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SRI LANKA-update no.6. Rana gosa III & IV


Note 23

We regret to mention too many place names in this note as these places assumed importance in the on going operations of Sri Lankan Army against the LTTE.  While the map provided indicates only some places, any tourist road map of Sri Lanka will contain all the places mentioned.  

In the last update on Operation Rana gosa, we had indicated that the only reason for the Sri Lankan Army to break the tradition and occupy Madhu Church and its surroundings could be to find an alternate main supply route (MSR) to Jaffna along Mannar-Pooneryn route.  This route  along Highway A-32 is shorter and away from the LTTE strongholds east of this road.  Continued advance by the Sri Lankan army in the western sector of Wanni confirms this position. (See map of northern Sri lanka)

Having realised the folly of undertaking spectacular operations with media hype , the Sri Lankan army appears to have decided to go in for smaller operations and for incremental additions to the territory held.  It is in this connection that the army went ahead with operation Rana Gosa (Battle cry) and is now in stage IV.  This would also mean giving up the objectives of operation Jaye sikuru meant to connect Vavuniya to Jaffna along Highway A9 and also giving up vast territory north of Mankulam to LTTE control.

Operation Rana gosa has concentrated so far in the area north of Highways A-30 and A-14 and east of Mannar-Pooneryn on Highway A-32.  The northwest sector of Wanni area comprises the district of Mannar and parts of Killinochi and Vavuniya.  The main road link is A30, joined by A-14 at Parayanalankulam from another important centre Cheddikulam.  In 1997, the Sri Lankan army took control of the Vavuniya- Mannar road without any resistance from LTTE.  The responsibility of securing this road for day to day communication was given to the Police.

In March this year operation Rana gosa was formally launched to reach Iranai Iluppankulam, a strategically important place, located 28 Kms north west of Vavuniya.  Iranai Iluppankulam was the last outpost of LTTE, set up to issue passes for movement northwards on the road to Mundumurippu and it also had a major camp for women cadres. This place besides being the gateway to the LTTE controlled areas branches out in many directions leading to many places in the north western sector.  The Sri Lankan army moved towards Iranai Iluppankulam from three different directions, Puvarasankulam from south, Mundumurippu from the north and from Thandikulam, a place about 10 Kms south east from Vavuniya. Thus, the capture of this place by the Sri Lankan army under Rana Gosa II gave a strategic advantage to the Sri Lankan army enabling it to pile up pressure on LTTE from several directions.

Surprisingly there was hardly any resistance from the LTTE even as the army reached Iranai Iluppankulam.  More surprising was the total absence of land mines.  It was only when the army moved from Iranai Iluppankulam north east towards Periya madhu in Rana Gosa III, that the LTTE, struck on May 14, resulting in losses to both sides.

Under RanaGosa IV, the army's offensive is to push northwards from its base at Tallady near Mannar along the coastal road A 32.  Till June 26,  the army moved northwards without  much resistance from the LTTE.  On 15th June, some thirty local journalists were taken on a tour of the captured areas.  Maj. Gen. Balagalla, commander of the Wanni, said that "the phase by phase operation was aimed at reducing the source of recruitment to the LTTE."  It was also claimed that the army has wrested control of 670 sq. Km and that of the entire Vavuniya district except the Periyathmbanai division.

Could "reduction of the source of recruitment" be the only reason for the Sri Lankan Army to go ahead with the offensive in phases.  It is not clear how this claim is sustainable when the LTTE has been able to recruit boys even from controlled areas earlier. Boys and girls studying in schools do not see any future for them and economically the people are in an impoverished situation.  These deprived boys and girls are therefore likely to swell the ranks of the LTTE whether the area is under the control of Sri Lankan Army or not.  

The  larger objective of Rana gosa is still to find an alternative supply route to Jaffna via Pooneryn. A 32 the road to Pooneryn goes along Iluppaikadvai, Vellankulam, Mulankoil, Nachikuda and Pallavarayankattu.  From Pooneryn, the route to Jaffna has to be by the ferry, or by road through Killinochi-Paranthan and onto Elephant Pass or over "Mahadeva Causeway", planned but not implemented through Sangupiddy.  The last route is still in the drawing board and movement by ferry will not be easy.  The route through Paranthan would necessitate the capture of Killinochi which was lost to LTTE in operation Jaye sikuru.  Pooneryn itself is a long way off and further connection to Jaffna Peninsula will be more difficult.

It appears that the LTTE chose to allow the Sri Lankan army to stretch itself to the maximum extent and made a stand at Pallamadu causing heavy losses to both sides when its two important bases Thunukkai and Mallavi were threatened.  Mallavi, it may be recalled was the place where the inter religious leaders from south met the LTTE representatives.

Dr.S.Chandrasekharan                                                              3.7.99