Daily Archives: April 11, 2015

Confused Sirisena Yielding Ground to Resurgent Rajapaksa

COLOMBO: The fledgling Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe government appears to be yielding ground to a resurgent former President Mahinda Rajapaksa because of internal disunity, contradictory policies and indecisive political leadership.

The first concrete sign of deep trouble appeared on Tuesday when the government’s bid to get parliament’s nod for raising the threshold of Treasury Bills by LKR 400 billion to meet vital government expenditure was defeated by 21 votes.

The defeat clearly indicated that the government cannot take for granted the support of the opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for the 19 th. Constitutional Amendment. This amendment is meant to dilute the powers of the President and increase the powers of the Prime Minister and parliament. It was a major plank of Sirisena’s Presidential election campaign and is the brainchild of the United National Party (UNP) his electoral ally.

The SLFP’s position is anomalous. It is with the government to the extent that its chairman, Sirisena, is the President of Sri Lanka and 29 of its MPs are ministers. But it is in the Opposition because the UNP is its traditional political rival. The SLFP wants Sirisena to ditch the UNP form an SLFP-led government as the SLFP is the single largest party in parliament.

But Sirisena is dithering, torn between his electoral ally UNP and his own party, the SLFP.

Frustrated, many SLFP MPs and supporters are now flocking to public meetings organized by Rajapaksa’s acolytes, and demanding that he lead the party.

The SLFP has made it clear that it will not vote for the 19 th.Amendment if the directly elected President is not recognized as the Head of the Government and if electoral reforms are not introduced simultaneously. It has asked Sirisena not to yield to the UNP’s demand for a mid-term poll in June.

Meanwhile, many multi-million dollar development projects initiated by Rajapaksa have ground to a halt, partly due to a policy paralysis and partly due to investigations into corrupt deals.

Ministers constantly contradict each other. Hopes of employment generation have dimmed. The promised lowering of prices has not happened. And Rajapaksa shines in contrast as a decisive leader, whose regime, though corrupt, delivered.



Lankan Opposition Puts Spoke in The Wheel of Constitutional Reform


COLOMBO: The opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), whose support is essential for passing the 19 th. Constitutional Amendment (19A) with the required two-thirds majority, has said again that it will not support 19A unless a second constitutional amendment on electoral reforms is simultaneously introduced.

This was conveyed to the party chairman and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena at a meeting of party MPs on Friday.

Following this, Sirisena has appointed a committee to suggest electoral reforms. The panel consists of Leader of the Opposition Nimal Siripala de Silva, SLFP General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former constitutional affairs minister G.L.Peiris, Dilan Perera and Mahinda Samarasinghe.

Most parties, except the small and minorities’ parties, are agreed that electoral reforms are needed, and that the new system should be a mix of the Proportional Representation System (PRS) and the First Past the Post System (FPPS) with the majority of seats under the FPPS.

But the ruling United National Party (UNP) thinks that electoral reform is a very complex subject which needs time to consider. It wants the parliament formed after fresh elections to take up the matter. But the SLFP wants the next elections to be held under the new electoral laws with a majority of seats elected under the FPPS.

This is because the FPPS reduces the dependence on minorities and small political groupings. While the UNP depends a lot on minorities like Tamils and Muslims, the SLFP does not.

Sirisena has already declared that the 19 th.Amendment will be presented to parliament for a debate on April 20, but the SLFP MPs have told him that it will be futile to debate it in the absence of an assurance that the 20 th.Amendment on electoral changes will also be presented.

The UNP has said that if the 19 th. Amendment is not passed, parliament will be dissolved. But this threat cannot be carried out unless President Sirisena agrees to sign the proclamation of dissolution. He is the Chairman of the SLFP. If he goes against the wishes of his party, it will desert him and join the rebellion led by ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa.


How Sri Lanka Won the War

Lessons in strategy from an overlooked victory


By  Peter Layton

How to win a civil war in a globalized world where insurgents skillfully exploit offshore resources? With most conflicts now being such wars, this is a question many governments are trying to answer. Few succeed, with one major exception being Sri Lanka where, after 25 years of civil war the government decisively defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and created a peace that appears lasting. This victory stands in stark contrast to the conflicts fought by well-funded Western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. How did Sri Lanka succeed against what many considered the most innovative and dangerous insurgency force in the world? Three main areas stand out.

First, the strategic objective needs to be appropriate to the enemy being fought. For the first 22 years of the civil war the government’s strategy was to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table using military means. Indeed, this was the advice foreign experts gave as the best and only option. In 2006, just before the start of the conflict’s final phase, retired Indian Lieutenant General AS Kalkat in 2006 declared, “There is no armed resolution to the conflict. The Sri Lanka Army cannot win the war against the Lankan Tamil insurgents.”

Indeed, the LTTE entered negotiations five times, but talks always collapsed, leaving a seemingly stronger LTTE even better placed to defeat government forces. In mid-2006, sensing victory was in its grasp, the LTTE deliberately ended the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire and initiated the so-called Eelam War IV. In response, the Sri Lankan government finally decided to change its strategic objective, from negotiating with the LTTE to annihilating it.

To succeed, a strategy needs to take into account the adversary. In this case it needed to be relevant to the nature of the LTTE insurgency. Over the first 22 years of the civil war, the strategies of successive Sri Lankan governments did not fulfill this criterion. Eventually, in late 2005 a new government was elected that choose a different strategic objective that matched the LTTE’s principal weaknesses while negating their strengths.

The LTTE’s principal problem was its finite manpower base. Only 12 percent of Sri Lanka’s population were Lankan Tamils and of these it was believed that only some 300,000 actively supported the LTTE. Moreover, the LTTE’s legitimacy as an organization was declining. By 2006, the LTTE relied on conscription – not volunteers – to fill its ranks and many of these were children. At the operational level some seeming strengths could also be turned against the LTTE, including its rigid command structure, a preference for fighting conventional land battles, and a deep reliance on international support.

Grand Strategy

Second, success requires a grand strategy. A grand strategy defines the peace sought, intelligently combines diplomacy, economics, military actions, and information operations, and considers the development of the capabilities the nation needs to succeed. The new government decided not to continue with the narrowly focused military strategies that had failed its predecessors, but rather adopt a comprehensive whole-of-nation grand strategy to guide lower-level activities.

In the economic sphere, the new government decided to allocate some 4 percent of GDP to defense and increase the armed forces budget some 40 percent. This would significantly strain the nation’s limited fiscal resources so annual grants and loans of some $1 billion were sought from China to ease the burden. Other forms of financial assistance, including lines of credit for oil and arms purchases, were provided by Iran, Libya, Russia and Pakistan.

Diplomatically, the government took steps to isolate the LTTE, which received some 60 percent of its funding and most of its military equipment from offshore. This succeeded and over time the group was banned in some 32 countries. Importantly, a close working relationship was formed with India, the only country able to meaningfully interfere with the new government’s grand strategy. The U.S. in the post-9/11 counterterrorism era also proved receptive to the government’s intentions of destroying the world’s premier suicide bomber force. America assisted by disrupting LTTE offshore military equipment procurement, sharing intelligence, providing a Coast Guard vessel, and supplying an important national naval command and control system. Canada and the European Union also came on board by outlawing the LTTE’s funding networks in their countries, severely impacting the group’s funding base.

Internally, the government set out to gain the active support of the public. By 2006 many Sri Lankans were war weary and doubted the new government’s abilities to achieve a victory no one else could. To win popular support the government realized that development activities had to be continued, not stopped while the war was fought. Moreover, various national schemes addressing poverty needed to be sustained, a prominent example being the poor farmer fertilizer subsidy scheme. These measures made financing the war very difficult and foreign financial support important, but were essential to convincing the people that there was a peace worth fighting for. The measures worked. Before 2005, the Army had difficulty recruiting 3,000 soldiers annually; by late 2008, the Army was recruiting 3,000 soldiers a month.
The increased budgets and popular support allowed the Sri Lankan armed forces to grow significantly. The Army in particular was expanded, growing from some 120,000 personnel in 2005 to more than 200,000 by 2009.

Astute Tactics

Third, to meet the ends that the grand strategy seeks, the focus of the lower-level, subordinate military strategy needed to be exploiting the enemy’s weaknesses while countering its strengths. The LTTE had limited numbers of soldiers, fielding only some 20,000-30,000, and with astute tactics could be overwhelmed. In this regard, the government forces had already won a major success before Eelam War IV started in mid-2006.

In late 2004, a senior LTTE military commander, Colonel Karuna, defected, bringing with him some 6,000 LTTE cadres and seriously damaging the LTTE’s support base in Eastern Sri Lankan. The mass defection provided crucial intelligence that offered deep insights into the LTTE as a fighting organization. Crucially, for the first time, the government intelligence agencies now had Lankan Tamils willing to return to LTTE-held areas, collect information, and report back. The scale of the defection also clearly showed that the legitimacy of the LTTE was waning.

At the start of Eelam War IV, the LTTE were able to operate throughout the country. There were no safe rear areas as high-profile suicide attacks on the foreign minister, defense secretary, the Pakistani high commissioner and the army chief underlined. This capability was countered by using the enlarged armed forces and police on internal security tasks, and by developing a Civil Defence Force of armed villagers. Operations were also conducted to find and destroy LTTE terrorist cells operating within the capital and some large towns. This defense-in-depth neutralized the LTTE’s well-proven ability to undertake both leadership decapitation strikes and terrorist attacks on vulnerable civilian targets.

These defensive measures in the south and the west of the country allowed the Sri Lankan military strategy in the north and east to be enemy-focused rather than population-centric. The primary aim there was to attack the LTTE and force them onto the defensive rather than try to protect the population from the LTTE – the conventional Western doctrine. The areas under LTTE control were accordingly attacked in multiple simultaneous operations to confuse, overload, tie down and thin out the defenders. Tactical advantage was taken of the Army’s new much greater numbers.

In these operations, small, well-trained, highly-mobile groups proved key. These groups infiltrated behind the LTTE’s front lines attacking high-value targets, providing real-time intelligence and disrupting LTTE lines of resupply and communication. Groups down to section level were trained and authorized to call in precision air, artillery and mortar attacks on defending LTTE units. The combination of frontal and in-depth assaults meant that the LTTE forces lost their freedom of maneuver, were pinned down, and could be defeated in detail.

The small groups included Special Forces operating deep and a distinct Sri Lankan innovation: large numbers of well-trained Special Infantry Operations Teams (SIOT) operating closer. The considerably expanded 10,000 strong Special Forces proved highly capable in attacking LTTE military leadership targets, removing very experienced commanders when they were most needed and causing considerable disruption to the inflexible hierarchical command system. Of the SIOTs, Army Chief General Fonseka, who introduced the concept, notes that: “we also fought with four-man teams… trained to operate deep in the jungle…. be self-reliant and operate independently. So a battalion had large numbers of four-man groups that allowed us to operate from wider fronts.” When Eelam War IV started there were 1500 SIOT trained troops; by 2008 there were more than 30,000.

Learning Organization

With enhanced training in complex jungle fighting operations, Sri Lankan solders generally became more capable, more professional, and more confident. The Army could now undertake increasingly difficult tasks day or night while maintaining a high tempo. The Army had became a ‘learning organization’ that embraced tactical level initiatives and innovations.

The LTTE was unique amongst global insurgency groups in also having a capable navy that conducted two main tasks: interdiction of government coastal shipping and logistic sea transport.

For interdiction operations the LTTE developed two classes of small, fast boats: fiberglass-hulled, attack craft armed with machine guns and grenade launchers, and low-profile, armored suicide boats fitted with contact-fused, large explosive charges. In Eelam War IV, sizeable clusters of some 30 attack craft and 8-10 suicide craft operated as swarms, mingling with local trawler fleets to make defense difficult. These were eventually defeated by even larger counter-swarms of 60-70 government fast attack craft that used targeting information from some 20 shore-based coastal radars coordinated through the command and control system the U.S. had provided.

For sea transport operations the LTTE used eleven large cargo ships that would pick up military equipment purchased from around the globe, station themselves beyond the Navy’s reach some 2,000 kms from Sri Lanka and then dash in close to the coast and quickly offload to waiting LTTE trawlers. In Eelam War IV though, the Navy used three recently acquired, second-hand offshore patrol vessels (including the donated ex-U.S. Coast Guard Cutter) combined with innovative tactics and intelligence support from India and the U.S. to strike at the LTTE’s transport ships. The last ship was sunk in late 2007 more than 3,000 km from Sri Lanka and close to Australia’s Cocos Islands.

The combination of the three factors of adopting a strategic objective matched to the adversary, using a grand strategy that focused the whole-of-the-nation on this objective, and adopting an optimized, subordinate military strategy proved devastating. The LTTE was completely destroyed. The government proved able to change its strategies in response to continuing failure and win, whereas the LTTE doggedly stuck to its previously successful formula and lost.

Some have criticized the Sri Lankan victory as only being possible because the government disregarded civilian casualties and used military force bluntly and brutally. This view correctly emphasizes that wars are by their nature cruel and violent and should not be entered into or continued lightly. However, it unhelpfully neglects critical factors and explains little. As this article has discussed, victory came to the side with the most successful strategies – even if it took the government more than 22 years to find them.

These were three different civil wars that each featured counterinsurgency strategies that progressively evolved. All involved significant civilian casualties with Iraq markedly the worse with 61 percent of those killed being civilians and Afghanistan the best at 25 percent. The Sri Lankan war with 34 percent of those killed overall being civilians, and thus broadly comparable to Afghanistan, then seems somewhat unremarkable except that the Sri Lankan war was decisively won. In Iraq and Afghanistan there was no victory, there remains no peace and people continue to die.

In Sri Lanka the guns fells silent in 2009, there is 7 percent GDP growth, low unemployment, and steadily rising per capita incomes. Even an economically poor country it seems can win the peace in a civil war. The key is to focus on getting the strategy right.


Tributes for cricket legend Benaud


The world has been paying tribute to Richie Benaud, the former Australia captain and iconic cricket commentator, who has died aged 84.

A pioneering leg-spin bowler, Benaud played in 63 Tests, 28 as captain, before retiring in 1964 to pursue a career in journalism and broadcasting.

His final commentary in England was at the 2005 Ashes series but he continued to work in Australia until 2013.


In November, Benaud revealed he was being treated for skin cancer.

Richie Benaud: Shane Warne leads tribute to ‘Godfather’ of cricket

Marylebone Cricket Club said they had lowered the flag on the North Clock Tower at Lord’s as a mark of respect for a figure “universally liked and respected across the world of cricket”.

The Australian government has offered to hold a state funeral for Benaud, who enjoyed a long association with the BBC following his first radio appearance for the corporation in 1960.

“Richie was not just a great cricket commentator, he was one of the finest sports commentators of his generation,” said Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport.


“He was an integral part of the BBC team for decades and will be sorely missed by everyone who had the pleasure of working with him.”

‘The Marlon Brando of cricket’
Australia’s record wicket-taker Shane Warne, who described Benaud as a “close friend and mentor” said: “Everyone loved Richie, he was above the Prime Minister in Australia and it was not just in Australia, it was world-wide that people loved him, and not just the cricket world.


“We’ve got Dame Edna Everage and Russell Crowe we’ve adopted from New Zealand, and Kylie, but Richie is pretty close to number one as an Australian icon.

“To me, he was like The Godfather of cricket – he was the Marlon Brando of cricket.”

‘The iconic voice of summer’
Richie Benaud tributes – a man lays flowers by a statue of Benaud
The Australia government has offered to hold a state funeral for Richie Benaud

Benaud was revered for an outstanding playing career in which he took 945 wickets in 259 first-class matches and made 11,719 first-class runs, scoring 23 centuries at an average of 36.50.

Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards: “Richie stood at the top of the game throughout his rich life, first as a record-breaking leg-spinner and captain, and then as cricket’s most famous broadcaster who became the iconic voice of our summer.”

Australia prime minister Tony Abbott:  “A sad day for Australia. We have lost a cricketing champion and Australian icon. What an innings. RIP Richie Benaud.”


Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara:  “So sad to hear about the passing of Richie Benaud. The great voice of cricket is no more. He defined an era with conviction and sincerity.”

Australia coach Darren Lehmann:  “Our thoughts are with the Benaud family at this time, RIP one of the game’s all-time greats. He will be missed by the whole cricketing world.”

“An absolute bobby dazzler” – listen to some of Benaud’s classic commentary.

‘A true giant of the modern game’
Richie Benaud

Benaud helped develop a parody of himself called Desktop Richie on Channel 4’s website

Benaud was the first man to achieve 2,000 runs and 200 wickets at Test level, and was a highly regarded tactician. He never lost a Test series as Australia captain, winning five and drawing two.

England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke: “Cricket has lost perhaps its greatest advocate and someone who was a true giant of the modern game.”

‘An absolute gentleman, a master craftsman’

Australian flag flying at half mast
The Australian flag is lowered at half mast at the Sydney Cricket Ground

Following his impressive playing career, Benaud became even better known as a prolific author, columnist and commentator on cricket.

After the 1956 Ashes tour in England, he completed a BBC training course while still a player, marking the beginning of a 40-year association with the corporation.

Former England captain Geoffrey Boycott:  “Farewell Richie Benaud. Wonderful cricketer, great captain, a master craftsman commentator and top man. Will always be remembered and admired.”

Former India captain Anil Kumble:  “His values cut across all generations and was the best example in cricket to everyone associated with it. Always had a kind word for every cricketer. Above all a great human being. Had a special place for every leg spinner. Very sad day for cricket.”

‘Peerless, well-loved, a legend and an icon’

Bill Lawry: “Richie was a wonderful example as a commentator and as a Test captain”

With his mellifluous, light delivery, enthusiastically imitated by comedians and cricket fans alike, Benaud also became the lead commentator on Australian television’s Channel Nine from 1977.

After his retirement he often spoke of a return to commentary but, to the great sadness of his legions of admirers, it did not materialise.

Former Australia batsman Justin Langer: “As a player alone he left a great legacy but as a commentator his gestures and his language were peerless. Wise men often don’t inundate you with words but when they speak you listen to everything they say.”

Australia captain Michael Clarke: “He was a great player and a great captain, a wonderful leader of men and I think he’s continued that off the field. He played the game in the right spirit and all of us look up to Richie so it’s a really sad day.”

International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson:  “Richie was a true legend, charismatic but always the perfect sportsman and gentleman.”

‘A gentle authority, an understated humour’
ABC’s chief cricket commentator Jim Maxwell: “He was one of the driving forces behind the enthusiasm for cricket in this country over the last 30 or 40 years.

“He has been an amazing influence for all those people who have followed the game and loved it for a long while because he always spoke with authority, a gentle authority, and with an understated humour.”

BBC Sport cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “He was the face of my childhood and for millions of others. He was cricket on the TV in England. He was our Richie – and that is the ultimate compliment for an Australian.”
‘What a marvellous innings you had’
Tribute to Richie Benaud at Lords cricket ground
The flag on the North Clock Tower at Lord’s was lowered as a mark of respect for Benaud

Formula 1 commentary legend Murray Walker: “Richie’s personality was distinctive and unique. He was an extremely nice man who had a wonderful, laconic, laid-back style, and a brilliant cricketing knowledge which he communicated so well.

“He won everything you could possible hope for in cricket and had this superb gift of being able to put his knowledge into meaningful and entertaining words.”

Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman:  “We lost a legend today – Richie Benaud. We will never forget you.”

Alec Stewart
Former England captain Alec Stewart added his voice to the tributes pouring in from all over the world

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe:  “RIP Richie Benaud. My deep gratitude for all you gave to the sport of cricket as a player and as a broadcaster. Sad, sad day.”

Former England captain Ian Botham:  “World Cricket will miss one of the greats Richie Benaud. On the field, in the commentary box and on the golf course! An iconic gentleman.”

‘The voice we all loved when we were kids’

Legendary BBC commentator Barry Davies : “He was the best TV commentator during the time I’ve been working, and before. He brought his enthusiasm and knowledge to the job but also took the time to learn.

“He could be pithy, had a nice sense of humour, and he talked to people, not at people. He was very keen to give an opinion if it was justified but never forced it on you; what he said was in addition to the picture. He was a wonderful, impressive figure.”
Michael Vaughan
Another former England captain, Michael Vaughan, tweeted a tribute to Benaud

Former England captain Mike Atherton, wrote in The Times:  “He recognised that times change and comparisons are pointless. Because of that, the modern players loved him. He was loved. For longer than people care to remember he was the voice of the English summer, just as he was in Australia.”

1961 – Benaud bowls Australia to victory

Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith:  “I grew up with his voice in my ears. On my first trip to Australia he was the man I was most nervous to meet.”

Benaud, who was appointed OBE in 1961 for services to cricket, leaves a wife of 48 years, Daphne, and two children from his first marriage.

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