"Progress a little faster than originally planned’’
Road is hard but victory is certain, says Gotabhaya

Despite battlefield losses last week with the LTTE delivering bodies of 30 soldiers killed in action through the ICRC, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa while agreeing that the road forward is hard remains convinced that victory is certain.

Rajapaksa expressed these thoughts in an interview with today’s issue of the Irida Divaina where he said that the progress made had been a little faster than originally planned.

"We are moving forward in accordance with those plans," he had said.

To fight the war correctly, it is necessary to get an analysis (of the situation confronting the forces and the battle plan) from the service commanders and the president had done this, the Secretary explained.

"It was only after that the commanders were able to set out when and how they would carry their campaign forward."

He also said in the wide-ranging interview:

Once we took the East, the Army Commander analyzed the situation and told the president that it would be possible to close in on Kilinochchi within a certain timeframe. He expected to reach Kilinochchi by December and the battle plans were devised on that basis.

Our forces spent a lot of time in areas like Madhu and there were some people who wondered whether we were stuck. At that time the Army Commander’s idea was that it was more necessary to destroy LTTE’s resources than win territory.

Given that we are fighting on a broad battle front there were opportunities for us to punch our way through various places. But if we did that their strongholds and resources would have remained.

Rajapakse indicated in the course of the interview that it is clear from evidence available in liberated areas like cemeteries, posters etc. that information the military had earlier obtained through intelligence channels had been correct.

``There were defence analysts who doubted whether our figures were right but as we move forward now it is evident that these were correct,’’ he said explaining that ordinary people are not interred in LTTE war cemeteries.

Rajapakse also discussed the question of internally displaced people and hardships that civilians suffered in the war zone. He said that when Jaffna was liberated the same situation prevailed and the numbers involved in the North, at about 400,000, was more than twice the number in the Vanni.

"This is not a new thing for us. We tackled this problem successfully in the East too. We quickly re-settled the displaced people in the East and we can do the same in the Vanni too. While the war is being fought we can provide the displaced with the necessary food and shelter.’’

Responding to a question that international intervention is being sought on the basis of the travails of the internally displaced, Rajapakse said that the media had a duty to correctly explain the situation instead of going along a path that suits the LTTE’s objectives.

"When we closed Muhamalai it was alleged that people will die of hunger and there were persistent demands that this entry point be opened. We knew that the LTTE needed Muhamalai open for trafficking in arms and bombs to and from the North.

``We did not permit that despite pressure to open that entry point on humanitarian grounds. However, we provided the goods and services that the people of the north needed. This is what we will do in this instance too."

Responding to a question on the LTTE’s recent air attacks on Trincomalee, Rajapakse said that this attack, using a light aircraft, did not cause any serious setback to the security forces. The LTTE, having suffered a string of recent defeats, needed to do something to boost their own morale and that of their supporters.

Up to now the LTTE has carried out six aerial missions against 6,000 by the SLAF. An LTTE light aircraft can carry two 30 kg. bombs against an air force fighter with a capability of carrying bombs of between 250 kg. to 1,000 kg.

``Our air attacks are on identified targets while the recent LTTE aerial mission did not hit any specific target because the SLAF is always prepared to counter the threat,’’ he said.

``Naturally a lot of people ask the question why the Tiger aircraft was not shot down. Because of our defensive measures, these LTTE light aircraft can operate only over areas close to Mullaitivu. The aircraft that carried out the recent raid on Trincomalee was airborne for only a short time and flew very low and made no effort to engage a specific target but to get away quickly.

"But we have taken the necessary steps to prevent such attacks in the future," he said.

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