special Task Force (STF) of the police. The Government took immediate action to transfer the LTTE delegation comprising Jude – the LTTE communication specialist – Lalith and Lawrence, two military wing cadres, to an camp at Kalutura. A few days later, this delegation was escorted to Ratmalana airport to be flown to Jaffna. The chief government negotiator told the Police that the bags and luggage of the LTTE delegates should not be searched. A small Cessna aircraft with passenger capacity of five persons, including the pilot, was arranged for the LTTE team to leave for Jaffna. The pilot requested the weapons of the LTTE for safe-keeping and said that he would return them after landing in Jaffna. The LTTE cadres refused and demanded to speak to Hameed.
By this time, the atmosphere at Ratmalana airport had became very tense. The families of the armed forces who had died in the East were at the airport to receive the bodies of their loved ones, as well as those injured in the military campaign against the LTTE. When some of the army personnel saw the LTTE men and those protecting them, they became angry. When the time to leave came, the airplane was not big enough to take the men and their luggage.
According to Major General Munasinghe, in his book A Soldiers Version, “The LTTE radio operator [Jude] had a message from Prabakaran, ‘Whatever happens, ensure that the money offered is brought with you.” – page 101
Subsequently, a decision was taken to change for a bigger aircraft and the luggage, bags and boxes of the LTTE were loaded into a Y-12 aircraft, which was used to transport troops as well as dead bodies. The two pilots of the aircraft insisted that they would only fly if the LTTE cadres handed over their weapons. The three LTTE men did so, to Eric Perera, the intelligence officer who was escorting them and the aircraft departed to Jaffna with three air force gunners and one air force officer. By the time they arrived at Palaly airport in the evening, LTTE armed cadres had encircled the airport with bulldozers and also surrounded the Sri Lankan army camp. Clearance was given for the aircraft to land and Kannan of the LTTE received the cadres.
On June 15, the LTTE attacked the police stations at Elephant Pass in the Jaffna district and Mud Cove in the Trincomalee district. Also, the LTTE attacked army camps at Elephant Pass, Muttur, Kinniya, Kiran, Kaluwanchikudy, and the central camps at Amparai and Talaimannr in Mannar district. In the meantime, Hameed flew again to Jaffna for further negotiations. He met Anton Balasingham in Nallur. That evening, Hameed flew back to Colombo and met President Premadasa and took up several issues raised by the LTTE during the Nallur talks. Again, on June 16, Hameed flew back to Jaffna to continue the negotiations with the Tigers, but was unable to meet them on that day or thereafter as LTTE fire was directed towards Palaly and Jaffna Fort.
It was reported that Hameed returned from Colombo on June 16 to seek assurances and guarantees from the LTTE leadership that they would cease all hostilities and release the 850 police personnel in their captivity and return all arms and ammunitions captured from the police stations and other government security bases. The LTTE agreed to halt the war, but the fighting erupted on the following day.
When, on June 11, 1990, the LTTE broke the ceasefire it had entered into with the Government in June 1989, the army camps on the mainland Northern Province including Kokavil, Mankulam in the Mullaithievu district and Killinochchi and camps west of Mankulam, which included Kondachchi and Silavathurai, were abandoned, leaving the army with detachments at Mullaithievu, Mannar, Elephant Pass, Pooneryn, Vettilaikerni, Idaikadu, Jaffna Fort and Palaly, and also those of Weli-Oya and later Kankesanthurai, and the islands located off the Jaffna Peninsula. The LTTE gained control of a vast track of the Northern Province. Also, the LTTE thus managed to cut off the land route to Jaffna Peninsula, this resulted in supplies and men having to be transported to army bases either by sea or air.
The sea route became difficult for the Government when the LTTE formed the Sea Tigers, a version of the LTTE’s navy, which began to sink and steal Sri Lankan supply and naval boats and ships. When a large tract of land in the Northern Province came under the LTTE, they managed to set up a parallel administration in the region. They established their own police force, judiciary, prison, public service, immigration and tax collecting departments. Heads of all these departments were military-trained LTTE cadres, who owed allegiance to the LTTE supremo, who was also their Commander in Chief. The officers attached to this government took orders from the LTTE leaders mostly out of fear for their lives.
Meanwhile, up to date, the LTTE has not come forward to explain why it had launched a full scale military campaign from June 11. The exact reasons for the resumption of hostilities, the launching of Eelam War-2 had not been fully and officially explained by the LTTE. Similarly, the Government failed to come up with an official explanation as to why Earnest Perera, the Inspector General of Police, instructed police in the Eastern Province to surrender to the LTTE. The country had only heard rumors that Perera had acted on the orders and instructions of Hameed. According to police records, nearly 1,000 policemen surrendered to the LTTE and 630 were still missing.
Unfortunately, to date, the Sri Lankan Government has failed to institute an inquiry into this incident. This reflects that the Government did not wish its weaknesses to be exposed. Someone, somewhere felt that it was a grave mistake to have asked the policemen, the law enforcing authorities, to surrender to a militant organization, who in no way constituted a part of the Governmental machinery. The serious lapse on the part of the government and its leaders, including the President, reflects that they had abused their authority and also failed to bring justice to the families of the policemen killed by extra-judicial means.
Adele Ann Balasingham in her Women Fighters of Tamil Eelam writes, “The talks between Premadasa’s regime and the Tamil Tigers – which started with positive hopes – ran into serious difficulties by the intransigent attitude of the Government. As the Government refused to offer any substantial proposals to offer to resolve the basic issues, the talks dragged on without any concrete results. President Premadasa was primarily concerned with the evacuation of the Indian occupation army. The presence of the Indian army had sparked off widespread violence in the South, instigated and organized by the JVP (Janata Vimukthi Perumuna).
“During the withdrawal of the IPKF, Premadasa’s Government ruthlessly suppressed the Sinhala militant organization, slaughtering thousands of radical Sinhala youth. The successful extermination of the JVP made the Government and the Sri Lankan military apparatus over-confident and belligerent. Premadasa deliberately undermined the direct dialogue between the LTTE and the Government by promoting the so-called ‘All-Party Conference’ with anti-LTTE Tamil groups and by advocating a ‘consensus’ approach. The Sri Lankan armed forces, on the other side, adopted a bellicose attitude towards the Tigers which sparked off several nasty skirmishes and confrontation between the Sinhala soldiers and the LTTE. The hostilities finally broke out into a full-fledge war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army on the June 10, 1990.” – pages 67-68.
It was astonishing as to how the LTTE, which was considered an urban guerilla outfit, had changed into a conventional army able to withstand the Sri Lankan army and fight a conventional war. S L Gunasekera, who was a member of the Government delegation to the Thimpu talks in Bhutan 1995 and who opposed the Indo-Sri Lankan accord, wrote in his bookTigers, Moderates and Pandora’s Package, “Never at any time before the Premadasa peace talks had the LTTE been able to make a frontal attack on the fortified or defended army camp nor to sink or steal a naval ship or gunboat; nor did it have any mastery over the East; nor the strength nor capacity to run a parallel administration or government in the North where it was strongest. The opportunities given to it by the Premadasa peace talks changed all.
“The intense preparation of the LTTE was enabled during the Premadasa peace talks and saw the LTTE being transferred from a purely guerrilla force capable at the most of murdering civilians, ambushes and hit and run attacks on the army, sabotage and destruction of Government property, and over-running police stations, into a well equipped conventional fighting force with ‘infantry battalion’ and improvised ‘amour’ capable of over-running even company and battalion strength camps of our army, as well as with a ‘navy’ named the ‘Sea Tigers’ capable of sinking our ships and even stealing our gun boats.” – pages 100-101.
The Sunday Observer of June 17 quoted President Premadasa as having said in a speech that the Tigers would face the JVP’s fate. The same issue in its leading news item filed by a special correspondent from London claimed that the LTTE’s strategists had met in London to draw up a master plan to destabilize Sri Lanka. Kittu was listed as one of the strategists who participated. The plan was obviously an invention on the Observer’s part to create war hysteria. According to this plan, journalists were not to be encouraged to visit those parts where the LTTE had gone into action. Anyone who knows the LTTE should realize that that they were far more sophisticated at using media. Meanwhile, six LTTE gunmen stormed into an apartment in the Zakariya Colony in Kodambakam, Madras, India, with grenades and gunfire to attack and kill K Patmanabah, the EPRLF Secretary General, V Yogasangari, a Member of Parliament, P Kirubakaran, the former finance minister of the defunct North-East Provincial Government and 10 others. On June 19, the EPRLF central committee meeting was held at an apartment at the Zakariya colony. Lingan, Dharman and Jessinda were present.
It was said that Pottu Amman, the fearsome LTTE intelligence leader, worked out a plot in Jaffna in February 1990 to get rid of the EPRLF leadership. Therefore, on his instructions, one Chinna Santhan traveled to Madras and joined an engineering technology institute near the flat where the EPRLF leaders lived. It was further alleged that a group of men then arrived in Tamil Nadu on June 10, 1990 and were directed by Santhan to the flat, where they used AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades to attack the leaders.
Patmanabah was among those killed, as was Yogasankari, the Member of Parliament. A total of 13 EPRLF members and two local Indians died in the attack. Santhan left the scene with the assailants, who fled by car to Pillayar Thidal village in Thanjavur district, and the next day they escaped in a boat to Jaffna.
The LTTE anger at the EPRLF was because it backed the Indian-Sri Lanka accord. Furthermore, the EPRLF ignored the LTTE’s call to boycott the North-Eastern Provincial Council elections in 1988. Subsequently, the EPRLF won the elections and formed the North-East Provincial Government, along with the Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) led by Paranthan Rajan, alias Gnanasekaran. After the Indian forces pulled out of Sri Lanka on March 24, 1990, the North-Eastern Provincial Council collapsed and the EPRLF leaders fled to India.
The surviving EPRLF leaders nominated K Premachandra, alias Suresh, the Member of Parliament for the Jaffna district, as their new Secretary General. It was alleged that the Tamil Nadu state government under the DMK leader M Karunanidhi hampered the investigations and prevented the arrest of the killers. No arrests were made until the tenure of Karunanidhi as the Chief Minister.
The army camp at Jaffna Fort came under LTTE attack on June 19. It had been built by the Dutch and stood as a monument to alien domination. It was situated on the northern coast of Jaffna near the Pannai causeway that linked the Jaffna peninsula with the islands of Mandathievu and Kayts (Ootkavalthurai). The troops manning it regularly launched mortar and artillery attacks on civilian targets, and very often the general hospital of Jaffna, just a short distance from the fort, also came under army fire.
The attack on Jaffna Fort continued for several weeks. LTTE fighters used earth-moving vehicles and heavy fire to break through the main entrance and amour-plated bucket scrapers and ladders to climb the ramparts. Troops and policemen inside repulsed the attacks and the air force caused causalities among the Tigers as well as civilians. Machetti bombers, civilian aircraft and helicopter gunships were utilized to pound the areas surrounding the fort to break the siege
The position of the besieged soldiers inside the fort became dire. Sri Lanka’s Northern Armed Forces led by Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa became aware of the fact that at any given moment the fort would fall into the hands of the Tigers. Therefore, on September 13 the Sri Lankan armed forces launched a massive combined operation to dislodge the siege. Nearly 400 troops with the assistance of the air force and the navy mounted an operation from Mandathievu island to destroy the LTTE’s positions, which were pounded by a barrage of bombs and artillery. Fierce fighting erupted when the Sri Lankan troops attempted a sea-borne landing across Jaffna lagoon. This spelt disaster for the Sri Lankan forces as the LTTE destroyed several naval craft and scores of soldiers were killed.
Earlier, the Sri Lankan armed forces in the north, which were under the command of Kobbekaduwa, on July 12 launched “Operation Thrivida Balaya”. This had succeeded in strengthening the Karainagar naval base by capturing the islands of Kayts (Oorkavalthurai) and Mandathievu. The troops trapped inside Jaffna Fort suffered without adequate food, replenishment of ammunition and proper medical treatment. But after great efforts Squadron Leader Lasantha Waidyaratne managed to evacuate the causalities in a daring operation code-named “Operation Eagle”. Subsequently, two more battalions and a Special Forces regiment joined in to evacuate the trapped forces. They rescued 210 service personnel, including over 100 policemen. Besides the men, it was reported that the troops managed to save valuable military equipment and about 1,000 enemy weapons and 600,000 rounds of ammunition, cash and gold belonging to the state banks.
According to Adele Balasingham in her The Will to Freedom: “After a protracted siege the Jaffna Fort eventually fell to the LTTE fighters on September 26, the anniversary of Thileepan’s death. The siege lasted for 107 days, with supply lines effectively cut off Sri Lankan troops holed up inside the Fort faced the possibility of slow death by starvation. Finally the Sri Lankan army launched a covert operation at night and secured the withdrawal of the troops through an underground tunnel leading to the Jaffna lagoon shore at the rear of the fortification.” – pages 266-267.
The crushing defeat of the Sri Lankan armed forces became the important determining factor in the Government’s decision to abandon the Jaffna Fort. According to the Sri Lankan army’s report, nearly 400 LTTE cadres were killed and 41 Sri Lankan troops killed and four reported missing. According to LTTE reports it shot down one Machetti bomber aircraft and destroyed several naval craft. Due to the aerial bombing, several hundred houses around the fort were destroyed.
On October 01 air force fighters bombed Jaffna Fort and dislodged the LTTE Tiger flag that had been hoisted. Ranjan Wijeratne, the Minister of State for Defense, told the press that the LTTE had no right to raise their flag as they did not capture the fort. He added that if they hoisted it again he will order the air force to dislodged it.
While the flag issue became one of prestige, the LTTE destroyed several buildings of archeological value inside the fort, including the King’s House and an Old Dutch church. An LTTE spokesman justified their acts by saying that the walls and buildings symbolized colonial repression. After the fall of Jaffna Fort the Sri Lankan armed forces began to strengthen their Palaly military complex. Palaly, with an army camp, runway and port located nearby was strategically important for military operations in the Jaffna Peninsula. With the outbreak of war, the Sri Lankan armed services high command turned their attention to secure the Palaly complex from possible attacks by the LTTE.
To add insult to injury, LTTE cadres had taken up positions outside the complex ever since the outbreak of hostilities, bringing the camp under virtual siege. Thus troops were restricted within the camp and the base was effectively cut off from Kankesanthurai port. At the same time, the airport runway was well within the range of the mortar and artillery fire of the LTTE. Thus, the army launched “Operation Jayasakthi” to clear the areas immediately outside Palaly base and Kankesanthurai port. Troops of the 3rd Battalion Light Infantry, 4th Battalion, “Sinha Regiment” and 6th Battalion “Gajaba” Regiment were involved. The area has been the scene of many furious confrontations. Following the collapse of the fort, the armed forces launched a multi-pronged thrust and pushed through Vasavilan to occupy a large residential area and establish it within the perimeters of the army complex. Northwards, in the coastal direction, they succeeded in pushing back the LTTE sentry points to link up Palaly roadway with the vital coastal village and sea port of Kankesanthurai. According to a Sri Lankan Government report, the army destroyed many LTTE bunkers in Operation Jayasakthi. Also it was reported that the army killed nearly 140 LTTE cadres in the operation to secure the Palaly air base and Kankesanthurai harbor. The army, it was reported, lost 24 men during the operation.
Between July 14 and September 31, 1990, the army successfully secured some of the isolated camps in the Northern Province and made arrangements for their protection. In one of the operations, called “Operation Gajasinghe”, the army pulled out its troops from Kilinochchi and strengthened the camp at Elephant Pass, located at the South-Eastern end of Jaffna lagoon and the isthmus that link Jaffna Peninsula and the mainland. It was reported that the army established a temporary camp at Paranthan, located north of Paranthan junction, especially for the purpose of obtaining fresh water. It was further reported that the 5th Battalion of the “Gemunu Watch” and the 6th Battalion of the “Gajaba Regiment” carried out this operation in which 68 LTTE cadres were killed, and on the Sri Lankan side 15 soldiers died and 42 were seriously wounded.
Furthermore, in Mullaithievu, the army camp was under constant siege by the LTTE. The army, with the view to expand the camp to include Mullaithievu town, launched “Operation Sea Breeze”. The Government reported after the successful completion of the operation that the LTTE lost 75 men and the army lost eight soldiers. Finally the armed forces launched “Operation Tiger Hunt” in the Periyavilankulam area north of Vavuniya, and the LTTE were cleared.
S L Gunasekera in his Tigers, Moderates and Pandora’s Packagewrites, “In the immediate aftermath of the peace talks, the LTTE laid a nine-day siege on the Kiran Army camp and attacked it with poison gas (the first of its kind ever seen in this country). – page 101. It seems that Gunasekera’s contention was wrong, because, subsequently, there was no follow-up record to support the use of poison gas.
At Kokkavil, on the A9 highway was located the Rupavahini (Sri Lanka’s national television) relay station. To provide security for it, the army maintained a detachment comprising of two officers and 69 men. Lieutenant Aladeniya was the officer commanding. Also, five civilian employees were attached to the base.
The isolated army camp, located in jungle terrain, had been unsuccessfully attacked by the TELO in 1985. On July 10, 1990, a large number of Tigers armed with sophisticated weapons attacked the Kokkavil army camp and after nearly three days of siege it was overrun. According to a report available, nearly 72 Army personnel were killed and the rest ran for fear through the jungle tracks and showed up at the army detachment at Mankulam. It was also reported that large quantity arms were captured.
Major General Sarath Munasinghe in his A Soldier’s Version writes, “When the camp was about to be overrun, civil mess waiter Dayananda ran towards the jungle behind the army camp and hid under a bush. The pet dog of the camp followed Dayananda. He had observed the terrorists [LTTE] entering the camp premises and setting fire to most of the buildings. Lt Aladeniya had been there until the last moment. The waiter saw about nine injured soldiers thrown into the fire by the terrorists. This waiter and his pet dog joined up with the troops at Mankulam two days later walking through the jungle. The LTTE had mentioned later that this was the best fight put up by the army against the LTTE, at that time. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Aladeniya is held captive by the LTTE and still living. Much later, Aladeniya was awarded the Param Weera Vibushanaya [The highest gallantry award] by the President.” – page 106.
Meanwhile, consequent to the fall of the Kokkavil Camp, on July 12, the Defense Ministry appointed Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa as the General Officer Commanding North and Major General Gerry De Silva was placed with the command of the East. The army was bent on recruiting more Sinhalese youths to meet the threat posed by the LTTE. In Colombo and elsewhere long queues of applicants were seen. Rural Sinhalese youths came forward in hundreds to join. They considered that the joining the army was a way to solve their unemployment problem. The armed forces established new training centers to give crash courses in training and the youths were subsequently deployed to war fronts. Unfortunately, they generally became cannon fodder.
The army then embarked on a spree of killing Tamils in which hundreds died, and it must be noted that nearly all killings of civilians took place when there was no threat to the lives of servicemen. The Tamils thus were at the receiving end not only from the Sri Lanka Government but also from the armed forces. The outbreak of the war after the second week of June 1990 and the collapse of the peace talks ended any remote possibility of peace and stability in the north and east of Sri Lanka. With the resumption of hostilities, the Government under Ranasinhe Premadasa adopted harsh policies and began to subjugate the Tamil civilians to extreme hardship. Premadasa’s administration imposed collective punishment on Tamils by cutting off electricity and telecommunications, thus plunging the Jaffna district into darkness and also isolating the Peninsula. The Government also imposed an economic blockade by banning more than 100 types of food and other essential items from being brought into the region.
Adele Ann (Balasingham) wrote in her Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers that, “The scenario was set for a brutal confrontation between the two powerful combatants. Unlike the previous conflict, the Eelam War 2 is fierce and intense assuming different form at different times, from guerrilla ambushes to direct conventional confrontations, from lightning raids to months of drawn-out battles. The Sri Lankan army used its superior fire-power and relied heavily on combined operations with aerial and naval support. Air strikes, naval bombardment and artillery shelling were blind and reckless, which took a heavy toll of civilians causalities, rather than securing strategic objectives. “The remarkable military genius of the LTTE is to radically change its strategy and tactics to suit the developing military situation and to keep the initiative on its side. As the war developed and expanded to the entire theatre of Northeast, the over-stretched army encountered serious difficulties in holding on to the occupied positions. The LTTE fighters have overrun isolated camps, destroyed military convoys, wiped out defence positions in sudden, sweeping offensive raids. The causalities on the army side began to increase in an unprecedented scale undermining the morale of the forces and transforming the initial euphoria into despair and gloom.” – page 68.
Below is given what the press in Sri Lanka have revealed about the hostilities between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE. The reports clearly reveal the reprisal killings of innocent Tamil civilians undertaken by the security forces. By the middle of July, even if it was not being said openly, it was clear that killing by the state forces had become fairly indiscriminate. The following extract is taken from a press briefing reported in The Island of June 29. The questions are answered by the Minister for Defense, Ranjan Wijeratne and the Defense Secretary, General Ranatunge.
Q: Some journalists on their way to Batticaloa were attacked from the air.
A: The answer was to the effect that there was no way to distinguish foreign faces or to identify whether persons were LTTE or not from the air.
Q: There were 70 mutilated bodies recently found in the Kalmunai area.
A: They must have been killed in combat. There is nothing to deny. That is happening. It was clear from the answers that the fine discrimination and careful identification claimed by the security forces was an illusion.
Earlier in 1988, the LTTE had signed an agreement with Muslims, in Madras, India, between M I M Mohideen on behalf of the Muslim Liberation Front and Sathasivam Krishnakumar alias Kittu, on behalf of the LTTE. Dr Badi-ud-din Mahmud, who was the Minister of Education from 1970-1977, in the last SLFP government and one of the founder members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, was associated with the signing. According to the agreement LTTE agreed to give 33 percent of the land rights to the Muslims in the North-East in return for their goodwill to the LTTE. The full text of the agreement is given as annex at the end of this chapter.
But the LTTE reneged on this agreement in August 1990. On August 3, on a Friday evening, nearly 30 LTTE armed cadres stormed into the Meera Jumma and Hussaniya mosques in Kathankudy in the Eastern province, while Muslims were praying, and killed 120.
Rohan Gunaratna, in his Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka, writes, “The Katthankudy death toll rose to 142. The injured were treated at the Amaparai, Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa and Minneriya hospitals. The attack was planned by Newton, the intelligence chief of the Batticaloa and Amparai districts and led by Ranjith, the Batticaloa town leader of the LTTE. Neelan alias Kanthan (Also involved in the Thambimuthu and Gandhi assassinations and now in Jaffna.) Lakshman, Nitti, Thuraikutti, Bosan, most of them members of the intelligence wing of the LTTE, participated in the attack. The attack continued. Some of the most brutal massacres were staged by the LTTE cadres disguised as Muslims, who infiltrated Muslim villages and attempted to provoke conflict between the security forces and Muslims. The most tragic was the massacre of Muslims who were members of the LTTE, including children of 12 and 13 years of age in the Eastern wing.” – pages 444-445.
The LTTE issued an ultimatum on October 23 that in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaithievu and Vavuniya nearly14,000 Muslim families should leave the north by October 28 and the 20,000 Muslim families who lived in Mannar district by November 1. The LTTE’s instructions were that all gold and valuables should be left at the nearest mosque. Accordingly, the Muslims fled and took refuge in Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Trincomalee. They have, for the past 12 years, lived as refugees in 74 camps in Puttalam and also in Anuradhapura and other parts of the country.
Nearly 100,000 Muslims were evicted forcibly by the LTTE from the five Northern districts in October 1990. They were driven out at gun point, while all their belongings were confiscated by the LTTE cadres. Annexure: In 1988, the LTTE signed an agreement with Muslims, in Madras, India, The Agreement was signed between M I M Mohideen, on behalf of the Muslim Liberation Front and Sathasivam Krishnakumar alias Kittu, on behalf of the LTTE.
Full text of the Tamil-Muslim Agreement of 1988
After discussion between delegations of the Muslims United Liberation Front (MULF) led by Dr Al Haj Badi-ud-din Mahmud and the LTTE led by its late Deputy Sathasivam Krishnakumar (Kittu) in Madras, India, from 15-19 April 1988, the following Agreement was reached:
1. Although the Muslim people living in Sri Lanka speak the Tamil Language, we consider them as a distinct ethnic group falling within the totality of Tamil nationally; and we affirm that the area composed of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, which constitutes the traditional homeland of the Tamil-speaking people is also the traditional homeland of the Muslims.
2. we affirm that the Tamil and the Muslim people who inhabit the contiguous homeland composed of the Northern and Eastern Provinces should live in unity and peace; at the same time it is felt, and indeed accepted as an article of faith, that since the Muslim people are a minority in the area, and because it is of paramount importance that they should be assured of a life free from fear, mistrust and insecurity, immediate steps be taken to create conditions whereby the Muslims people will be guaranteed security, equality and freedom; and that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam will extend their total co-operation towards this process. It is also accepted that all provisions that ensure the security of the Muslims people be guaranteed by law.
3. It was declared and accepted that the interests of the Muslim people could be secured only in their homeland; that only through a greater unity with the rest of the Tamil-speaking people, that the Muslim people could win their rights in their homeland, and safeguard their land and their cultural existence. It was assured on behalf of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that they would continue to work towards the well-being of the Muslim people, and this was accepted.
4. Without prejudice to the aspirations of the Muslim people and the rest of the Tamil-speaking people, both LTTE and MULF will extend their co-operation for the full implementation of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement.
5. It was agreed that the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in respect of Provincial Councils was unacceptable for the following reasons: That it does not meet the basic political aspirations of the Muslim people and the rest of the Tamil-speaking people; That it has been passed in contravention of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement; That certain clauses of the Amendment are in contradiction with the provisions of the Agreement.
6. It will be ensured that all steps taken towards safeguarding the interests of the Muslims people and arriving at a reasonable power-sharing agreement will be done in such a way that they will not seriously undermine the territorial integrity of the homeland of the Tamil-speaking people.
7. Flowing from the above, all the Muslim people who have made the area comprising the Northern and Eastern Provinces as their homeland, have the rights to enjoy the same ethnic rights, concessions, opportunities and freedom as enjoyed by the rest of the Tamil-speaking people.
8. While the Muslim people constitute 33 percent of the population in the Eastern Provinces and will comprise 18 percent in the combined Northern and Eastern Provinces, it is agreed that in order to ensure maximum safeguards to the Muslim people and enable them to enjoy equitable power-sharing, they will be entitled to not less than 30 percent of t he representation in the Provincial Council and the Cabinet. It is also agreed that both sides would take all efforts to facilitate the constitutional process to secure such proportional entitlement.
9. It is agreed that in all future land distribution, the Muslim people will be entitled to not less than 35 percent in the Eastern Province, not less than 30 percent in the Mannar district and not less than 5 percent in other areas.
10. The Muslim people will be entitled to job opportunities in the public sector in proportion to their population in each district.
11. In the field of education, special consideration will be given to backward areas until such time as equal opportunities are achieved by all sections of the population. Private educational facilities will be organized for the benefit of the Muslim people, up to the pre-university stage. An Islamic University will be established.
12. No legislation that affects the rights of the Muslim people or involves their identity and interests will be passed by the Provincial Council unless three-fourths of the Muslim representatives in the Council vote for such legislation.
13. Unless a Muslim has been already appointed Chief Minister of the Northern-Eastern Provincial Council, legal provision should be made to ensure that a Muslim is appointed as a Deputy Chief Minister of the said Council.
14. Appropriate political, administrative and development units should be created in areas in the Northern and Eastern Provinces where there is a predominant Muslim population, to enable the Muslim people to enjoy their rightful share in the spheres of political, administrative and developmental affairs. The LTTE expressed their views in this regard. On the question of delineating traditional boundaries and the earmarking of natural resources that will go into these units, both parties will engage in further analysis and make a final decision.
15. A decolonization policy should be evolved in order to redress the adverse effects caused by planned Government colonization which was aimed at the destruction of the economic, political and administrative power base of the Tamil-speaking people, at the changing of the demographic pattern of their homeland, and the eventual annexation of their homeland.
16. The forthcoming election for the Provincial Council of the Tami-speaking Province should be based on a voters’ list complied in a manner that would be fair and justifiable. It was discussed in detail as to which year should be considered as a basis for the compilation of such a list.
17. it was agreed that in order to alleviate the suffering of the vast mass of innocent civilians who are the ones who are truly affected by the military actions, and to enable them to return to normal, peaceful life, there should be an immediate cessation of hostilities.
18. Once hostilities cease, it is imperative that there should be an interim administrative government until such time as the people return to normal life and proper elections are held for the Provincial Council. The composition of the interim government should be in accordance with the earlier decision arrived at in this connection.