5:09 AM

Re-Deployment Of Sri Lankan Forces

The government is in the process of re-deploying security forces including army volunteer units and Police Special Task Force (STF) in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and the Weli Oya region to facilitate the ongoing offensive on the Jaffna, Vanni and Weli Oya fronts.

The withdrawal of the STF from parts of the Ampara District for re-deployment in the North Central Province would be part of the overall security plan under which the three forces, too, would shift both men and material, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.

Dismissing allegations that the STF would be moved out of the Ampara-Batticaloa region to facilitate an electoral pact with the breakaway LTTE group TMVP ahead of the forthcoming elections to the Eastern Provincial Council, Rajapaksa said the STF would continue to maintain a sizeable presence in the Batticaloa District. In fact, their presence in the Batticaloa District would be strengthened to face any eventuality, he said.

The majority of STF units are deployed in the Batticaloa District, the main TMVP`s stronghold. The Defence Secretary criticised attempts to give a political twist to the re-deployment plans by linking it to the forthcoming Eastern PC election.

The former infantryman asserted that the re-deployment of both men and material would be inevitable as the offensive action on Jaffna, Vanni and Weli Oya fronts had reached a decisive stage. Fielding questions, he said the government would continue to shift troops to meet the overall military objectives. Nothing would be done to weaken the existing security arrangements in the Eastern districts of Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee where government forces had taken the upper hand with the fall of Thoppigala last year.

He said government plans are on track.

The Defence Secretary said the STF had the expertise and the capacity to enhance security in Padaviya, Kebitigollewa and surrounding areas that would facilitate the overall security objectives as the army advanced on LTTE positions on the Vanni and Weli Oya fronts. Their presence would boost confidence of the people, he said while urging people not to be misled by ridiculous statements. He asserted vital security considerations had to be met as the army advanced further into the enemy-held territory.

The LTTE struggling on all fronts is also believed to have re-deployed both personnel and assets, particularly heavy guns on the Vanni front in a bid to stall the army.

He rejected claims the TMVP had demanded the immediate withdrwal of the STF.

The areas vacated by the STF would be taken over by the army and the navy, he said. The official emphasised action was being taken under a cohesive strategy to weaken Tigers as repeatedly pointed out by the government and service chiefs.

In a recent interview with The Island, Army Chief Lt. General Sarath Fonseka said the regaining of the entire Eastern Province would be part of the overall campaign against the LTTE. He asserted various battles, offensive actions and related matters including deployment of men and material shouldn`t be considered in isolation but viewed with the overall picture.

Both the UNP and JVP had claimed the TMVP wanted the STF to quit the Batticaloa-Ampara region. Both parties had demanded the immediate disarming of the breakaway LTTE faction ahead of forthcoming Eastern PC elections.

Political sources said the then Elections Commissioner Chandrananda de Silva accepted the LTTE Political Front PFLT as a registered political party in December 1989 while it waged war against the IPKF. In fact, the issue of de-commissioning of arms hadn`t been at least discussed by UNP leaders, the sources said.