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‘SL crushed terrorism without British arms’
Army Chief rejects British press reports on weapons

Army Chief Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya yesterday dismissed British press reports that weapons of British origin had been used against the LTTE in the Eelam war IV.

Sri Lanka’s largest ever combined forces offensive, spearheaded by former Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka brought the LTTE to its knees, first in the East and then in the Vanni in two years and 10 months. Major combat operations came to an end on May 19 this year.

Responding to The Island queries, Jayasuriya said that the army had not acquired armaments from the UK during the fourth phase of the conflict.

The British press on Wednesday (August 19) reported that all party committees on Arms Export Control called for an investigation into whether weapons supplied by Britain were used in the Sri Lankan army campaign.

Meeting local and the Colombo-based Indian press at Rock House Armoured Corps camp, the former Vanni Security Forces Commander revealed that the West had denied ammunition needed for sniper weapons.

The British press quoted Labour Party MP Roger Berry as saying that Sri Lanka highlighted the need for the UK government to monitor closely the situation in countries recently engaged in armed conflict. The panel headed by Berry said that the UK had exported a ‘wide variety’ of weapons to Sri Lanka following a truce agreed in February 2002.

Jayasuriya, who had coordinated army’s Vanni campaign as Vanni Security Forces Commander, said that de-mining the Vanni region would be one of their primary tasks.

Welcoming the INGOs’ role in mine clearing operations in the North, Jayasuriya said that the army, too, would step up its efforts to facilitate re-settlement of civilians. He said that more men and material would be deployed to meet this challenging task. He said that INGOs engaged in mine clearing operations in the Jaffna peninsula, too, would move to the Vanni once they had completed their assignment there.

The Army Chief said that a government delegation was visiting an Eastern European country to acquire equipment needed to strengthen their capacity to clear mine fields. He declined to give a time frame for the completion of the job.

According to him, the army mine clearing effort was now focused on the Mannar rice bowl area. He also appreciated the assistance extended by several countries, including the US and Australia to help clear mine fields. The UK, too, recently provided financial assistance to strengthen Sri Lanka’s mine clearing operation.

He said though the LTTE had been defeated, they would have to maintain existing security arrangements to meet any eventuality. He expressed the opinion that about 20,000 to 50,000 fresh recruits would be needed to strengthen the army though there was no prospect of major combat operations in the future.

As part of the overall security plan for the Vanni, the army would build permanent bases both west and east of the A9. He said that they were in the process of working out modalities in this regard.

He said that the intelligence services would hunt for LTTE terrorists masquerading as civilians now accommodated at welfare centres in the north as well as those sent to the South on destructive missions before the army wiped out the top LTTE leadership on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon last May. According to him, the middle level leadership, too, had been eliminated and there had been hardly any communication among isolated LTTE groups if any such cluster remained.

He declined to comment on the recent arrest of Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP while referring to the arrest of SP Lakskman Cooray of the Gampaha Division over his alleged involvement with the LTTE.

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