INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR-- PAPER NO. 459
The Sri Lankan Army advancing towards Kilinochchi in the Northern Province, where the headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of TamilEelam (LTTE) used to be located, and the LTTE cadres deployed for slowing down the advance have been engaged in a do or die battlesince October 17,2008.
2. While claiming that it continues to maintain its advance despite bad weather, the Sri Lankan Army has admitted that it has alreadysuffered 33 fatalities in the latest phase of the battle that started on October 17 and has been brought to a temporary halt due to rains. In anattempt to explain the slowing down of the operations, the Sri Lankan Army has accused the LTTE of using poisonous gas against thetroops.
3. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also indirectly admitted the slowing down of the operations. The "Daily News" of Sri Lanka has quotedhim as saying at a function of the National Research Council at Colombo on October 20,2008, as follows: "The battle against terrorism whichwe could convincingly win within a few days, is nevertheless prolonged due to the grave concern and the optimum caution exercised by thehighly disciplined Armed Forces who are fighting under severe constraints, to cause no harm or loss to innocent, civilian human life."
4. Thus, while the Army has attributed the slowing down to the alleged use of poisonous gas by the LTTE, the President has attributed it tothe Army's anxiety to avoid civilian casualties.
5. Intriguingly for the last one week, the pro-LTTE web site www.tamilnet.com, which used to give battle front news in the past, has notdone so. One would have expected it to highlight the Army's admission of having sustained 33 fatalities. It has not done so. For more than aweek now, the Tamilnet has been giving mostly political news regarding developments in Tamil Nadu in support of the Sri Lankan Tamilcause and activities of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora abroad. If at all it gives operational news, it is generally about the Eastern Province.
6. While www.puthinam.com, a pro-LTTE Tamil web site, continues to give battlefield news, Tamilnet has not been doing so. The only newsabout the latest round of fighting is to be found in the web site of Puthinam, which claims that the LTTE inflicted heavy casualties on theadvancing army.
7. Why the silence of Tamilnet? One has to look for an answer to this question as the fighting continues. (21-10-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )