08 September 2010
Commander Jayasuriya: Wanni, Security Force Commander Wanni, from 7th Aug 2007 till I took over command on 15th July, 2009, I am also represented with four other officers here. General Kamal Gunaratne, who was the general officer, commanding 53 division that took part in the battle. Then General Prasanna Silva, who was the general officer commanding 55 division, which came from North and finally during the last stage at Mullaitivu and General Shavendra Silva who commanded the 58 division involved in the final battle, also Brigadier Susantha Ranasinghe, who was my Principal Staff Officer and now Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, would be able to explain exactly and practically what they did.
Before I became the Security Force Commander in 2005, in 2006 I was general officer commanding 52 division in Jaffna. That was the time when they had the cease fire agreement and the peace process was on, but there were so many violations of the CFA by the LTTE and on 11th August 2006 there was a major attack in Tumomallai defences. My divisional area was also affected; even though we were a few kilometers away, LTTE artillery fire fell on our camps, also my headquarters located towards Point Pedro. A decision was taken to counter the attack with an offensive. Thereafter, after a few days I went out of the island and went on a course for one year and after I returned took over as the Security Force Commander Wanni on 7th Aug 2007.
I was based in Vavuniya and saw the entire picture of war, practically of course the General Officer Commanding will know exactly what they did, but overall I know and was responsible for the conduct of the whole thing with the formation commander doing the detailed ground operations, plus maintaining essential service and looking after civilians for the entire population of Wanni. Just go in a sequence of action that took place from the time I went in to Wanni. So at that time, of course I came in 2007, after His Excellency The President took the decision, Eastern operations were almost concluded. General Prasanna Silva also took part in the Eastern Operations.
In February 2007, the Wanni operations started with launch of the 57 division, North West of Vavuniya. There was a set back and still in June there was a pause and then they started again. At that time it was an LTTE controlled area, and Government controlled area in the Wanni, Vavuniya, Mannar, and Weli Oya and again in the North Muhamalai northwards and the balance part was known as the uncontrolled areas or under LTTE control. So, the system was that the items gazetted were prohibited to be sent to the Wanni area. There were four GAs’ operating and I was controlling GA Mulaitivu, GA Vavuniya, GA Kilinochchi and GA Mannar. They had areas that were LTTE controlled and all their requirements for maintenance of essential services, food and other things for people in Wanni was sent from the South through Vavuniya. So the GA who are responsible, make their request at my HQ where the coordinating officers on civil affairs, and they check the list that’s provided to see these are authorized items on the gazette and also the quantities, and these are approved and these items are sent to the North.
At Omanthai, we had an entry/exit point where all items are checked; all items going up, as well as all items going down. Even though we had given approval, all items are unloaded and physically checked. Similarly items coming from the uncontrolled areas are also checked. So many items that the LTTE wanted to smuggle were detected many times and I am sure you would have heard of these happenings. For example they would smuggle explosives in a coconut under the pretext of normal coconut; out of 200 coconuts in a gunny bag there might be a few with explosives inside. There were other items, like a shoe, that were also used to smuggle items that the LTTE wanted. Therefore, a through checking was done to prevent these penetrating this point.
These are examples of many of such type. Sometimes a few have gone through. However, a lot of controls were maintained. This control was for all the products that were going into Wanni areas and also out of these areas to the South. So, at the entry exit point we had the thorough checking of vehicles, baggages and persons and also the authority for them to move is also monitored and records were maintained; as it was computerized and data was available at the exit entry point.
The operations were continuing with the 57 division as I said towards the Madhu church, the North West area, it was a jungle with not much population. They were progressing towards that and towards the end of September when Commando Army, launched Task Force 1, again a newly raised formation, which became 58division which was commandeered by General Shavendra Silva, in Silawatura area towards Mannar on the Western edge. Subsequently the 59 division was launched on the East side of Sri Lanka towards Mulaitivu to conduct the operations. Thereafter we had other formations such as Task Force 2, 3, 4 that took part in the offensive from Vavuniya from the Southern side, whereas from the Northern side the 53 and 55 divisions conducted operations.
Very cautiously operations were conducted, as the Chief of Defence Staff said; the policy was zero casualties. So operations were done with small groups such as 4-man and 8-man teams. No major manuals were done like other countries would do in conventional war fare, as we were fighting in the jungle and had many restrictions on the use of heavy machinery and fire power. Tanks were never used in theses operations, thus it was infantry operations where we grouped in 4-man, 8-man teams operating through jungle. They were restricted to the use of small arms. We have used artillery, mortars during operations, but we always had the locating devices with them in our own controlled area which would indicate day and night with the radars on areas where a shot is falling. Accurate firing can be conducted with mortar locating radar; we could pin point the exact location of their launch and accordingly counter these. This was the technology that we were using. All formations were equipped with the artillery fire and radars that could give coverage of about 35km in front of them.
Our operations were continued through the jungle. The LTTE policy was that, at that time, to take control of the population. We were going in frontal, LTTE always took the population backwards towards their own area and people who could escape always said that the LTTE never allowed them to cross over on to our side; though there were gaps, they were never used. They mustered the population and kept them to be used as a human shield.
Operations progressed over the period from 7th August finally up to 19th May. We mainly went west of A9, in the jungle initially – Vavuniya, Madhu church area, from the western edge from Adampan, rice bowl area, Vedithalivu area going up to Mulangavil. Then the 59 division on the Eastern side went north of Padaviya, of Weli Oya area towards Mullaithivu. At that time there was no problem of maintaining essential services, even at that time, because still there was enough room for people to go and we knew people were going. So, all the agencies; INGOs, and UN agencies, and NGOs were still working and had the facility to go to uncleared areas through the facilities we had provided through the Omanthai exit re-entry point. So the GAs were still in control, the hospitals in Kilinochi, Mullaithivu were functioning, and the directors were in touch with us to give them essential medical services. So INGOs functioned, the roads functioned, so there was no problem and as far as possible we maintained all the operations west of A9 and we kept the A9 free for the movements of the requirements of the population.
We give a lot of prominence to the humanitarian angle and service. It all started off with the Humanitarian Operations and so the humanitarian factor was looked into and thus we always endeavoured to provide essential services and look after the population. Madhu Church was a good example, it was captured on the 22nd of April 2008 and the following day itself I informed the Vicar, General Fr.Victor who was in Mannar Bishops House. I called him and took him to the Church. I took him personally to the location as the LTTE was alleging that there were a lot of damages to the church, even though there were a few firing in the vicinity I showed the church and handed over the church to him. There were a few damages to the church due to the LTTE firing. Experts would give evidence based on the type of damage and the directions of the explosions that caused damaged to the building; as to from which direction the firing came from, and the angle in which the firing would be done, and to whose method this would be. I explained to him these facts. The Church was intact. The church was vacated with the Statue taken by Fr. Emil; he used to be in contact with me through a CDMA phone. He gave me all the details about what the LTTE was doing around, and then he told me that he has to vacate as it became unbearable, and I think by the 3rd or 4th he vacated. By the 23rd we rescued the church and handed it over to them.
The point I want to highlight here is the continued communications and very close dialogues that were maintained with INGOs, UN agencies, ICRCs – Ms. Valery in particular, the Head of the ICRC- in order to have the supplies go to the population. Then from the Government level, they had a consultation every month called ‘Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance’. It was chaired by the donor countries in Colombo and my chief Civil Coordinating officer from the HQ attended this meeting regularly. The five ambassadors and the Secretary of Defence and all the other INGOs attend this very important meeting and all the points from the INGOs and the donor countries are taken up at this meeting. The donor countries were dictating things, we always listened to these and met the requirements and thus it was a very important point of meeting. The humanitarian angles are looked into and, as suggested by the donor countries, we try to meet them. At the local level we have our own meetings with the INGs and NGOs and meet whatever the requirements that is there.
Then while the operations were progressing more towards the North – Kilinochi, Paranthan and Pooneryn, the western coast was open and the fishermen and others were able to escape in small number from the LTTE control and came towards Mannar. The initial IDP centre we started establishing in and around Mannar schools. From the East also, sometimes towards Weli Oya, there were few small numbers that started to trickle in. Their statement was that they could not stay due to the harassment of the LTTE and they escaped with whatever they had and in boats. Initially few numbers came in and we started establishing IDP centres in Mannar area.
So operations continued to progress on the west of the island and by September 2008, finally we were getting very close to Kilinochi and there was a requirement for us to take over the A9 because the operations were progressing very well. The Secretary of Defence made the announcement for the INGOs’ and NGOs’ to vacate the conflict areas – this was in September 2008. One month notice was given to move all their equipment and expatriate staff from the areas to Vavuniya and re-establish there, in the controlled areas. The instruction was passed on. However, unfortunately, the LTTE did not allow all of them to come on time and the LTTE took over some of the heavy machinery that were used by the INGOs in the development work in the areas, such as earth moving machinery etc. The staff was able to come at the last moment as the LTTE was holding them too. The Air-Force has the UAVs with the captured INGO machineries being used by the LTTE for their defences. Somehow we managed to get the expatriate staff out and the local staff also, though some staff remained who were local employees and continued to function. But we still allowed the World Food Program and The ICRC to continue, as the food had to be sent in to feed the people of the area.
So operations continued, we took over the A9, the western edge with the zero casualty policy, so that the population is also able to get to safe areas. We continued from the western edge around Pooneryn then came eastwards to Paranthan. It was the 58 division that came and the 57 division joining up and finally took Kilinochchi on 2nd January 2009. A9 was taken over by the Army and from the other side, progressed to Mulaitivu operations. So the population was now confined to North-Eastern part of the Wanni and the LTTE also was congregating into those areas.
We had the population in the Vishamadu, Pudukuripu, and finally Pudumathlam. People were in that area and so we discussed with the UN and ICRC and arranged for alternative roads to send the food. We still continued to send the food convoy about 60 Lorries took the food requirements. So since we had the control of the A9 up to Kilinochchi we sent the food on the A9 up to Mankulam and them turn right on the Odusudan road again into uncontrolled area and then to Pudukudiripu. Thereafter operations progressed and we took that i.e. A34 , we took Mankulam Odusudan road, we allowed convoys to take the Pullankulam, Nedurkani, Odusudan and Pudukudiripu till the last possible days that we could send we arranged alternative roads for the food to go to the people who were in these areas. The discussion were with ICRC and the INGOs to take the most possible roads including the A32, sea routes and others to carry food, medicines and other essential services requirements. The INGOs and ICRC were happy that they were able to continue the dialogue with us and make alternative arrangements to look after the people.
Then while these operations was progressing after Kilinochi we went Eastwards on the A35 towards Viswamadhu, Pudukudiripu and then with taking of the A9 the initial influx of the IDPs started to come in and about 23000 came from the Mankulam and other adjoining areas and we started to establish IDP camps.
First we established the Manik Farm, known as the Kadhriklama Village, It was done by the Government and no INGO supported. It was totally on Government expenditure. We built semi-permanent buildings with zinc sheets. A village with 500 compartments and everything was established in that. It was by the Hon.Min.Basil Rajapakse. Schooling, Bank, Health, Co-operative, Vocational Training Centre, all these were there and comfortable accommodation with toilets and water supply. The Army did the first construction and established the first IDP camp. The initial 23000 that came in were taken into this camp. Here I would like to emphasize the procedure that was adopted is that the IDPs would enter from an area in the forward zone, they come along the A9 buses are provided to them, they come to the Omanthai Exit Re-entry point which has all the facilities. At this point we do a detailed procedure. They are photographed, registered by name and the family photograph is also taken numbered so that we have the identification. All the data is entered in the computers, their baggages are all checked, initial basic food is provided That is done by the GA and as we number them we handover to the GA, they are bordered in a bus and taken to the IDP camp.
Here there was a requirement to identify the people who were connected with the LTTE organization and at all times I ensured that representatives from the UN and ICRC were present at all times in order to avoid the allegations that people go missing at check points. My staff officers will agree with that. At the end, I ensured that their list and our list were the same in total and names. I didn’t want anyone to say later on that so and so was missing. So there were LTTE connected persons and we had our people from the Intelligence and the Police and representatives and if there was an identified person he is kept separately and these organizations representatives are aware of this. The names of the people who have been identified as LTTE cadres are entered separately and those are the people now we have in these rehabilitation camps as surrenders’. Initially we started off with 10000 and now the numbers are much less. So the UN and The ICRC are aware that from this family X is taken and he is safely available and later we will tell the organization that he is in this particular camp. These lists are complied and ensured that the names and the totals match – the list from ICRC & the UN with our list.
This was one point of ensuring transparency of the surrendered cadres. Then many top officials came during these operations, John Holms came, some of the people visited the Omanthai Entry Exit point to see for themselves the procedure, and they were satisfied with those procedures. Since there were not many people there due to the war zone to provide food, the Army initially and continued to provide food such like gram and other stuff being boiled continuously in camps to ensure that they are given food. Later when the numbers were getting larger I initiated the dry pack which included glucose, biscuits, ‘jujups’, energy food and a bottle of water or drink, to be given immediately on their arrival for inspection at the exit re-entry point because some have had no proper food.
While the operations were going on the progress more towards the end as the Secretay of Defence said, we had instructions on the use of heavy weapons, rules of engagement, so they were all told, and also sent in written form to the formation commanders and they were all told and these implemented as per the direction got from the higher head quarters. There were ‘No Fire Zones’ sets in total four in Visvamadu area and subsequently shifted to Pudukuripu and finally to Pudumathlai, Welamulai Waikal NFZ. Even within locally, I have the documents if you want, locally if there is a hospital or an ICRC establishment even those reference has been given and one kilometer zone from that position we have said is a No Fire Zone specially for UN and ICRC we gave special permission because they continued to look after the civilians. Other than the NFZ we ensured if there was a WFP storage a one kilometer zone was declared as a NFZ for those to secure all those places including ICRC medical aid points to since there were still expatriate staff with specially the ICRC till the last minute.
Then as the Air Force Commander CDS said the use of unmanned aided vehicles and the latest high technology, every detail was given. These formation Commanders will be able to tell, this time we had technology the forward most headquarters received these UAV images and it is the first time in Sri Lanka we had this so all the details could have been seen from the UAV images, and as the formation commanders would tell they were able to see these images and they were able to pinpoint all attack areas precisely, civilian populated areas, LTTE populated and small group areas were visible clearly to maintain the forward formation with the ‘Zero Civilian Casualty’ policy in mind. This way the forward divisions were able to see exactly where the fighting was going on and also civilian activities, so that they could now make their forward attack strategy with targeted spots. The aerial UAVs were deployed continuously with night and day operations in order to be able to know the situation of the theater of war and details of intelligence for forward attack and avoid civilian areas. These images were updated and always available and this also helped in minimizing civilian casualties and maintaining the ‘Zero Casualty’ policy.
Then towards the end, the area was getting smaller and smaller there was a requirement to provide security to the food convoy, because the LTTE was trying to grab. I had a lot of complaints from the UN, a local representative at that time, so we go and when they go into the uncleared area they had the issue of doing by themselves. We ensured minimum delay at the Vavuniya loading point; we were present so we checked the loading and without any interruption we escorted up to the final transit point which was out of our control area. Subsequently when the road movement was getting impossible the ICRC in discussion with us and coordination of the Navy to transport the food and essential services by sea on ships to the landing points and also evacuated the elderly and the casualties from these areas. These facilities were also provided when the road movement was not possible.
Finally the operations were conducted and the GA’s would be able tell you exactly what precaution they took in maintaining minimum casualties and what LTTE did as they saw for themselves what happened and finally on 19th May we concluded the operations and there after the civilians – 293,000 IDPs were brought in to Vavuniya and settled in various camps, established in Chetikulam and other villages up to six zones. It was a massive task, some in Weli Oya, some in Mannar, and they were settled in.
Now as per the directions of the Government we have started de-mining and resettling people. We are in this stage of operations. If we look at Vavuniya we have come down to 32,000 IDPs only to resettle and the delays is the de-mining. The area has to be de-mined and as the LTTE did not keep maps of their mining activity it is difficult which contravenes all conventions, however, now that we have to search and de-mine every inch of the land before people are resettled. We are going into villages and de-mining, on a priority basis, all these villages for settlement of the people and there after de-mine the other areas. So resettlement is progressing and there is a lot of support from the security forces – all three services are supporting the resettlement of people in construction of houses, helping in this area and there are a large number of houses that have been done by the forces also for the people.
Handling of the Surrendees:
(The details of which of Brig. Ranasinghe will give). All the lists were matched with the ICRC and the UN and there was no discrepancy and nobody can say anyone was missing. All those under 18 were sent to Ambepussa, especially the females to the rehabilitation centre for children and others were in Vavuniya in different camps. Females in one camp and the males in another camp and these have progressed very well and now the vocational training programs and getting trained. They are getting rehabilitated and there has also been mass scale marriages done. Some have been united with their families, so the details the Commissioner General will be able to tell you.
Total of casualties up to 2005 – Army had 14,177 killed, wounded 54,071, and 333 missing. In the final offensive in the North & East both, we had 5628 killed and about 30,600 wounded, 140 missing they are now declared now dead at the final battle we had.
The other point to mention is the declaration of the ‘No Fire Zone’. The method we adopted in Colombo was; at the highest level it was informed to the ICRC head, and locally we gave the map to Mrs.Valeri, the head of ICRC, so that they were in communication with their representatives in the area as they had their people in every NFZ. They used to give the details to them with the coordinates and they conveyed and in addition Air Force helped us in dropping leaflets plus whatever possible method the announcements were made. There was loud speaker method of announcements made on NFZ. Giving information to the people on NFZ which was established. This is one important point that I want to highlight.
So these are the details that I would like to tell you at this moment. My practically being there, UN, Neil Boone will confirm the discussions I have had with UN representatives and ICRC and other INGO agencies. Continuous dialogue; they call me even at 3.00 AM if there was a problem – we used to answer. Either myself or my staff would respond and whatever report I got from them was very encouraging and they have been very happy with our performance, because we have been always open to a dialogue and sort out any issue that was very important to maintain the humanitarian operation.
As CDS said when the IDPs came in the amount of problems we had – the detailed security method we established – however there was suicide bombing and so many army men and women soldiers died and civilians also died, as the LTTE did not want these people to come in and they were putting scare on them. Still air force helped us with helicopters. There were so many times we had to evacuate civilians, elderly, and injured all the way to Anuradhapura without any security check; we did not know whether it was a civilian or a LTTE cadre we were carrying initially, but we took that humanitarian angle. These are the activities that were carried out, and of course all the details were kept for monitoring, exact details by name were recorded of all the people who came including the cadres who surrendered.
Bafiq: The war is over but the army is still there in Jaffna I suppose, to help the civil authorities to bring about reconciliation which the commission is interested in. I would like to know what steps the army along with the civil authorities has taken to resettle the Muslims who were driven away from their birth place and who are away 30 years from their birth place. Besides, has the army or the civil authorities made any attempts to have register of the names and their whereabouts? Also let us know what has happen to their immovable properties in Jaffna, very valuable properties. Are they abandoned or are they occupied by others? And there were many religious place of worship, many mosques. I would like to know from the army, what has happened to these mosques?
Commander Jayasuriya: Well I think the Muslims got displaced very much earlier in the 1990s I think; mainly from Jaffna and then Mannar side. We have the details of the recently displaced. Most of the Muslims are now in Puttlam. Minister Reshad Badurudeen who was in charge of the subject until the last change of cabinet portfolios was very concerned about it and handling them, and some of the Muslims were settled, if I am not mistaken, in detail. General Gunaratne who is the competent authority on IDP will give you more details.
Hangawatte:: When we visited Vavuniya some of the IDPs and detainees told us that during the last stage while they were running towards the military, escaping from the LTTE, that some were killed and some were injured. We asked them where the shelling was from; some of them said that the shelling was from the LTTE side, some of them said that they could not really say, and others said that there was shelling form both sides. Could you please clarify this?
Commander Jayasuriya:: Specific areas if I take, the initial NFZ Vishwamadu, Pudikudiripu area, so the army was from two directions, from the west and the south, but the LTTE on the liner patch, Pudumathalam, that area, the LTTE was,- that configuration was different more like a inverted L, so when we were going in there had been instances where firing was on to our front line which was closer to the NFZ, where the LTTE was firing and we were also trying to counter some of the fire. So there would have been possible instances where cross fire would have taken place. That’s a possibility.
Palihakkara: Commander thank you very much for your detailed description, I have three questions to ask and am not sure whether you or your field commanders would answer this.
Firstly, nationally and internationally there was observations about civilian casualties, specially our forces were faced with a unprecedented situation of nearly 300,000 strong human shield, especially the last part of the operation and, at that point, of course you described to us the care taken to maintain zero or minimize civilian casualties, but at this last phase of the operation when you are faced with that possibility. What were the military options available to you to save those people and what eventually did your field commanders do? Can you describe to the commission? For record, because this was the most controversial part as it were, both nationally and internationally. What was the strategy adopted and the tactics used? You said there was a policy of using no heavy weapons, and how was it put into practice and CDS had very clearly said that no air power was used. It is important for us to understand the means you adopted that is the sequence you adopted up to 19th May.
Secondly, you did refer to the Army casualties, now do you have any idea as to the LTTE casualties? At least a rough estimate and is there any indications of civilians getting caught in cross fire situation?
Thirdly, just for the Commission’s benefit we were told, this is the third question I don’t know whether you or your field commanders or the Commissioner General of Essential Services would want to answer that regarding the surrender situation, we were told by the Manik farm and the Omanthai Detention Centre that the procedure was that they were asked to make a declaration, whether they were in the LTTE, and if so did they were to voluntarily have to do that. But in the battle field situation was there any challenges to you or your field commanders, how did you handle that?
Those are the three questions. Thank you.
Commander Jayasuriya: Thank you sir.
Really the methods, the field commanders will be able to give you the details. The final stage the linear stretch that we were in, like Puthumathalam going down to Welakulaika, we were on this side of the lagoon which was about 1000meters in depth and they were on that linear stretch; the population and the LTTE and there was bunds and we never rushed in. Anyway we had to go across the obstacle, so small groups which I said were going into it, probably in the night. The last bit it took over a month even though it was a few kilometers to finish that. They would send the recky party and get the details. Immediately after bund was the road which had about 100 to 150 meters apart and all the people they kept them beyond the road towards the sea that’s how it was. Other side of the road, towards the lagoon, where we were coming in was all the LTTE defences, so I know I think our forces went in and reckied all those places. The operation was done in such a way we took a crunch off an area where we infiltrated from either side and attacked from the rear towards our side so that firing is towards our side and no firing done towards the enemy side. We tried to go behind them on to that road, because there was nobody on the road and from the road to commence operations towards us, maybe at a given time, maintaining surprise. So that type of methods we used and breached accordingly.
Then when people got to know that we had come – sort of got the LTTE in that area under control – the population started running into us, and that was what was shown in the UAV. Thereafter, the LTTE prevented the population coming to us, gathering them into places and firing at them, I think internationally also broadcast. So that was the method that we used. As I said with restriction, we were getting one by one the last few kilometers, it took so much of time. I think we were inching forward. We were taking a lot of precautions, used only the small arms and may be for a day; not even 200meters. I used to ask ‘give your position on the map’, it’s like you are on the same place. It was very slow progress.
So those were the precautions that we took, the general officer commanding who was really involved in front will be able to tell give you more details. If you talk casualties from the record we have unfortunately our intelligence and the intelligence agencies never had any figures of the LTTE cadres because we believe they recruited whilst the operation was going on. There were people one day trained, three day trained, seven day trained. You can call him a LTTE cadre because he has been trained by the LTTE. So initially the figures we had was somewhere in ten or twelve thousand and we were monitoring throughout our battle and with their radio communications they declare one day not immediately but few day the names. So at the end I think we had about 12, 000 names confirmed, but still there was so much of fighting going on so there was no exact figure, but 12,000 names were confirmed up to the final stage. But still LTTE was fighting against us so we believe that 12,000 became LTTE, because of the ongoing recruitment that they did and they were also categorized as LTTE cadres. But finally, there was information to say they had about 22,000. That’s what we heard.
Surrendees, as I said at the Omanthai exit re-entry point the procedure that we did. One point I forgot to tell was when we brought them in buses, there was about 100,000 who surrendered I used about 300 buses, buses I got from Colombo even. Then used to bring them in buses and there used to by about 50 to 100 in one bus and when they get down at the final point we make them to sit down and a announcement is made in Tamil to tell them to voluntarily identify yourself if you have been in the LTTE. We told them ‘if you don’t identify and you are recognized later you might have issues because you have not declared yourself’. So we tell at the initial registration, ‘if you are a LTTE please come to a side’. There were lots of people who identified themselves as a LTTE cadre. So we took them separately as I said, and registered them. But there after there were people who have not declared so when they start to be interrogated, they themselves go and identify some in the IDP camp proper.
So there was continuous. Today some people say there are cadres who have come back, they themselves identify and resettle and they have been in the IDP camps and not declared. Initially we politely told them identify and majority identified themselves, they knew that they are going to get into other issues so they identified themselves and we took them separately.
All are now in rehabilitation. They are all declared and in protective centers.
C.R. de Silva: At the rehabilitation centre that we questioned, they said that they had been with the LTTE, but that they have been with the LTTE, some of the people, five-six years ago. So they have agreed that they have been with the LTTE, but the environment that was prevailing at that time, because the situation was not conducive for you all to do a proper investigation, the details of their involvement was not recorded. So now they are saying as a result they are languishing in the rehabilitation centers, because at the time they crossed over they were not with the LTTE, but they had been with the LTTE at some stage or other. So that was the complaint they were making. Of course, they also said that the environment was such that it was not possible for the army to have made a detailed record of their involvement, because hundreds of thousands of persons were coming in, so that was I would like to know the truth of what they are saying. Whether you all were in a position to really interrogate them and find out what their involvement was or when they confessed that they had been with the LTTE, you merely took them on their word and just sent them to the rehabilitation centers.
Commander Jayasuriya:: As you said sir, it was a very difficult task and initially we were profiling them, serialing them with their name, photograph, age and so on and we told them to declare themselves so we made into various profiles, people with over ten years in the organization, 5 to 10 years, 1 to 5 years, so many months, days and so on of different profiles. So we are done. I don’t think one interrogation agencies could interrogate 10,000, even now we know among them some are less connected and some are more connected and they don’t still admit also. There are cases like that. If you take one individual he might not say, but he would have been a top fighter but he might say that he was doing a small job or something like that. So finding our exact details is tough. Some of them talk and investigations are on, that’s why we are able to unearth equipment in the no Fire Zones. They are still giving information. Recently some body talked about aircraft parts. Navy got some engines explosives recently. So they have not spoken the truth hundred percent, but we have profiled them on what they have said and the interrogation is going on. Various agencies have identified some, among them also some have been identified as strong LTTE and which I think they are going to prosecute. Over 1000 I think have been identified as strong LTTE and legal action will be taken but others, of course we are taking a chance but we are rehabilitating them and reuniting them with families. So that’s a gamble that we have to take.
Palihakkara: Commander you have no estimates about civilian situation?
Commander Jayasuriya: No.
Paliahakkara. Were there any problems about battle field surrendees?
Commander Jayasuriya: Whilst, fighting we did not have surrendees but the last few days such as the 15th, 16th, 17th 18th, really till the 16th The LTTE did not allow anybody to come because the LTTE thought they because of the Indian election they thought there would be some decision by the Indians and they could be rescued but from 16th people came in and some admitted on the spot that they were cadres and some were injured and wanted medical attention and these are declared and photographed – including three girls. So some we took and look after them. Some came with the IDPs, they came with the fear that the population will rise against them. That problem was also there because the people who have been in charge of conscripting were targeted by the people. Because they had taken their children.
Palihakkara: Actually The LTTE was shooting at them and a number of LTTE was also taken by ship to Trincomalee along with the ICRC evacuees I am told.
Commander Jayasuriya: So really when somebody is a casualty like civilians, everyone was in civilian enclosure even the LTTE was in the enclosure and one gets injured and tell ICRC that you are a civilian and that you got injured. It’s as simple as that. Without the weapon he is a civilian and not in uniform.
Ramanathan: Commander Jayasuriya, now the war is over and the de-mining and the resettling is taking place, how far have you progressed in de-mining the Killinochi and Mullathivu areas? And has the Nandikadal area been fully de-mined?
Commander Jayasuriya: Killinochi west of A9 is done, East of A9 is also done up to about Vishwamadu we have gone. We are yet to go towards just west of Nandikadal, Pudikudiripu that area. Mullaitivu South is done and people have been settled.
Bafiq: According to the present prevailing condition, are the Jaffna farmers able to cultivate their crops?
Commander Jayasuriya: Yes.
Bafiq: Are their goods reaching the South? Is there any impediment transporting their goods?
Commander Jayasuriya: Every thing is normal and we are giving priority to Jaffna products now and the prices are also coming down. Because of this. Twenty four hours roads are being used, no unloading or checking. Every thing is normal now.
Paranagama: You have gone through all this mill, what can you says about the reconciliation?
Commander Jayasuriya: It will take some time. People will have to understand all the details. My personal opinion is that there was strict control under the LTTE and the people only heard what the LTTE was saying, so it will take a little time for them to get out of that mind frame and to look around and understand.
Paranagama: What do you think is the best approach to it?
Commander Jayasuriya: Government will have to now look in to the grievances and what the issue was for such a situation, and take action so that the grievances are sorted so that there is a better future for all. My personal opinion is that this whole area has to be transformed, I have told His Excellency also that we should build highways and so on. At the moment, because of the distances and the time involved they think you are coming from afar. But with the highways you come in two hours to Colombo, do your business, and get back. You don’t feel you are from a different part. So that type of thing will definitely help in building confidence and sorting out the issues.
Hangawatte: Commander you mentioned that you have maintained a list of people who came to the check points or surrendered. Now, when we visited, some IDPs and civilians were saying that there are some family members who are missing and displaced. Some of them believe that some of them may be with their relatives etc., maybe in various camps or detention centres, and they cannot locate. Some of them even said that they have approached the army and got no straight answer. So if you have the lists this can be quickly resolved, do you think?
Commander Jayasuriya: Yes. This issue came because, as I said, the Omanthai procedure; when a family of five came they have been registered and one of them identifies himself as LTTE and so he is taken out and registered separately and kept. These four get into a bus and go to the IDP camp but he is kept there, so these four do not know where he is because it is a separate procedure for him and he goes to some other camp. If somebody says he is in a rehabilitation camp in this location, if somebody can convey that message to him, he is not aware of it, that’s the issue they are having. We had a problem like that – specially giving them to GA to put them into IDP camps – I think it did not work out all that well. Some went to a particular camp, some went to another camp and they were in tents, so there was confusion. People thought that they were missing, but they are in some camp but do not know where they are, and that is the issue. Mainly because people were kept for questioning for us to finally take a decision and that delays. As we can’t keep everybody waiting, others were sent in buses. Thereafter he may have got into, after about 10 buses, he would have gone into some other camp, so there they were far apart and it took a lot of time. ICRC was doing that like tracing; where they have a system to trace people thereafter. Of course we were establishing telephones and all that and finding out details, it actually took a lot of time for people to be reunited, but now I think a majority, most of the issues, have been solved and it has come down to 32,000. Kamal will be able to tell you whether issues still exist.
C.R. de Silva: Did the ICRC at any stage make any complaints to you regarding any human rights violations by the forces?
Commander Jayasuriya: Well they said when firing takes place; sometimes you don’t know who is firing. They say firing is taking place. So when they tell us, we check through our radio communications. We had control of our fire, so we give instructions to check on that and take precautions accordingly but we have no control over LTTE fire.
C.R. de Silva: No what I want to know is that, if the ICRC was there, they would have seen what is happening; if there were any violations by the forces then they would have observed this and they would have brought this to your notice.
Commander Jayasuriya: If there was any incident within the NFZ they tell you. Then we investigate and take precautions accordingly.
C.R. de Silva: Not about the operations, sometimes there are operations that you do in the NFZ also where you had to do certain operations. I am not talking about the operations, but certainly if there was gross violation of human rights by the forces then I would expect them to have brought these to your notice.
Commander Jayasuriya: No, there were no complaints like that.
Chanmugam: It was a very trying and difficult period during the last 3 to 4 years until finally the military was able to vanquish the LTTE. During this period the civilian administration had an even more difficult task to perform because they were really in an area where the LTTE was present, how do you view their role and what do you think of their performance?
Commander Jayasuriya: I am not sure how genuine they were. Although they were government officials they were under pressure by the LTTE to get things, but as I said things were sent under strict controls. At the end, when we went and dug all these places we found massive fuels tanks with fuel inside – whether they got it from governments officials who were under pressure to work? I know the hospital directors were under pressure because they had to treat the LTTE casualties. In those hospitals they were under pressure but they had no option I think. But one point I forgot was we were in contact with the Mullativu AGA until the last minute. He had a CDMA telephone, UN and ICRC had satellite phones, but Mullativu AGA was there until the end and we are still in touch with him. My staff officers contacted him directly on the situation and the requirements and all that, so that was one good thing to get the exact picture at times. So we were communicating with all those people.
C.R. de Silva: I must say that we had the occasion to visit two tanks, one of which was rehabilitated by the army and one that was constructed by the army in Puliyankulam. I must say that we were very impressed with the work that was carried out by the Army. I was wondering whether the resources available in those areas, like man power could be utilized or the manpower of the army could be utilized for the purpose of rehabilitating those areas because there is a lot of reconstruction that has to go on and when we saw what the army has done, I must say that we were very impressed. So, whether the army could play a very pro-active role using its manpower to do something to help the people of the area, because it was very apparent that the army was capable of doing it in Puliyankulam. So, if that being so, I think even in the other areas probably there is something the army could do for the purpose of improving the life and conditions of the people in those areas. What are your views on that?
Commander Jayasuriya: In fact we are fully involved with the “Uthuru Wasanthai “ programme chaired by the Presidential Task Force and we have got special machinery; earth moving, over 300 held by the army and all are deployed in the North. So as for the programme by the Presidential Task Force we are going with them and I fully agree, and everybody has praised us about our efficiency and effectiveness which is much better than any other contractor or whoever is involved. So we are doing whatever projects we have undertaken and we are fully involved at the moment in the restoration of tanks, doing up roads, various other constructions, lots of bridges we are doing. So like all the manpower which is now in the North, in the East we have finished the “Neganahiru Udana” and in the North we are doing that, and we will continue to do that.
In addition our normal troops that have been involved in operations; they are involved in non-skilled…they are involved in helping in various projects like putting up small houses for them. In Jaffna alone, the army sponsored and did 760 houses out of our own money and labour. Likewise in Kilininochchi, army has done over 1300 houses. I know, Kilinochchi formations have done. We are fully involved in it and doing as per the directions of the Presidential Task Force.
Ramanathan: Now the war is over, military presence in large numbers are still in the North, which is a great concern and worry to the Tamil common man living in the North. Your response to this statement please?
Commander Jayasuriya: Well hard earned peace has to be properly secured and consolidated. That is our prime responsibility at the moment. Just because we finished the war one year ago does not mean that we have 100% security. So that was our concern, but as you said we had a large number of troops; those who took part in the operations remained in those areas, and now it has totally changed and large numbers have now come to other areas.
My policy for the new thinking for the army is that; we have one battalion (about 600 troops) in every district. So we have now gone into all the districts and we are taking over some of the areas held by the Police and the Army, Navy and Air-force, because that is not their role. So we are taking all those areas and army is coming down to other areas for their normal ground role, the Air-force and Navy will get into the air and seas and that is being done. Subsequently the army would be confined to their camps and the Police is now gradually coming back to the normal Police role.. Very soon the Police will come into total control and the army would be kept in reserve.
The numbers have come down, but those who are there in the North the hue and cry is probably because we are putting up our camps; because they have been under trees for mainly years, we are now we are giving them comfortable accommodation because they have to be in a camp in those areas. Camps are being put up because we never had camps in some of the areas, so they are being constructed just to accommodate to make them comfortably. That’s what is happening but generally the army will be in the entire island in all the districts and it will be balanced deployment with no particular concentration in any area.
Palihakkara: We had very good words from a number of IDPs about the forces, whether it is the Army, Navy or Air-force, who treated those 300,000 odd people when they came in. Thereafter, they have one concern though. You said that you have list of the people who surrendered and you made sure that list are available with different people. Is it possible to make a detailed list? Because one of the concerns that these people said are that they don’t know where their relatives are, in which camps, and that they are being shifted. Is it possible to make available these lists to maybe a GA or somebody so that people can check it and know where to visit and things like that? They wanted this out of goodwill because they said that the security forces treated us well when they asked us to come over.
Commander Jayasuriya: We have that. GA Vavuniya also has that list. It was computerized. At that time the decision was to put them into the web so that anybody abroad can access and find out whether their relatives are there in a particular camp. That was the original plan but subsequently it did not happen, but the list was there compiled into one book. We also had it camp-wise.
Palihakkara. We were told otherwise.
C.R. de Silva: There was one concern that was expressed by some of the people there that the private lands were being used by the army for the purpose of construction of the army camp. What do you have to say about this?
Commander Jayasuriya: No, I don’t agree with that allegation. We have gone only into crown land only. If we are occupying some of them, we would be vacating once the camps are constructed. If people come in, we will vacate, but we have identified crown land and discussed with the local GAs and it is there that the permanent camps are being constructed. No private land would be kept by us. But originally, when Jaffna was initially taken over by the forces, we occupied most of the government and private houses because Jaffna does not have much bare land, but we paid rent, and all those would be vacated in due course.
C.R. de Silva: I can understand and fully appreciate your concerns that around the camps you have to have security to ensure that in future there would be no threat to the camps and their concerns were in some areas and I believe Mr. Anandasagaree, whilst giving evidence, said that there were areas where the army was utilizing private lands.
Commander Jayasuriya: I agree that at the moment some are still be utilized.
C.R. de Silva: What he said was that the army is in the process of buildings to house the army personnel in certain areas. That is the concern he expressed.
Commander Jayasuriya: In some specific areas it may happen to a few, because for any re-settlement they will have to be relocated to some other place due to some security concern which is a possibility but off hand I can’t tell you what it is, but there is a possibility. For security we have to hold this area. Then probably some have to be relocated, then it is the responsibility of the government agencies to give them land and build a house and give ownership to that. So on that basis there is a possibility. That possibility is there mainly based on the security requirements.
C.R. de Silva: I think the Navy Commander will also make his presentations but we will take a 5 minute break before we call the Navy Commander to make his presentation and thereafter I think your field commanders there would be asked certain questions that the field commanders would also be able to respond to. So we take a 5 minute break.