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Festina lente!

The much lionized Tigers have lost their first line of defence at Muhamalai despite their bragging that it was impregnable. The army has consolidated its power in a newly gained area encompassing approximately half a kilometre ahead of its FDL from Kilali to Kadolana, thus rendering the LTTE positions in the peninsula and beyond extremely vulnerable.

The Tiger defences that fell, it should be noted, had been fortified over several years to prevent a southward thrust by the Jaffna based troops. At a time the outfit is under tremendous pressure on the Mannar and the Weli Oya fronts, it is possible that it will go all out to move northwards from Muhamalai, where it has a heavy presence. The army may have sought to pre-empt such an attack on Wednesday by capturing the LTTE's FDL. But, the question is whether the army has learnt its lessons from the heavy losses it had suffered in battles at Muhamailai in 2006 and last year.

The high casualty figure has left room for someone to argue that the army's achievement has the trappings of a Pyrrhic victory. The LTTE has manifestly suffered a far greater loss but it can always bury its dead in unmarked graves without the knowledge of their families and the media and mislead the world into belief that the army has lost the battle. High casualty figures are grist to the mill of the pro-terror lobby trying to demoralize the military and the people whose morale is a sine qua non for defeating terrorism. They will hide the LTTE's losses and harp on the death toll on the part of the military. They are already cock-a-hoop and their cock-and-bull theories as to 'why the LTTE cannot be defeated' will be repeated ad nauseam in the next few days. 

We will have those who don't even condemn terror strikes on civilians weeping buckets for 'the children of the poor' dying in the line of duty. We are only typewriter guerrillas and no military experts. However, we believe offensives of the magnitude of Operation Jayasikuru which came a cropper under the Kumaratunga regime are the least desirable in battling the LTTE. The operation that wrested control of the Eastern Province saw the military beating the LTTE at its own game. Offensives against the LTTE become more effective when they have an element of surprise as we have seen in successful military operations in the post Mavil Aru phase of the so-called Eelam war. Most of all, as we the laymen see it, the success of anti-terror operations hinges on the ability and willingness of the three armed forces and the STF to launch well coordinated offensives. For this purpose, all commanders must sink their differences, see eye to eye on military matters and assist and be assisted by their counterparts in the prosecution of war to neturalise the LTTE, the biggest obstacle to a political solution.

War is hell and the least desirable solution to a problem but anyone who advocates making peace with Prabhakaran should be able to get him at least to announce that he is prepared to settle for something less than a separate state. While addressing the world press in 2002 in Kilinochchi, after entering into a peace process with the UNF government, Prabhakaran renewed his call for his cadres to kill him if he ever gave up his struggle for Eelam. What the Service Commanders should not lose sight of is that the LTTE, though weakened as never before, still has the capability to inflict heavy damage on the military. With his back against the wall, Prabhakaran will go all out to unleash hell before going down.

The possibility of even chemical attacks cannot be ruled out, if the Wanni bound large quantities of unknown chemicals intercepted by the Navy from time to time, while being smuggled from India, are any indication. Remember the late Anton Balasingham boasted of a secret weapon to be unveiled at an appropriate time. Therefore, it behoves the government and the military to be ready for any eventuality without being either complacent or cocky. Now that war has entered a decisive phase, they must learn to 'make haste slowly' without taking any undue risks. Festina lente!

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