Daily Archives: December 30, 2006

Last stronghold of LTTE in the East bombed

By Walter Jayawardhana

Stepping up their attacks described as defensive the Sri Lanka military said the country’s Air Force pounded the last stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Eastern Province destroying their artillery gun positions.

The Sri Lanka Airforce kfir jets bombed the LTTE artillery guns in the Eastern province successfully, the military announced.

Another air strike was successfully carried out on a Sea Tiger base near Pudukudiyiruppu area, the military said.

This is close to Mulativu, from where Sea Tigers launched an attack on a merchant ship, the captain of which described as an act of piracy by the group.

The military said the artillery guns were positioned in a manner they could be used on refugee settlements.

The reports came amidst speculation that the last stronghold of the LTTE at Vakarai might come down at any moment in the coming days or weeks.

Thousands of refugees have escaped to government controlled areas from Vakarai in fear of war.

Before Karuna, who led LTTE troops earlier, left the group in differences with the Vanni leadership of Velupillai Prabhakaran Tigers controlled vast areas in the Eastern Province and today contained to a small area in the Vakarai area, close to Batticaloa. They were chased out to the South from Sampur after the Sri Lanka Army occupied the former LTTE military garrison.

Under the present circumstances the LTTE is facing a two pronged attack, one from its own renegade breakaway group and the other from the country’s security forces.

Together with these attacks, earlier reports said the LTTE camps at Thoppigala close to Batticaloa were attacked by 200 Karuna troops and at least 30 Tiger gunmen were killed.

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Sri Lanka’s enemy Vaiko expelled from his own party

By Walter Jayawardhana

Vaiko Gopalaswamy, Sri Lanka’s most virulent enemy in India and close friend of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was expelled from his own party by dissidents yesterday from the leadership of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) splitting the party into two.

The party suffered a vertical split with two Lok Sabha party members supporting him and two others leading the splinter group.

The crisis in the party snowballed after he expelled dissident leaders of the party L. Ganeshan and Gingee R. Ramachandran, who are now leading the splinter group and trying to grab the MDMK and its property from him.

A controversial politician, although supporting Prabhakaran to divide Sri Lanka, in the Tamil Nadu assembly he is politically allied with the Opposition leader Jayalitha Jayaram’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam ( AIADMK) who continues to oppose any move by Sri Lanka’s LTTE and openly calls them terrorists. LTTE also keeps her name in the list of their targets to be assassinated. Though allies both parties have agreed to differ on the issue and interestingly, Vaiko was prosecuted and sent to jail under India’s now cancelled POTA laws against terrorism by the administration of then Chief minister Jayalitha Jayaram for supporting the banned LTTE. Although he utters racist Tamil rhetoric against Sri Lanka Vaiko is not a Tamil. He has eschewed his real identity and has embraced extremist Tamil nationalism as his brand of politics. He was born in fact to Telugu speaking parents.

Fourteen years ago Vaiko broke away from the main DMK alleging nepotism on the part of Chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi since he was fashioning his son M. K. Stalin , named after the Soviet dictator, to rule Tamil Nadu after his death. Today, the son is a cabinet minister of the father. Vaiko hates Karunanidhi more than the ‘Amma’ who sent him to jail. His greatest ambition is to grab the political power now enjoyed by Karunanidhi in the Tamil Nadu state.

He has alleged Karunanidhi of conspiring to drive a wedge between him and the dissidents Ganeshan and Gingee and instigating them to grab party headquarters Thyagam for them. Whatever conspiracy, if happened , took place unaware to him. The dissidents rebelled against him at a time he was doing a protest march, ‘pada yatra’ grandstanding the water conflict with the neighboring Kerala State. Water conflicts regarding sharing river waters has become a cheap method among politicians in the parched Southern Indian states to win easy popular support. Taking a cue from them the LTTE stopped water to nearly 20,000 families in the Sri Lankan conflict by shutting off Mavil Aru irrigation canal. Analysts have said that if Tamil extremists had their secret wishes fulfilled and succeeded in forming the putative ‘greater Eelam’ with Prabhakaran-enjoining the separated Northern province of Sri Lanka with the separated Tamil Nadu water-wars would preoccupy them for the next hundred years with neighboring states like, kerala, Andra Pradesh and Orissa. When this protest campaign started over the waters of Mullaperiyar Dam Vaiko wanted to be more popular over Karunanidhi.

Tamil Nadu, which gets the diverted Mullaperiyar waters to irrigate its southern districts, wants to increase the storage level to 142 feet, while Kerala says it would make the dam burst, putting at risk 3.5 million Malayali people living downstream.

Even as the Supreme Court has asked the two states to settle the dispute through talks, Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi initiated the new campaign releasing half-page advertisements in English, Tamil and Malayalam newspapers in Tamil Nadu and Kerala telling the water level should be increased. To win the Tamils against Malayalis Vaiko went on the protest march beating Karunanidhi.

The Congress Party’s Kerala chief minister V S Achudanandan retorted with similar advertisements to Tamil Nadu advertisements arguing why the water level of the dam cannot be raised as people like Vaiko and Karunanidhi demand: "We wish to convey the grave threat that is being faced by the 35-lakh people in Kerala" This 111-year-old lime and surkhi is unsafe for the people living downstream," his ad claimed.

It was during this time, Vaiko says, that the conspiracy by Karunanidhi against him took place. It was also during this time pro-Prabhakaran TNA using Karunanidhi obtained a Man Mohan and Karunanidhi interviews that could not be obtained by Vaiko few weeks ago.

It is most likely both parties would go to courts claiming the ownership of the party and its headquarters, Thyagam in the coming weeks.

Vaiko wears a black scarf around his neck as his political brand. Karunanidhi seems to be determined to tell rabble rouser Vaiko that he is wearing black for his own political demise.

Sanath whacks cricket administrators for a six

Rex Clementine reporting from Queenstown

This year has been Sri Lanka opener Sanath Jayasuriya’s best in ODI cricket as he has scored over 1150 runs at a remarkable average of over 47 and a strike rate of over 85. He’s been getting lot of crucial wickets too for Sri Lanka and once again the 37-year-old has become a very vital member of the successful Sri Lankan team. But then again, it all looked gloomy in 2005 for the veteran and even Sri Lanka Cricket believed that he should retire.

In fact, retirement from Test cricket was forced on Jayasuriya six months ago as exclusively reported by ‘Sunday Island’. Later, none cricketing issues were said to have played a part in the conspiracy against the player with a wealthy cricket official behind the scene.

Although 2006 was his most successful year, 2005 probably was the most disappointing for the batsman. Jayasuriya was plagued by a shoulder injury, the big hundreds weren’t coming and while in New Zealand last year he was given marching orders by SLC on the morning of a game. Sri Lanka’s cricket officials were treating country’s favourite son like a schoolboy. But to his credit Jayasuriya bounced back with some stunning displays with the bat.

After being dropped from the Test squad in 2005, Jayasuriya was even overlooked for the tri-nation VB Series in Australia. The selectors, however, recalled the veteran mid way through the VB Series and after arriving in Sydney barely 24 hours before the game, the batsman let his wrath out with a scintillating 114 in just 96 balls against world champions Australia and silenced his critics, who are mostly board officials.

Since then, it’s just been a roller-coaster ride for the star batsman. Two more thrilling hundreds followed in England (122 in 136 balls at The Oval and 152 in 99 balls at Headingly) and a week later one more came in Netherlands before his assault in Napier.

Jayasuriya speaking to the media after the game said that during tough times he just believed that he could still do it despite several on and off the field issues.

"I would say that it (form and injury) was just disappointing," Jayasuriya started off.

"The shoulder injury played a big part as the form deserted me and the most frustrating thing was that I couldn’t bowl. Contributing to the team in the bowling department is something that I have always enjoyed," Jayasuriya told reporters.

"I have been really working on the physical aspect of the game. As you grow older that’s something that you should never neglect. You’ve got to work hard and try and remain in the best possible condition. I never take a chance with my fitness.

"There’ll be lot of comments from various people. Every person tries to be a cricket guru when you are out of form as they want you to do well. You are the best judge of your abilities and basing on that I made my decisions. I am fortunate to have a couple of good friends, who played the game at top level and if I have an issue I have chat with them," Jayasuriya said.

Thursday’s hundred was his 23rd ODI century and Jayasuriya said that he was extremely pleased to score heavily away from home. "The fact that I scored a lot away from home in different conditions is a good feeling and gives me lot of confidence. Performing away from home is the real challenge for us. As a team, we’ve been talking about it a lot. We know we are a formidable side at home and the next challenge is to do it away from home."

Sri Lanka were set a target of 286 and they got there without any trouble at all with ten overs and seven wickets to spare thanks to the opening stand between Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga, which was worth 201 runs. "We had to chase a big total today. I was given the licence to go and get us a good start and that worked and we got the game under control quite early in the game.

"I generally assess the wicket as soon as I go to bat. First two overs were a bit tough. They were bowling as straight as possible and I told myself no flicks or pulls early in the innings. I rate this innings pretty high. It just worked out perfectly right for me."

After the comprehensive win, Sri Lanka’s confidence is quite high and the tourists are favourites to win the series. "When you win in this fashion it gives you lot of confidence. It’s good to get into that mood early in a series. I am sure it’s going to help us."

Jayasuriya refused to speak on any of the controversies that overshadowed his cricket since last year. -The Island

Looking beyond Vakarai

It is speculated that the Sri Lanka government might go for an election in the Eastern Province after the capture of Vakarai, which is imminent with the area surrounded and the LTTE combatants trapped without reinforcements and supplies. In other so-called thinly held areas in the East, the LTTE will still be operating, but the military boasts that it could be tackled without much effort. If the East could be cleared as planned, then it will certainly be a turning point in the war. For, the LTTE will have no control over both the strategically important Jaffna and the East, the be-all-and-end-all of its separatist project.

In the past, too, the LTTE was driven out of the East but it managed to hold on to the vital areas of the North, especially Jaffna and mitigate the loss. The East was brought under government control decisively by President D. B. Wijetunga, who conducted the Local Government elections there in the early 1990s. President Chandrika Kumaratunga adopted the opposite of his strategy. She took back Jaffna in 1995, at the expense of the East. She, of course, had compelling reasons to wrest control of that township. The LTTE had put most of its military eggs in the Jaffna basket and gone to the extent of issuing an Eelam stamp which pointed to a move to declare independence unilaterally. She may have thought of making a swift move. She won the day.

However, the LTTE used the East, where it shifted after the fall of Jaffna, to move northwards and succeeded in marching right up to the outskirts of Jaffna in 2000, having captured the Elephant Pass base on the way. The capture of the Mullativu camp also strengthened it militarily beyond measure. Army camps were falling like pins and the LTTE grew cockier by the day. By the time the military bounced back, Ms. Kumaratunga had lost power in Parliament and the LTTE had a field day thanks to a flawed truce which it had entered with the UNF. Since 2001, it had been reorganising and rearming itself and last year it chose to revert to war.

Today, it has found itself hoist with its own petard. It may have realised that arrogance doesn’t pay, be it in politics or in warfare. It made one of its biggest blunders at Mavilaru a few months ago. It was second only to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Prabhakaran proved that he was not the great military strategist that he is said to be, by taking battle to Muttur, which made a dithering government to pick up the gauntlet and fight it out. Thus, he exposed his weak flank, the East, to the military. Many thought he would desist from large scale attacks and concentrate on something political that would help gain some legitimacy for what he had painstakingly put in place by way of a ‘de facto’ state. But, he was in a mighty hurry for reasons best known to him. He tried to take Jaffna back out of desperation, vowing to declare independence after its capture, but in vain.

So, after twenty years of fighting, instead of graduating from terror to statehood, he has had to revert to small scale terror attacks here and there. It may be that he is planning a spectacular attack but it is doubtful whether it will be able to reverse the military gains of the government, unless the latter makes more blunders of the magnitude of the Muhamalai debacle and create a situation where the LTTE will score a string of battlefield successes. Bomb blasts, assassinations and sporadic attacks will take the outfit nowhere near its goal.

If everything goes as planned, the government will be able to re-democratise the East by allowing the people to exercise their franchise. A free Eastern Province will be the biggest obstacle on the LTTE’s path to its utopian goal in that psychologically and politically, it will exert on the Northern parts under Prabhakaran’s jackboot, a tremendous pull. During President Premadasa’s time, there was a proposal to develop the Jaffna islands to such a level that ‘the people in the LTTE held Jaffna would want to plunge into the sea and swim across in their droves’. The strategy of the present government smacks of something similar. If it can accomplish that task of freeing the East, it will have removed the lynchpin of the LTTE’s terror project and presented a strong case for separating the East from the North.

-The Island Editorial

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