Thursday, October 18, 2007

Civilians Killed in LTTE Provocation

Three civilians, including two children were killed and three more civilians injured in crossfire between LTTE Sea Tigers and the Sri Lanka Navy in the Seas off Pesalai in Mannar early this morning. One more civilian is missing. A Navy Inshore Patrol Craft was en route to intercepting a Sea Tiger boat movement from Veduthalthivu Sea Tiger base, which has been highly active in recent times, when, despite the bans imposed on Human Smuggling, a boat full of civilians crossed its path. At this exact time, the Sea Tigers, perhaps sensing an opportunity to escape, opened fire on the IPC. The Navy craft too returned fire while attempting to pull back from the civilian boat. Unfortunately, at that same moment, a volley of crossfire hit the civilian boat. The Navy immediately reached the boat and rescued the three injured Tamil civilians and the bodies of the three deceased. Sea Tigers taking advantage of this brief lull managed to escape towards Veduthalthivu coast.

The seas around Pesalai were restricted for fishing due to constant infiltration by Sea Tigers from Veduthalthivu. The restrictions were eased from time to time only to be taken advantage of by the guerrillas. Last year, a group of over 20 Sea Tiger boats, disguised as fishing vessels launched a massive attack on Telemannar Jetty and adjoining Naval Installations killing over a dozen sailors, including members of the elite Special Boat Squadron. The LTTE has been involved in an organized Human Smuggling Operation from Mannar to India. Large numbers of Tamils were asked to leave this way by the LTTE prior to the escalation of violence by both sides last year. Even Tamils from Trincomalee were ferried to India in this way, which involves a dangerous and precarious journey in high-speed fishing boats, often dodging Navy arrest. A number of boats have capsized in these journeys for which organized gangs paying 'taxes' to the LTTE, charge upto Rs. 5000 per head. Passengers are often left on sandy islets in Indian coastal waters to be picked up by Indian smugglers. The smuggling of humans continue despite repeated attempts by the Navy to put an end to the racket.

Meanwhile Army Commandos have rescued three Tamil civilians and two Japanese engineers from the Japanese Aid Agency JICA this morning. The group went missing along with their Sinhalese guide in Morawewa, Trincomalee, en route to inspecting Nelum Oya Tank. A team of Sinhalese contractors were abducted and later assassinated by the LTTE in the same area prior to the capture of the East by the Security Forces.


jiffy said...

thanks DW! maps are always useful.

Anonymous said...


Why are we letting them constuct these sea tiger bases in these locations?

It is very dangerous to allow such bases to be sol close to places like mannar.

I think the SLAF needs a little nudge. LOL

Defencewire said...

You are Welcome. We are in the process of acquiring GIS Maps and will try to use them as often as we can.

The Veduthalthivu 'Sea Tiger 'base' is an old one. When we say base, we cannot compare them with the Navy's. They are small buildings scattered around. SLAF might have already been 'nudged'.

Anonymous said...

good to know...BTW in regards to the map issue...a simple google hybrid map can do wonders.

(some areas are not so good on the free version, but the subscription service is pretty good.)

Sarinda Perera said...

I think the most crucial issue here isn't 'nudging' the SLAF but how and why civilians were caught in the cross-fire and killed. Two issues need addressing by the establishment:

a) A big deal needs to be made out of the LTTE's continued use of human shields - I can see their propaganda machine lapping this one up like hot cakes;

b) A full-scale inquiry needs to be conducted by the SLN/MoD into how civilians were killed.

Illegal.existence said...

Castedeus, when you're at war there will be collateral damage. Have as many inquests as you like, there is absolutely no way to prevent that. I don't know to what extent the Navy's story that the LTTE used the civilians as human shields is true, but put human beings under the sort of pressure our sailors are under, and there will always be cases of mistaken identity when the Navy sees something suspicions and shoots at it, harming the wrong people.

Compared with the US military in Iraq and all the civilian causalities and friendly fire deaths on their hands, despite all their advanced weapons, the military has done an awesome job preventing any major incidents of civilian deaths since the Vaharai incident in November last year.

Sarinda Perera said...


Under international law, Sri Lanka is obliged to protect the life of non-combatants as per its ratification of the Geneva Conventions. Thus, what the US or any other state does is entirely inconsequential in this respect. There is no disputing the achievements and supreme sacrifices of the armed forces. If you have read my own blog commentary, you will find that this is duly acknowledged. I am entirely familiar with the reality of collateral damage in wartime. However, one must exert extreme caution not to be sidetracked.

Sri Lanka has a very poor record for human rights that predates Eelam War IV. This is not a matter of fact or fiction, its more a matter of acceptance or denial. Let me briefly recount. Between 2,000-3,000 people were killed in 1971 and 40,000 more in the late 1980s as two JVP insurrections were combated. More recently, more than 1,500 have been killed and a further 1,000 unaccounted for since the start of the undeclared Eelam War IV. Perhaps a quick review of the judicial record is in order:

23 July, 1983 - numerous Tamils killed, including two inmates at Welikada prison. More Tamils assaulted and harassed. No convictions;

09 August, 1992 - 35 Tamils killed in Mylanthanai. All Sinhalese jury acquits, despite testimony to the contrary and judge's advice to reconsider;

Mid 1995 - 23 Tamils killed, bodies recovered from Bolgoda lake. Case discontinued;

25 October, 2000 - Bindunuwewa massacre. 41 Tamils killed. Convictions overturned citing lack of evidence;

Chemmani mass graves - No convictions.

Landmark cases - Krishanthi Kumaraswamy rape and murder (1996)- Swift trial and due justice. If the above is an indication, sadly, it was an isolated conviction.

My point is pretty straightforward; the number of Tamils killed versus Sinhalese is very lopsided, as far as due justice is concerned. Many of these deaths have occurred in Sinhalese-majority areas. Others have involved rogue members of the armed forces. Evidently, there is a bad precedent for the system of justice.

In such instances as the civilian deaths off Pesalai, one cannot simply issue benefit of the doubt if one is in a position of authority. This goes for the Establishment. It is the responsibility of the state - both legally and morally - to probe the incident fully, as it has been its (neglected) responsibility to fully investigate the numerous other instance of death, just some of which have been outlined above.
Investigations alone will do little good. Justice must follow where it is due.

This is not in any way a presumption that there was intent to kill in Pesalai, in the case of the civilians. It is a mere expression of views on the requirement to uphold the rule of law. As has been stated in my previous comment, claims of the LTTE's use of human shields must be fully probed and made public where due, as (if proved to be true), this would once again be yet another example of its repeated flouting of humanitarian concerns.

When it comes to human life, there is no brand or colour. A state cannot shirk its responsibilities. It is up to us in civil society to understand this and to remind our representatives in the House, lest they forget.

A dichotomy between 'good and evil,' 'us and them,' etc is inevitable when using the misplaced rhetoric of a 'war on terror.' In such a case, it is easy to de-humanise and criminalise. In the case of Sri Lanka, such near-sighted policies have estranged much of the Tamil population and contributed to varied extents of radicalisation. This is true for Tamils in the north and east as well as for those in the diaspora. We must ask ourselves the question of not 'how' but 'why' the LTTE has a near-continuous supply of fresh recruits, many of whom are prepared to give their lives to a cause and also 'why' so many Tamils in the diaspora are willing to contribute to the LTTE coffers. If these questions are not asked by those in government, in the military/police and even those of us in civil society alike, there can be no real victory in sight; one can cut the branches of a tree but if one does not uproot it, it can be counted on to grow back. Let us ponder.

NOLTTE=Peace said...


I agree with your comments about some HR issues in the past. However, Sri Lanka has matured a lot from 80s to now about HR issues. There is a huge improvement, and it is continuously being improved. Our Defence Forces are continuously becoming more and more professional with their approach. That is the good part.

About why Diaspora pouring money and why Tamil youth join LTTE - because of many reasons.

1. When you are abroad, your patriotic psychology is much higher. Propaganda and personal connections make people to many things that they would not do otherwise. It is like, you take part in an act because there is someone watching you (i.e. you do good deeds thinking the God is watching you.. similar situation), or because someone who know you expects you to do it (and if not there will be repercussions). That mentality includes status quo too (you are doing something to maintain or enhance your status).

On the other hand, those who distance themselves away from such psychology have been threatened and intimidated to extract funds. Either way, the LTTE machine gets oiled. Fundamentally, what you see are well planned psychological operations.

LTTE deliberately do PR killings (kill their own people for photo opportunities) in order to show to the international Diaspora to collect funds (also they depict pictures of Sinhalese men, women and children they massacred as Tamils who got killed by GOSL to get international sympathy). They used Tsunami to collect millions through LTTE charity fronts to buy arms.

2. Most of youth join LTTE through forcible or Propaganda based psychological conversions. It is sometimes like taming elephants. You first break their egos and personal beliefs through threat intimidation etc., while continuously brainwashing them. If already brainwashed, it is easier for LTTE to recruit. That is what they do by spreading totally false propaganda against the Sinhalese and the GOSL demonising them, whilst maintaining war mentality.

3. Lack of opportunities make youth to get into things that they would not do in normal lives. When youth are idling owing to lack of opportunities, it is easier to drag them into anything the others want. When interviewed, most of the captured LTTE cadres have told that they joined because they did not have anything else to do.

GOSL can do many things to counter these situations, but GOSL cannot be perfect in execution. So, there are and will be gaps all the way always (that the terrorists and NGOs capitalise on).

As you said, understanding the reasons behind 'why' is a good thing for GOSL and try to continuously improve. However, you cannot expect the GOSL to be absolutely perfect in execution. There will always be cracks, and you will have to deal with them according to the situation.

However, it is important to create opportunities for youth to take them away from war. Then, you need a non-war situation to create higher-level opportunities. This is somewhat catch-22, but not exactly.

The time plays an important part. If things dragged, yes there will be more and more opportunities for LTTE to brainwash youth, Diaspora, etc etc making things worse.

Therefore, to do all ‘good’ you want to do, it invites you to deal with the war and finish it off as soon as possible. Therefore, it invites you not to let the war drag for a longer period. So, if there is an opportunity, the government should finish off the war at the earliest opportunity. That means, you have to destroy the LTTE leadership at the earliest opportunity, because the 30 year history has shown us that LTTE will never lay-down their arms and give-up war. Therefore, it is the duty of the government to destroy the LTTE leadership at the earliest opportunity to do all the ‘good’ they want to do.

Sarinda Perera said...


On the whole, you make some valid points. There is a huge improvement in the professional approach of the defence forces. I was being more specific about government as a whole. I whole-heartedly believe in a dual-track approach, ie. military neutralisation to gain bargaining power and checkmate politically... that's easier said than done, yes.... but there's no pure military solution here... which is why we need to look at the wider picture, ie what I have referred to. Once again, I take your point. I'll leave you with just two contemporary examples to reinforce my point:

a) "Of course people will die, what can we do? Are you asking us to spare them? They are traitors. If these traitors to the nation can't be dealt with through the existing laws, we know how to do it. If we can't suppress them with the law we need to use any other ways and means." - Champika Ranawake, Environment Minister.

b) "It is up to the police to ensure and guarantee the safety and security of normal citizens of this country before addressing the human rights concerns of the terrorists."

I think this underscores what I mean by the dichotomy between 'good' and 'evil' as per the rhetoric of the 'war on terror.' To be in government/law enforcement and adopt that position is a very dangerous state of affairs.

Sarinda Perera said...

Ps. the latter quote was from IGP Victor Perera.

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