Posts filed under 'transCurrents Commentary'
by Commodore RS Vasan IN (Retd)
Reports indicate that a SLN logistic support ship was sunk at about 0223 hrs on Saturday 09 May 2008. The ship was next to Ashroff Jetty at Trincomalee and was being loaded with explosives to be carried to KKS. This ship itself came in to the possession of the SL Navy by a court order way back in 2003 when it was apprehended transporting illegal migrants in Southern Sri Lanka. The ship was more than 38 years old and was regularly used for logistic support for the Sri Lankan armed forces. Ironically the earlier name of the ship ?Invincible? did nothing to prevent the ship from meekly submitting to the designs of the black tigers.
Before coming to a conclusion on what would have caused the sinking it would be in order to examine the methods/options, which could be adopted for launching of such attacks. There are many options as far as underwater attacks are concerned.
The First is an attack by a suicide diver strapped with explosives who could approach the target underwater with out being detected, cling on to any vulnerable portion of the ship and detonate the explosives .The results of an underwater explosion on the hull are always a devastating one and invariably results in breaking up of the ship and subsequent sinking. In this case some reports have indicated that the ship sank with in 13 minutes of the attack. Apparently there was no loss of lives.
The Second method is to attach a limpet mine to the underwater hull of the ship and this could be set to explode either with a timing device or with a fuzing device that could activate with sound or pressure or movement in its vicinity. In such cases the diver could get away from the scene of action. However during the process of his retreat from the ship if he is detected, the success of the operation would be compromised and would lead to bottom searches of the target ship and neutralization of the limpet mine. The black tigers would not have liked any compromise and thus would have preferred the suicide option.
Related aspects of carrying out such attacks have been discussed in an analysis of the sinking of a Fast Attack Craft on 22nd March 2008 vide.
The depths off Trinco and even alongside berths are very much favourable for such attacks. I can vouch for this fact from my first hand experience in the harbour from where I operated for some time during the early 90s.The fact that the ship was stationery and the crew perhaps busy with the loading operations may have contributed to not detecting the diver and the resultant success of this operation by the Commandos of the LTTE.
The Third option is for the human torpedoes to be used against the target. The SL Navy officials have apparently has ruled this out. From the point of view of the Sea Tigers, the suicide attack would indeed have been the choice of execution against heavily defended targets.
The pattern of operations suggests that the tactic adopted is similar to the one that was followed during the sinking of a fast attack aircraft on 22nd Mar 2008 except that in the former case, the FAC was moving at sea and in the latter case the target was stationery in a protected harbour.
Having examined all the three options, based on the facts and reports available so far, it can be inferred that the underwater defence systems in place were breached by a suicide diver who succeeded in detonating explosives next to the old underwater hull of the ship MV A 520 resulting in the sinking of the logistic support vessel
Comments on the preparedness of SL Navy
It appears that the established precautions for thwarting an underwater attack were either not in place or failed to prevent the impending attack. The standard practice for preventing underwater attacks by divers is to have boat patrols and drop random scare charges to deter the divers. Divers also search the bottom of the ships at regular intervals to spot any explosive that may have been attached. The shipside is rigged with lights for ready use and upper deck sentries are posted to spot any activity that may raise suspicion of the presence of saboteurs.
Most Navies adopt a calibrated degree of preparedness to ensure that the threat is tackled in a timely and efficient manner by denying the use of the waters to saboteurs in a protected harbour. Many navies also use their sonars to cause damage to the eardrums, impair hearing and deter the diver by use of high underwater sound power. Such measures depend on the threat perception and the degree of alertness assumed in a particular location. In addition it is also a practice to have grapnels towed behind the patrolling boat (similar to trawling operations) to cause injury to the saboteurs. Whether all these measures were in place is not known.
Sri Lankan Navy has been credited with the sinking of more than a dozen logistic ships of the LTTE, which were employed for carrying the essentials from many parts of the Indian Ocean for sustaining the war effort. The ship that was sunk was apparently also used in the operations against three logistic ships of the Sea Tigers off Coco Island in 2007.
This is the second such sinking in the last two months. While the names of the three suicide attackers were given out soon after the attack on the Fast Attack Craft two months ago, all that has been mentioned in this case by the Tamil net is that the Commandos from Kangkai Amaran unit of the Sea tigers executed the attack. This unit apparently was named after a Senior Commander of the Sea Tigers who was killed in Mannar District in an attack by the Deep Penetration Unit of the Sri Lankan Navy in Jun 2001.
In conclusion, it is clear that that the Sea tigers still have the capability to surprise the SL Navy and would like to regain the control of the seas which is so essential for the tigers to replenish from many parts of the world including southern India.
The use of underwater divers for attack while not being novel has the potential to cause serious damages, loss of morale amongst the forces and disrupt planned activities at sea. The success of such operations would have deleterious impact on the ongoing operations of Sri Lankan forces, which are trying to move supplies and military hardware through the eastern sea routes to KKS. One can safely assume that more such attacks and all the options discussed above would be exercised by the Sea Tigers to wrest the initiative from the Sri Lankan Navy, which has enjoyed some successes in the recent months. [southasiaanalysisgroup]
(The author with distinguished naval and coast guard service for over 34 years is presently with Observer Research Foundation and is steering the Maritime Security Programme under the aegis of International Security Studies (ISS), headed by General VP Malik former Army Chief The views expressed are his own)
May 13th, 2008
by Haroon Siddiqui
Returning to Colombo after several years, one is struck by the military checkpoints at key crossings where visitors are waved on but young Tamil males are not.
The fortified capital is pasted with war posters-a map of Sri Lanka, with an eye in the middle and a caption: “Are you alert? If you are, your village and your country are safe.”
The media are uniformly bellicose: “Military makes advances.” “There’s no unwinnable war: Only a mission to crush terrorism.” “The LTTE must be defeated at all costs.”
The army is on the march, again, against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has been seeking independence for the northern part of the island nation.
But the latest round of the 25-year-old conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils-it has already claimed 70,000 lives and sent hundreds of thousands of Tamils into exile, including Canada-is being billed as part of the worldwide war on terror.
It is not successful here either.
There are other parallels between President Mahindra Rajapaksa’s war on terror and that of George W. Bush.
“You are with us or against us” has become the operating principle in Colombo as well. The patriotism of critics is constantly questioned. Caskets coming from the front are not allowed to be filmed. Journalists and other observers are barred from the front lines. Human rights violations are brushed aside, perpetrators never prosecuted.
The United Nations says the number of “the disappeared” last year, running into hundreds, was higher than in any other country.
Human Rights Watch and other groups accuse the government and allied militias of extrajudicial killings, and of using abductions as a tool of intimidation and ransom.
Others blame security forces of raiding Tamil neighbourhoods, detaining people and subjecting them to frightening interrogations.
Yet the world doesn’t quite care.
Strategically, Sri Lanka isn’t all that important. It is not, say, Iran or Syria, routinely demonized by the U.S. and the media obedient to it. But the horror unfolding in the Sri Lankan civil war, and its broader implications for the world, including Canada, are infinitely worse.
Part of the reason for the international indifference is the LTTE.
Declared a terrorist outfit by the U.S., Canada and Europe, it was the leader in suicide bombings until the tactic was used in Israel and post-invasion Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent weeks, Tamil suicide bombers have killed scores of civilians. The Tigers also stand accused of running extortion rackets among Tamil diasporas in Toronto and elsewhere to raise funds.
It is the ordinary Tamils who are paying the price, especially those in areas not controlled by the Tigers.
“Nowhere in Sri Lanka are the Tamils safe,” a Western diplomat told me in Colombo. “What’s happening here is de facto ethnic cleansing,” as Tamils flee for India or the Middle East and beyond. “The government doesn’t seem to care if they all leave.”
Mano Ganesan, a Tamil MP who heads a civil monitoring group on disappearances, recently told Canadian High Commissioner Angela Bogdan: “The government arrests Tamils for being Tamil and they ask questions later. I hate terrorism. I don’t want bombs to go off. But that doesn’t mean the government should conduct mass arrests without even giving proof or updates to the families.”
Meanwhile, there’s no prospect of a revival of the 2002 ceasefire and the subsequent peace process led by Norway and backed by Canada.
The government wants to crush the Tigers. This has been tried before with no success. But this government is determined and deploying more resources.
The army did win back territory in the east, where local elections were held last month and provincial elections are planned for Saturday. But the troops have not made much headway in the north, which is where the Tigers have been entrenched for years.
For all the official bravado, the front line hasn’t moved for months.
In this war without an end in sight, says the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, “the humanitarian crisis is deepening, abuses of human rights by both sides are increasing and those calling for peace are being silenced.” [courtesy: The Toronto Star]
Haroon Siddiqui is Toronto Star’s editorial page editor emeritus, Email: email@example.com
May 8th, 2008
“Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.” Napoleon Bonaparte
The terms Tamil Diaspora, expatriates and lobby are being used by the analysts and media frequently. This creates a perception that these terms are similar and is a matter of semantics. A lobby is “a group of persons who attempt to influence legislators or other public officials on behalf of some particular cause or interest” and lobbying means “to influence (legislators), or urge or procure the passage of” (Reference Macquarie dictionary.) The keyword in defining lobbyists and lobbying is influence”, which is defined as “power of producing effects by invisible or insensible means”.
One would ask the question whether the efforts of the Tamil diaspora are really lobbying as it lacks effective influencing. The concept of lobbying is paramount to the Tamil nation and the Tamil Diasporas at this critical juncture in our path to liberation. The fact that we are criticizing the International Community (IC) for inaction, inertia and impartialness towards the Sri Lankan government’s atrocities is testimony for lack of (if any) lobbying in the international arena. Here are some examples of the Tamil nation pleading with the IC in the recent past.
*”Propping up genocidal Sinhala State counterproductive, International Community should change approach”- The leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), V Pirapaharan, in his 2007 annual Heroes’ Day statement
* “The Indian State must take the responsibility for the ethnic genocide of the Tamils that will be carried out by the Sinhala military, re-invigorated by such moves of the Indian State,” Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) statement dated 10th March 2008.
* “LTTE urges Norway to take steps to end military assault on Madu shrine. Liberation Tigers”- Political Head B. Nadesan’s letter to the Norwegian government dated 7th of April 2008.
These pleas are the outcome of the failures in our lobbying effort and certainly these statements themselves do not constitute as a form of “effective lobbying”. “The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.” said Hubert Humphrey former US Vice President. I believe at present this evidently portrays our efforts in the international political arena.
Our concerns and grievances have been heard by the IC. They understand our plight, sufferings and sacrifices. Why then does the IC do not act to support our justifiable cause? Or at least reprimand the Sri Lankan government for its atrocities?
The answer to this question partly lies in our inability to “influence” the decision makers in the IC, in other words our inability to lobby effectively. The efforts of the Diasporas in soliciting support from the IC cannot be classified as lobbying; it is classic propaganda. When you propagate you secure the right to be heard. That does not mean you have been taken seriously or that you have positively influenced the decision maker (which is what lobbying means).
Our propaganda efforts have so far secured speakers (Members of Parliament, Clergy, Human rights activists and Academics) for our gatherings to mark an assassination, massacre or even the remembrance day (marveerar narl). Does that mean we have lobbied effectively in the international arena?
I believe the Tamil nation should launch an effective lobbying strategy in the international community. As a first step towards this we should establish a Tamil nationalistic think tank, which should be the front that interacts with the academics, thinks tanks, non government agencies and governments in the IC. The think tank is non political and does not represent the Tamil nation in any negotiations. LTTE should remain as the sole political representatives of the Tamil nation in any political negotiations. This effort is not about isolating LTTE. This effort is about enhancing the efforts of the LTTE in the IC
It is essential that the think tank should not be affiliated to the LTTE. This will be an acid test for the LTTE and Tamil nationalists as in the history of our struggle there has never been a genuine voice representing the interests of the Tamils other than the LTTE. This has avoided infiltration of intelligence agencies in our struggle. However at the same time we have lost opportunities to lobby in the IC.
Due to the absence of Tamil nationalistic moderate voice the Tamil nation has been deprived of opportunities to lobby the decision makers in the IC. This vacuum is being filled by Douglas Devananda and Anandasangaree at present. In the case of the Sinhala nation, JVP is classified as extremists, which renders the SLFP or UNP governments moderates in the eyes of the IC. In the case of the Tamil nation the sole representatives LTTE are classified as extremists, which the IC is reluctant to engage with.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), British Tamil Association (BTA) or Australian Federation of Tamil Association (AFTA) are not considered as moderate voices as they are considered as LTTE’s front organizations. Therefore we need to establish a think tank of academics, professionals and ordinary Tamil nationalists, who are not perceived as affiliates of the LTTE to communicate with the decision makers in the IC. The think tank should not be restricted to professionals and academics and should include ordinary Tamil nationalists as well, as the ability to think and think effectively is not restricted to the “educated”.
The think tank will develop effective lobbying strategies to influence the decision makers, not just soliciting speakers for our forums. This will include discussions with the exemplary lobby groups from the Jewish, East Timorese, Kosovo and other communities to learn from their experience. The think tank will also open the door for the Tamil nation to engage with the decision makers in the IC and provide an opportunity to positively influence.
Secondly the Tamil community should integrate with the IC. For example the New Zealand Tamil Community’s participation the recent ANZAC day celebration is a forward step in terms of our lobbying efforts in that country. We need to integrate before expecting to influence. Electoral lobbying efforts of the Sydney Tamils in the recent federal elections in Australia, is another example of integration. Integration is the key to execute influence in the IC as evidenced by the role played by the American Jewish community.
Thirdly the Tamil community should “wine and dine” with the decision makers. It is a harsh fact that the Sinhalese community has mastered the art of wining and dining with the local decision makers. The Sinhala community organizes many socializing effects where the local politicians are invited to wine, dine and integrate with the Sinhalese community. These events include the dinner dances, Old school association gatherings, community award nights and to coincide with the cricket tours. The Tamil community should organize events such as the above to meet and greet with the decision makers as a first step for effective lobbying. The relationship that is built at these functions will form the basis for subsequent influencing efforts.
The purpose of this article is to throw in a different perspective and to be a thought starter. I understand that various expatriate groups are working with the same agenda and it is time that we pool our efforts together for the common well and lobby effectively.
Let me conclude with a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt “Okay, you’ve convinced me. Now go out there and bring pressure on me” and Sun Tzu, The Art of War “Those who do not know the plans of competitors cannot prepare alliances. Those who do not know the lay of the land cannot maneuver their forces. Those who do not use local guides cannot take advantage of the ground”
May 3rd, 2008
by B. Raman
For the second time in less than two years, an over-confident Sri Lankan Army (SLA) has walked into a deadly trap laid by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Muhamalai area near Jaffna in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka on April 23 ,2008, and faced a rout. It not only lost over 150 soldiers, who were killed by the LTTE, but also enabled the LTTE to seize a large quantity of arms and ammunition from the battle scene. The LTTE has not had such a bonanza of recovered arms and ammunition since the earlier SLA rout in the same area on October 11,2006. My assessment of the earlier rout may be seen in my article titled A HEAVY PRICE FOR OVER-CONFIDENCE I
After the rout of October 11,2006, the SLA, as is its wont, had played down the fatalities suffered by it and played up the fatalities which it claimed to have inflicted on the LTTE. Only after the LTTE disseminated details of the fatalities inflicted by it on the SLA, did the latter admit that 139 soldiers were killed by the LTTE. A few weeks later, Lt.Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the chief of the SLA, had gone to the US, inter alia, for a medical check-up in connection with the injuries suffered by him in an unsuccessful attempt by the LTTE to kill him through a woman suicide bomber. Reliable sources reported at that time that during his interactions with American military officers in Washington DC he admitted that the SLA had suffered nearly 400 fatalities on October 11, 2006. He allegedly blamed Mr Gothbaya Rajapaksa, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is the Defence Secretary, for hastily pushing the Army into a battle when it was not yet ready–that too in a terrain which the LTTE knew better than the SLA.
After the battle of April 23, 2008, the SLA claimed that it suffered 43 fatalities with 33 more soldiers missing in action, but the correspondent of the CNN TV channel and the Agence France Press (AFP) have reported that the fatalities suffered by the SLA were more than 100. Reliable Sri Lankan Police sources estimate the SLA fatalities at about 150. The SLA has claimed to have killed over 100 LTTE soldiers, but the LTTE has admitted only 16 fatalities. In an analysis of the casualty figures, the AFP has pointed out that in the beginning of this year, the SLA had given the total strength of the LTTE as about 3000, but the total number of fatalities which the SLA has claimed to have inflicted on the LTTE since January 1,2008, is 3105, when one adds up all the figures given in the SLA’s statements.
Since the beginning of this year, the SLA and the Defence Ministry have embarked on a campaign of disinformation regarding the ground situation in the Northern Province. As part of this disinformation campaign, not a day has passed without their reporting some operation or the other resulting in large fatalities inflicted on the LTTE. The purpose of this campaign was to buttress the morale of the soldiers of the SLA and the Sinhalese people, to give themselves in public perception an aura of legendary military prowess and weaken the morale of the LTTE and its Sri Lankan Tamil supporters.
According to some critics of the Government, many of the so-called battles reported as part of this disinformation campaign allegedly existed only in the figment of the SLA’s imagination.
Many tall claims were made as part of this disinformation campaign such as: pin-point intelligence has started flowing from human sources in the Northern Province; many precision air strikes had been made on the LTTE’s political and operational nerve-centres with the help of such pin-point information; the LTTE’s Navy had been practically wiped out; the LTTE’s hold in the North was weakening and the SLA would be able to rout it and re-establish its control over the North before the end of this year.
One of the basic principles of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism is that you don’t indulge in disinformation in your own territory and directed at your own people. It could prove counter-productive and dangerous by creating a sense of over-confidence in your own troops and people. When the troops realise that they had been sent into battles on the basis of false information and assessments, the credibility of the political and military leadership in the eyes of the people and the soldiers would suffer. The LTTE and its Sri Lankan Tamil supporters know well the ground situation in their territory. They will not be deceived by such a disinformation campaign. It is the Sinhalese public and the soldiers, who will be deceived by it.
This is what happened in October, 2006, and this is what has happened now. The LTTE did on April 23 ,2008, exactly what it did on October 11,2006. After fighting for some time in the face of an SLA offensive, it pretended to withdraw and vacate a small part of the territory under its control. Thinking in their euphoria that they have defeated the LTTE and forced its retreat, the SLA soldiers rushed into the area vacated by the LTTE and found themselves surrounded by it on all sides. It mowed down the soldiers before they could recover from their surprise.
The rout inflicted by the LTTE on the SLA would serve as a morale-booster for its leaders and cadres. It shows that its capability for conventional-style battles is intact and strong in the Northern Province, where the leadership remains united. It had weakened in the Eastern Province following the desertion in March,2004, of Karuna, a capable officer of the LTTE, who looked after its conventional style operations. It was this weakening, which had enabled the SLA to wrest control of the Eastern Province with the help of the Eastern Tamil deserters from the LTTE’s army.
Over-all, despite the success on April 23, 2008, the LTTE’s position is still weak for want of an air cover and due to depletion in its arms and ammunition holdings. The battle of April 23 has replenished its holdings to some extent, but not adequately enough. The dilution of the support and sympathy of the international community has been another handicap. However, the motivation and the determination of its cadres are still strong. Any expectations of an easy walk-over in the North nursed by the SLA are likely to be belied unless its air strikes succeed in eliminating Prabakaran, the leader of the LTTE.
While continuing with their confrontations on the ground, the Sri Lankan Air Force is trying frantically to eliminate Prabakran through an air strike and the LTTE is trying frantically to destroy the SLAF aircraft on the ground. Neither has succeeded so far. Whoever succeeds first is likely to turn the tide of the war in his favour. [saag]
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
April 25th, 2008
by V.Thangavelu, President Thamil Creative Writers Association
Opposition has been voiced by a small bunch of individuals who are Hindus against the change in the birth of Thamil New Year. They claim the change is against tradition and borders on blasphemy. Such people are superficial and naive in many ways.
The opposition can be seen as an ad hominies argument you cannot fault an argument, so you fault the person advancing it. In this instance Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi! He is reviled by Hindu bigots like Thuglak Chow, Ramagopalan, Ela Ganesan (BJP) Ms Jayalalithaa (ADMK MLAs voted for the bill) and few others as anti-Hindu.
Strangely, the editor of the TamilNet website in his myopic arrogance and ignorance also joined the anti-nationalist force to whip up frenzy against the change. Thus making a mockery of the decision of the de facto state of Thamil Eelam that endorsed Thai first as Thamil New Year!
The Thamil Nadu government gave legal status to the observation of Thai first (January 14th) as the beginning of Thamil New Year which will be called Thiruvalluvar Aandu. In an unprecedented act of solidarity, the bill was unanimously passed by the TN State legislature.
The accusation the TN government has arbitrarily and suddenly made the change in regard to the New Year is not supported by facts. Only half-baked illiterates do so. Thamils need a continuous year count like the Christians or Muslims. They need to discard foreign culture and beliefs imposed on them under the guise of religion. Way back in 1921 Thamil scholars like Maraimalai Adikal, Naavalar Somasundera Bharathiyaar, Prof. Parithimaakalaignar (Prof. Sooriya Narayana Shastri) K.Subramaniyapillai, Thiru V.Kalyanasundera Mudaliyar, Saivait scholar Sachchithanadapillai, Naavalar Na.Mu. Venkadasamy, K.R.P.Visvanatham and scores of others met at Pachchayappan College and resolved to make Thai first Thamil New year instead of Chiththirai. In order to have a continuous year count the birth day of Thiruvalluvar was taken as falling on Thai (Suravam) first. This was given effect by the TN government in 1971 in official calendars, from 1972 in gazettes and from 1981 in all departments. Later it was extended to non-governmental departments as well.
In the Indian civil calendar, the initial epoch is the Saka Era, a traditional era of Indian chronology that is said to have begun with King Salivahana’s accession to the throne and is also the reference for most astronomical works in Sanskrit literature written after 500 AD. In the Saka calendar, the year 2002 AD is 1925.
The other popular epoch is the Vikram era that is believed to have begun with the coronation of King Vikramaditya. The year 2002 AD corresponds to 2060 in this system.
The Calendar Reform Committee set up India’s present day national calendar in 1957. It is a lunisolar calendar, which has leap years coinciding with the leap years of the Gregorian calendar. The months in the calendar have been named after the conventional Indian months. This calendar came into effect with the Saka Era in Chaitra 1, 1879 (March 22, 1957).
Although we don’t have direct evidence of Thiruvalluvarr’s birth day, this day has been chosen with reference to available (indirect data) from Sangam and post-Sangam Thamil literature.
The opposition to the change in the Thamil New Year from Chiththirai to Thai mostly emanates due to a lack of proper understanding of astronomy. Added is the natural tendency to resist change.
The Earth has three types of motions: motion around its axis, motion around the Sun, and motion of its axis due to wobbling of Earth. The Earth rotates around its axis in 24 hours, which causes day and night. In the Northern Hemisphere we see that all but one of the stars and planets rise in the east and set in the west. The one star that does not rise or set is the polar star (Dhruv Nadchchathiram or Polaris), which is located directly above the Earth’s North Pole. The Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees on the plane of orbit around the Sun. This causes changes of seasons during the year. The seasonal changes have nothing to do with star or planets as widely believed by Astrologers and Almanac casters.
The second type of motion is the rotation of the Earth around the Sun in 365 days to complete one revolution in an elliptical orbit. Using modern instruments for exact observations of the universe, the Earth takes 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 9.50 seconds to complete one revolution with respect to the stars (sidereal year). With respect to the orbit, it takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45.50 seconds to complete one revolution (tropical year). The difference in time is 20 minutes and 24.00 seconds as follows:
This difference is caused by the third type of motion of Earth, the wobbling of its axis, which astronomers call processional movement (precession of equinoxes) of the pole or axis of the Earth.
The ancient Thamils lived in close touch with nature. Astronomy and astrology very much influenced their lives. With regard to the year, the Thamils started it with the Vernal Equinox. Astronomers have determined the sun transiting Aries at 0 degree as the Vernal Equinox, that is the day when the sun rose exactly in the east, coincided. This was about the year 285AD. With the lapse of centuries, the New Year falls now, about three weeks after the Vernal Equinox. The Hindu solar year is sidereal, and since it is in excess of the tropical year by 20 minutes and 24.00 seconds, it does not keep step with the seasons. The seasons fall back one and half days for every hundred years or one day every 71.6 years.
It is not correct to say that Chiththirai has always been the beginning of Thamil New Year. Nachchinarkiniyar who wrote a commentary to Tholkaappiyam says Thamil New Year started in August (Aavani) and ended in July (Aadi). This demonstrates the fact that Aeries (Medam) is not the start of the reference point in the Zodiac during Tholkappiyar’s time.
The Thamils/Hindus divided the year into “Uttarayanam” the first six months after the winter solstice and “Dhadshanyam” the second six months after the summer solstice. The former was considered health-giving, bright period for man and animals for during that period the days became longer and longer. Thus “Uttarayanam” was celebrated by Thaipongal and Paddippongal (the cattle festival). Most of the temple festivals in the Thamil country were also fixed for this bright period. The beginning of the “Dhadshanayam” was marked by “Adipirapoo” (July 1-Hindu calendar). These six months were considered not a very bright period for men and animals because the days became shorter and shorter.
One of the major drawbacks in counting Chiththirai is that it is not a continuous year. Its cycle consists of 60 years. This cycle of years is useless to record historical events. And their (so are some of the months) names are not Thamil. They are in Sanskrit. The mythological story attached to the birth of the years is extremely vulgar and obscene. As usual with Hindu mythologies a perverted mind must have invented the story.
A close look at the six seasons given in Thamil literature reveals that they are out of sync with the actual seasons experienced at the equator.
Ilavenil Kaalam : mild sunny period : Chithirai, Vahasi – Thingal
(mid April to mid June)
Muthuvenil Kaalam : intense sunny period : Aani, Aadi – Thingal
(mid June to mid August)
Kaar Kaalam : cloudy rainy Period : Aavani, Purataasi – Thingal
(mid August to mid October)
Kuthir Kaalam – cold period : Iyppassi, Kaarthihai – Thingal
(mid October to mid December)
Munpani Kaalam – early misty period (evening dew): Maarkali, Thai Thingal
(mid December to mid February)
Pinpani Kaalam – late misty period (morning dew): Maasi, Panguni Thingal
(mid February to mid April)
Definitely Mid June to mid-August is not the rainy season in Northeast of Ceylon or Thamil Nadu. They are in fact hot and humid months. The rainy season is from October to November (Iyppasi to Kaarthikai) and not from mid August to mid October.
The coolest months are December – January (Maarkali – Thai). It is in January (Thai) the farmer harvest the first sheaves of a harvest. They are grinded and mixed with old rice and used for Pongal. The actual harvest season does not take place in January. It takes place in February and March. This is due to change in seasons due to precession.
January 14th too has astronomical significance, in that, the Sun (Earth) commences its Northerly transit.
In fact there are four (not three) transits of significance by the Sun in its journey from south to north and north to south. They are:
Winter Equinox-March 20/21
Summer Solstice-June 21
Autumn Equinox-December 22
Spring Equinox-March 20/21
This is true only in regard to the Northern hemisphere. It will be the exact opposite of those living in the Southern hemisphere. When it is summer in the Northern hemisphere, it is winter in the Southern hemisphere. So in regard to spring and autumn.
As already mentioned, the arrivals of the seasons have been changing at the rate of 1 degree per 71.6 years. Westerners found spring coming earlier (March 10) than the Julian calendar showed viz March 21. To adjust the extra days Pope Gregory ordered the deletion of 10 days i.e. October 5th was followed up with October 15th. The Gregorian calendar still has a few seconds difference. But the calendar can hold good fairly accurately for the next 1000 years!
Due to the precession of the equinox, the Sun will be at the 1st degree of Libra at the spring equinox in 11,232 years! Those who think that almanacs and calendars are cast in iron should mark their calendars! The zodiac of the two systems (Tropical and Sidereal) will be exactly opposite one another! Ayanamsha will be 180 degrees 0 minutes!! It would be interesting to those who oppose Thamil New Year shifted to Thai first to incarnate at that time just to join in the debate!
In Vedic or Sidereal astrology the calculation of the Sun passing through the 1st degree of Aries is marked by the Sun actually passing through the observable fixed stars making up the constellation Aries and has nothing to do with the seasons. Because of the precession of equinoxes at a rate of 50.26 seconds per year, .difference between the tropical zodiac and sidereal zodiac increases every 10 years by 8 minutes 22 arc seconds.
The Thamil/Hindu calendar has gone awry and no correction was made for precession of equinoxes. This is the reason why the real seasons are not synchronizing with months mentioned above. Poet Subramanian Bharathiyar has pointed out this discrepancy in one of his essays.
Those who claim that Chiththirai New Year ushers in Spring (Venil) has to re-think. It really falls on March 21st! A good 24 days earlier. So are all the Hindu auspices festival and ceremonial days.
The “wobble” and the precession of the equinoxes were known to the Ancient Egyptians, although the first official “discovery” of it was made by an Ancient Greek astronomer, Hipparchus, who was born sometime around 190 B.C. It was noted because the Sun was in a slightly earlier position at the time of the Spring Equinox each year (as measured against the fixed stars). Because the movement slips backwards (Westwards) through the zodiac, it is called precession (as opposed to a forward-movement which would be called progression).
Now 1 every 71.6 years doesn’t sound like too much, but it certainly adds up over 2,000 years or so, and this is where we get into the different Zodiac systems.
The determination of Thai first as Thamil New Year is now a fait accompali. One cannot unscramble a scrambled egg! History is heavily stacked against intellectually discreditable individuals for they live in the past!
The change of Thamil New Year has not altered or modified the Panchangam or Thamil Almanac as some foolishly think or argue. What has changed is the reference point (in a circle any point could be considered the reference point) in the Zodiac. Instead of Aeries 0 degree being considered the birth of Thamil New Year, the reference point has been shifted to Makaram 0 degree the birth of Thamil New Year!
There is reference in Thamil Sangam literature to the celebration of Thai Neeradal, but there is absolutely no reference to Chiththirai New Year in ancient literature!
The shifting of Thamil New Year from Chiththirai first to Thai first is a milestone in the history of Thamils.
April 17th, 2008
by Dharman Dharmaratnam
The ‘Tamil Nation’ website was launched in 1998. The Editor, Satyendra Nadesan, an Attorney at Law based in the United Kingdom, represents one strand of the Tamil diaspora who had left Sri Lanka in the early 1980s. Many appear to have since lost touch with the ground reality in the island. The recent controversy surrounding Mr. M. Karunanidhi’s decision to shift the date of the Tamil New Year from April to January demonstrates the disconnect between sections of the Tamil diaspora and the Tamils who remain in the island.
[A Tamil devotee walks as drummers perform with traditional drums at a Hindu temple as they celebrate Tamil new year in Vavuniya-Photo Reuters Via Yahoo! News]
Mr. Karunanidhi rushed through legislation in Tamil Nadu on January 29 to discontinue the observance of the April new year. The unspoken undercurrent was to de-Hinduize the Tamil calendar and assert Tamil Nadu’s separateness from the rest of India. He proposed that Thai Pongal in mid-January be established as the Tamil New Year instead.
Little did he realize that Thai Pongal itself had a lot to do with Hindu civilization. It is hardly Tamil to begin with. This Hindu holiday in January is celebrated throughout India as Makara Sankranti. Makara Sankranti, in fact, is the biggest event in the Kumbh Mela which falls every 12 years. It is the harvest festival in Tamil Nadu, not the traditional New Year! It never marked the start of the Tamil calendar.
A ‘Tamil Nation’ Op-Ed dated February 10 gave wide publicity to Mr. Karunanidhi’s decision and urged that Tamils worldwide abide by the new diktat. A second editorial on April 12 defended the controversial move by M. Karunanidhi to shift the date of the Tamil New Year. It argued that the Tamil identity was reportedly secular, not religious. When even the pro-LTTE Tamil Net discreetly condemned Karunanidhi’s decision, the ‘Tamil Nation’ website chose to defend it! It is ironic that while second-generation Tamil immigrants in Canada and Europe have understandably assimilated into those cultures, a UK-based website set up to purportedly defend Tamil culture urges those back home to disown the traditional Tamil New Year. The April New Year had been celebrated in Tamil Nadu for over a millennium and can not be vetoed by such politicized legislation.
Fortunately, the ground reality back in Sri Lanka is very different. The Tamils in Colombo, Batticaloa, Jaffna and Vavuniya observed the traditional Tamil New Year on April 13 with hope and prayer despite the difficult situation. The All Ceylon Hindu Congress clarified that the traditional Tamil New Year was in April, not in January. This followed public consultations. Tamil public opinion in Sri Lanka vehemently opposed any change to the date of the New Year.
Karunanidhi’s efforts to bring forward the Tamil New Year to January had more to do with reconciling Tamil culture with the western calendar that starts on January 1. A so-called Tamil nationalism premised on the suppression of Hindu tradition can and should never succeed.
It was heartening to note that Jayalalitha Jayaram of the opposition AIADMK and Vaiko of the MDMK had condemned the move by Karunanidhi. This would likely be reversed in the next year. Sources in Tamil Nadu reveal that judicial litigation challenging the Karunanidhi decision is on the cards.
Regardless, the people of Batticaloa, Jaffna and Vavuniya can speak for themselves without the intervention of London-based websites.
April 15th, 2008
By Col R Hariharan (retd.)
Assassination of Fernandopulle
The assassination of Sri Lanka Highways Minister and Chief Government whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle (55) by a suicide bomb blast at Gampaha district on Sunday (April 6) morning has deprived the President Rajapaksa of his point’s man in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). The minister was killed along with 11 others when he was flagging off a marathon race as part of the Sinhala (and Tamil) New Year’s Day celebration at Weliweriya. Over 95 others were injured in the blast.
[Jeyaraj Fernandopulle 1953-2008]
A voluble and assertive personality, the minister had been active in setting up things for the ruling alliance to contest the eastern provincial council elections slated for May 10. The President will be sorely missing his services during the PC election as also in handling the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), which is a loose canon in the political firmament, after the elections.
Fernandopulle had been high on the hit list of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for his strong anti-LTTE stance. He minced no words against them in his speeches. So it is logical to conclude that his assassination was the handiwork of the LTTE. Even the assassination of D.M.Dasanayake, Minister of Nation Building, carried out on January 9, 2008 is believed to have been a case of mistaken identity as Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was intended to be the target. However, this time the assassin made no such mistake. .
A four-time parliament member Fernandopulle had created an indispensable niche for himself within the SLFP. He was one of the few Tamil ministers who could fluently speak Sinhala and English as well. A no-holds-barred speaker, Fernandopulle was well known for his blunt statements that caused red faces in diplomatic and political circles, and in the corridors of power.
The President is unlikely to let the LTTE get away with the assassination of his right hand man. We can expect him to unleash the security forces in full force once again on the LTTE forward defences in Mannar, Madhu church, Omanthai, Welioya and Muhamalai areas. In any case, the ground indications already point to the imminence of resumption of offensive by the security forces and the LTTE’s readiness to face them. The killing of the minister is likely to only hasten the process.
Abnormally heavy rains had bogged down the operations in the north so far. The troops deployed near large water bodies in Mannar, Muhamalai, Nagarkovil, Welioya areas have been affected by flooding and slush. This had impeded air and artillery support and defences were waterlogged. Mosquitoes breeding in puddles of water have spread dengue and chikungunia among troops. This is reported to have severely affected operational capability of security forces in Welioya sector along the eastern coast.
Despite the rains during the last month, the SLA had claimed some progress in their creeping offensive after inflicting heavy casualties on the LTTE. On March 21, 2008, the Media Centre for National Security spokesman has claimed killing 6,867 LTTE cadres so far in the operations that commenced in December 2005. As against this, the security forces had lost 1,501 troops in action. The casualty claim at end February 2008 stood at a total of 6,486 LTTE cadres, and 1,196 military personnel. These figures could be inflated or include civilian auxiliaries and need to be confirmed by other sources. However, the Media Centre figures indicate a sudden escalation in the security forces casualty – 305 troops killed in the four weeks of March 2008) as against a total of 1196 troops lost in the earlier period of 24 months! Moreover, as against the security forces loss of 305 the LTTE had suffered 386 casualties in the same period. This is an alarmingly low ratio between the two, achieved never before.
This shows the combat along the front line even during the rains had really heated up. And as the operations intensify further now and all the heavy fire power is brought in, casualties on both sides are likely to mount rapidly. But despite this, the security forces are undoubtedly better placed. Considering the overall size of the security forces, their casualties are comparatively much less than that of the LTTE which has been mauled severely (though not grievously), losing at least 30 per cent of its strength..
During the last one week the rains have tapered off and the weather has improved. Thus assured air and heavy artillery support should now be available for operations. Similarly, ground conditions should have improved for the using armour without the fear of getting bogged down in slush. The trickle of civilians vacating the battle zones is growing. For the last few days the security forces were being moved forward in Jaffna Peninsula perhaps to get ready for a fresh offensive. We can expect it to start sooner than later.
The LTTE also appears to be gearing itself for the offensive to resume. Three groups including the Malathi and Charles Anthony brigades have been moved to Madhu Church area in the Mannar Sector, according to deserters. Both sides had agreed to keep the church and its vicinity a no war zone. However both sides have been trading accusations of the other side using the holy ground to launch artillery fire. And fierce fighting had been raging for sometime now within a kilometre vicinity of the church.
The Bishop of Mannar Rayappu Joseph has informed that in order to save the idol of Our Lady of Madhu from artillery fire, the church management had shifted the idol to a safe location on April 4.
It is evident that the idol has been moved to the northern most part of the LTTE held territory at the behest of the LTTE. The escalating the combat situation in the area around Madhu Church is probably operational. The church is located astride the supply routes from Mannar coast to Wanni. So it is vital for the LTTE to defend it fiercely. It is equally important for the security forces to wrest control of the area. So we can expect the LTTE to fight it out when the offensive resumes in this area.
Both sides appear to be preparing for a long haul. Media reports indicate that Sri Lanka had asked Pakistan for the immediate supply of 150,000 rounds of 60 mm mortar bombs and hand grenades. Pakistan is likely to fulfil another Sri Lankan order worth $ 25 million for the supply of 81 mm, 120 mm and 130 mm mortar bombs. The LTTE also appears to have received from some ammunition, particularly for its artillery. It is not clear which clandestine route is being used by the LTTE to import the munitions. But the Indian coastal zone continues to be the weakest link in the naval defence of Sri Lanka. We may expect the Sri Lanka navy to intensify operations in the seas around Katchativu in the coming weeks. This could trigger further tensions in both India and Sri Lanka. This is in the nature of war which always triggers tension in both winners and losers.
(Col R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served with the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka as Head of Intelligence. He is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
April 7th, 2008
An Open Letter to Mr. Veerasingham Anandasangaree
By Kusal Perera
I chose to write this essay as an open letter addressing you, after reading the news item “Grave concern over STF pull out from East; TULF” in the online edition of the DM on 22nd March, that quotes you very much on that issue. As a prelude to this essay, let me go on record that I respect you as a Democrat who stands for a politically negotiated settlement of the ” North-East War” though I have my own reservations on how you approach it. Of course, you are now compelled to live with State security I presume, but I would not hold that against you as long as that armed security remains personal and not part of your politics.
Now we come to the concerns you raise over proposed PC elections in the East. Agreed, it would never be free and fair with Pillayan and his cadres roaming the area, weapons in hand and with tacit government approval. You would therefore agree, the Batticaloa district LG elections were never free and fair despite PAFFREL stamping it so, for reasons they should know. The total process from nominating candidates through election campaigns and then up to the day of voting, Batticaloa was never without armed coercion, was always living with threats on lives and punctured with abductions and killings. None could openly and publicly campaign against the TMVP, although PAFFREL claims TMVP candidates did not carry arms. Why should they ? They had their cadres for the dirty job. Therefore the TMVP was able to pose without arms on elections day, for PAFFREL to certify them as “good boys”. You would also agree to disagree with the type of democracy the President speaks of after Batti LG elections. If that is the democracy the President wants the North to have through these fake elections, let’s pray to God Mr. Sangaree, to please save them from tortured and traumatised life. Death for the North would be far more relieving.
That much and more you are aware of and that is more than good enough reason to register your concerns over PC elections as the DM quoted you saying [quote] “The withdrawal of the STF will do more harm than good. It is a well known fact that there are armed groups in the East creating a fear psychosis among the people. The government’s decision to withdraw the STF without disarming these armed paramilitary groups will definitely affect the conduct of a free and fair election,” [unquote] But let me tell you fair and square Mr. Sangaree, you were too much with the government prior to and during the Batti LG elections silently watching the government tie up with the TMVP, your argument though valid, most unfortunately, your voice wouldn’t be seriously heard. Now that the government had allowed the TMVP to be part of the local governing process while carrying arms, the TMVP and the government would argue they cannot be disarmed, for they need security to run the Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas as elected representatives of the people (sic). In the South, that would be a sound argument for the war cry to sustain this government.
Worst is your own dilemma and contradiction in meeting the challenge of armed electioneering in the East. TMVP is the “armed group(s)” you refrain from naming but say would ‘definitely affect the conduct of a free and fair election’. You are no doubt right on that even without names. Yet the reason(s) why the TMVP live with arms is no different to the reason(s) why those armed groups that you coalesce with, carry arms. The PLOTE and the EPRLF (Pathmanabha) have not laid down arms either, as you know quite well. They are very much ‘para military’ as the TMVP. Mr. Siddharthan being in parliament once before, does not
metamorphose his PLOTE into any democratic form. Your alliance with these two para military groups will not be any different to the PA –TMVP alliance.
How on earth can you “contest the polls on a common list” with the armed PLOTE and the EPRLF (Pathmanaba) “for the purpose of preventing the East from falling into the grip of an armed group”? Your presence with two armed groups would only have the people of East living through nightmares with bitterly opposed and competing armed groups wanting to silence each other during elections to win at any cost. Win to be heir to the Chief Minister’s post.
The issue of PC elections for the East, Mr. Sangaree, does not restrict itself to the issue of ‘how free and fair’ it would be, although like every one else you are also trying to hype that issue as the only major issue. It raises a more fundamental issue from the side of Tamil politics that you wish to ignore right now. Where do you stand on the de-merger of the two provinces ? The very argument of those who took recourse to legal action in asking for the “de-merger” of the North – East province was that there is no “Tamil homeland” in Sri Lanka. The de-merger was the call of certain parties in the government’s Sinhala extremism to which your friends in the government most willingly subscribed to. It was therefore a plain bifurcation of the “Tamil homeland” that all of you accepted as a cardinal principle at Thimpu.
To date, neither you nor other Tamil groups including EPDP have publicly dissociated yourselves from that joint “Thimpu Declaration” made in July 1985. The Tamil Delegation at Thimpu discussions consisted of representatives from the LTTE, EPRLF, TELO, EROS, PLOTE and your own TULF. The LTTE, EPRLF, TELO and EROS were also constituent members of the then ENLF. All of them together signed the Joint Declaration at the conclusion of Phase I of Thimpu discussions, which very clearly said [quote] “It is our considered view that any meaningful solution to the Tamil national question must be based on the following four cardinal principles” [unquote] and of the four, the last one being no more valid, the first three remain as [quote]
* recognition of the Tamils of Ceylon as a nation
* recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils in Ceylon
* recognition of the right of self determination of the Tamil nation [unquote]
Most signatories (except the LTTE) to this “Joint Thimpu Declaration” including you as the TULF now accept elections to one half of your own “identified homeland” as the de-merged Eastern Province. Accepting PC elections to the East only means an acceptance of the argument put forward by the Sinhala extremism in de-merging. Can you therefore explain where you stand on these “cardinal principles” now ? Do you now disagree and reject the Joint Thimpu Declaration ? You have to answer that single question before deciding to contest PC elections for East.
The moment you accept PC elections to this bifurcated “Tamil homeland” you become a traitor to the Tamil Nation, who voted en-bloc for a “Separate Tamil State” in 1977 responding to your call for a separate State. Remember also, the argument of “a Tamil Nation” can not be defined and accepted without a historically claimed “homeland”. That was reason why Sinhala extremism wanted the North – East de-merged. Now at this point, your acceptance of this de-merged East with the PC elections, negates the “homeland” argument on which the Tamil people could claim nationhood. Thereafter Mr. Sangaree, there is no issue as recognition of the right of self determination of the Tamil nation. There is no reason for power sharing. And no argument as you had made previously for a federal system of governance to accommodate Tamil aspirations.
Again, you are not only accepting East as a separate political constituency, you are accepting the powers vested under the 13th Amendment too. Powers you were adamantly refusing to accept as far less than required for resolving long felt Tamil grievances. With all that you also subscribe now to the argument that Eastern Tamils have a different ethnic right and has to be liberated from the hegemony of Northern Tamils, as Karuna Amman argued after his break with the LTTE. In fact and in plain language, you are now contradicting the fundamental basis of the whole Tamil struggle in which I thought you represent that part which is democratic.
Where are you heading to now in the dust of your political career and in whose political caravan ? You are apparently travelling in a government bus that has a very conspicuous sticker in Sinhala that says “This is Gauthama Buddha’s Land”. Your little faint note asking for Tamil rights therefore go unheeded and without credibility. And, I am sorry about that.
April 3rd, 2008
by Ameen Izzadeen
MY friend Jayaprakash Tissainayagam is in detention. A senior journalist and Tamil, he was arrested on March 7 by the Terrorism Investigations Department (TID) and he does not know why he is being detained. Yesterday, the supreme court took up a fundamental rights petition filed by him, challenging his detention.Is he a terror suspect or a prisoner of conscience?
In terms of the definition of the phrase ‘prisoner of conscience’, I believe Tissa, as he is known to his friends, qualifies to be one.
According to Amnesty International, the term refers to anyone imprisoned because of their race, religion, colour, language, sexual orientation, or belief, so long as they have not used or advocated violence.
Tissa never condoned terrorism or separatism. Neither do his writings exhort Tamils to take to violence. He only spoke and wrote with the intention of making the Tamils equal citizens of this country.
The issue at stake is not only Tissa’s detention but also the hallowed concept of freedom of expression, which is an essential ingredient in a vibrant democracy. If ours is a true democracy, anyone should be able to say that Tamil people have the right to self determination. Of course, I agree promoting violence to achieve this end is unlawful and should be dealt with legally in accordance with the law.
A budding intellectual, Tissa often had a stimulating counterpoint. Whenever I met him, I made sure that I spent some time with him over a cup of tea, so that I could learn something from him. Our discussions varied from constitutional matters and crises in politics to the media scene and movies.
A human rights activist for the past two decades, Tissa, through his writing, had also highlighted the plight of the Sinhala youth, most of whom were JVP sympathisers, when they were being hounded by government-backed goon squads in the late 1980s.
At the time of his arrest, he was running a news website funded by a German non-governmental organisation, FLICT (Facilitating Local Initiative for Conflict Transformation), which seeks to strengthen the capacity of Sri Lankan civil society to play a more effective and influential role in contributing towards a lasting and positive peace.
I was a regular visitor to the website and impressed by its content and presentations. His office was situated in Colombo’s Tamil-dominated Jampettah Street, an area that is regularly subjected to cordon-and-search operation by the security forces.
The building that houses Tissa’s office is owned by a Tamil nationalist writer who runs a printing press in the same building.
The police first came for the printing press owner and took him to the TID headquarters on the basis that the press was being used for the propaganda work of the LTTE, which, strangely, is not a banned group in Sri Lanka, though it is in many foreign countries, including India, Britain and the United States.
Tissa went to TID to inquire about the detention of the printing press owner but ended up being a detainee himself.
When I heard that he was arrested by the TID, about which many Sri Lankans know very little, the question that flashed across my mind was whether he was being tortured.
The government ministers may defend the country’s case before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, saying that since Sri Lanka has been a signatory to the torture convention, the abominable practice has long been abandoned. But I strongly believe that cops are cops, for whom international treaties make little or no sense.
Well, if the CIA, the intelligence arm of the United States, which touted itself as citadel of democracy, before the George W Bush era began in 2000, can practice waterboarding, why won’t our TID?
So each time, I spoke to Tissa’s wife who is allowed to see him twice a week or so, I wanted to know whether he was being treated well. She speaks to him in the presence of a police officer and therefore she says he is not free to talk.
But modern torture techniques like waterboarding won’t show any external wounds. We were worried. A mutual friend told me, “We should be relieved that Tissa was not picked up by the goons who come in the much-feared white van.”
A few years ago, another famous journalist, Dharmalingam Sivaram, a Tamil, was abducted by a gang as soon as he left a pub just opposite a police station in Colombo. His body with gun shot injuries was found the following day in the high security zone near the parliamentary complex.
Yes, Tissa should count himself lucky for not ending up like Sivaram. But why he is being detained is the question, to which his wife, parents and friends try to find an answer.
With emergency laws in force, friends and lawyers can do very little. On the one hand, we admit that the police, which were facing the daunting task of eliminating terrorism from this country, have every right to question him. On the other, we know there are more bad cops than good cops in the police.
COURTESY: Khaleej Times
April 1st, 2008
by B. Raman
An official statement issued by the headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on March 11, 2008 on the high-profile visit of Lt.Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the chief of the Sri Lankan army and the architect of the successful counter-terrorism operations by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, to India in the first week of March,2008, is an indicator of the desperation of the LTTE and its bitterness against the government of India.
Its desperation arises from its loss of control of the territory administered by it in the Eastern Province during 2006 and 2007, its inability to counter effectively the successful air strikes by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) against positions held by it in the Northern Province and the steady diminition in its operational capabilities due to the successful disruption of its capability for the replenishment of its stocks of arms and ammunition and explosives by the Sri Lankan Air Force and Navy, with the co-operation of the international community, including India, in the form of timely supply of valuable intelligence.
The LTTE is not yet a failed or a failing non-state actor. It still has considerable biting capacity. It still has a large supply of well-trained and well-motivated cadres. In the Northern Province where the battle lines have shifted, it has much greater local support than it had in the Eastern Province. Its morale, capacity for innovation and determination to continue fighting are intact. But in the absence of material replenishments, its capacity for offensive operations has been eroded and it has been forced to fight a defensive battle to save the territory still under its control. Till now, it has been doing well despite the claims to the contrary by the Sri Lankan defence spokesmen.
India’s policy till now has been one of covert assistance to the Sri Lankan intelligence in improving its collection and assessment capabilities, sharing of intelligence collected by the much-better endowed Indian intelligence agencies, strengthening the defence capabilities of Sri Lanka in the matter of anti-aircraft equipment and facilitating the operations of the Sri Lankan Navy for disrupting the overseas supply channels of the LTTE.
Indian public opinion, including public opinion in Tamil Nadu, could not have objected to these measures for co-operation since they remained covert and not brazenly overt and since there was a well-defined Laxman Rekha (dividing line), which our Armed Forces and intelligence agencies were told not to cross. That Laxman Rekha related to co-operation between the two armies, which could have facilitated the Sri Lankan Army’s ground operations against the LTTE in the Northern Province.
Independent analysts and reliable sources are agreed that the Sri Lankan Army’s successes in the Eastern Province were achieved at a tremendous human cost, with large-scale violation of the human rights of the civilian population. Lt.Gen. Fonseka and Mr. Gothbaya Rajpaksa, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapksa, who is the Defence Secretary, are not models of rectitude in matters concerning respect for the human rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Sensing what they see as a historic victory in their fight against the LTTE, these two have been contemptuously dismissing all reports regarding the violation of the human rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils. There are some indications of Western re-thinking on their attitude to the Rajapaksa government because of its brazen dismissal of all concerns regarding the human rights situation in the Tamil areas.
Senior officers of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have been visiting India from time to time for discussions on Indian assistance and military-military relations.
Even Gothbaya Rajapaksa has been visiting New Delhi periodically. But these visits were low profile and the government of India took care not to create an impression of Indian lack of concern over the human rights situation. The high-profile visit of Fonseka and the kind of honours openly accorded to him indicated that the Laxman Rekha, which has so far characterised the co-operation between the armed forces of the two countries, is ceasing to exist and that there is probably a greater readiness–even eagerness– on the part of the Indian Army to co-operate with the Sri Lankan Army in matters which might facilitate its ground operations against the LTTE in the Northern Province. This perception of a disappearing Laxman Rekha is not confined to the LTTE. It is palpable among large sections of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka and in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.
The desperation and the bitterness caused by this perception have triggered off the official statement of the LTTE. In a language reminiscent of the language which it was using with regard to Indian policies before the shocking assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May,1991, it has characterised any possible change in the Indian policy as amounting to a new historical blunder and insinuated that the government of India is putting itself in a position, which could be viewed as complicity in what it sees as the Sri Lankan government’s policy of genocide of the Tamils.
The LTTE, like other international terrorist organisations, follows a policy of coming out with comments, not amounting to official statements, which are disseminated by the media controlled by it and coming out with an official statement only in exceptional circumstances. The fact that the LTTE has now come out with an official statement on the co-operation between the two armies indicates that it might be considering the options available to it to counter this.
It is important to re-examine and revamp our intelligence and operational capabilities to neutralise any plan of the LTTE to mount another terrorist strike in Indian territory or against Indian nationals or interests. It would be unwise to dismiss its statement as a desperate outburst of no or only limited consequence.
In recent months, the Police in Tamil Nadu and Kerala have detected attempts by the LTTE to procure supplies and possibly ships also from India through locals. From the published reports, it would seem that many of the locals, who had helped the LTTE, did so for money and not out of sympathy for its cause. But the likely re-emergence of pockets of sympathy for the LTTE’s cause is an ever-present danger.
Both the governments of India and Sri Lanka want to neutralise the LTTE for different objectives. The Indian objective is to punish it for its assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and to render it incapable of terrorism. The Sri Lankan objective is to crush it as a terrorist organisation and re-impose the will and interests of the Sinhalese majority over the Tamil minority. Despite all the sweet talk from President Rajapaksa and his officers and advisers, their policy towards the Tamils continues to be characterised by their desire for a dictated peace and their modus operandi of divide and rule.
India should not give an impression that there is a convergence of objectives between the two countries. The Laxman Rekha has served us well in the past and should serve us well in future. [SAAG]
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
March 13th, 2008