Will War bring Peace?
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 24 June 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Sri Lankan troops backed by heavy artillery, tanks and air cover, resumed their march from the towns of Periyamadu and Nedunkerni towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) held town of Puliyankulam in northern part of the island. Military reports say that 13 Sri Lankan soldiers and an officer were killed while more than 60 were seriously wounded in the battle on Monday.
The defense ministry statement also said that LTTE suffered heavy casualties as well but the claim could not be confirmed independently as the military has banned journalists from entering the war zone. A Military spokesman also claimed that the Sri Lankan forces were very close to Puliyankulam and would reach it sometime today. Monday's battle began after nearly two weeks of lull in the fighting. Tigers attacked the Thandikulam military base on June 10, 97 killing at least 152 Sri Lankan soldiers and destroying millions worth of military hardware.
In the meantime, according to the state owned Daily News, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaranatunge has said that the government had no choice but to crush the LTTE militarily as a precursor to a political solution.
Her speech at a commissioning parade of new army officers was significant as the Sri Lankan military was involved in an intense recruitment drive which has received only a lukewarm reception in Sri Lanka's south. Analysts believe that recent military setbacks suffered by the military and the reluctance shown by the Sinhala mothers to send their sons to the front line are seen as the reason for the low turn out at the recruitment centers.
The President's speech, has received much attention as there is no sign that the Sri Lankan military could win decisively against the LTTE or cripple its military potential. Her government has also not been able to sell the 'devolution package' to the Sinhala South or to the opposition parties.
Her attempt to end this war militarily is seen as a significant shift in policy and could lead to a long and bitter war. According to the military officials, at least 274 soldiers have been killed and more than 700 wounded in the operation 'Jaya Sikurui' that began on May 13, 1997. LTTE say that they have lost nearly 160 of their cadres in the operation.
The operation, already 40 days old, is aimed at making a land route to Jaffna peninsula from Vavuniya town. If successful it will enable the Sri Lankan government to transport military supplies and personnel to the Jaffna peninsula now supplied only by air and sea.
The Tigers intensified their campaign for a Tamil Homeland and for the right of Self-determination in the Island's north and east after 1983 riots. The war has claimed the lives of more than 50,000 Tamils in the past 14 years and has made more than 750,000 Tamils homeless.