Major General Prasanna Silva says that a section of the international community not only rejected Sri Lanka’s calls for arms, ammunition and equipment but also prevented aircraft carrying urgently needed items from flying over their airspace.
The former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 55 Division said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government had bought in the required armaments to bolster the army’s firepower in spite of obstacles.
Silva, currently the GOC of the 22 Division headquartered in Trincomalee said that contrary to claims, the Rajapaksa government had provided a range of weapons and equipment, which helped the government forces to destroy the LTTE’s military wing last May.
Participating in a Sinhala language political programme aired over Rupavahini, the former Special Forces Commander paid a glowing tribute to the Sri Lanka Air Force for throwing its weight behind the army. Commenting on operations carried out by the 55 Division under his command, Silva said that the SLAF jets and helicopter gunships had made their task easier. The SLAF had facilitated the evacuation of the wounded, a challenging task, particularly when the infantry crossed a lagoon under fire, he said. Despite severe constraints, the SLAF had played a remarkable role, he said emphasising he had never seen the SLAF going all out during previous engagements. SLAF personnel had engaged in evacuation operations even risking their own lives, he said.
Silva said that the deployment of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) on surveillance missions had provided real time battle ground pictures to him, thereby helping him with decision making.
The government is under heavy fire for using senior Army officers to dispute Opposition presidential candidate General (redt) Sarath Fonseka. The Opposition said that the government shouldn’t have involved serving officers in its propaganda campaign directed against the former Army Commander. But regardless of criticism, senior officers, including Major General Kamal Gunaratne (former GOC of the 53 Division), Major General Shavendra Silva (former GOC of the 58 Division) and Major General Chagi Gallage recently appeared on State TV.
Maj. Gen. Silva said that there was absolutely no truth in the claim that the Army had killed LTTE cadres, who surrendered on the Vanni front. The Army had evacuated wounded LTTE cadres, some of them airlifted to hospital though some interested parties criticised the government for ill-treating the enemy. No one should forget that there were over 11,000 LTTE cadres in government custody, he stressed.
Silva said that the government should tell the world how the enemy was treated during the war and after the end of operations last May.
According to him, one of the primary reasons for their success was the availability of the required manpower. Challenging battlefield objectives couldn’t have been met without the Army receiving fresh recruits, he said.
During the final phase of the offensive, his Division advancing along the north-eastern coast rescued about 15,000 men, women and children without any loss of life among the civilians.
Responding to interviewer Chamuditha Samarawickrema, Silva said that at one point the Army had wondered whether they could hold their Muhamalai frontline let alone break through the LTTE northern defence line, a well built complex backed by artillery pieces, mortars and strong points.
Unlike any other previous leader, President Mahinda Rajapaksa had visited frontline troops to boost their morale.
The former soldier Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had, Maj. Gen. Silva said, brought the three services and the police together. He had acted swiftly and decisively, intervening to deploy the SLAF to evacuate a wounded soldier from Vakarai during the height of the battle in the East.
Since the end of the Eelam war last May, the government and security forces had done a tremendous amount of work in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, he said. In the Trincomalee District there were only three per cent of IDPs to be resettled. The resettlement process had been somewhat delayed due to slow progress in mine clearing operations, he said. The army de-mining units were primarily engaged in mine clearing operations in the Vanni thereby causing a delay in humanitarian de-mining operations in the Trincomalee District, where two areas were to be cleared. The second reason for the delay in completion of resettlement in the district was the need to relocate the war displaced elsewhere as the government had taken over their land for development work, he said.
The Army was actively supporting development work in the District in support of the government’s overall strategy to restore normalcy in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, he said.