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Tigers cannot afford full scale war –– new Army Chief

by Harischandra Gunaratna
Courtesy The Island 17-12-2005

New Army Commander Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka yesterday asserted that the LTTE does not have the capability to launch a full scale conventional war as they had been weakend considerably.

He said the strength of the LTTE hardcore members was around 4,000 to 5,000 while the rest were child soldiers and inexperienced cadres.

He said However, we have to strive for an honourable peace and that should be our ultimate goal. There is a need to re- establish contact with the LTTE hierarchy and I have directed the field commanders in the North to commence a dialogue with them as there is a communication breakdown right now he said".

He said the Army was prepared to face any eventuality and one of his priorities would be to groom the Army to keep pace with other around the world. Explaining about the needs of the Army the Commander said "We have to re- structure and strengthen the force while changing the tactics adopted in warfare. We alsohave to enhance our technical knowledge. Another important factor is that we have to be equipped with modern weapon systems as most of what we possess now are obsolete weapons purchased around 20 years ago." Responding to a question on whether the LTTE will take his appointment , as the Commander of the Army, as a formidable challenge, he said "Certainly, they will judge it on my capabilities in their past experiences with me on the battle field. I have not lost a single battle against them. The civil war in the North and the East has been taking a respite during the last three years after the CFA was signed. Our officers and men are not in a frame mind for war and training has to be stepped up," he said.

The commander said these shortcomings however cannot be overcome overnight as the LTTE had increased it’s firepower, taking advantage of the CFA.

Asked about the killing of Army personnel in Jaffna, including four men and a officer yesterday in Nallur, Lt Gen Fonseka said "These type of incidents have to be stopped". He pointed a finger at the LTTE saying that there was no other guerilla outfit operating in the North and East other than the LTTE.

When asked what he would do to eliminate such killings he said "I will stick to the same rules and methods I adopted when I was Security Forces Commander in the North three years ago."

Expressing his views on the CFA he said it has to be revieved as the President has quite rightly said in his ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’. He added that though the CFA has been welcomed by the International community as a good political manoeuvre, militarily it had been a disadvantage as the LTTE had gained the advantage.

Speaking on the High Security Zone (HSZ) he said there are around 14,000 families who have been evacuated and they will be compensated.



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