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DVRO Debacle and Foreign Aid
The Sri Lankan Navy lost a 300 million rupee DVRO fast attack patrol craft in a sea battle with the LTTE off the coast of Point Pedro on August 29. The Liberation Tigers seized the weaponry on the DVRO before it sank.
This follows upon the Sri Lanka army's loss of more than fifty million rupees worth of weapons and ammunition to the LTTE in the Janakapura Camp attack on July 24.
The Israeli built super DVRO fast patrol craft, one of the most efficient vessels in the Sri Lanka Navy's fleet was surrounded by four Sea Tiger boats off the N-E coast near Point Pedro in the Indian Ocean, on Sunday, 29 August 1993 at about 9.30 a.m.
The four Sea Tiger boats were mounted with fifty calibre (five zero) guns. In the gun battle that ensued, one of the Sea Tiger boats, packed with explosives, and with two Black Sea Tigers, Major Puvindran and Captain Manirasan on board, surged ahead and rammed the super Dvro and blew it up. The two Black Sea Tigers died as martyrs in the Tamil struggle for freedom.
It is reported that those who perished with the Dvro were its captain, Lt.Wimalaweera, his 8 member crew and four other officers including Lt.J.G.Punch-ihewa who was the Captain of a sister Dvro craft The weaponry seized by the Liberation Tigers from the DVRO included two 23 mm cannons, one fifty calibre (five zero) gun, personal weapons and ammunition..
The front page of the Tamil tabloid Eela Natham published in Jaffna on the following day, 30 August, carried a photograph of the LTTE leader, Velupillai Pirabaharan inspecting the captured weapons on Sunday afternoon. This was the second Dvro to be sunk by the LTTE. The other was blown up by sea mines last year. This latest sinking comes in the wake of the sinking of two other Sri Lanka inshore Patrol Crafts during the previous week.
The Defence Correspondent of the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times commented on 5 September:
The current joke doing the rounds in informed circles is that Sri Lanka needs foreign aid not only to finance its war effort but the resistance of the LTTE as well! The more serious question that is being increasingly asked by certain non governmental organisations is whether foreign aid and arms to Sri Lanka will secure stability in the island.
The DVRO debacle, however, was not without benefit to the growing number of Sinhala business concerns with vested interests in the prolongation of the war.
The Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Island reported on 5 September:
Those Sinhala business interests who feel that they have not had a fair share of the lucrative defence contracts have not hesitated to blow the whistle on those who are on the inside track of the gravy train..
The Sinhala controlled Sri Lanka Sunday Times, commented editorially on 5 September:
Sinhala SLFP Chief Minister of Western Province, Ms. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunga, with an eye on the next General Election was quick to exploit the situation. In a speech reported in the Sinhala controlled Sri Lanka Sunday Times, on 5 September she said: ''Forty percent of foreign aid is used for corrupt and wasteful practices.''
The response of those in power in Sri Lanka to all this was predictable. On the one hand, President D.B.Wijetunge as Commander in Chief, upbraided the top army brass and made it clear that he was not amused. The Lanka Guardian reported on 15 August:
On the other hand Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe sought to pre empt the adverse publicity of any future debacles by turning soothsayer. Speaking to the Foreign Correspondents Association in Colombo on Thursday 2 September he said:
At the same time, the government threatened to attack Point Pedro. Brigadier Nalin Angammana used the excuse of the DVRO debacle several miles off the coast of Point Pedro to declare: ''We have told the ICRC that if there are attacks 'in the area', we might have to respond.''
In consequence, the ICRC was compelled to suspend operations at Point Pedro pier. Brigadier Angammana exposed the intentions of the government when he added: ''If the ICRC is not in Point Pedro, government food ships might not want to go there.''
After all, some ten years ago, a Sinhala President had given expression to his perception of the feelings of the Sinhala people: ''Really, if I starve the Tamil people out, the Sinhala people will be happy.''
The Government also launched a fresh recruitment drive urging Sinhala youth to join the army. In June, the Sri Lanka Parliament passed a Bill approving conscription. The Bill was proposed by the opposition SLFP and adopted by the ruling UNP, demonstrating yet again that though Sinhala political parties may have their differences and conflicts, they do share a common purpose, and that is to crush the Tamil struggle for freedom.
Indeed when they joust with each other to capture power in the Sinhala South, it is to anti Tamil, Sinhala chauvinist sentiment that they always appeal.
Here it is not without interest to note that, when the SLFP moved the conscription Bill two years ago, the Government rejected it. At that time, the Government was wary of the political complexion of the Sinhala youths who may join up. Now that it has secured the disappearance of around 60,000 Sinhala youth in the South during the period 1989 to 1991 it believes that it can recruit without risk of subversion.
Also, 3 years after the commencement of Eelam War II, the Government has found that thousands have deserted the armed forces. But whether conscription and fresh recruitment drives will stop the desertions is, ofcourse, another matter. And weapons in the hands of deserters may serve to increase instability and the threat of contract killings which has become so much a part of the Sri Lanka political scene.
Yet another Sinhala contender for power, Sinhala Opposition DUNF leader Gamini Dissanayake in his anxiety to exploit the Government's predicament uttered some home truths in the Sinhala controlled Sri Lanka Sunday Times on 5 September :
However, foreign aid donors may be increasingly sceptical about assertions that stability in the coming election year will come from so called 'readjustments in the hierarchy of priorities' - Sinhala chauvinism's euphemism for allocating all resources to an all out effort to quell Tamil resistance. They are well aware of the fate of ex President J.R. Jayawardene's grandiloquent order to the Army Commander in June 1979 to quell Tamil resistance in six months!
The hard political reality is that stability will not come to the island without justice and justice demands that the Sri Lanka government recognises the Tamil struggle for self determination, sit and talk with the leaders of that struggle, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and structure a polity where both the Tamil people and the Sinhala people may freely associate with each other on equal terms.