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Ceasefire leads to victory
As Sri Lankans reflect on the series of military victories gained by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, it is interesting to consider what factors led to these successes, in particular, the role played by the International Community. Though the Ceasefire Agreement was signed in 2002, the involvement of the Norwegians and the International Community commenced in 2000. In the preceding years, the LTTE caused grievous damage to the Sri Lankan State. Among the many terrorist incidents that took place included the blowing up of the Central Bank, the attack on the Airport leading to devastating damage to the national fleet and the destruction of the country’s oil reserves. Terrorist bombs resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. In 1999, the Sri Lankan Army was in such a poor state that the LTTE came within an ace of capturing the whole Jaffna peninsular and the Sri Lanka Government even considered evacuating the entire Northern Army to India. The economy of the country was so badly affected that, for the first time since independence, there was negative economic growth in 1999/2000.

After the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement, the situation was dramatically reversed. The Sri Lankan economy enjoyed record economic growth in each year of the Ceasefire Agreement. The vast numbers of new hotels, homes, shopping complexes and roads bear testament to this. The areas under LTTE control, on the other hand, had no international investment and if it is possible to measure growth rates there, they would be zero or negative. The flourishing economy enabled the Sri Lankan Government to massively rearm and train its Army, Navy and Air Force. The Army increased in size by more than 50% and there was a doubling in size of the Navy and Air Force. The LTTE, however, suffered their most damaging split in 2004 when Karuna and his forces joined the Government side.

These were the factors which enabled the Sri Lankan Forces to have one of their greatest military victories in the entire civil war when the whole East was recaptured during 2006/7 with relatively few casualties. The Sri Lankan Navy also did considerable damage to the sea tigers during this period including the destruction of about ten of their main arms smuggling ships. In addition, from 2002 to 2006, the SLMM published nearly 50 tables, each giving a detailed breakdown of ceasefire violations showing that the LTTE committed up to 96% of all violations. These results led to the greatest diplomatic disaster for the LTTE when the entire EU decided to ban them, thus increasing the number of countries banning them tenfold. This significantly reduced their ability to collect funds abroad. Coupled with the loss of coastline in the East and the increased size and effectiveness of the Sri Lankan Navy, there was a drastic reduction in the ability of the LTTE to smuggle arms from abroad during the period of the Ceasefire Agreement. This resulted in the LITE facing severe arms shortages from 2007 onwards. Moreover, when comparing the loss of lives before and during the Ceasefire Agreement, it is evident that thousands of Sri Lankan lives were saved during this period.

It is apparent that during the period of involvement of the International Community the Sri Lankan State enjoyed a sustained period of economic growth, and some of its most impressive military victories. The LTTE, in contrast, suffered its first major split, substantial loss of territory, considerable damage both to its armed forces and its ability to smuggle arms from abroad. This turnaround has led directly to further successes in the North. The main credit for the many successes of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces must be given to the raw courage of the Sri Lankan troops, the leadership of their commanders and the determination of the Government also the vital assistance given by the International Community should be recognised.

Dr R P Fernando

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