ARMY COMMANDER FONSEKA EMPHASISES THAT
THE SEARCH FOR PEACE MUST NOT ALLOW THE LTTE TO STRENGTHEN
ITS MILITARY CAPABILITY
Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka has
re-iterated the Government of Sri Lanka’s position that
a political solution has to be found to Sri Lanka’s current
problems and that peace talks had to be continued. He however
emphasised that the search for peace must not allow the LTTE to
strengthen its military capability thereby weakening the defence
of Sri Lanka.
The Army Commander, who is on a three-day official
visit to the U.S., made this observation when he in the company
of Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S. Bernard Goonetilleke
met U.S. Under Secretary of State Ambassador Nicholas Burns at
the State Department on Tuesday 28 November 2006.
The Commander said in the four years of the ceasefire,
there had been considerable military build up on the part of the
LTTE. Artillery pieces had risen from 10 to 100, from two 122
mm guns to 20 and from 20 heavy mortars to 80. In effect, the
four year’s of ceasefire had helped the LTTE to become a
stronger fighting force. The Commander was of the view that unless
Prabhakaran was militarily weakened there could be no chance for
peace and that he will not toe the line advocated by the international
community. Therefore, it was imperative that GOSL checks his military
capacity, at least to ensure that he does not grow stronger militarily
to the extent that he sees no reason to seek a political solution.
The Commander said “to do that the army is capable”
and that “the army had done that during the past few months”.
The Commander acknowledged that the military
had to sacrifice about 300 soldiers in the battle in Muhamalai
in just one and half weeks. However, engaging in such battles
was necessary in order to deny the LTTE strategic advantage to
advance into security forces controlled areas, as they were seeking
to do recently by trying to retake the Jaffna Peninsula. The Commander
emphasised that GOSL’s operations were mainly defensive,
adding that being defensive did not mean only sitting on a line,
which you wanted to hold, but also seeking to pre-empt offensive
action that might be directed at the troops. He emphasised that
all operations so conducted were within a kilometre or two from
the forward defence lines, and were done solely for the purpose
of preventing the enemy from advancing at a time of their choosing.
Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, Deputy Chief
of Mission, Brigadier Athula Jayawardane, Defence Attaché,
and Lt Col Channa Keppetiwarana, Military Asst to the Commander
were associated with the Ambassador and the Army Commander.
Principal Asst Secretary of South and Central
Asia Ambassador Steven Mann, Mr. Michael W. Coulter, Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs, Sri Lanka Desk
Officer Molly Gower and the U.S. Defence Attaché in Colombo
Lt. Col. James Oxley were associated with Under Secretary Burns.
During his stay in Washington the Army Commander
also had meetings at the Pentagon with his counterpart General
Peter Schoomaker, Chief of Staff US Army, and other senior officials
of the Army and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
30 November 2006