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Home > Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom > Tamil Armed Resistance & the Law > Reports on Armed Conflict in Tamil Eelam >18 kilotonnes of TNT on the Vanni in Tamil Eelam - equivalent to that dropped on Hiroshima
REPORTS ON ARMED CONFLICT IN TAMIL EELAM
On July 31, 2008, in the tail-end of an election campaign, the government announced that the army had entered the Kilinochchi District. Spurious reports about the imminent fall of Kilinochchi Town have followed ever since.
Yet three months and at least 526 dead and 3,102 seriously injured or maimed young soldiers later, the latest reports available claim that the army is still a whole 9 km. from Kilinochchi town, and is yet to cross the deadly A-9 highway at any single point.
These reports give the lie to several statements from some of the most senior figures in prosecuting this war. President Mahinda Rajapakse announced in New York on September 22 that the army was a mere 4.5 kilometres from Kilinochchi.
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake announced on the eve of the August provincial council elections that Kilinochchi town might fall "even tomorrow." And the ever-astute Army Commander, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka claimed nearly two months ago at a book launch that several buildings in Kilinochchi could actually be "seen" from the soldiers' positions then.
It is a pretty tough bet to see even the mighty World Trade Centre in Fort from 10 kilometres away, but the Army Commander claimed that several weeks (and much more than 10 kilometres) ago, buildings in the Tiger headquarters town were clearly visible. Barring super-vision, that was also a lie.
It is relevant therefore to ascertain what territory the security forces have in factliberated from the Tigers and how much further they have to go before claiming like George Bush six years ago, 'Mission Accomplished'so that the people canhave realistic expectations as to when the war will end as opposed to politically motivated deadlines dished out by the government and its media propagandists.
Thus realistically theforce closest to Kilinochchi, the army's 57th Division, has had a far tougher time than the day to day reports from the Defence Ministry or Media Centre for National Security claim.
Should we cite any of the sources available to us that give the reality of the sour, gruesome picture on the battlefront, we run the risk of being shut down under the prevailing draconian media environment, yet there is enough information in the Defence Ministry reports to present at least an abstract of the ground realities up north.
For example on October 18, the Defence Ministry reported that the 57th Division had secured the LTTE's defences around the Akkarayankulam tank. Two weeks passed with little mention of the 57th Division and its exploits, and then the Ministry announced on October 30 that the army had captured the Akkarayankulam tank itself, as opposed to just the defences around it.
A further week passed with no word from the Defence Ministry on 57th Division's exploits, and then on November 7, the Defence Ministry announced that the army had captured the "Akkarayankulam built-up," which itself is a whole 9 kilometres away from Kilinochchi town.
In between each of these announcements we were treated to news of the various exploits and victories of Task Force 1 in capturing areas of the west coast with little resistance. So truth be told, the army pointing at Kilinochchi had, in the three weeks between October 18 and November 7, advanced but a distance of three kilometres.
In this time, there were no reports of heavy LTTE resistance on any front. Despite this, the number of soldiers seriously injured or maimed in October spiked to 1,122 from the previous month's peak of 997.
Three times in three weeks
After Akkarayankulam was captured one way or another three times in three weeks, there has been a dip in reporting on the imminent fall of Kilinochchi. By all accounts, 57th Division's advance has once again reached a sticky point, with little news of any advance towards Kilinochchi town.
What the Defence Ministry has done instead to keep up the hype is focus on the achievements of Task Force 1, which has cleared the western coast in the Kilinochchi District and not the town.
While the 57th Division is ploughing into the heart of Kilinochchi at snail's pace and allegedly with heavy casualties, Task Force 1, which is making the headlines capturing several areas on the north western coast, is effectively avoiding and going around Kilinochchi in its advance.
This is a prudent military tactic even under the current risky strategy of fighting an attrition war against a guerrilla terrorist group; however it has little bearing on efforts to capture Kilinochchi town.
Thus what the Defence Ministry is doing is announcing the fall of several bastions in the "Kilinochchi District" such as Nachchikuda, Kiranchi, Devil's Point and others in order to cover up the lack of progress toward Kilinochchi town itself, over what has now been a period of almost one month.
Not an easy task
The map shows both how far removed these areas are from Kilinochchi town, and how the shape of the army's advance demonstrates that taking the LTTE capital is not a job on the plate of Task Force 1.
The government spin machine has already begun to compensate for the fact that the fall of Kilinochchi will be a while. The 'mission' of the army as stated by the Defence Ministry is slowly being shifted to that of opening a land route to Jaffna with advances in Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu being relegated to 'by-the-ways.'
What the government seems to do, with its strategy of putting up 'territory maps,' is to try and maximise the areas it can claim to have captured, and thus present the LTTE as surrounded before a general election. While the Tigers are 'surrounded' in Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu, Mahinda Rajapakse can once again unleash his determined charm on the southern masses and lure them into swinging another election his way.
"LTTE has begun to withdraw"
This would be difficult if the army instead of capturing territory, kept bashing its head against the brick wall that is Kilinochchi town. Another strategy used by the Defence Ministry in its web site, is to announce that the LTTE has begun to withdraw rapidly from Kilinochchi town, thereby playing down the significance of taking the city.
Gotabaya Rajapakse had these realities fully planned out when he gave an interview to the November edition of Business Today magazine. In the interview he stated that the "task at hand" for the military was to "open a land route to Jaffna," while relegating Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu to 'also-rans.'
Apart from creating a land route to Jaffna, "we are also threatening other key points such as Paranthan, Kilinochchi and eventually Mulaithivu," the Defence Secretary stated, playing down completely the likelihood of an imminent fall of Kilinochchi.
Rajapakse also found himself a new enemy apart from the usual human rights activists and media personalities he so often chastises. In the Business Today interview he came out stronger than ever against "lawyers who submit FR applications" and who "don't have to worry about national security" thereafter.
"Law point is inadequate"
Speaking of these evil lawyers, the Defence Secretary said that "they are not required to understand that hardcore LTTE cadres hardly ever talk. They ask 'why are you detaining such a person without producing him in court after detaining him or her for three months?'" he complained.
He said that the "law point" of the lawyers filing FR motions "is inadequate" and that "there have been instances where the legal system has released suspects who have after their release turned up as suicide bombers."
"The FR lawyers must understand that we do not enjoy arresting individuals and it is not a game," he warned, asking what would happen if someone released through an FR petition was "part of a team sent to the city to orchestrate a major attack?"
In effect, under the emergency regulations, the Supreme Court cannot order the release of anyone as long as the Defence Ministry shows even the slightest shred of evidence that the person may be chargeable for a terrorism related offence. It doesn't take much, and J.S. Tissainayagam will vouch for that.
What Rajapakse is seeking is a Guantanamo-style system of being able to arrest anyone he pleases with no oversight whatsoever, and he makes it clear these "FR lawyers" are standing in his way. He fails to realise that all strata of US society have condemned the Guantanamo system or infinite, arbitrary detention despite the fact that it applies to foreigners, aliens, people of the distant lands of Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.
Power to detain citizens
Here the Defence Secretary is seeking the power to detain citizens of his own country - well, ours actually since he's an American citizen - indefinitely in their own motherland without giving them any recourse to appeal.
This is also a man who has boasted, as Mangala Samaraweera revealed in parliament, that the government has unloaded 14.4 million kilogrammes of bombs in the Wanni. He seems proud of that achievement.
Sri Lanka has no nuclear weapons, but from what Samaraweera tells us in parliament we have set a record of our own. We are the only country to drop enough bombs over an area to equate a nuclear yield, on our own soil over the homes of our own people.
Of that achievement, Rajapakse seems immensely proud, and as long at the public continues to swallow the government's mighty morphing propaganda effort of protecting a perpetually imminent victory, the country has yet to see the bulk of the suffering that war will bring.