Defence Secretary Colonel (retd) Gotabhaya Rajapakse
yesterday said that the success of the ongoing security forces
operations in the East would influence further action.
Speaking to The Island immediately after his return
from the recently captured Vakarai region, Rajapakse asserted
that the enemy suffered sizeable losses due to security forces
action spearheaded by Special Forces and Commandos.
"What we have achieved in the East is significant," the
retired infantryman said. Fielding questions, he said that a
change of tactics was crucial to forces’ unprecedented success.
"We adopted a strategy to suit the terrain and in the end it
facilitated a successful assault on key LTTE bases," he said,
adding that the LTTE was on the run.
Dismissing claims of indiscriminate military action, the
veteran soldier emphasised that the forces took every possible
measure to minimize losses among the civilians as well as the
fighting units. "We were not in an indecent hurry to smash their
Unlike in previous occasions, the LTTE, he said had failed to
carry out a phased out withdrawal. "They fled in disarray,
leaving behind a large quantity of arms, ammunition, explosives
and vehicles. They simply didn’t have the time and they may have
expected us to call off the action," he said. The army denied
them the opportunity to remove some of their precious armaments
including two 152 mm artillery, one 120 mm mortar, two 12.7 mm
anti-aircraft weapons and two 30mm weapons. The recovered
armaments were among the largest single recovery made in the
The Defence Secretary said that the army and the Special Task
Force (STF) conducted operations under extremely difficult
conditions. Inclement weather had seriously affected the
progress. In some instances troops had been forced to delay
their push, he said. But troops fought vigorously to overcome
obstacles, he said.
He acknowledged that one of the biggest impediments was the
presence of large groups of civilians in the midst of the
battle-field. The forces had been also concerned about the
possibility of an accidental artillery strike on Vakarai
hospital, he said.
The LTTE had a major base adjoining the hospital, he said. He
accused the Scandinavian truce monitors, the ICRC and other
international organisations of turning a blind eye to the LTTE
activity near the hospital. Contrary to reports and statements
issued by various interested parties, there had been ample food
stocks and medicine in the area. According to Rajapakse, the
LTTE had used sacks of rice to reinforce their strong points.
Troops had also recovered sizeable stocks of fuel.
He slammed a section of the media for being biased. The same
could be said about some of the international organisations.
They desperately sought to impede military operations by
shedding crocodile tears over the suffering of the civilian
population. In fact, they prolonged the suffering of the masses
by shielding a ruthless terrorist group which unashamedly
manipulated the international opinion with the help of a set of
In the Ampara District the STF had forced the LTTE to vacate
over a dozen of its bases. The STF offensive had coincided with
the army action directed against the LTTE in the Vakarai region.
The STF operation, the biggest STF offensive carried out since
the Oslo-arranged ceasefire agreement came into being in
February 2002 had virtually forced the LTTE out of their
permanent bases. Although the LTTE side-stepped the STF
offensive thereby avoided heavy casualties, commandos destroyed
their facilities that included a sizeable stock of arms,
ammunition, explosives and vehicles.
Rajapakse said that the LTTE’s presence in the East had been
considerably weakened. He admitted that Kockadicholai in the
Batticaloa district remained under LTTE control. He indicated
that security forces would go all out to wipe out the remaining
groups. For them there was no option. They must either surrender
of face the consequences, he said, sounding a warning to the
LTTE based in the Vanni.
He explained the action initiated by the navy with the
support of the Airforce to prevent the LTTE from bringing in
fresh consignments of arms, ammunition and equipment. They
played a crucial role in facilitating the ground offensive, he
said. Israeli-built Kfirs launched from Katunayake inflicted
sizeable losses on the enemy, he said. In fact, a direct air
strike on a major LTTE base at Verugal believed to be occupied
by self-styled Colonel Swarnam hastened their collapse. He also
acknowledged that due to successful naval action the LTTE had
failed to replenish units deployed in the East. He pointed out
that the Sea Tigers too suffered substantial losses. They had
been also evicted from their bases on the Batticaloa-Trincomalee