2ND LEAD (Correction)

Northern Front impregnable, say NTT panelists

[TamilNet, Saturday, 03 May 2008, 10:49 GMT]
Colombo was forced into staging Mukamaalai offensive to ensure safety to troops in Jaffna which had fallen within the range of artillery, panelists said during a Political Analysis segment of National Television of Tamileelam (NTT), participated by LTTE military spokesperson, Irasiah Ilanthiraiyan, and Chief-Editor of Viduthalaip Pulika'l, LTTE's official organ, S. Ravi, in the programme moderated by K. Veera, this week. Panelists added that Colombo's assertion that LTTE is moving troops between different Northern fronts is a figment of their imagination, and refuted the claim that the Sri Lanka Air Force has caused detrimental impact to LTTE's war machinery.

Mukamaalai Battle
Mukamaalai Battle (Image Courtesy: The Nation)
Excerpts from the discussion held in the NTT program segment titled "Implications of Mukamaalai Battle," follows:

Veera: What could have been the military objective behind the recent confrontation; why was Mukamaalai selected as the staging ground for that objective?

Ilanthiraiyan: The Mukamaalai operation had military and political objectives. Politically, after Colombo chose military path – with Maavilaa'ru operation –, without stated milestones, it had a need to demonstrate military success. Colombo currently is forced to divert internal pressures resulting from the international criticism aimed at human rights failings and from commodity price increase and prolonged war fatigue.

Militarily, many observers commented that the security of armed forces in Jaffna was compromised as long as the two entry points to the peninsula- Palaali and KKS - were within artillery range of LTTE guns. There was a need to move the Mukamaalai FDL further south.

Nilarvaram Panel
(L-R) Ilanthirayan, Veera, and Ravi
Veera: What battle plan was adopted by SLA for this latest Mukamaalai confrontation?

Ilanthiraiyan: Their 55th brigade advanced through A9. 53rd through Ka'ndal area. 55th brigade participated in the battle started in the early hours of 23rd (22nd night). Mechanized Infantry participated 23rd early morning; foot soldiers were supposed to open up path for the newly developed Mech Infantry to move forward. This didn’t materialize.

Veera: Would you anticipate any changes in military tactics resulting from the latest confrontations?

Illanthiraiyan: One battle is unlikely to cause changes in war tactics. They may review the tactics used the past three confrontations - Agni Keala, 2006 confrontation, and the recent one - to advance in the northern FDL. Northern FDL is 12 km long and runs through, Ki'laali, Ka'ndal, Mukamaalai, and Naakar Koayil. They used different tactics in all three confrontations and failed.

Veera: Illanthiraiyan mentioned that the political incentives for the Mukamaalai confrontation. What are your thoughts?

Ravi: All SLA military confrontations had political motives in the background. Sinhala media has projected the on-going war effort as the means to achieve many objectives, including capturing Ki'linochchi. However, the battle front activities in recent months were not producing victory stories to satisfy the expectations of the South. The political need to assure the public by capturing a well known area, in this case, Elephant Pass, was there. The timing of the operation is also noteworthy. Week beginning on April 22, brings many historical anniversaries – Capture of Elephant Pass, failed Agni Kela operation by SLA to recapture Elephant Pass, Bomb attack on Sarath Fonseka, all fall within this week.

Veera: There is an opinion that this operation was planned to divert the attention of the people from the prevailing rice shortage; do you think there is any connection?

Ravi: Sri Lanka’s politics has historically been connected to the availability of rice. There is a difference between the rice shortages in the past and the current crisis. Current crisis is portrayed as linked to the war against Tamil people. We have to wait and see which gets priority in people’s mind– the war or rice. There is a fear that Sri Lanka is going to face economic hardship due to the reduction of aid and military cooperation from some countries of the international community – countries include America, European Union, Japan and Israel. So far, the military procurement of Sri Lanka was generally through long term loans – which is close to gift because in many cases, at a future date, the country is likely to be excused from repaying loan. The war against Tamils was conducted using arms procured through this mechanism, which didn’t need much economic sacrifice from Sri Lankan economy. Currently, Sri Lanka has chosen new partners to obtain military procurement – Iran, China, and Pakistan are the new contacts made for this purpose. Procurement of arms from China, Pakistan or Iran is in exchange for Sri Lanka’s exports. This is bound to increase the economic woes of Sri Lanka.

Veera: Why was the Mukamaalai battle front news censored in the south?

Ravi: Sri Lanka’s political leadership has always tried to keep the public from knowing the true statistics of their battle front losses. It is not clear whether this deception is possible due to effective information engineering by the political leadership, or the naivity of the population which is thirsty for military victories. Always the true situation has been exposed within a few days.

Veera: SLA has simultaneously opened many war fronts in different geographical areas. This is to stretch the LTTE forces and to apply maximum pressure. How pressured is LTTE now?

Ilanthiraiyan: From SLA’s point of view, they are applying maximum pressure on us. From our point of view, the current situation demonstrates that we have been ready to confront them at any FDL at all times. At the same time Mukamaalai battle started, SLA advanced from Paalaikkuzhi to Adampan with tanks – they had to retreat under heavy resistance by the Tigers. The following day they advanced in Thirukeatheeswaram area from Cheaththuku'lam; this advance was also routed. Simultaneously, there were attacks in Ma'nalaa'ru – this was also defeated. Sri Lanka has projected that LTTE is not capable of withstanding simultaneous attacks in many fronts. We have proved this projection wrong.

Veera: There is an opinion that LTTE has moved its forces from Ma'nalaa'ru Mannaar areas to confront the Mukamaalai battle.

Ilanthiraiyan: This is laughable to even military novices. Ma'naala'ru, Mannaar and Mukamaalai are geographically separated from each other. It is not possible move our cadres from one front to within the time demands of ongoing battles.

Veera: Observers say that the SLA has the advantage from the coordinated action of the air force. What type of advantage do they have with their air force?

Ilanthiraiyan: It is true they have attacked two or three targets after conducting hundreds of air attacks. These are mostly civilian targets. SLAF attacks are conducted mostly to create war fear among the civilian population. Sri Lankan air attacks rarely executed in a way to have a serious impact to the war activities of our soldiers. Our fighting or resulting victories of battles were rarely hindered by SLA’s air force activities.

Veera: What impact will Mukamaalai battle have in international opinion?

Ravi: Sri Lanka is following a battle path with the belief that they can defeat the LTTE. There was a time when international community also provided space for SLA to succeed in this objective. Mukamaalai battle will reinforce the popular view that the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka needs political and not military solution. Mukamaalai battle will further reinforce the fact that Tigers are a liberation movement supported by its people.

Veera: LTTE Political Head, Nadesan, sent a letter recently to Norway saying that LTTE still ready to honour the CFA signed with Sri Lanka. Current battles engaged by LTTE are of defensive nature. He also said that LTTE will conduct offensive war to protect Tamileelam boundaries. Can you elaborate this issue?

Ravi: Nadesan’s letter discussed our policy regarding CFA and the current battles. Sometimes offensive war provides the best defense. Nadesan’s letter stated this fact; LTTE will use all methods available to protect the Tamil homeland.


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