Revisiting Eelam War IV


It is a cliché to say that the study of Eelam War IV is a complex topic. But such a truism has to be reiterated over and over again in the face of the propaganda war that has prevailed from the outset in 2006 to this day — given the plethora of half-truths, fabrications and slipshod assessments that have beset the topic.

The literature in print, internet and visual (videos, photographs) media is as enormous as complex. For a single person to master the data is well-nigh impossible. Though I have engaged in this work from early 2009, I find that “new data” enters my compass every week. By “new” I mean material that I was not aware of or have not had time to digest.

85a-february_09_vanni_04 from Tamilnet,com 93b-Medivac-09_05_09__Mulli-vaaykkaal_23

The Wikileaks material disclosing the despatches from the US Embassy in Colombo has been in the public domain for some time, but it was not till mid-2014 that I could turn to my mind to this storehouse — choosing to begin with 2009. The process of study is slow and my selective reproductions have just commenced with one body of despatches. I stress here that these documents are as revelatory as mind-boggling; while giving weight to some of the contentions in Daya Gamage’s article on the ideological leanings of the US State Department and the embassy personnel.

More or less in parallel my exploratory study of the impact of the campaign Api Wenuwen Api mounted by TRIAD in 2007 to encourage enlistment in the fighting forces of the government generated fresh insights in my store of knowledge — some emanating from comments emailed by friends. One note from Lakshman Gunasekera[1] usefully highlighted the ramified interconnections between sectors of the mercantile world and the present Rajapaksa government. This is not merely a case of patronage, but also embraces complex reciprocities as retired officers from the various armed services secure appointments in major private firms. A complex interconnection between business and the Ministry of Defence has surely been built up over the past two decades; but its apotheosis has been during the last five or six years with the plethora of development projects, with Hambantota Port, Colombo Port and UDA among the most outstanding ventures, all spelling opportunity for both private and public gain. In brief, the enmeshment of private sector, military sector and civilian government sectors has solidified.

As a second illustration let me refer to essays on the battle scene by Tammita-Delgoda presented in 2009 which had escaped my attention — even though I accessed his outstanding article for the Centre for Land Warfare Studies in Delhi. SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda had utilised his familial connections to gain access to the war front with some of the SL Army’s fighting regiments during the last stages of the war in the Vanni Pocket in 2009. He was well and truly embedded with these units unlike the short and quick visits for most foreign journalists that the Ministry of Defence organised from time to time. Moreover, Tammita-Delgoda brought to his observations an analytical capacity and a power of pen that easily outdoes the run of the mill reporter, whether foreign or local.

I shall soon be re-presenting two of the Tammita-Delgoda articles that I had missed, while continuing to present collections from the US despatches. This reportage will be a precursor to my own analysis of the mis-readings and shenanigans of the American diplomats/politicians during the last phase of the war.

But, in the meantime, readers will also have to evaluate the Marga venture seeking to chart a “Third Narrative” as a via media between that of the LLRC and the various UN reports (notably the Darusman Panel and the Petrie Report). When one adds these documents to other pertinent literature, such as the two UTHR Reports No 32 and 34, IDAG on “The Numbers Game”, the books by Gordon Weiss, Frances Harrison and Engage Sri Lanka, the series of essays by Sergei de Silva-Ranasinghe in security journals and an assorted collection of academic articles, the task facing a noviciate in the field is mind-blowing.

Significant holes in our stock of data remain. Most notably, we desire Wikileak exponents to provide us with the documents marshalled by the Defence Attaches in the US, British and other embassies in Colombo and whatever data they can leach from Foreign Ministry personnel back in the major capitals of the West. nasebyWhen Lord Michael Naseby visited Sri Lanka in early 2009 the Defence Attache at the British embassy told him that the Sri Lankan army was taking “a measured approach” in its advance against the LTTE domain.[2] This is an early evaluation. But it suggests a line of thinking that is at odds with the position taken by the British government via Gordon Browne’s telephone badgering and David Miliband’s admonishing viceregal visit to Sri Lanka in late April 2009.[3] One suspects that military men had better awareness of the situation on the battlefront than educated but cloistered civilians. So the views within the ‘war machines’ in London, Washington and France would be a welcome addition to our store. That wish is a dream.

ADDENDUM: Over the course of the next few months I will be adding other items from Tammita-Delgoda, the US Embassy Despatches and Tamil protagonists as well as myself. Michael Roberts, 23 September 2014.


Darusman Report 2011 Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts report on Accountability in Sri Lanka, March 2011…. POE_Report_Full.pdf.

Defence Ministry 2009Army annihilates terror pocket in Anandapuram; LTTE loses its final stronghold in Puthukkudiyiruppu,”

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009a “Political and Security Implications of Sri Lanka’s Armed Conflict,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, Feb. 2009, Vol. 35/1, pp. 20, 22-24.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009b “The Battle for the Vanni Pocket,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, March 2009, Vol. 35/2, pp. 17-19 — 156554.html

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009c “Tiger Trail. Strategic Defeat of the LTTE and its Implications,” Force, April 2009, pp. 50-54.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009d “Sri Lanka’s Experience in Counter-Insurgency Warfare,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, October 2009, pp. 40-46.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009e “Good education. Sri Lankan military learns insurgency lessons,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, December 2009, pp. 2-7.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009f “Maritime Counter-Terrorism and the Sri Lanka Navy,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, November 2009, 35: 32-33.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009g “Lessons in Maritime Counter-Insurgency,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, January 2010, 36: 50-53.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2010a “Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil War,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010, 30/4: 35-37, http://wwwasiapacificdefencereporter. com/articles/40/Sri-Lanka.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2010b “Downfall of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,” 6 June 2010,\.

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2010c “Civilian Casualties, IDP Camps and Asylum Seekers,” Sunday Leader, 28 Nov. 2010.

Engage Sri Lanka 2013 Corrupted Journalism: Channel 4 and Sri Lanka,

Harrison, Frances 2012 Still Counting the Dead. Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War,London: Portobello Books.

Harshula 2011a “When allegations becomes evidence,” 6 June 2011,

Harshula 2011b “Channel 4 ‘Killing Fields’: Journalism, Advocacy or Propaganda?” 13 Sept. 2011,

Hewavitharana, Siri 2011b “Channel-4 video a ‘fake’, concludes video forensic analyst,”

Hewavitharana, Siri 2011c “UN misled on Channel 4 video,” 6 August 2010,

Human Rights Watch 2009 “Repeated shelling of hospitals a war crime,” 8 May 2009,

IDAG 2013 “The Numbers Game: Politics of Retributive Justice,” OR

Jane’s Naval Intelligence 2009 “Sri Lanka learns to counter Sea Tigers’ Swarm Tactics,” March 2009, pp. 20-26.

 Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2009a “Anatomy of the LTTE Military Debacle at Aananthapuram,” Sunday Leader, 8 April 2012 —

Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2009b “Fraudulent concept of a “fire-free, no-fire, safe zone,” 18 April 2009,

Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2009c “Wretched of the Earth break Free of Bondage,” Daily Mirror, 25 April 2009,  

Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2010 “KP speaks out ~ 2 – An Interview with the Former LTTE Chief,” 13 August 2010,

Narendran, Rajasingham, 2009 “Rise and Fall of the LTTE — An Overview,” Sri Lanka Guardian, 7 Feb. 2009.

Noble, Kath 2013 “Numbers Game reviewed by Kath Noble: the full monty,” 14 July 2013,

Padraig Colman 2011 “The Cage by Gordon Weiss,” Island, 13 May 2013, 2

Prasad, Kanchan 2011a “Indian Reporter Pics at NFZ-14-to-18 May 2009,”

Prasad, Kanchan 2011b “Mullivaikkal Hospital in NFZ Last Redoubt,” in

Reddy, B. Muralidhar 2009a “An Escape from Hellhole,” 2009042558390100.html.

Reddy, B. Muralidhar 2009b “Multiple Displacements, Total Loss of Identity,” 2009/05/27/stories/2009052755811500.htm

Reddy, Muralidhar 2009c “A first-hand account of the war and the civilians’ plight as Eelam War almost comes to a close,” Frontline, 26/11, May 23-June 5, 2009

Reddy, Muralidhar 2009d “An eye-witness account of the last 70 hours of Eelam War IV,” Frontline, 26/12:  June 6-19, 2009.

Roberts, Michael 2010e “Dilemmas at War’s End: Thoughts on Hard Realities,” 10 Feb. 2009,, rep. in Roberts, Fire and Storm, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, pp. 267-74.

Roberts, Michael 2010f “Dilemma’s at War’s End: Clarifications and Counter-offensive,” www., rep. in Roberts, Fire and Storm, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, pp. 275-87.

Roberts, Michael 2011e “Amnesty International reveals its Flawed Tunnel-Vision in Sri Lanka in 2009,” 10 Aug. 2011,

Roberts, Michael 2011f “The Tamil Death Toll in Early 2009: A Misleading Count by Rohan Gunaratna,” 23 November 2011,

Roberts, Michael 2012a “Inspirations: Hero Figures and Hitler in Young Pirapāharan’s Thinking,” Colombo Telegraph, 12 February 2012, http://thuppahi.… rep. in TPS: Essays, 2014: 69-89.

Roberts, Michael 2012a “Velupillai Pirapaharan: Veera Maranam,” 26 November 2012,

Ross, Amanda 2010 “Sleeping with the Enemy, Tekwani lived with the Tigers,” UPI Next, 16 Nov. 2010,

Tammita-Delgoda, S. 2009 Sri Lanka. The Last Phase in Eelam War IV. From Chundikulam to Pudumattalan, Manekshaw Paper No. 13. Also reprinted in index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=10164.

Tammita-Delgoda, S. 2009b “The Casualties of Sri Lanka’s War,” 16 April 2009,

Thangavelu, Velupillai 2013 “LTTE Cadres Who Surrendered To The Army: Where Are They? Colombo Telegraph, 18 August 2013,

Vidura 2009 “The Great Escapes,” Sunday Leader, 17 May 2009.

Weiss, Gordon 2011 The Cage, Sydney: Picador.

Wijayapala, Ranil 2009 “Troops advance into last Tiger Terrain on Three Fronts,” Sunday Observer, 10 May 2009,

Yatawara, Dhaneshi 2009 “Entrapped Civilians seek salvation in Force,” Sunday Observer, 17 May 2009,

UTHR 2009 “A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding,” Special Report No. 32, 10 June 2009,

UTHR 2009 “ Let Them speak: Truth about Sri Lanka’s Victims of War,” Special Report No. 34. 13, December2009,


[1] Email 4 September 2009.

[2] “Dear Mr Roberts, I met the Uk Defence attache in January 2009 in Colombo and listened to his assessment of the war up to about Kilinocchi. He left me with the impression that he was impressed with the measured approach of the Sri lanka Army. I have written several times to the Foreign Office asking them to release his despatches as he was there until the end of the war. I am now going to see if I can use the Freedom of Information Act. I am not sure where you live but if we could meet at the House of Lords it would be really good. Lord Naseby” … Email Note, 17 June 2014.

[3] This note is based on grapevine gossip from pro-government Sri Lankan journalists who covered the visit and witnessed the imperial bluster adopted by the two Foreign Ministers, Miliband and Kouchner (for European Unon). For other reports, see apr/29/miliband-sri-lanka-tamil-tigers.


Filed under accountability, american imperialism, atrocities, authoritarian regimes, British imperialism, Indian Ocean politics, law of armed conflict, LTTE, military strategy, politIcal discourse, power politics, Rajapaksa regime, security, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, tamil refugees, Tamil Tiger fighters, terrorism, truth as casualty of war, UN reports, vengeance, violence of language, world events & processes

2 responses to “Revisiting Eelam War IV

  1. Pingback: After the Battles: Tammita-Delgoda’s Images from the War Theatre | Thuppahi's Blog

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