Inductions and Sri Lankan military transfers.
Roy Denish in Colombo,
SLT. 13: 17 Monday..
When the stranger arrived at George R de Silva mawatha, a tree-lined
highway in the highly-guarded Kotahena famous for toddy taverns, the
authorities paid scant attention to him or his beedi.
The middle aged moustached 25-year-old checked into a rundown lodge in the
guise of a businessman. He was small, bald and a chain smoker. At the lodge
he mingled frequently with others, gossiping about the killings and other
atrocities carried out by government troops.
He was convincing and his speech convinced. But in the evenings he
disappeared and often arrived at the lodge late at nights in a
three-wheeler. One day he appeared drunk and the lodge owner fearing
trouble that his lucrative trade might suffer threatened to have him thrown
out. He apologised but his curious routine never stopped.
His disappearances gave rise to the impression that he was meeting old
friends at the tavern. But little did the owner know that his enigmatic
tenant was holding discussions with his comrades in Colombo and was in the
midst of drawing up a blue-print to mount assaults on Colombo harbour.
But the man however had a weakness. After his midnight rendezvous he was
seeing a cheap, drunken hooker. She was faithful since he poured in a lot
of money for her benefit. The man never did dream that the relationship
with the hooker would be his undoing.
The police were sweeping the north Colombo range for hookers on July 25.
One of them netted were the mistress of the man. For police nothing
appeared unusual in the woman except the jewellery that was wearing.
Suspicious, police begun to grill (the grill was not with sweet sauce!).
The woman squealed. She admitted to having a midnight rendezvous with a
man living in a lodge and he always spoke in support of the separatist
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
But the police did not proceed to arrest the man on the confession. They
only detailed someone to shadow him. On July 14 the man gave the police the
slip amidst the shoppers at Pettah. But at dawn on July 15 he appeared from
somewhere at gates of the lodge. Policemen lying in ambush pounced and
handcuffed him and took him to an undisclosed destination after
At the undisclosed destination surrounded by plain-clothed policemen and
some military officers, he appeared serene and calm. Policemen and military
men carefully scrutinized the man's identification papers, but his face and
the photograph on the national identity card did not match.
The policemen with the assistance of the terrorist investigations
department and national intelligence bureau sleuths begun the rigorous
grilling sessions. The man began to spill the beans. The Sunday Leader in
the national interest will identify the man only Kugadas, a native of
Kugadas is a member of the LTTE's spy wing, that comes under the direct
purview of Pottu Amman -- the most wanted terrorist by the Indian and Sri
Lankan governments for engineering the assassination of former Indian prime
minister, Rajiv Gandhi.
Kugadas joined the LTTE in 1995. He participated in the attacks of
Mankulam, Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass and counter-operations against troops
who were involved in operation Rivi Rasa (Sun Rays).
Kugadas had arrived in Colombo on his final mission on July 13 after
tampering with someone's identity card. He was dispatched to Colombo by a
person named Kroner (Kroner's actual name has been withheld by The Sunday
Leader in the national interest). Kugadas said his mission was to observe
the security arrangements at the oil-refinery at Modera. But that is not
all: He had also been detailed to carryout a thorough observation of the
His mission was to observe the security arrangements at both these
strategic points and report his observation to the LTTE ring leaders in
Colombo. He had been asked to write his observations in small piece of
paper and drop off them near shops to be picked by the them. To identify
the notes, a piece of brick to be kept of them.
Following the detection and during a high level security council meeting at
the Colombo army and navy headquarters, a decision was made to intensify
the security at the Colombo port and Modera oil-refinery and also post
armed policemen on the "edges" of Galle face. The primary duty of the
policemen and women is to observe for any suspicious movements of motor
boats attempting to beach in the area.
With threats looming the Sri Lankan navy refused permission for fisher folk
of Wattala to fish at Galle Face. The highly agitated fishermen protesting
over the red tape demonstrated one day and demanding the navy to allow them
to fish at Galle face. But when the stern navy officers refused, the
furious fishermen took their tale of woe to John Amaratunge, an opposition
party parliamentarian. But discussions on the matter were put-off to find
an alternative area for Wattala fisher folk to fish.
The issue of the fisher folk's grievances was not the topic echoing in the
corridors of the Sri Lankan navy headquarters at fort, but the recent
changes and scrapping of the post of Senior Naval Officer Commanding
Northern Area (SNOCNOR). The post was held by Rear admiral L.R.Amraweera.
The post was created by the navy commander Vice Admiral Cecil Tissera after
the country suffered the worst ever reversal in the hands of the LTTE, when
the cadres of the movement walked into the country's highly guarded
Elephant Pass complex on April 26 this year signalling the Tigers were
gearing to knockout the 40,000 odd troops stationed in northern Jaffna
Amraweera, a sailor par excellence was sent to the north after Tissera
created the post especially to match the overall commander's post (OOC)
created by the Sri Lankan army. The post was handed over to Major General
Janka Perera, after government removed Major General Sarath Fonseka as the
northern Security Forces Commander (SFC). (see below for the inside story
of transfers. Last week, when this newspaper requested permission from the
information ministry to spell out the reasons for their transfer, this
newspaper was told not to carry it, since it would create divisions within
the army. However the public was made aware of the details of this matter
in another newspaper).
For Tissera, dispatching a rear admiral was the only solution to north to
match Janaka Perera. But for Amraweera's bad luck two Super Dvoras gunboats
went down while attempting to cross the northeastern seas. One was sunk by
a LTTE missile and the other one was sunk by the Sri lankan air force
accidentally. The navy ship was attacked by a SLAF ground attack aircraft
was, apparently, piloted by a "westerner". The air force apologized to the
SLN for the mishap, but the kith and kin of those officers who perished
with the ship are demanding compensation from the defence ministry.
Tissera, after scrapping the post of SNOCNOR, detailed Rear Admiral
Amraweera to take up the post as the director, naval administration and to
fill the vacuum created by the departing Amaraweera detailed Rear Admiral
D.N.Karanagoda to north. But the post was not as SNOCNOR, but as naval
Karanagaoda had returned to country after undergoing an year's training at
the National Defence College (NDC) in India. Commodore S.P Weerasekera who
acted as Amaraweera's deputy during his tenure in north, was transferred to
a "desk job" at the navy headquarters at Flag Post avenue as director,
naval welfare (DNW). Ttransfer 'demotion' of both these officers has caused
a minor earthquake in the navy and it yet to be seen what else Cecil
Tissera has up his sleeve to "satisfy" the navy other than posting
Karanagoda as Com-North.
Amidst these developments, the navy has also come under severe criticism
for acquiring the services of three retired air force pilots to fly two
helicopters. A former SLAF wing commander, Sunil Cabral has been brought
back as the squadron leader to command the navy's dust-off wing and he will
be assisted by Romesh Mendis (a former pilot attached to Sri Lankan
airlines formerly known as Air Lanka) and Ranjith Yapa, a former flying
officer of the SLAF MI-24 helicopter squadron.
Military observers say that the helicopters based on board ships are
specially inducted to carry out quick destroy missions on LTTE targets in
the Mullaitivu area and protect the naval and other commercial ships plying
between Trincomalee and northern Jaffna port, Kankesanthurai.
While the navy inducted its newest 'toy', the SLAF took possession of the
Mig-27 fighter jets from the Ukraine last week. The single seater jets
twice as fast as sound are piloted by four 'foreigners' (The Sunday Leader
withholds the origin of the foreign pilots due to the censorship). The
pilots are paid according to their number of flying hours and the missions
carried out on LTTE targets will be on "sortie" basis. The Floggers-J type
fitted with 23mm guns and a sophisticated missile delivery system has the
capabilities of reaching northern Jaffna peninsula within seven minutes of
Addition to the induction of the Floggers-J the SLAF is also expected to
get another four ground attack aircraft and ten Mike Alphas (Mi-24)
helicopter gun ships. These purchases are being made following a advise
received a from foreign military experts who had claimed that only way of
eradicating the terrorist menace is by "smoking out" the Tango-Four base of
Parbhakarn in the Mullaitivu jungles with American built Apache type
helicopters. Apaches were used by American forces during the Operation
Desert Storm in the Gulf. However the Sri Lanka government did not go in
for Apaches, because they were too expensive.
Against the back drop of the new equipment received by the armed forces,
the failure of two senior officers to see eye-to-eye during their tenure as
Overall Operations Commander (OOC) and security forces commander north
respectively, has been reverberating along the corridors of the army
headquarters and insiders say the issue will continue even after the
incumbent army commander Lieutenant General Sri Lal Weerassoriya steps down
from his post. There are signals that Weerassoriya will be asked to retire
before December 31 and posted as High Commissioner in Pakistan.
Majors General Janaka Perera and Sarath Fonskea were transferred from their
posts also due to an unauthorized operation ordered to be carried out by
Sarath Fonseka against Tiger rebels in Thanankillapu, an area located on
the axis of A9 highway, a highway dubbed as "highway of hell".
Soon after the operation carried by troops loyal to Fonseka, strong
protests were lodged to the army commander. Weerassoriya, astonished,
requested Perera to ask for an explanation from Fonseka in writing, but
Fonseka refused. As tensions grew between both of them, army commander
during a meeting with president Chandrika Kumaratunga briefed her on the
issue. Kumaratunga ordered Weerasooriya to summon both officers to the army
headquarters on July 13 to patch-up the matters.
Weerasooriya held discussions with both officers for two hours and urged
them to "forget their differences" and work together. But both
battle-hardened men refused and admancy of both men prompted president to
send two letters demanding them to relinquish their duties.
Now, with these developments within the army and present political crisis
in the country, the next few weeks or months will be very crucial for the
country especially when intelligence wings have warned that large scale
offensives are expected from the LTTE.
If the present political climate prolongs, it is definite the Tiger leader
Velupillai Prabhakaran will use the situation for his advantage to mount
attacks on the government forces. And the government will not be left with
any option but of fighting the war to a finish if the proposed
constitutional reforms are rejected by the people.
Navy's chief of-staff Daya Sandagiri and Eastern naval commander
T.G.Sundaram, both had been served with a letter of termination. Both had
been asked to terminate their services on December 31 this year. The
letters have been sent through commander Cecil Tissera and copies to the
ministry of defence.
Off the Lines.
An Investigation had been launched at the school of artillery after media
reports said that two Tiger rebels have had lunched in the officers' mess
with the connivance of foot soldiers guarding the third perimeter defence
Preparations are being made at an army cantonment in the outskirts of
Colombo to intensify the security, after intelligence warned of the
possible presence of some LTTE suicide cadres in the area. The reason is
not that the cantonment would be attacked, but because newly purchased
military armament supposed to be strewn in the front yard of the cantonment
in full view of the public.
Published: Mon Aug 7 03:28:41 EDT 2000