Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 15 May 2011





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The hard walk

A thirsty toddler being given a drink

Each and every soldier of the Sri Lanka Army has every reason to be proud, for it is their Army that had entered the world military annals as the only force that completely annihilated the terrorists who ravaged our Motherland for 30 years while rescuing over 300,000 innocent lives that suffered under terror. Sri Lanka Army (SLA), which was formed to look after internal security and also performed ceremonial duties, has grown professionally during the last 30-year to face any threat that could destroy the country's unity.

Its foot soldiers undertook serious affairs by controlling the hartal in 1954, and the communal violence in 1958. Their first deployment in the Northern soil was to prevent illegal immigrants entering from South India.

The SLA showed its real fighting capabilities in combat operations in the JVP insurrection in 1971 and its soldiers also played a vital role in controlling communal riots in 1977. The SLA soldiers had to polish their old-guns to under take a mission to fight against a group of youth who created violence in the Northern peninsula from the mid 1981 with the killing of a soldier Stanley Road, Jaffna in 1981. The situation became more challenging for the SLA with killing of 13 soldiers at Thirunelveli, in Jaffna in 1983 by the same group.

It proved its fighting capabilities in 'Eelam War I' and gradually strengthened its fighting power to face the increasing threat from the LTTE.

'Operation Liberation', which was the first military exercise to gain control of the Vadamarachchi area, entered SLA history as its first two offensive brigades were launched in 1987. It helped to capture Vadamarachchi within five days of launching the operation. It also proved the SLA's humane touch as the soldiers liberated hundreds of civilians under the LTTE grip.

SLA's path to victory was not easy and it was through blood, sweat, bravery and dedication of the soldiers who had fought with the LTTE in the Eelam War II in 1990, the Eelam war III, from 1995, and several other military operations 'Jayasikuru', Ranagosa', 'Rivibala', 'Rivikirana I', 'Kinihira I', 'Kinihira II', 'Kinihira IV Stage I', 'Kinihira V', 'Kinihira VIII', 'Kinihira IX'.

After the capture of Thoppigala

The LTTE attacked the military and also killed innocent Sinhala and Muslim civilians on daily basis.

The closing of the Mavil Aru sluice gates by the LTTE denying the rights for water to over 30,000 villagers-Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim-of Kallar, Seru Nuvara, Seruvila, Dehiwattha and Neelapola villages was the major turning point for the newly elected President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Commander-in-Chief of the Security forces to renew the government's military strategy to liberate the country from decades old terrorism. The soldiers captured the Mavil Aru anicut and released water to the people.

Unlike in the past, the LTTE, which faced a continuous assault from the SLA and lost its domination and manpower, started taking cover among the civilians. With Sampoor and Vakarai falling into the hands of the SLA, over 40,000 civilians were used as a human shield sought refuge in government controlled areas.

The SLA's military strategy helped to isolate the LTTE from the civilians and push them gradually to the jungles of Thoppigala, where the final battle to liberate the East was fought, in 2007.

The military mission to liberate the North commenced from Silawatura, the LTTE's main Sea Tiger base in Mannar. The Army's capture of the Mannar Rice bowl became a major setback for the LTTE.

The SLA soldiers were able to destroy the LTTE's highly fortified bunker defence lines and earth bunds.

They captured all prominent LTTE military bases like Vietnam Base, Lima Base 3, 18-Base, and liberated the holy Madhu shrine, which was used by the LTTE as a military base with bunkers in proximity of the historic holy shrine.

The brave soldiers of the SLA under the correct guidance of their commanders marched forward in their military operation destroying strongholds of terrorists and capturing the major townships in Mannar - Adampan, Palampiddy, Periyamadu, Parappakkadantan, Namdankandal, Vidattaltivu, Illuppaikaddavali, Mallavi Town, and Vellankulam, the last LTTE's bastion in Mannar.

It was on 13 August in 2008, that SLA troops captured Mulankavil, the LTTE's second most powerful administrative base in Kilinochchi. The steady military assault by the soldiers result in the capture of Thunukkai, 12 km southwest of Kilinochchi on August 22.

This sent warning signals for the LTTE terrorists that they were in a dire situation and for the first time in the history of war against the LTTE, the SLA with the support of the Air Force and Navy started dominating the LTTE's strongholds, which were considered as impossible targets to capture or destroy. The troops captured the LTTE's 500 metre long airstrip of Vannivilankulam.

In a strategic military advance the SLA captured Pooneryn while the LTTE's fire power and man power were reducing and the terrorists were fleeing deeper in the Northwest of the country hearding the civilians with them and using them as a human shield to avoid military push.

Fall of the LTTE's strategic township Paranthan into the SLA was a strong signal to the LTTE leadership to abandon Kilinochchi, its dreamy capital of the Eelam. With the regaining of Paranthan, the troops encircled Kilinochchi from North, West and South directions.

No force on this earth could stop the SLA, which had the political blessings, from successfully advancing into the LTTE territories and the LTTE's day dream of having an Eelam state' started fading away with each step taken by the soldiers.

The LTTE's last refuge Mullaitivu, started falling down with capturing of the coastal town Alampil, 12 km south of Mullaitivu. Alampil which was a Sea Tiger base was one of the LTTE's main logistic bases for Sea Tiger suicide missions.

On January 2, 2009, the LTTE leader lost his capital Kilinochchi, which is the LTTE's logistic and administrative base, where the LTTE had its kangaroo courts, Police Headquarters, Eelam banks and the luxurious LTTE peace secretariat complex. The LTTE, lost domination in Ampakamam, Nedunkeni and the Army captured the LTTE's 350 metres long airstrip in North of Ampakamam,

The soldiers, who captured all the LTTE's airstrips took control of Dharmapuram, Ramanathanpuram, visuamadu, populated townships under the LTTE control. They entered the Mullaithivu town, which was the main Sea Tiger base and maintained sea routes for the LTTE's international network involved in smuggling and other illegal international transactions, on January 25, 2009.

The biggest blow to the LTTE came with the fall of its biggest Sea Tiger base in Chalai and the LTTE lost its control in the entire northeastern coastal region.

With the routes the capture of the Puthukkudiyiruppu junction the LTTE was further pushed towards the northeast of the Mullaitivu lagoon, which was closer to the government declared Safe Zone along the sea coast.

While all hopes for survival were shattering, the LTTE terrorists engaged in a difficult attempt to protect the last huge earth bund of 500 metres build across the A-35 Mullaithivu Road. But the brave SLA soldiers breached the bund and took thousands of civilians kept as hostages by the LTTE. On May 3, 2009, troops took over the control of the stretch of land between A-35 road and Nanthikadal lagoon.

It was the most crucial time for the entire SLA, which was waiting to bring the biggest catch dead or alive. All energies were directed towards the remaining tiny land along the beach called Puthumathalan where the terrorists were still holding thousands of civilians forcibly.

Unlike in other armies in the world, the Lankan soldiers faced the most difficult task not to harm a single civilian. The SLA had to use the expertise of the snippers in this final battle, where it was difficult to identify the terrorists and civilians separately as all were in civilian clothes.

When the foot soldiers breached the LTTE made earth bund, the human river started to flow through Puthumathalan, the hellhole created by the LTTE. It was on May 19, 2009, that soldiers, who hoisted the Lion's flag in the entire North after 30-years, jubilantly brought the body of the world's most ruthless and megalomaniac LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran from the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon after a hour's long deadly fight bringing an end to terror. The Army Commander made the announcement on behalf of the President and Secretary Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa about the death of the LTTE leader:

"A few hours ago on 19th May 2009, our ground troops confirmed that they have recovered the dead body of the world's most ruthless terrorist leader".

With the triumphant victory, the soldiers, which engaged in the military exercise and also a humanitarian operation to give life to Tamils and Muslims in the East and also the North , have become strong pillars in rebuilding the country.

According to SLA history of Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake's idea after an year of gaining independence, to have an indigenous army ripened into giving birth to the Ceylon Army on October 10, 1949.

Addressing the first batch of recruits of the 1st Battalion of the Ceylon Light Infantry at Diyatalawa, the Prime Minister said:" You have joined the Army to serve your country in peace and war; therefore you must train yourselves to a high standard of efficiency and with personal zest, be prepared to meet all contingencies, even to lay down your life for the love and honour of our country.

I am confident that in the Army the government in power will own a body of strong disciplined men, who will not hesitate to come to Lanka's aid in her hour of need".

In keeping with this noble vision the brave soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army did and will do their utmost to defend Mother Lanka.

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