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
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