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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamils - a Nation without a State > Struggle for Tamil Eelam   > Tamil Armed Resistance > Reports of Armed Conflict > Jaffna Link by 4 February 1998 says Sri Lanka Deputy Defence Minister, General Ratwatte

Reports on Armed Conflict in Tamil Eelam

Jaffna Link by 4 February 1998 says 
Sri Lanka  Deputy Defence Minister, General Ratwatte

Sri Lanka Sunday Times,14 December 1997

I will shake hands with Prabhakaran after we beat him, says Deputy Defence Minister Ratwatte

Linking of the land based Main Supply Route (MSR) to Jaffna through Killinochchi would be achieved by February 4, next year, acting Defence Minister, General Anuruddha Ratwatte declared.

"At any cost, we have to re-unify the country. Those who scoff at our plans are in for a shock," he told the Sri Lanka Foreign Correspondents Association on Thursday. General Ratwatte's assertions came at a news conference that preceded a dinner he hosted for members of the FCA at his Stanmore Crescent residence in Colombo. The assurance by General Ratwatte, who is personally directing the military machine against the LTTE, would mean the ongoing seven month long "Operation Jaya Sikurui" (Victory Assured) would be completed in time for Independence Day. Some 20,000 troops are engaged in the offensive to recapture 74 kilometres of the A 9 - the Kandy-Jaffna highway - which has not been under Government control. Already nearly 50 kilometres of the highway had been re-captured.

General Ratwatte declared that neither he nor the Army were worried about casualties as war meant casualties. At any rate, the wounded were three fourths of the 4,000 casualties. Out of the 3,000 wounded, only 500 were not in a position to get back to the front. Most of the rest had gone back, he said.

Asked if the armed forces had enough manpower to hold the 74 kilometre stretch of the road, General Ratwatte admitted they had.

A whole formation, comprising 10,000 troops, was deployed only to guard the road and the offensive, as such, was being carried out by another set of four divisions, Gen. Ratwatte said. If the operation was taking this long (it started on May 13), it was because the forces were keen that the captured stretches of the road were defended adequately. If this had not been done, the LTTE would have re-captured vast stretches of the road. But the LTTE had not been able to do this so far, the General said. The forces, he added, were securing a 10 km stretch on either side of the road.

In last Thursday's heavy fighting and high casualties in the battle for Mannakkulam, 8 kms north of Kanakarayankulam on the MSR, the General said that this was not because of any intelligence failure or poor performance, but because the affected troops had gone there mainly to remove the casualties. Helicopters could not be used because of bad weather and ground troops had to go on the rescue mission in the night. These were attacked by the LTTE's crack Charles Anthony regiment, which had come in as a reinforcement. The forces had earlier destroyed the LTTE camp and the LTTE's bid to re-capture it had failed. The LTTE also had suffered heavy casualties, the General said.

He was satisfied with the training and level of competence of the Sri Lankan troops including the commando groups, and did not think that foreign training was necessary. "We can teach other armies a thing or two about guerrilla warfare," the General said. 

Answering a specific question on when he expected the US Green Berets to come back, he said the Green Berets, like other such groups from Britain and France, would come as per a set programme. "They do not go to the front. They deliver lectures here," he explained.

The General said that the situation in Jaffna was conducive for conducting local body elections, for which nominations had been called. "The people want a representative government and government too would like the army to be taken off civilian work," he said. 

The General said that he knew what the army might do if it stayed too long in an area. In this context, he recalled the complaints which the Jaffna people had against the IPKF.

On the situation in the east, he said that here too there was a lot of misreporting. The LTTE had not been able to move about and send reinforcements to the Wanni because the main road and the sea had been blocked.

Asked if after the opening of the road, there would be talks with the LTTE, Gen. Ratwatte said the LTTE would be welcome to talk if it laid down arms and be like any other Tamil party. On whether he would meet LTTE chief, Prabhakaran, Gen. Ratwatte said: "I will meet him and shake hands with him, but only after we win and he is defeated!" 

On the Amnesty International's charge that most of the 600 who had reportedly disappeared from Jaffna in 1996, had been killed by the troops, the General said, that this was not based on any proper investigation. Of the 750 cases brought to the notice of the government, 180 were duplicates and some were traced, leaving a balance of 400. Surely some may have joined the LTTE or taken away by the LTTE during the forced evacuation of Jaffna at the close of 1995, he said.

Why has the Amnesty or any NGO not contacted the LTTE and asked them if any of the disappeared were with them?" the General asked.

Asked about the plight of the Tamils in the camps in Vavuniya, he said that they were being detained because they were destitutes. "They would go to Colombo and wander about with nobody to look after them. They might get arrested. Sometimes we find that their 'Relatives' in Colombo deny any relationship or knowledge of them. Some express inability to put them up in their houses."

"Those who want to get back to Jaffna are allowed to go back and those who came from other parts of the Wanni would also be allowed to go back as and when civilian life becomes safe along the MSR. Efforts are on to allow civilian settlements in some areas along the road," Gen. Ratwatte said.


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