Sri Lanka: Blackmail During The Endgame In Eelam War IV – Analysis


I: Blackmailing Sri Lanka, 2009

The long and episodic war between the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) and the Tamil liberation forces commanded by the LTTE from the 1980s to 2009 involved numerous atrocities on both sides, notably those in the Eastern Province in 1990. It is puzzling why, today, certain Western states and the human rights lobby (HR) are concentrating solely on the crunch situation in 2009 at the end of Eelam War IV in pressing alleged war crimes charges against the Sri Lankan government; and why symbolic LTTE figures such as V. Rudrakumaran and Adele Balasingham are also not being placed within the bars of moral justice.

The puzzle serves as a backdrop for my argument that the Western nations, both individually and collectively, were complicit in the one of the most outstanding acts of political blackmail the world has seen in recent centuries.i This was when the LTTE utilised its own people, some 310-330,000 citizens of Thamilīlam as a hostage-bargaining chip that would enable them to pursue their fight another day.

Guided by their well-placed connections in media and other circles in the West, the LTTE had read the international scene well. Strands of secular fundamentalism had secured a prominent place and humanitarian impulsesii could be persuaded to seek intervention on behalf of the Tamil people. The Tiger act of moral blackmail was only feasible because of this climate of opinion in the West. In consequence, Amnesty International, HRW, ICG, Hilary Clinton, David Miliband, Bernard Kouchner,iii James Blake, et cetera became cats-paws in a grand LTTE strategy. This act of blackmail did not succeed. Backed by their people (including some Tamils) the Sri Lankan Government (GSL) defeated the LTTE military machine — principally through its military strategy, albeit assisted in various ways by an assorted cluster of states. Both state and society in Sri Lanka are now paying the price for their success and their refusal to kow-tow to Western demands during the last stages of the war.iv

To comprehend this LTTE strategy one must attend to (a) the character of both Pirapāharan and the state of Thamilīlam and (b) the origins of Eelam War IV.

II: Pirapāharan

Testimony from Pirapāharan’s colleagues in the LTTE”s underground days reveal that Pirapāharan admired the military training methods of the Wehrmacht in Nazi Germany’s time and believed that a supreme commander vested with the unrestricted authority that Hitler enjoyed was an essential requisite for the Tamil liberation struggle.v Loads of evidence from varied quarters demonstrates that Pirapāharan eliminated individuals within LTTE ranks who were a threat to his control; while the LTTE revealed unmitigated ruthlessness in eliminating other militant groups in the Tamil firmament as well as Tamil parliamentarians who could stand as an alternative voice for the Tamil people. Pirapāharan believed in the pre-emptive strike. The assassination of potential enemies was one of his favoured modes of

III: The Citizens of Thamilīlam

Assisted by considerable help from India,vii Pirapāharan’s investment in sea logistics and advanced communication on the one hand and Tiger ruthlessness on the other enabled the LTTE to become a major force by 1986; and, eventually, to withstand Indian military power for two years (1987-89) after the two allies fell out. By mid-1990 the LTTE was not merely an insurgency, but a de facto state ruling northern Sri Lanka and in command of scattered patches of the eastern districts where a fluid war situation prevailed.viii Then, in in mid-late 1995, an army offensive resulted in the LTTE losing control of most of the Jaffna Peninsula. Throughout, from mid-1990 to 2009, the state-like character of Thamilīlam gradually expanded and encompassed not only taxation and conscription, but border controls and judicial courts.

My focus is in the state of Thamilīlam as it existed from 1996-2009, with particular interest in what I shall call “the Northern Vanni.” This area covers most of the Districts of Kilinochchi, Mannar and Mullaitivu as they had been delimited in 1983. It was territory that was firmly under LTTE authority. This was the nation-state of Thamilīlam.

It had been an area that was sparsely peopled in 1981, constituting only six per cent of the total Sri Lankan Tamil population in Sri Lanka – with Mullaitivu and Mannar Districts holding 112,783 Sri Lanka Tamils and 25,065 “Indian Tamils.”ix The latter were Malaiyaha Tamils from the plantation areas who had moved into the area, usually as agricultural labourers, in the face of political discrimination and economic pressures in the 1970s. In late 1990, the Northern Vanni’s demographic composition was further altered by the LTTE’s act of ethnic cleansing which forced the Muslim Moors to leave.

However, the population was augmented in 1995/96 by the migration of roughly 100,000 Tamils from the Jaffna Peninsulax — virtually all being staunch Tiger supporters distancing themselves from the army occupation of their beloved soil and favouring the liberation struggle. Nevertheless, we must also attend to the out-migration of Tamil people from this area as refugees slipping out to India or as well-connected individuals able to transcend both Tiger and GSL barriers to outmigration. The pertinent issue here is that few agencies had firm figures on the number of people in the northern Vanni when Eelam War IV broke out in July 2006.xi It is only now, in the aftermath of the war, that we can say that the population of civilian and LTTE personnel probably added up to something around 360-380,000 in July 2006. This figure could be scaled down to about 320,000 in mid-2008 after the LTTE lost control of the Madhu area and the north-western coast from Vidattaltivu to Pooneryn in early 2008.xii

These people were dual citizens. They were citizens of Thamilīlam and citizens of Lanka. They were serviced by banks with HQ in Colombo and the pensioners received their dues through such agencies.xiii There were government agencies staffed by Tamils appointed (and paid) by the regime in Colombo. But these personnel took their orders from the LTTE. They also delivered specified goods (e.g. medical supplies, food) supplied by GSL or NGOs to those entitled to such benefits.

For all that, in the light of past experiences and unfulfilled political promises, as Muralidhar Reddy indicated,xiv these Tamil people had little reason for loyalty towards the Sri Lankan state. In brief, they were Tamil nationalist and pro-LTTE in sentiment. To be sure, there were a few dissidents, especially among the Pentecostal and Protestant elements in the population.xv There were others partial to the LTTE who had reservations about the Tiger policy of conscription which took their youth away from their hearth and those who were unhappy about the privations enforced by a war economy. However, a large proportion of the population was dependent in one way or another on state agencies subject to the LTTE.xvi

Given such dependencies, given past sufferings and a sense of Tamilness nurtured over the centuries, I have little hesitation in asserting that the vast majority of these people in Thamilīlam, maybe as much as 80 per cent, were partial to the LTTE.xvii This patriotism centred on Pirapāharan as the founding father of Thamilīlam and the epitome of Tamil resistance to what was considered oppression. This reverence was vigorously stoked every year by the LTTE’s multi-media activities, culminating at 6.05 pm on 27th November, where the citizenry paid homage to the Tiger martyrs, the māvīrar.xviii To repeat, most were Eelamist in sentiment and citizens of Thamilīlam.xix

IV: The Origins of Eelam War IV

The capital-creating activities within the state of Thamilīlam were mostly state run. Thamilīlam was a military regime. Its civilian population was subject to disciplinary training in a programme known as makkal padai.xx Even during the ceasefire period 2002-2006, the LTTE directorate was gearing state and people for another war. This was clear to me during my visit in late 2004.xxi A report from Human Rights Watch in March 2006 reveals how Tamils abroad were cajoled and intimidated to support the project through well-organised p fund-collecting activities.xxii However, as they noted, the blows struck by the tsunami in late December 2004 were a setback which delayed the LTTE’s eventual move to war.

The war was initiated in July 2006 when the LTTE closed the floodgates of Mavil Aru as a step towards the seizure of Trincomalee. Rejecting governmental overtures, they were confident that they would teach the Rajapaksa government a lesson.xxiii This, then, was the beginning of Eelam War IV.

The LTTE’s confidence, as we know now, was misplaced. Colonel Karuna’s defection had weakened its capacities and supplied the government with both military elements and ground knowledge that was vital. Moreover, GSL had built up its military capacities in all three services; and had officer corps that was battle-hardened and innovative. General Fonseka had trained Special Infantry Operation Teams within all the Divisions with the capacity to generate bottom-up plans of attack.xxiv The Army gained control of the Vakarai area by January 2007 and the last Tiger stronghold in the east at Thoppigala fell on 11 July 2007. Thereafter, the LTTE presence in the Eastern Province was minimal.

With its superior resources in manpower and hardware GSL could now squeeze Thamilīlam. The LTTE remained as resilient as innovative. Colombo’s ground offensive on several fronts got nowhere till early 2008. “[We] fought for about 8 months without moving” said General Fonseka in reviewing the war.xxv It was not till January 2009 that the army succeeded in taking control of the north-western coast up to Pooneryn. This gain eliminated the LTTE supply chain from India. In the meanwhile intricate naval operations in the high seas at different points of time in 2007 and 2008 sank several supply ships that were part of the LTTE’s transnational logistics cartel.

The statistical proportions attending Eelam War IV can be understood by marking the respective toll of soldier dead on both sides in the previous three stages of war: in the gross figures provided by General Fonseka the SL Army had lost 20,000 and Tigers 22,000 by 2006. In contrast he alleged that during Eelam War IV the Army lost 5273 personnel, while the LTTE had 22,000 of their troops killed by the Army and another 2000 by the Navy and Air Force.xxvi Indeed, he stressed that in the crunch situation in 2009 the LTTE were losing as many as 20-30 personnel per diem. His figures for Tiger dead must be treated with scepticism and we must attend to the difficulty of separating “Tiger” from “civilian.” However, some figure for the Tiger personnel killed must enter any evaluation of the alleged death toll at the last stages of the war in 2009. It is significant that the Darusman Panel and other voices on this front took little notice of such statistics and the comparative insight of proportionality that they provide.

V: LTTE End-Game: International Blackmail

In its ground warfare from early 2008 the LTTE was forced to fight on three fronts: facing north, south and west. They used heavy equipmentxxvii and manual labour to construct bunds and ditches that restrained the armoured corps of GSL; while fields of land mines and intricate booby-traps enforced caution on all troops seeking to advance. With the exception of some sections of their citizenry in parts of Mannar and the western coast, the rest of the Tamil Tiger populace was induced to move eastwards. The people were told that they would be mistreated by the SL army. This appears to have been widely believed.

In the result the people were subject to multiple displacements in the period dating from May 2008, moving east well ahead of the advancing enemy forces.xxviii Throughout, the LTTE continued to conscript new recruits to replenish its declining manpower; while also deploying able-bodied adults as labour in its defensive operations and catering needs.xxix In brief the line between “civilian” and “Tiger personnel” was severely confused. This was compounded by the fact that many Tiger combatants did not wear fatigues (probably in short supply).

As the territory they controlled declined, the LTTE was now sandwiched in a crunch situation. The fall of Paranthan junction at the end of December 2008 and the administrative centre of Kilinochchi in January 2008 meant that they were restricted thereafter to the regions east of the A9 arterial road. This region can be called the Vanni Pocket, an area that gradually shrank in

Vanni Pocket about midway stage --Source: Ministry of Defence Web site
Vanni Pocket about midway stage --Source: Ministry of Defence Web site

It is the death and suffering that is said to have taken place in the Vanni Pocket in January-May 2009 that is the focus today of the war crimes allegations against the GSL. This is the culmination of agitation that began way back then – from late 2008. Aware of its desperate situation the LTTE marshalled its extensive international network to penetrate, feed and promote various human rights agencies to intervene in Sri Lanka to circumvent a “humanitarian disaster.” Key personnel in Western governments were also drawn into this frame of thinking, sometimes through constituency politics.

Central to this strategy was the herding of the Thamilīlam citizenry into their besieged space, the Vanni Pocket. The people were not only a human shield. They were a tool in an enormous act of international blackmail which was directed towards securing outcries from (a) vocal political forces in Tamilnadu; (b) human rights agencies in the West and in Colombo; (c) elements in the UN and (d) elements within the Western states of Canada, USA, Britain, Norway, Sweden and elsewhere within the self-defined “international community.”

The General Elections in India were due in mid-May 2009. There was the prospect of change in government or, at the least, the emergence of some coalition where blocs from Tamilnadu would carry weight. This was the unproclaimed deadline guiding both the LTTE and the GSL in their war objectives from mid-late 2008.

Absolutely ruthless as always, Pirapaharan was prepared to deploy his citizenry as both protective sandbags and ransom ploy; and to capitalize on the rising alarm among Tamils abroad so as to mount an international campaign to save “civilians.” That is no surprise. What, in retrospect, is alarming is the facile manner in which the “international community” fell into this trap. Whether intentionally, or unintentionally, they were party to the LTTE strategy.

“Ceasefire” was the mantra shouted out by Amnesty International from late 2008.xxxi Western leaders and their ambassadors in Sri Lanka also sought a ceasefire from both warring sides. As any informed observer would have forecast, the LTTE did not respond. The government declared a short-term ceasefire on 31 January. The LTTE used this moment to launch a brilliant counteroffensive on the 1-4th February that penetrated army lines and caused major problems.xxxii

Despite such experiences and despite Pirapaharan’s ruthlessness, the “international community” and its mouthpieces among the NGO secretariat in Colombo kept parroting the idea of a ceasefire. Hilary Clinton told the world on 22 April 2009 that “a terrible humanitarian tragedy” was taking place in Sri Lanka and demanded a halt in the fighting so that “we could secure a safe passage for as many of the trapped civilians as possible.”xxxiii Foreign Ministers David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner followed up with a visit to Sri Lankaxxxiv at the end of the month to demand a truce.

Such interventions revealed the extent to which the Western leaders had failed to comprehend the mentality of the LTTE or were pursuing their own hidden agenda. Both “humanitarian pause” and unilateral ceasefire were unworkable proposals. The LTTE stuck to its policy of keeping their citizenry as a military buffer and a ransom pathway to the peace tablexxxv till a hoped-for change of government in India provided political relief. The absence of grounded pragmatism evidenced in the Western interventions was manifest THEN and induced my sharp criticism in Frontline in May 2009.xxxvi

In the meanwhile many Tamils trapped in the Vanni Pocket had begun to turn away from their attachment to the LTTE. Reddy had been visiting the rear battlelines periodicallyxxxvii from November 2008 and told me that from January onwards the reports from Tamil civilians who had fled and whom he interviewed revealed increasing dissatisfaction. We cannot treat this as a blanket generalization. Information gathered by Fr. Rohan Silva and D. Siddharthan post-May from Tamil IDPs indicate that a good segment believed in the Tiger leaderships statement that the West would save them.xxxviii There also was a substantial body of hard core loyalists who remained bound to the LTTE to the very end.

VI: Hobson’s Choice & the Government’s Achievement

Faced with diplomatic pressure GSL declared that their military action was (1) a “humanitarian operation” directed towards (2) “zero casualties.” No one was fooled by the first claim and the second was sheer absurdity — even as a desired goal. Such idiocy was compounded further when some spokesmen later asserted that there were in fact zero casualties.

GSL also declared specified areas to be No Fire Zones. This device restricted military flexibility in a context of turbulent battlefield variation. The final NFZ, moreover, was in the coastal strip juxtaposed between the elongated Nandikadal Lagoon and the sea. This was where the remaining brown water craft of the Sea Tigers remained potent. From mid-late April it also housed the LTTE command centre and eventually all its remaining hardware and fighters. How anyone could seriously consider it a NFZ from this moment baffles any form of pragmatic logic.

This strip of land, some 13 by 4 kilometres in extent, became a tent city as the remaining Tigers, civilian auxiliaries and true-blue civilians, in crude estimate perhaps 190,000 in mid-late April, crammed into this limited space of sandy terrain. The eastern waterline of Nandikadal Lagoon facing west was heavily embanked, fortified and booby-trapped. Some tents in the NFZ hid bunkers and other military installations. The LTTE remained dedicated to its task of defending this space to the last person, while retaining a belief in some miraculous escape.

Sitting in Colombo on the 18th April 2009 a massive bloodbath was a distinct prospect and one wondered if a mass act of suicide of the Saipan-Okinawa sort would be sponsored.xxxix Then, between the 18th and 23rd April the SL army breached the defences in an intricate operation which saw numerous Tiger fighters drop their weapons and join a body of some 106-120,000 people who streamed across lagoon and sandy terrain to the safety of the government lines where they were offered water, food and succour in ways that surprised them (as recorded by the Tamil moderates who comprised the University Teachers for Human Rights and Narendran Rajasingham). To my eyes this event, highlighted as it was by the scenes on television, was a miracle. A moderate and veteran Tamil news-editor, Jeyaraj in Toronto, also applauded the moment with an essay “Wretched of the Wanni earth break free of bondage.”xl

However, some 60-70,000 Tiger personnel and ‘civilians’ remained in the southern segment. It was not till a final assault mounted from the 9th May to 19th May that this force was subdued and the LTTE lay defeated. Among the dead was Pirapāharan.xli

This final battle cannot be reviewed without attending to the character of the Vanni landscape and that of the coastal NFZ and its tent city. This NFZ area included houses with red roofs built after the tsunami. The aerial set of photographs taken by the Times cameraman who flew over the area with Ban Ki-Moon in late May 2009 reveals quite a few buildings intactxlii – as do those taken by Kanchan Prasad when she and Reddy toured the strip on foot between the 14th and18th May.xliii There was certainly no carpet bombing and the devastation does not accord with the verbal imagery presented by the moral crusaders and Channel Four.

Any estimate of the number of Tamils who died between 1 January and 19 May 2009 will necessarily be approximate. One must allow too for natural deaths of some 600-900 over five months in any population of three lakhs or so, with the figure derived from an application of the standard death rate for the island being increased to allow for (a) deaths by malnutrition arising from a starvation diet and (b) the increase in snake-bite deaths as the populace moved through bush and jungle in numbers during day as well as night.xliv Any evaluation must also highlight the impossibility of separating true-civilians from Tiger cadres and conscripted civilians. The figure of 1400 dead presented by Rohan Gunaratna is far too low and quite spurious in its air of precision.xlv Guided by the estimates provided by three moderate Tamils with access to information from Tamil government servants and others who survived the crunch, my present evaluation is a figure ranging from 15,000 to 16,000, a total that includes Tiger dead (approximately 5000) as well.xlvi

We cannot, as Indi Samarajiva has stressed, weigh this death toll figure without attention to “proportionality” and “context.”xlvii It must be placed beside the figure of roughly 286,000 Tamil people (including some Tiger personnel who successfully masqueraded as “civilian”) who ended up in the detention centres in the Vavuniya and Jaffna Districts during this period. Add to this the figure of 11,800 persons deemed “Tiger” who were imprisoned under stronger security and then subject to a process of rehabilitation and we have roughly 298,000 survivors.

The war between the LTTE and the state was a sustained affair over 25 years, with considerable suffering on both sides and among all ethnic groups. Their subjective sentiments are of overwhelming importance in any overview. Few of the world leaders and media personnel commenting on this topic today have any comprehension of this experiential backdrop.

Some sense of local sentiment can be gathered from the vibrant debate which developed through an intervention by Sanjana Hattotuwa in the Groundviews web sitexlviii on 3 May 2009 through this question: “Would killing 50,000 civilians to finish off the LTTE bring peace?” When, predictably, this question was misunderstood, the Groundviews editors clarified the issue thus: “This post intends to interrogate extremism. The numbers in the quote are really peripheral to the argument, which exists today, that to finish off the LTTE, collateral damage is not just unavoidable, it is even a prerequisite. What do you feel about that?” It is to the credit of some measured voices who spoke up at this point, among them several Tamils (with pseudonyms, but speaking as Tamils), that the defeat of the LTTE was a vital goal and that “we” should be ready to accept civilian casualties of even 50,000, though hopefully somewhat less.xlix

This discussion occurred at the tail-end of the End-Game, when no one was certain quite how many people were still held as ransom/blackmail, though we know now that perhaps 50-70,000 Tiger personnel and ‘civilians’ remained in the roughly 10 square kilometre patch under LTTE control. The answer in Groundviews is significant beyond words. It captures the subjectivity of a society that had gone through years of strife. It matches the sigh of relief in most quarters in Sri Lanka that took hold from 19 May onwards.

i. The only comparable example may be the manner in which the Maoists of Nepal utilised various localities and their populace as both support base and bargaining counter.
ii. Compare George Friedman “Immaculate Intervention: The Wars of Humanitarianism,” 5 April 2011,
iii. See Michael Roberts, “Realities of War,” Frontline, 26/10, 9-22 May 2009 and Roberts, “Mis-Reading Pirapāharan: Western Pawns beyond their Depth,” 1 July 2011.
iv. Note UNHCR resolution. Thus Miliband and Kouchner (see text below) are among those today in 2012 who intervened vociferously to seek a caning for Sri Lanka at the UNHCR sessions in Geneva.
v. Ragavan 2009a “Interview with Ragavan on Tamil Militancy (Early Years),” AND Ganeshan Iyer, “Military Training in the German Nazi Mould amidst Internal Dissension in the early LTTE, late 1970s,” trans by Parames Blacker, in
vi. Iyer, Ibid (fn iv); Ben Bavinck, “Pirapaharan as uncompromising killer prone to vengeance: testimonies from the Jaffna heartland, 1989-91;” Rajan Hoole, Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power. Myths, Decadence and Murder, Colombo: Wasala Publications for the UTHR, 2001; and M. R. Narayan Swamy, “Prabhakaran: from Catapult Killer to Ruthless Insurgent,” IANS, 18 May 2009 – see [reprinted in The Tiger Vanquished, pp. 165-67].
vii. At least sixteen LTTE batches received training in India in the post 1983 period (some in R&AW camps, some Tiger-run). The Indian government also had training camps for the other Tamil militant groups. It seems that they favoured TELO in particular. However, none of these other Eelam forces had the foresight to generate sources of military hardware other than Indian.
viii. See the map in Sergei De Silva-Ranasinghe, “Good Education. Sri Lankan Military learns Counter Insurgency Lessons,” Jane’s Intelligence Review Dec. 2009, pp. 3-7.
ix. In 1981 Kilinochchi District had not been separated out.
x. Estimate communicated personally by M. Sarvananthan of the Point Pedro Research Institute.
xi. Wikileak data indicates that on the 19th March 2009 even the US Ambassador underestimated the numbers: Blake refers to “the estimated 120-150,000 civilians trapped in the “safe zone” (see Colombo Telegraph). We today know that the number was in the region of 250-270,000.
xii. As immediately apparent, all the population estimates I have supplied are crude and should be subject to further investigation/debate.
xiii. See; http://tamilmakkalkural.blogspot. and
xiv. Personal communication from Reddy, correspondent for The Hindu, May 2009).
xv. My surmise based on the implications of the UTHR reports.
xvi. This fact is derived from interviews in 2010 with Anoma Rajakaruna, who spent a substantial amount of time in the LTTE territory during the ceasefire period working on women’s issues as a film-maker.
xvii. Thus disagreeing with Noel Nadesan (personal communication) who holds that only 15 per cent were staunch Tiger with the majority of 70 per cent being middle-of-the road ambivalent and placed between the silent 15% dissidents and the 15% hard line Tiger.
xviii. Michael Roberts, “Saivite Symbolism, Sacrifice and Tamil Tiger Rites,” Social Analysis 49: 67-93 2005; and William Harman, “Embracing the Martyred Dead: Tuyilam Illam as Sacred Shrines for the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers,” Mss Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion, San Francisco, November 2011.
xix. My conjecture is also fortified by (1) the opinion of the late Joe Ariyaratnam of Reuters with whom I had long chats in Kilinochchi and Jaffna in November 2004. Ariyaratnam was based in the Tamil north for quite some time; and (2) the information in William Harman, “Embracing the Martyred Dead: Tuyilam Illam as Sacred Shrines for the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers,” Mss Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion, San Francisco, November 2011.
xx. See
xxi. The feistiness of two individuals in Kilinochchi and a crucial piece of information about the steps being taken by the Head of the Propaganda Department (email note received from a Tiger fighter) were indicators on this point.
xxii. HRW, “Funding the Final War,” 13 March 2006, in
xxiii. he explicit words of the LTTE Political Chief, Thamil Chelvam, to Harsha Navaratne and Lalith Wiratunga when these two were sent to Kilinochchi by President Rajapaksa to mediate a compromise (interview with Navaratne June 2010). Also see
xxiv. See S. Tammita-Delgoda, “Sri Lanka. The Last Phase in Eelam War IV. From Chundikulam to Pudukulam,” New Delhi: Centre for Land Warfare, Manekshaw Paper No. 13, 2009; and Sergei De Silva-Ranasinghe, “Sri Lanka’s Experience in Counter-Insurgency Warfare,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, Oct. 2009, Vol. 35/8, pp. 40-46.
xxv. In de Silva-Ranasinghe, “Sri Lanka’s Experience in Counter-Insurgency Warfare,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, Oct. 2009, vol. 35/8, p. 43.
xxvi. In de Silva-Ranasinghe, “Good Education. Sri Lankan Military learns Counter Insurgency Lessons,” Jane’s Intelligence Review Dec. 2009, pp. 5-6 with 2800 kills being attributed to army snipers. Even viewed as rough estimates, one must remain sceptical of about the army computations of LTTE dead.
xxvii. Some of the bulldozers et cetera were those of INGOs in their territory.
xxviii. B. Muralidhar Reddy, 2009 “Multiple Displacements, Total Loss of Identity,” The Hindu, May 2009.
xxix. See elements of the LTTE video captured by the army and incorporated in their own propaganda video:
xxx. de Silva-Ranasinghe, “The Battle for the Vanni Pocket,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, March 2009, Vol. 35/2, pp. 17-19.
xxxi. Michael Roberts, “Amnesty International reveals its Flawed Tunnel-Vision in Sri Lanka in 2009,” 10 Aug. 2011; and Mango, “Jim Macdonald of AI boxed into corner by Mango in 2009,” 10 August 2011.
xxxii. De Silva-Ranasinghe “The Battle for the Vanni Pocket,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, March 2009, Vol. 35/2, p. 18.
xxxiii. Michael Roberts, “Dilemma’s at War’s End: Clarifications and Counter-offensive,” 17 February 2009.
xxxiv. Thomas Fuller, “Europeans Fail to Get Sri Lanka Truce,” New York Times, 30 April 2009.
xxxv. This was admitted and defended subsequently by the LTTE chief abroad after he was arrested. Speaking from prison Kumaran Pathmanathan was confronted by this question from a Tamil reporter DBS Jeyaraj: “Did you not try to save the civilians by getting the LTTE to release them.” He responded thus: “I did try at the start. There was even an offer by the Americans to transport them by sea to Trincomalee. But the LTTE hierarchy was not agreeable. This attitude was most unfortunate and may appear as inhuman. I am not trying to condone or justify this action but when I reflect upon the past I think the LTTE leadership also had no choice. If they released the people first, then only the tigers would be left there. Thereafter all of them could have been wiped out” ( /dbsj/archives/1631).
xxxvi. Michael Roberts, “Realities of War,” Frontline, 26/10, 9-22 May 2009.
xxxvii. This gives the lie to the widespread claims in the West that it was a “war without witnesses.” See http:?? Reddy was not alone – I now have a list of media personnel taken to the front by the armed services. This does not mean that it was open season. Some agencies may well have been persona non grata.
xxxviii. De Silva-Ranasinghe, “The 13th Amendment to the Constitution must be properly implemented”: Dharmalingam Siddharthan,” 22 Dec. 2010.
xxxix. Michael Roberts, “Suicidal Political Action—Part I: Soundings,” April 2009.
xl. D. B. S. Jeyaraj, “Wretched of the Wanni earth break free of bondage,” Daily Mirror, 25 April 2009 —
xli. HLD Mahindapala, “How Prabhakaran went down in Nandi Kadal – The Last Battleground,” 10 July 2009.
xlii. See
xliii. See
xliv. See the independent Tamil politician, Anandasangaree’s reference to snake-bite kills in De Silva-Ranasinghe, “Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil War,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010 30/4: 35-37; and the estimates of total death toll in Michael Roberts, “The Tamil Death Toll in Early 2009: A Misleading Count by Rohan Gunaratna,” 23 November 2011.
xlv. Rohan Gunaratne, “Govt should have invited the Darusman Panel,” Daily Mirror, November 2011.
xlvi. his figure is based on estimates provided by Narendran Rajasingham, M. Sarvananthan and Noel Nadesan – and fortified by comments from David Blacker (Roberts, “The Tamil Death Toll, 2011). Their estimates allow for 5000 Tiger-dead (a statistic that is invariably problematized by the difficulty of separating “civilian from the “Tiger” personnel in all branches of military activity including building, supply and catering). Note that this figure is much less than the total of 8000 estimated by General Fonseka.
xlvii. Indi Samarajiva, “Channel 4’s – A Review,” The Nation, 18 March 2012.
xlviii. See
xlix. This debate, suitably edited, is worth reproduction in print as an outstanding example of citizen debate and citizen journalism that beats the Sri Lankan newspapers by a proverbial mile. Note that I played no part in this discussion.


Bavinck, Ben 2011 “Pirapaharan as uncompromising killer prone to vengeance: testimonies from the Jaffna heartland, 1989-91,” http://thuppahi.wordpress. com/2011/11/01/as uncompromising killer prone to vengeance: testimonies from the Jaffna heartland, 1989-91.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009a “Political and Security Implications of Sri Lanka’s Armed Conflict,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, Feb. 2009, Vol. 35/1, pp. 20, 22-24.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009b “The Battle for the Vanni Pocket,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, March 2009, Vol. 35/2, pp. 17-19.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009c “Tiger Trail. Strategic Defeat of the LTTE and Its Implications,” Force, April 2009, pp. 52-54.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009d “Sri Lanka’s Experience in Counter-Insurgency Warfare,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, Oct. 2009, Vol. 35/8, pp. 40-46.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009e “Good Education. Sri Lankan Military learns Counter Insurgency Lessons,” Jane’s Intelligence Review Dec. 2009, pp. 3-7.

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Michael Roberts

Rhodes Scholar for Ceylon in 1962, Michael Roberts straddles the disciplines of history, politics and anthropology and has taught at both Peradeniya University (1962-76) and Adelaide University (1977-2003); and has numerous books and articles to his credit. His web sites are:, and

15 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: Blackmail During The Endgame In Eelam War IV – Analysis

  • April 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    The Sri Lankan administration, through Shanghai Daily, denied the reports of abduction of the Aussie activist. The colour of the van as reported was not white, it was a silver colour, off-white’ the Shanghai Daily added.

    The reports about the abduction should be regretted.

  • April 11, 2012 at 1:40 am

    Great, balanced and analytical article with so many facts rather than rumours. Many thanks for providing good reading and facts.

    In the mean time I cannot comprehend why someone (Yapa) is commenting totally outside the topic and trying to be a guarrilla journalist with the “Yanne Koheda Malle Pol” (Where are you going? I have coconuts in my sack) style. Whether this person is copying and pasting his own comment into every article in the web today without reading, I am not sure.

  • April 11, 2012 at 4:07 am

    Great job. Thanks for providing such an article with full of facts and statistics which we like to read, rather than reading rumours, one sided, broadcasts beyond the realities like channel 4 videos.
    As Manjula says above, People like Yapa don’t even want to read these type of articles. What they just need to attack on goverment or president only.

  • April 11, 2012 at 4:55 am

    A good analysis with facts and figures. My analysis would be approximately 5 to 7 thousand civilians would have died in the final battle. Again I am not sure whether all of them could be categorized as civilians as most of the males would have at some time or other had LTTE connections

  • April 11, 2012 at 5:16 am

    With the knowledge of all these facts the wild west.comapany)are still persueing a penalizing Sri Lanka attitude. This only confirms the fact that they were not ingnorent of the ways of the LTTE but were very much in cahoots with it.

  • April 11, 2012 at 7:33 am

    The SL Government need to treat the Tamils as equal citizens. Let this be done first before blaming the Tamils or other such political parties. None in the Sinhala dominant political parties are able to provide any rights to Tamils. Let that be SLFP(All Banda’s or Mahinda’s) or UNP(Senanayaka’s or JRs). Give the TAMILS THEIR RIGHT. Then let the govt. talk about atrocities commited in SL (by both Sinhala andd Tamil).

  • April 11, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Well researched, analysed with fats and figures.
    Those socalled free media fighters and human rights crusaders should learn from this analysis, how to present a balance of view of very complex issue. Wish some of those respected media perosnall should have read this without falling into tiger propaganda, funded by extortion, human traffikig, drug dealins.

  • April 11, 2012 at 10:00 am



  • April 11, 2012 at 10:26 am

    This seems to be getting very close to an accurate account of the nature of the closing months of the war. Prof Roberts is to be congratulated. More research needs to be done on (a)identifying when it was that the Tigers made the decision to use their own non-combatants as hostages;(b)detailing the efforts the Sri Lankan government made to try to persuade the northern Tamils to flee to government held territory as the army advanced; (c) identifying the decision makers amongst the Western migrant Tamils who colluded with the decision of the Tigers’ military leadership to use the remaining Tamil civilians in the north as hostages and human shields.

  • April 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    “Few of the world leaders and media personnel commenting on this topic today have any comprehension of this experiential backdrop.”

    I am a Canadian who observed the debate that went on for more than a decade in the Canadian parliament to outlaw fundraising for the LTTE.

    Through reports by Canadian and international law enforcement agencies, politicians in Canada (as well as the media) on both sides of the issue new full well the misery brought upon all Sri Lankans resulting from the raising of millions of dollars overseas for the LTTE.

    For politicians who sought to continue financing the LTTE, the attraction was the grubbing of votes from communities that supported the LTTE in Canada – while the media’s incentive was to peddle to their readers the romantic notion of a struggling underclass in Sri Lanka without concern for the grim reality of the LTTE’s treatment of fellow Tamils.

    Such motivations continue to be manifest in the West through the agitation for war crimes investigation against the Government of Sri Lanka, without any reciprocity of self-reflection by the West over their financial contribution to the LTTE.

    Disgrace belongs to the West, but there shall be no such acknowledgement.

  • April 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Well researched article. Thanks

    However white washing excesses of Gvnt forces. ( hopefully a small minority) tarnishes the majority who are decent and truely partiotic.

    It is also important to grab this opportunity to build a just society for all lankans.

    Keeping the few extreemists in influeitial positions will be counterproductive.

  • April 12, 2012 at 2:41 am

    Thanks god someone finally said it. It is incredible this story does not get reported

  • April 12, 2012 at 5:22 am

    there is no doubt that the author is a apologist for genocide of the sinhala chauvinists. to this day colonization of tamil areas is ongoing. there are first hand reports from the icr having provided coordinates of hospitals and those hospitals being bombed shortly thereafter. these apologists are afraid of ch 4 reports and the coming war crimes trials.

  • April 15, 2012 at 4:36 am

    Michael is trying to win the favour of MR and Gota.

    Like the colonial writers Roberts has no previous experience of working on any Tamil areas. As an anthropoligist he does not even know a word of the Tamil language.
    This is pure device to capture readership through appealing to the Sinhala/Buddhist hardliners.


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