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Government Gazette

Legacy of Vadamarachchi - 20 years on

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Vadamarachchi battle, one of the most decisive battles in the history of the North-East conflict:

HEROIC BATTLE: The Military option has never been the choice of any Government to find a solution for the North East conflict. But a militaristic approach to the North East conflict has been used by consecutive Governments to bring pressure on the Tiger outfit to shun violence and to enter the path of peace.

Vadamarachchi battle, the pride of all battles fought by the Security Forces was one of the exemplary battles fought by our


Lt. General Denzil Kobbekaduwa before the operation

 heroic soldiers in the calibre of Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Wijeya Wimalaratna who were posthumously promoted to the ranks of Lt. General and Major General following their untimely deaths in 1991.

Two decades have already passed since this exemplary battle fought in Vadamarachchi in Jaffna in 1987 to defeat Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran at his home town Velvetithurai and bring him to his knees. The battle still echoes in the hearts and minds of valiant Security Forces personnel.

According to late Lalith Athulathmudali, then Minister in charge of National Security, as reported in the book 'Vadamarachchi Vimukthi Meheyuma and Uthure Satan' written by Captain Thilak Senanayaka the battle fought in Vadamarachchi was not meant to provide a lasting solution to the North East conflict by defeating the Tiger outfit militarily.

The intention of the battle, as explained by Minister Athulathmudali to Brigadier Kobbekaduwa and Colonel Wimalaratna at Palaly Army camp as the battle was in progress, was to deal a blow to the brain and heart of the Tiger outfit and expose the real picture of the organisation to the Tamil civilians in the bid to liberate them from the Tiger grip.

According to him, the Government led by President J.R. Jayawardene was of the opinion that a political solution was a must to solve the North East conflict and militaristic approach to the issue was taken only to clear the path towards that end to put a stop to violent activities of the Tiger outfit.

However, the objective of the Security Forces engaged in the Vadamarachchi operation could not be reached, though they were capable of achieving that honourable task with the leadership of then Brigadier Kobbekaduwa and Colonel Wimalaratna, due to pressures from regional powers.

Not only Sri Lanka and our giant neighbour India, but also the entire world now sees the repercussions of those external pressures. If the Forces were allowed to achieve the real task, as explained by late Athulathmudali to expose the real picture of the LTTE organisation, the situation of Sri Lanka would have been much better today.

Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Vijeya Wimalaratna would have been still alive today to serve this country if they were allowed to achieve the final goal of their battle.

Even Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who played a key role in the Vadamarachchi operation in 1987 along with


Talking to soldiers before the operation

Colonel Wimalaratna commanding 'Gajaba' men would not have had to toil much labour today to defeat terrorism in the North - East.

Many of the key personnel involved in the Vadamarachchi operation, the biggest military operation undertaken by the Security Forces after the North East conflict reached a new dimension in 1983, are not alive today to recall their brave acts.

But war literature gives us a clear impression about how our war heroes bravely fought the battle to defeat the Tiger outfit to free the Tamils from the myth of achieving the Tamil homeland concept, forcibly imposed on them by Tiger leader Prabhakaran.

The dawn of May 26, 1987 marked the day of launching the 'Operation Liberation' famously known as the Vadamarachchi operation, the biggest operation launched jointly by the Armed Forces in Sri Lanka.

'Operation Liberation' was conducted to wrest control of the Vadamarachchi area in the Jaffna peninsula, and was aimed at forcing the LTTE to enter negotiations.

This was the first time in military history of Sri Lanka that two brigades were launched in an offensive operation. These two brigades, under the command of late Lt. Gen. Kobbekaduwa and Maj. Gen. Wijaya Wimalarathne were able to complete the capture of the Vadamarachchi area within five days. About 8,000 troops from the Gemunu Watch and Gajaba Regiments were involved in the Vadamarachchi operation.

As mentioned in the book The Broken Palmyra on May 18, a diversionary column of troops marched Northwest from Elephant Pass.

Around 20 May, diversionary actions were also launched in Navatkuli and Palaly. Colonel Radha, the LTTE commander for the Mannar district was killed in action at Navatkuli.

Radha, a mild-looking ex-bank officer, was noted for his daring. The Army made a rapid advance towards Atchuvely through Iddaikkadu from Palaly. When the advance commenced, the LTTE is said to have had 15 men in the area.

More men were then ferried in by vehicles and the advance was fiercely resisted. This thrust too turned out to be diversionary as the Army withdrew on the 23rd.

Throughout the whole operation, the Forces enjoyed unchallenged freedom of the air. According to sources probing and diversionary action for the operation to recapture the peninsula had begun by May 18 and the operation was planned and executed with commendable efficiency.

The capacity to gather and analyze intelligence had been strengthened with foreign, and particularly Israeli, help to an admirable degree.

The opportune moment to commence the operation came on May 26 when the Security Forces learnt from intelligence reports that Tiger leader Prabhakaran was in Valvettithurai.

According to the book written by Captain Senanayaka, it was a battle fought by soldiers with greater enthusiasm.

Some war veterans observed this operation as an operation conducted by the Army displaying their humanity towards the


Kobbekaduwa , Wimalaratna and other Officers

 Tamil people turning the operation into a 'hearts and minds campaign' to win over the Tamil people.

The Army fielded seven Infantry Battalions, two squadrons of Armoured cars, two Regiments of Artillery, two Squadrons of Field Engineers and one Commando Regiment to complete the mission.

The Sri Lanka Air Force allocated a large fleet of aircraft six Siai-Machetti SF-260s for Fighter Ground Attack operations, and five helicopters were deployed as troop carriers.

One Avro, two Chinese Y-12s and one De Havilland Heron were configured by the SLAF as improvised bombers although none of these aircraft was designed for such duties.

As a result of this Operation, the entire area of Vadamarachchi was brought under the control of the Security Forces on June 3.

This was a severe blow to the LTTE as Vadamaarachchi is the birthplace of the Tiger leader, V. Prabhakaran, and also most of the senior cadres of the LTTE are natives of Velvettithurai, the main township of Vadamaarachchi.

Consequent to this operation, the Army was entrusted with the administration of a large number of civilians.

Before the Security Forces commenced the next phase of the operation, aimed at gaining control of the entire Jaffna peninsula, a convoy of fishing vessels from India with relief supplies arrived on June 3 and then the Indian airdrop of 25 tons of relief supplies on Jaffna the following day marked the end of the operation.

The Peace Accord with India was signed on the July 29, 1987 and the Indian Peace Keeping Force, (IPKF), began arriving, thus marking a new dimension in the separatist war in Sri Lanka.

But India could understand the true picture of the Tiger leader only when Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a LTTE suicide cadre in May 1991.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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