The 59 Division’s solo battle in the thick jungles of Mullaitivu
strategy to defeat the LTTE in the Wanni battlefront was not a simple
one, like the way it was done, in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The Tri Forces
had learnt many lessons from the past and were determined not to repeat
those mistakes in their latest endeavour to liberate Wanni from the
clutches of the LTTE.
One obvious weakness in their earlier military plans was that those
plans lacked a comprehensive military objective of liberating the entire
Wanni. Those plans were basically focused on capturing major Tiger
strongholds of much political value than strategic value.
The architects of the Wanni liberation operation, were aware of the
fact that the LTTE could take the upper hand in the battlefront if they
focused only on one location. Therefore, they focused on their military
strategy, to liberate the entire Wanni instead of focusing on main Tiger
That was why the SLA opened battlefronts one after the other from
various locations in the Wanni. The first battlefront, the 57 offensive
Division from West of A-9 road, the Mannar battlefront of the Task Force
I or the 58 Division were opened as a part of this comprehensive
objective of liberating entire Wanni.
Many of the major LTTE bases had fallen to the hands of the Security
Forces as a part of their overall military strategy, but not as a result
of focusing singularly on the particular stronghold. The overall
objective of the military was to create a wider battlefront so that the
LTTE could not face them in such an easy way.
strategy was focused on completely eliminating terrorism
from the Sri Lankan soil without leaving single room for
terror elements to breed once again in the jungle terrains
If the political leadership wanted to gain political advantage out of
the military victories against the LTTE they would have easily directed
the troops to capture those Tiger strongholds with much political value
rather than focusing on a jungle terrain in the Wanni and would have
easily ended the war within a short span of time pushing the terror
elements into the jungle patches of Wanni.
But that effort was not made with a narrow political objective. The
Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa backed the efforts of the
Security Forces of achieving this comprehensive military objective
rather than achieving their petty political objectives.
Their strategy was focused on completely eliminating terrorism from
the Sri Lankan soil without leaving single room for terror elements to
breed once again in the jungle terrains in Wanni.
It was with that objective and to support the overall military
objective of creating a wider battlefront in the Wanni that the Sri
Lanka Army opened up its new battlefront in Weli Oya on January 15 ,
Brigadier Nandana Udawatta, the Deputy General Officer Commanding of
the 57 Division was selected to lead this battlefront appointing him as
the GOC of the 59 Division. Brigadier Udawatta was from the Armoured
Corps of the Sri Lanka Army.
Unlike the two other battlefronts, which were operating West of A-9
at the beginning of the year 2008, the battlefront opened up in Weli Oya,
had to fight this battle in the thick jungle terrain without seeing any
populated area ahead of them until they passed the Mullaitivu jungle to
enter Nayaru, Alampil and Kumulamunai.
The 59 Division had its first headquarters in Helambavewa and started
their operations from Nelunvewa. Many predicted that the fierce battles
in the Wanni battle front were expected to erupt in the Weli Oya front
once the 59 Division started its advance opening up a 12 Km long
battlefront from Kokkuthuduvai to Kiriibbanvewa.
Since it was the peak of the recruitment drive of the Sri Lanka Army,
with nearly 3,000 odd youth joining monthly it worked overtime to form
new regular infantry battalions and induct them into the battlefront
after providing them with comprehensive training.
Three Brigades, 591 under the command of Lt. Colonel Aruna
Ariyasinghe, 592 Brigade under the Command of Lt. Colonel Maneesha Silva
and 593 Brigade under the Command of Lt Colonel Palitha Fernando were
formed under the 59 Division to go ahead with the task of penetrating
the key LTTE hideouts in the Andankulam forest reserve or famously known
Mullaitivu jungles south of Mullaitivu in the Martime Pattu Division in
the Mullaitivu district.
Although, they were aware of the LTTE presence ahead of Kokkuthuduvai,
they did not want to touch the area in head on confrontation but focused
solely on isolating the Tiger cadres operating there.
Though many experts predicted that the Mullaitivu jungle would have
been turned in to a killing field, the new concepts and strategies
adopted by the troops in confronting the LTTE in this jungle terrain had
made a vast difference in the operational methods of the Security
The Special Infantry Operation training given to all the troops
inducted to this jungle terrain were adjusted to the jungle warfare
taking the upper hand in the battles in the Mullaitivu jungles.
It was the LTTE which faced many hardships in defending their
territory in this jungle terrain basically due to lack of manpower.
Therefore, it used to create mine fields and trappings to prevent troops
advancing into their territory. Within the first seven months of the
year 2009 troops of the 59 Division advanced more than 7 kms into the
Mullaitivu jungle from Kiriibbanvewa tank and three to four kilometers
from Janakapura facing the edge of Kokkuthuduvai.
One of the strategic locations they had to defend inside this jungle
terrain was the 1-4 base complex which had been used by the LTTE in the
late 1980’s and 1990’s as their major hideouts. Although troops had
conquered half of this jungle terrain on earlier occasions, some of
those Tiger bases remained intact.
The 59 Division started off its operation with the capture of Alpha-I
base a small base that ahead of the Tiger defences. Then they had to
confront heavily with the LTTE once they moved closer to the supply
route the LTTE had inside this jungle terrain to feed their cadres
manning their defences. Troops took control of this supply route
constructed by the LTTE North of Janakapura from Kokkuthuduvai to
Thannimurippukulam tank which had been used by the LTTE to supply food
for cadres dominating the Forward Defence Line following fierce battles
with the LTTE. They had to neutralise number of counter attacks by the
LTTE to keep it under their control. Later, the 59 Division troops
renamed that road as ‘Jaya Mawatha’.
Following the capture of this supply route, the LTTE had to change
their tactics in defending their terrain. They created open terrains
inside these thick jungles to prevent troops infiltrating their bases.
Hundreds of civilians were used against their wish to clear the jungle
patches to create these open terrains as they were unable to protect
their bases as the thick jungle patches provided cover for the troops
when conducting their operations.
The Munnagam Base, West of Janakapura was the first Tiger Base that
fell to the hands of the Security Forces. It was in June, 2008, the
troops attached to the 7 Gemunu Watch under the command of Lt. Colonel
Priyantha Perera captured this strategic base after fierce fighting with
the LTTE. The first major underground bunker of the LTTE inside the
Mullaitivu jungles was found inside Munnagam Base. Munnagam Base was
identified as the Sutheshan base by the military officials who engaged
in Operation Thunder Strike in 1991.
Following the capture of Munnagam Base, LTTE withdrew further towards
the North creating yet another massive open area removing the
undergrowth of the thick jungle so that they could detect troops’
movement through this open terrain.
The troops attached to the 59 Division engaged the entire LTTE
defence line ahead of the open terrain on June 8, 2008 with the
objective of crossing this open terrain with a huge number of trappings
and mines. But the troops attached to the 7 Gemunu Watch battalion under
the command of Lt. Colonel Priyantha Perera, and 14 Vijayaba Infantry
Battalions under the command of Major Laksiri Perera crossed this open
terrain amidst stiff resistance from the LTTE on June 08, but others
failed to cross this terrain due to heavy LTTE resistance.
The 7 GW and 14 VIR troops captured Tiger points after crossing this
open terrain. Intelligence reports indicated that more than 25 LTTE
cadres had been killed during this offensive and 35 others injured.
Twelve cadres including a female leader in the self-styled ‘Lt. Colonel
rank’ had been killed in this attack.
Fierce fighting erupted in this open terrain even on June 10 as
Tigers made desperate attempts to recapture the bunker line which was
captured by the troops on June 08 after crossing the open terrain. A
number of Tiger cadres were reportedly killed during this attack. One
soldier was also killed and another seven injured during the fierce
battle that continued for more than one hour.
The LTTE tried their best to make this jungle terrain a killing field
to delay the speedy advance of the troops to vital Tiger bases in this
stretch of jungle. But troops braved all those barricades created by the
LTTE to capture the entire 1-4 base complex which was located in that
The LTTE, which used to deploy their female cadres to dominate these
defences, at this point decided to induct well trained cadres to this
front fearing they would get into trouble very soon. Therefore, they
decided to deploy more than 500 well trained cadres along with reserve
groups to defend this terrain fearing that troops would reach
Nityakaikulam and Kumulamunai located just nine kilometres ahead of the
areas where the troops were operating by that time.
Reaching Nityakaikulam and Kumulamunai was detrimental for them as it
would see the end of their fighting in the jungle terrain. That was the
most expected turning point in this battlefront that would push the
Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to his do or die battle.
Taking all those challenges into their hands the 59 Division, which
engaged in a solo battle till the end of year 2008, reached its targets
one by one capturing the 1-4 base complex. They captured the Michael
Base on July 4, 2008 after three days of fighting after capturing the
LTTE’s key defence line ahead of the open terrain.
The offensive to destroy the strategic base began on July 2, 2008 and
the Army faced heavy resistance from the LTTE combatants taking refuge
in well-protected bunkers which the outfit had built over the years.
The well-fortified Michael Base, was constituted many outposts
located seven km north of Janakapura. It was considered impregnable by
On August 16, LTTE lost one more major base north of Andankulam when
the troops of the 59 Division forged ahead and captured “Jeevan Base”
which had been used by the LTTE as a training centre. It was located 1.5
km southwest of the western edge of the Nayaru lagoon and, troops found
a graveyard in which 67 tombs of dead terrorists at the Jeevan Base.
Four buildings with an area of about 1250 square meters, one hundred
underground bunkers, thirty-five lavatories, two concrete bunkers of 15
x 15 ft, two wheelbarrows, forty empty barrels, and a heap of slippers
were found inside the base which was considered a part of their 14 -
Base Complex. Four prison cells, probably used by LTTE as torture
chambers to punish and detain those who disobeyed their senior cadres,
were also found at the premises.
When the troops of the 57 and 58 Division headed into the Tiger
strongholds West of A-9 road, the 59 Division which continued its solo
battle in this thick and dark jungles also passed many milestones in
their march towards Mullaitivu amidst severe hardship and prepared their
battle front to box the Tiger terrorists from South of Mullaitivu and
were keenly braced to surround the LTTE’s major Sea Tiger base in the
North Eastern coast by the last quarter of the year 2008.