Sri Lanka spreads rumours

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 02 July 1997, 23:59 GMT]
With the Sri Lankan military's Operation 'Jaya Sikuru' bogged down amid fierce Tamil resistance, morale amongst the ranks is slipping. As in previous military crisis,' the Sri Lankan government is fabricating rumours in an effort to shore up morale. The latest claim is that the Tamil national leader, Mr. V. Pirabakaran is about to flee the island.

In a poorly disguised attempt to raise morale, the Sri Lankan government issued a report last Saturday that the LTTE commander, Mr. Pirabakaran was 'about to flee the country' to another Asian location. The state-owned newspaper, the Daily News, quoted 'international reports,' saying that Pirabakaran was intending to flee in the face of the 'fierce' military onslaught in the Vanni, a reference to Operation 'Jaya Sikuru.'

Some observers also speculate that the latest Sri Lankan claim may be a ploy to coerce the Tamil leader to reveal himself, to disprove the rumours, and thereby allowing the military to focus on his locality. Given that the ongoing Sri Lankan operation has become bogged down, the government may be hoping to win the war by targeting the Tiger leadership alone.

In fact, as even most of the Sri Lankan troops know, Mr. Pirabakaran has always remained in the Tamil homelands when the Sri Lankans have launched military operations. On the occasions he has been out of the country, whenever the Sri Lankans have attempted major attacks, he has returned immediately to direct the LTTE's defences.

Spreading rumours about Mr. Pirabakaran is a favourite tactic of the Sri Lankan government at times of crisis: the Tamil leader has a significant impact on the morale of Sri Lankan troops. Reports that he is involved in an engagement has often caused disarray amongst Sinhalese ranks.

When the LTTE stormed the Mullaitivu SLA base in July 1996, reports that Pirabakaran was directing operations from outside the perimeter caused dismay amongst the defenders, so much so that the Sri Lankan government immediately put out a report that Pirabakaran had been seriously wounded. In fact Mr. Pirabakaran was unharmed, and after the battle, examined the shattered base before departing the area at the helm of a Sea Tiger speedboat.

In the eighties, whenever the Sri Lankan army launched a major operation, reports of Mr. Pirabakaran's death were issued within days, in an effort to maintain Sri Lankan morale and to demoralise the Tamil defenders and populace. Ironically, when Mr. Pirabakaran later appeared in public, such blatant lies negated the effect of the rest of Sri Lankan propaganda as well.

Most Sri Lankan offensives also see other claims issued, such as 'the Tigers are panicking' or 'screaming for assistance from elsewhere' or 'are unable to resist.' Ironically these reports emanate when the LTTE puts up stiff resistance and stalls army movement or counter attacks, inflicting heavy losses.

Another routine claim is that other noted Tiger leaders, such as Balraj or Aruna, have been killed or wounded. Many of the Tigers' senior commanders have earned a reputation for spectacular attacks on the Sri Lankan forces, and rumours of their involvement in local battles also cause Sri Lankan troops to falter.

The Sri Lankan military launched Operation Jaya Sikura (True Victory) over a month ago. Despite deploying over 20,000 troops with artillery, armour and air-power, the offensive, planned jointly with Pakistani army officers, has run into difficulties. Stiff resistance from Tamil Tiger units has slowed the offensive to a crawl. Furthermore, in two massive counter strikes, the Tigers hit the operation's 'tail' and 'head,' killing hundreds of soldiers and destroying and capturing vast quantities of arms.

In particular, the Sri Lankan army's Special Forces are reported to have sustained severe casualties, along with the cavalry and artillery units. At one point during the fierce battle, Sri Lanka's blood banks dropped to dangerously low levels, forcing the government to plead for donations, drawing a luke-warm response from the Sinhalese public.

According to Western analysts who visited the island, morale amongst the armed forces has been low since the debacle at Mullaitivu. Subsequent military operations have been attempted by committing vast numbers of troops, to overcome the widespread reluctance among the troops to fight. Recent significant losses have demoralised all sections of the military, including the police. Sri Lankan police are heavily armed and deployed as ground troops.

The LTTE intensified its campaign for independence following the island wide pogrom against Tamils in July 1983. Over 50,000 Tamil civilians have been killed in the government's attempts to crush the Tamil struggle. In the 1977 elections, the Tamil people of the island voted overwhelmingly for parties supporting independence from Sri Lanka.


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