Sumantra Maitra - Kolkata, India
President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajpakshe, quashed the ceasefire deal between his government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and ordered the flushing-out of the Tigers from their bases as the army finally captured Kilinochchi, the unofficial capital and one of the major strongholds of the LTTE on Friday, defeating the rebel forces.
Though the LTTE fighters went on the defensive after the presidential order, they eventually lost their stronghold in the east of the island and retreated to the north. President Rajapakse announced in his New Year's address to the nation that 2009 would witness the final and "heroic victory" over LTTE rebels.
The heavy artillery firing by the Sri Lankan army completely destroyed all the defences of the LTTE rebels in Kilinochchi. While speaking to the media, Maithripala Sirisena, the ruling party spokesman and the agriculture minister of Sri Lanka said: "The national flag is now flying at Kilinochchi."
Sirisena added that the capture of the Tigers' political headquarters, which was considered as the chief target of the latest and largest military offensive was a historic victory for the nation. Surprisingly, the Tigers are still silent on the issue and have not made any official statements. They had earlier promised to defend their political headquarter at any cost.
In the last ten years, Kilinochchi has remained the de facto capital of the Tigers' mini-state in northern Sri Lanka. It is 330 kilometres (206 miles) away from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka."Presently the 57 division troops and one battalion of the Sri Lankan army have entered Kilinochchi town," military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said.The officials of the Sri Lankan army said that its ground troops had annihilated the defences of Tigers at two locations in the city. They also confirmed that the Sri Lankan army had taken overall control of the city.
The LTTE rebels had established their own courts, police and political administration in Kilinochchi. Some agencies of the United Nation (UN) and offices of other international aid groups also existed in Kilinochchi. They were pulled out at the request of the ruling government.
Though the victory at Kilinochchi is being considered as a major achievement by the Sri Lankan army, it is to be kept in mind that the Tigers have the ability to rebound from even the most dire situations.
After the Sri Lankan armed forces captured the northern Jaffna peninsula in 1995, the Tigers carried out a full fledged attack on a military base in the northeastern district of Mullaittivu just six months after and killed more than 1,200 Sri Lankan soldiers. The LTTEs also freed their Elephant Pass base at the entrance to Jaffna from the Sri Lankan army's control in just five days in November 1999, which the Sri Lankan army had captured in a 19-month-long warfare.
Every year, the Sri Lankan government spends a huge amount in conflict with the LTTE. While in 2008, the government spent 1.6 billion dollars on the war effort, an estimated 1.7 billion dollars is likely to be spent in 2009. While speaking to the media in November last year, LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran said in his annual speech that the LTTE vowed to defend their territory at any cost and suggested that all Tigers revert to guerrilla-style, hit-and-run attacks. He added: "No sane voice is being raised either to abandon war or to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict."
LTTE is considered one of the most effective and ruthless guerrilla groups in the world. It has been carrying out surprise and suicide bombings to keep its struggle alive through the decades. The group has been declared a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union, Sri Lanka and India. However, the Indian government has followed a hands-off policy with LTTE since 1992, with the death of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated by the LTTE.
Since 1972, tens of thousands of lives have been lost in this LTTE-Sri Lanka government conflict. According to the U.N a major humanitarian disaster is awaiting as nearly 20,0000 tamils, the largest ethnic minority group, and the support base of LTTE is displaced by recent events.