The Lanka Academic

VOL. 1, NO. 20

Today's Feature

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Opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe slams the government for fall of Elephant Pass

Waruna Karunatilake, Colombo. 20.30 SLT 25th April. Opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe on Tuesday slammed the government for the overrunning of the Strategically crucial Elephant Pass military complex by tamil Rebels. Addressing a news conference in Colombo soon after returning from India Wickramasinghe said that President Chandrika Kumaratunga who is also the Defence Minister must give a full account of the incident to the people immediately."This is a major military set back. The gateway to Jaffna in now in the Hands of the LTTE. They can now put real pressure on Jaffna it self" the Opposition leader declared. He said the President must make a full statement in parliament." The government is saying that defences have been re-arranged trying to make out that this was not a major set back. If Elephant Pass was not crucial why has the camp been defended by all means for over a decade. The government think that people are fools. The people know better" Wickramasinghe said. In one of the most out spoken remarks made by the Opposition leader in the last six years he said the Elephant Pass set back would also effect the peace talks."The LTTE is now in a stronger position. If they gain more territory they will be even stronger at the negotiating table. All the government had to do was to hang on to land area they all ready had. the Government has failed to do that" he said. The Opposition leader also demanded that the government take immediate steps to establish democratic freedoms in the country "The government curtailed democratic freedoms blaming it on the war. Now we have lost the war and our freedom" he said adding that censorship on war news was entirely to protect the government and a few corrupt incompetent senior officials rather than to help the military.

The LTTE and the Armed forces give conflicting accounts of the fall of Elephant Pass

Waruna Karunatilake, Colombo. The LTTE and the armed forces continued to give conflicting accounts of the fall of Elephant Pass. Army Commander General Srilal Wijesuriya dismissed rebel claims and said only 250 soldiers were killed in action since March 29th in the battle for Elephant Pass. According to him just over 100 soldiers were missing in action while over one thousand have been injured. The LTTE earlier claimed that nearly one thousand soldiers have been killed in the fighting. The Army Commander also dismissed rebel claims that it had captured millions of dollars worth of military equipment including artillery guns. " We lost only one 152MM artillery to the LTTE.Other equipment in the complex were destroyed before the pull out" the Commander said.

Tamil rebels hand over bodies of 125 soldiers killed in Elephant Pass

Waruna Karunatilake, Colombo. Tamil rebels today handed over to the ICRC 125 bodies of soldiers killed in the Elephant Pass Battle. The ICRC spokesman in Colombo Harsha Gunewardene said the bodies were handed over to the Army by the ICRC.

Military sources say water shortage forced the army to pull out of Elephant Pass.

Waruna Karunatilake, Colombo. Military sources in Colombo said today that the army was forced to pull out of Elephant Pass when the rebels captured the two fresh water wells in Yakachchi. The Yakachchi wells are the only source of fresh water in the area. Troops fighting in intense heat ran out of water when the wells fell to rebel hands. At least one Colonel- Bathiya jayatillake died of dehydration after been admitted to hospital in Palali. " He has fought for two days without food or water.He died of dehydration" his father in law Former Army Commander General Hamilton Wanasinghe said.

ICRC receives bodies

Roy Denish, Colombo 12.45 Monday, Colombo. At least 126 bodies of those soldiers killed in the fighting at Elephant Pass were handed over to the ICRC officials at Kilinochchi by LTTE this afternoon.

An ICRC spokesman said that the bodies will be transported to Vavuniya by tonight to be handed over to the Sri Lankan army officials. The spokesman Harsha Gunawardene told LAcNet that there would be no further transfers for the day since the ride from Kilinochchi to Vavuniya takes at least six hours.

The soldiers perished at Elephant Pass, when Tiger rebels launched the bloodiest attacks on the military garrison on Saturday afternoon killing an unknown number and wounding scores. On Monday, the army commander Lieutenant General Srilal Weerassoriya told a hastily arranged crowded news conference that only 88 soldiers including four officers were killed and over 400 wounded in action.

But military observers in Colombo refuted the claims by the commander and said the figure is much higher and the government was not willing to divulge the casualty figures since it would hurt the government's chances of being re-elected at the general election scheduled in September this year

Meanwhile, the LTTE on Monday night claimed that its cadres had seized an "unprecedented haul" of weapons from the military garrison, the governments most valued and coveted real estate of this war.

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