SL: NK, Iran arms not used in war

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka says that in spite of difficulties in obtaining arms and ammunition at one stage during the Eelam War in 2008, government forces never faced shortages in ammunition and equipment needed to sustain the offensive.

An authoritative official insists that the Lanka Logistics and Technologies Limited, which functions under Defence Ministry control, procured the required equipment from Sri Lanka’s regular suppliers.

The official was responding to recent media reports based on Wiki Leaks revelations that the US had threatened to impose sanctions on Sri Lanka during the final stage of the war if it continued to have arms dealings with North Korea and Iran. The war concluded on May 19, 2009.

In a brief interview with The Island, the spokesman emphasised that there was no basis for US concerns of Sri Lanka’s clandestine weapons procurement agreements with North Korea and Iran.

Sri Lanka broke off diplomatic relations with North Korea in 1971 in the wake of the alleged involvement of that Communist country in the 1971 JVP insurrection. But following the election of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in November, 2005, there has been a tremendous improvement in bilateral relations with Iran leading to an unprecedented 120-day interest free credit facility to help Sri Lanka obtain its crude oil supplies. Diplomatic sources said that the Iranian crude oil deal eased pressure on the Treasury in 2008 at the height of the Vanni war.

Responding to a query, the official said that those involved in procurement on behalf of Sri Lanka could have inquired about North Korean weapons or checked them on the Internet, though no actual purchases were made.

In an obvious reference to Lanka Logistics and Technologies Limited, the US, citing recent intelligence reports said that a Sri Lankan company responsible for acquisition of equipment and services for the Sri Lankan military had negotiated the purchase of RPG-7 Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers (RPGs) and Multiple Rocket Launchers (MRLs) from North Korea’s primary weapons trading firm. The US asserted that the Sri Lanka’s deals with North Korea appeared to have violated UN Security Council Resolution 1718.

The US alleged that it had also received information that Iran’s Ministry of Defence Logistics Export Centre (MODLEX) had also provided a multi-million dollar quote to the Sri Lankan Navy for the installation of naval equipment. It went on to allege that an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Force element located in Sri Lanka provided details to an Iranian shipping company for the sale of weapons to the Sri Lanka Army.

A high level government source said that nothing could be as irrational as buying weapons from North Korea, when the same could be bought from Sri Lanka’s primary arms supplier, China. The official said: "The North Korean weapons are mostly of Chinese origin and there is absolutely no need for us to shop in Pyongyang. Given suspicion in Pyongyang that the US helped Sri Lanka Navy to track down LTTE ships on the high seas, thereby crippling a China-North Korea arms supply route, the Communist state wasn’t likely to come to our assistance."

Commenting on moves to acquire Iranian military equipment, the official said" That would have been unthinkable due to operational matters. How could you bring in something new at the last stage of the offensive and introduce hitherto used weapon systems without adequate training? A country couldn’t adapt to new armaments overnight. President Mahinda Rajapaksa never contemplated procuring Iranian military equipment, though a previous government had explored that possibility. The secret arms purchases from Iran and North Korea are nothing but an international strategy to discredit Sri Lanka."

Sri Lanka’s offensive, defensive and support services’ comprises equipment of Chinese, Russian, Czechoslovakian, Israeli, US, Indian, Ukrainian, Pakistan and South Korean origin. Over the years, Sri Lanka has obtained Fast Attack Craft built by the Colombo Dockyard Limited, a Japanese-Sri Lankan joint venture and Fast Attack Craft built by France, though France has not been a regular supplier.


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