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DateLine Sunday, 18 November 2007

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Media attempts to sign 'death warrants' fail:

Casualties are the same be it Lanka or Iraq

There had been several attempts over the week to issue death certificates of soldiers who are still alive through many media reports in the aftermath of the Muhamalai limited operation by the Security Forces to destabilise the Forward Defences of the LTTE in the Jaffna peninsula.

Once again there had been attempts to highlight the Muhamalai incident as yet another debacle exactly like in October last year.

The casualty figures and the number of deaths have been taken as the basis to highlight it as a major setback to the Security Forces. But there had been no mention about the heavy damages inflicted on the LTTE especially to the first line of the LTTE.

It is a fundamental right of the media to expose the correct picture about the operation, but, they have no right to give death certificates for soldiers alive, giving false figures about the number of soldiers killed in the operation and speculating on the number.

It is the legitimate right of the Sri Lanka Army to declare the number of deaths and the number of casualties in the operation as they are directly responsible for each and every person under their payroll.

If someone thinks that the Government is trying to cover up the number of deaths and casualties in this limited operation, they have been sadly mistaken, since there is no possibility on the part of the Security Forces to hide the number of funerals taking place in the country, as each and every soldier sacrifices his life for the motherland who is accorded military honours at the funerals.

The so-called politicians who were initiating suspicions among the public by spreading wild rumours, thus raising doubts about the casualty figures can easily count the number of funerals as they are the so-called funeral orators at each and every funeral in their respective constituencies.

There is no doubt they are raising these doubts as they are not in a position to attend at least the funerals of these heroic soldiers when their conscience do not allow them to do so because of their attempts to belittle the victories achieved by the Security Forces in the East.

They know that they have already earned the wrath of the heroic soldiers and been distanced from them due to the statements they had made publicly belittling and humiliating the achievements made by the Security Forces risking their lives for their motherland.

The same applies to journalists who were vociferous in their criticism against the Security Forces' attempt to liberate the civilian population from the clutches of the LTTE in the Eastern theatre.

They are speculating the figures about the number of deaths and the casualty figures since they are reluctant to accept the figures officially issued by the Sri Lanka Army.

Although they tend to speculate the figures, without any verification from relevant authorities, they never dare to come out with the relevant details. Therefore there is no basis for the public to accept their account of the story.

Despite the fact that Sri Lanka Army had announced that only eleven soldiers were killed during this limited operation - six in the battlefront and five after admission to hospitals, they were reluctant to accept the figures.

The basis for their doubts is the false media campaign carried out by the pro-LTTE media about this limited operation and their deeply rooted attitude that all these military operations were meant to score marks for politicians. The ultimate result due to their prejudice over these military operations was that they too will become campaigners for the LTTE, willingly or unwillingly.

The politicians who were vociferous in their criticism about these military operations tend to speculate these figures about deaths and the casualties also exposed their political hypocrisy, fearing the Government would take political mileage out of these operations as they were well aware that troops were now in the path of success which had never been witnessed during their tenure.

So they try to highlight this limited operation as an operation to fulfill a political requirement of the Government giving the number of Forces' casualties.

But they failed to understand that no battle could be conducted with zero casualties on the Forces side and there is a big national requirement to defeat LTTE terrorism. That requirement has to be filled despite the fact that politicians are scoring out of these military successes.

That is the responsibility lies with the Security Forces and their duty towards their motherland.

In the same manner they should understand that the same politicians, whether it is President Mahinda Rajapaksa, any other Government politician or an official should also bear the consequences of any failures on the part of the military in their endeavours to take political mileage out of military operations, since they cannot always expect military victories against the LTTE which is known to be the most dangerous terror outfit in the world.

Therefore, they try to profess through the media that military should not make any attempt to conduct offensive military operations against the LTTE in Muhamalai and they should stick to a defensive role in this decisive ground-taking operation earlier military operations as examples where large number of casualties were reported on the part of the Security Forces.

It was true that 62 soldiers sustained injuries during this limited operation. This includes 45 soldiers who were in the P1 and P2 category. Out of the P1 category casualties which stand at 18 a number of soldiers have lost their limbs as they cross mine fields of the LTTE, which is a normal situation in a battle of this nature, where Security Forces inflict heavy damages to the LTTE by destroying their first Defence Line stretching over 5 Kilometres in the Muhamalai sector.

If someone expect to take the LTTE defence by surprise in the Muhamalai sector with zero casualty rate on the part of the Security Forces it would be daydream.

If Security Forces play only defensive role in this sector the LTTE would definitely take the advantage out of this situation as they did during the period the Government and the LTTE engaged in peace negotiations.

The same critics of course would blame the Security Forces for not taking adequate steps to destroy the Tiger defences, if LTTE overrun the Security Forces defences in their bid to capture Jaffna which is major target of the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran especially in the month of November in which they very proudly celebrate his birthday and commemorate their dead cadres.

On the other hand the number of casualties cannot be avoided in this battle ground, as the troops are subjected to indirect fire of the Tiger guns located somewhere in the South of Muhamalai.

The Security Forces have to face this situation until they neutralize these heavy artillery and mortars located in the Tiger held areas in the Wanni.

It was after the neutralizing the heavy guns in the Eastern theatre, the Security Forces were able to have a free walk in the Eastern theatre. Security Forces have reliable information that 80, 120 mm heavy mortar launchers, 20, 122 mm artillery guns and eight 152 mm heavy artillery guns had been acquired by the LTTE during the period after signing the Ceasefire Agreement.

Therefore, troops engaged in a battle against the LTTE terror will definitely have to face the consequences of the short sighted acts of these politicians who had put the lives of the soldiers in peril during these decisive battles.

The troops deployed along the Muhamalai defence lines have been entrusted with the task of neutralizing the Tiger threat on the cleared areas.

So they need to keep on destabilizing the LTTE defences in view of their security and also of the civilian population living there in the Jaffna peninsula.

By destroying the Tiger bunkers in their first defence line the troops were able to neutralize a major threat on the Security Forces. The same critics who see this as a setback for the Security Forces has also forgotten the fact that the Security Forces are now in control of the original FDL held by the LTTE a year ago. That too achieved by the Security Forces with several casualties.

The other factor that has to be highlighted is that all these criticism are levelled against the Security Forces and the defence authorities at a time when the Security Forces are launching a major thrust on the LTTE defences in the Wanni. Therefore, there is no basis on the allegation that this limited operation was launched targeting the budget speech of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

If the Defence authorities are keen on such requirement they would have selected a location that can be easily captured flushing out the Tiger cadres.

And the allegation that the Security Forces launched this operation with the intention of having a free walk towards Kilinochchi has also become invalid from their own arguments that the operation was hastily planned to gain political mileage.

According to the highest defence authorities though the operation was planned as a limited operation to destabilise the Tiger defences, the field commanders depending on the situation decided to hold the Tiger defence line for few hours to inflict more damages to Tiger defences.

But there was no intention to continue the operation for a long period. Therefore, the retreat of the troops was not unexpected as professed by some media, highlighting as a victory of the LTTE.

Though the situation was completely normal for the Security Forces, those who are working according to agendas of political parties are making attempts to highlight these situations as major debacles as they are doing their best to give political flavour to these military operations.

Even the Southern security situation, which has been affected due to Tiger attack on the Army detachment in Thalgasmanakada and the subsequent killings in Ranminitenna have also come at a time when Security Forces pushing back the LTTE into their Wanni bases taking the Security Forces defences in the West of Vavuniya more than 10 kilometres ahead of their original defences.

But, there is no attempt by this section of media to see them as set backs on the part of the LTTE. Therefore, their attempts very clearly expose their hypocrisy and the agendas they are working towards.

****

Army Chief condemns media attempts

Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka in an interview with this columnist condemned the attempts by certain media purportedly representing the national interests through the names of their newspapers and politicians for glorifying the Muhamalai incident as a major victory of the LTTE against the Security Forces.

"It is sad to observe that some media experts see this as a major debacle on the part of the Security Forces", the Commander added.

These armchair critics exhibit their ignorance; by showing the casualty figure on the part of the Security Forces to highlight the Muhamalai incident as a major setback to the Security Forces without considering the amount of damage caused to the LTTE.

"They are unaware of the fact that no battle can be won without sustaining casualties. That is a part of war whether the battles are fought in Sri Lanka or Iraq", he said.

He says that even the elite US Forces deployed in Iraq sustain injuries and losing their limbs when engage in military operation. The same situation is applicable to our battles also.

He also blamed the politicians who were critical of the limited military operation conducted in Muhamalai speculating number of deaths on the part of the Security Forces without understanding the ground realities.

"If they cannot believe the figures given by us we can facilitate them to go to the battle front providing them with body armour and a helmet to count the number of casualties.

But for that they have to go to the battle front", the Army Commander added. He also said that the limited operation conducted in Muhamalai was a part of the overall security plan of the Sri Lanka Army to weaken the LTTE militarily but not a operation hastily planned to fulfill political requirement.

"We have deployed our soldiers in Muhamalai not to enjoy there but to confront with the LTTE and destroy them militarily. In these endeavours we have to face such situations. But this is not at all a setback for the Security Forces but a big achievement", the Commander added.

"If someone think we can win this war without any casualty they must be unrealistic in their thinking", he said.

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