The Defence Column

13th October 1996

The truth needs to be told

By Our Defence Correspondent

That the pen is mightier is proved again! The independent media can now document the war. Let the censorship be dead and never rise again. The wounds from the censor's wrath will heal, but the scars will remain. As the Deputy Defence Minister Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte bluntly puts it, the censorship was necessitated by irresponsible journalism to prevent the dissemination of information that would harm the country and the morale of the soldier. The defence correspondent probably bore the brunt of indiscriminate censoring. A mutilated defence column was a sure feature for the Sunday morning reader of our democracy. Does that mean this correspondent was churning out harmful substance as a habit? This column was shut-up for pointing out the wisdom of withdrawing from Mullaitivu. Not wishful thinking, but also the opinion of many a veteran of war who knew Mullaitivu as their own backyard. What happened is now history. The calling was same with Pooneryn. The Army chief appealed for its withdrawal. He proposed a Forward Operational Base system instead. Pooneryn troops could not stop the Tiger activity in the Kilaly lagoon. Pooneryn and Mullaitivu had been tagged by the military as "liabilities" with the government having to spend enormous amounts to maintain the bases. Better late than never. Pooneryn troops have been withdrawn for more strategic induction. Commonsense has finally prevailed. Despite the setbacks the government has so far done a commendable job in attempting to crush the backbone of the LTTE. The numerous setbacks however, have marred an otherwise creditable performance. Setbacks that could have been avoided. The war machinery needs to be oiled, put on top gear and the morale needs pumping. The censorship and political war games have scared-off the country's youth. Priority should be given to educate the country and show the true picture. Yes, the youth will join the ranks, the soldiers will fight harder. What the country is asking is its leaders to be sincere in directing the war. Try to achieve political ends and chaos will reign. The government would do well to capitalize on the good job done in Jaffna. Civilian administration is slow in coming and the people are still wary. Make Jaffna a better place and half the war would be won. Wage a relentless war in winning the hearts and minds of the people. They'll then carry the fight to the LTTE. A cause of concern among Tamil rights groups is the discipline among soldiers. Danger lurks when tension runs high. The soldiers need to be educated as much as the civilians. A peaceful co-existence between civilians and soldiers will lay the foundation for a civilian administration. The military is probing the possibility of conducting a public awareness campaign in Jaffna. They have been brain-washed to see Sinhalese as barbarians - the truth need to be told. Soldiers weary of Tiger infiltrators should be taught to exercise caution and treat the civilians with respect. They are learning, but the ground commanders should pay more attention to the elements within the ranks who could undo the good work done. A proposal that would introduce sweeping changes to the structure of the Army is now been deliberated. A more concerted military effort is on the cards and the stage is set for a decisive showdown. The Navy meanwhile is strengthening its manpower and equipment that would enable it to provide a better logistical support to the army. Rear Admiral Terrence Sundaram, a veteran sailor with wide experience has been appointed to command the Navy's Southern headquarters.

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