The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Friday, 14 March 2008

Rebels Reeling From High Losses

The pace of combat has increased, with over a thousand weekly casualties, most of them on the rebel side. The government believes it has killed over 2,000 LTTE fighters so far this year, while losing fewer than 200 military personnel. This rate of loss by the LTTE, along with lost fortifications, weapons and territory, indicates that LTTE control of the north will not last much longer. Unless, of course, the LTTE can put together one of the surprise offensive operations they have used in the past, to push back government forces.

Another sign of LTTE desperation is the selling of stolen cars, to raise badly needed cash. In the past, LTTE operatives had stolen cars and trucks in government territory, then moved them north or east into LTTE territory. But the situation is so desperate in the north, including fuel shortages, that these stolen vehicles are being driven south and sold.

March 11, 2008: A bomb went off in the capital, killing one and wounding six. The LTTE was suspected, as they have been notably more active lately in trying to carry out terrorist attacks in government territory.

March 10, 2008: For the first time in 14 years, elections were held in eastern Sri Lanka. As expected, former LTTE members, who had led a rebellion against the mainline LTTE leadership, won in the predominately Tamil area.

March 6, 2008: For a year now, the government has been negotiating the purchase of five MiG-29 jet fighters, for about $15 million each. Some legislators believe this purchase involves bribes, although the price is a bit below what MiG-29s are going for these days. The MiG-29 is sought because its radar can pick up small aircraft flying close to the ground. This is the kind of air force the LTTE still has, and the MiG-29 is the kind of aircraft that can deal with this threat. However, it has been nearly a year since the LTTE has sought to use these small, single engine commercial aircraft in an attack. The LTTE "air force" may well have been destroyed in one of the increasing number of attacks the air force has been making on rebel targets.


Sri Lankan state TV employees on work stoppage

The employees of Sri Lanka's state television Rupavahini said Friday that they have stopped work after one of their colleagues was attacked Friday morning on his way to work.

Anurasiri Hettige, an assistant director and the president of the staff union, was admitted to the Colombo National Hospital with neck cuts, the hospital Director Hector Weerasinghe said.

Hettige became the fifth Rupavahini employee to be under attack since Dec. 27, 2007 when Deputy Minister of Labor Mervyn Silva stormed the television station premises to attack a news editor.

The irate employees assaulted Silva leaving him in hospital following his attacks on the news editor.

Reports said that Silva attacked the news editor because the state television failed to broadcast his speech.

The employees alleged that Silva's men were responsible for all five attacks against their colleagues.

They said that the station transmission will carry on as usual despite the work stoppage but with pre-recorded programs.


Hearing set for alleged Tamil Tiger conspirator

A Malton man charged in connection with a North American network that police allege provides weapons and other materials to a terrorist group in Sri Lanka has had a date set for his extradition hearing.
According to Justice Canada officials, Ramanan Mylvaganam, 30, will appear June 10 before a Federal Court judge as American authorities attempt to have him brought to the U.S. to face charges. Mylvaganam is expected to fight extradition.
Mylvaganam was arrested by RCMP on Aug. 22, 2006 at his Derry Rd. E. apartment. He was picked up on a provisional warrant at the request of U.S. authorities. One month later, he was granted bail.
"This whole ordeal has been a total shock to my family, especially my mother; she can't stop crying," Mylvaganam's brother, Raghu, said in an earlier interview.
Mylvaganam and four other Ontario men have been charged with one count each of conspiring to provide material support and resources to the Tamil Tigers, a political/military organization that has been waging war with the government of Sri Lanka since the 1970s. The group is trying to secure a separate state for the Tamil regions of the country.
In April 2006, the Tigers were added to Canada's official list of terrorist organizations.
In total, 12 men have been charged in the joint FBI-RCMP investigation into the alleged criminal organization.
The sweep also included arrests in Buffalo, San Jose, Seattle and Connecticut.
Mylvaganam, a computer engineering student at University of Waterloo, came to Canada from Sri Lanka in 1992. He served as vice-president of the university's Tamil Students Association in 2004.
According to his brother, Mylvaganam was supposed to start a job at Microsoft's international headquarters in Redmond, Washington in late 2006. But those plans were put on hold when he was arrested, his brother said.
U.S. prosecutors say the arrests are in relation to a network in which men in Canada and the U.S. allegedly used their post-secondary studies as a cover for terrorist activities.
Officials say the group kept in contact with top Tamil Tiger operatives in Sri Lanka and the United States. It tried to obtain equipment such as compasses, computers and night-vision goggles for the Sri Lankan group, but also had bigger plans that included the purchase of aviation equipment, according to American prosecutors.