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Transcript- Major General Shavendra Silva

08 September 2010

 Major General Shavendra Silva


Maj. General Shavendra Silva: Honorable members of the Commission, since I was made aware of the fact that I should face this most honorable Commission sitting here, I have looked for a variety of past separatist rather than observe the factual evidence for the allied accusations  aftermath on the case of terrorism in this country. As I am very much aware of the time factor here, I will not go in to details as to how the operation was done.

 In short, as the Commander  Task Force I of the Army briefed later renamed as the 58th Division started this operation from the rice bowl of Mannar and cleared the entire rice bowl, then went up to Wedithaltivu as the Navy Commander was talking about the western sea we as the 58 Division completely  cleared the western coast and my division was given the target up to Pooneryn and we managed to capture Pooneryn, we cleared Pooneryn before 2008. Thereafter the humanitarian operation as briefed was brought as the Commander mentioned to Paranthan, my Division managed to rescue the people there and thereafter Kilinochchi, then Elephant Pass and the famous township of Pudukiruppu.

I was tasked by the Commander to do the biggest civilian rescue mission which is known as the biggest rescue mission in the world which was shown by the UAV pictures at Puthumathalan. As Commander briefed at this operation specially the Commission asked this question from the Commander also, as the Commander briefed, we managed to breach a gap of about a kilometer in Puthumathalan identifying the LTTE locations, identifying the LTTE ditches over a period of 3 weeks and my troops, actually my Division was tasked for this entire operation along with commandos and special forces went in and came behind their lines. At 1.00AM in the morning where LTTE at that time I had identified that was the time during that week where they basically close their alertness and that time was selected and attacked LTTE from behind and the firing totally came in to our side where my troops by that time were over a kilometer away so there can’t be any question about any civilian casualties there when we captured Pudumathalan.

 You would have seen from UAV pictures how people came when we breached the lines and there were three LTTE suicide attacks within the civilians. Also if you really realize the civilians casualties other than the suicide attacks were mostly from behind, their gunshots were fired from behind. They were actually running to our side. So these are little things during that operation.

Also the question was asked about the people who surrendered at the rice bowl, that was the first time we captured an LTTE female, that was shown on TV and thereafter we had another captive in uniform and she was injured and she was airlifted by the Sri Lanka Airforce to Anuradhapura and thereafter to Colombo and the articles were published in the media after she was interviewed by the Media personnel.  Then thereafter we managed to capture 3 female cadres and I think the pictures are here with us, these captive girls and they in fact told how the LTTE treated them and she in fact told me and she thought we would kill them but how we treated them was shown on TV and the media as well.

{Video Clip being shown}

Actually the officer is telling to come out and we will treat you as human beings and if you get the volume and you could, if you get the volume you will realize her expressions from the time of capture and until when we say how it changes there. These are the two girls and I think there were many articles about them and I think at the moment she is teaching in some school. She was a combatant and she told us that by that time she was a teacher and all these teachers with her 200 teachers paid by the government, getting salaries from the government and they were fighting against the government forces.

Then also there were attacks when I was handling the rescue operations of civilians who fled and came, there was a suicide attack the previous day, I myself visited this place and it was shown in the TV and on the following day we were hunting for this and they exploded in the presence of civilians at the refugee centre at Vishvamadu. Actually Vishvamadu is the place where we got a fair amount of civilians coming earlier may be it was in few hundred and thereafter you could see how we have kept the facilities for all these civilians, these are civilians, we also lost, we had about 19 male and female soldiers who got killed in this incident and another 30 got injured.

I think time is short if not I could have shown enough of to show how humanely the Sri Lanka army  along with the other three services and the Police supported this humanitarian operation and the word human how humanely the government forces have handled this operation. When the civilians were coming in actually we had adopted, especially at Puthumathan the army established many points to receive them. As the Navy Commander was talking, all LTTE cadres who were coming, now those rehabilitated cadres did not come from anywhere else they were walking and coming with the civilians. With them we had many suicide attacks. Our soldiers had to expose themselves in such a way where we had to treat then  a few minutes back they were firing from the other side, then anyone coming we did know whether he or she was a LTTE cadre or a civilian  that we had to treat them as civilians and we had to risk our lives 100%.

Even in Pothumal it was the same thing, when we rescued there were 3 explosions took place, we have pictures of those. There were 3 suicide attacks on the civilians. We should be able to provide those pictures. These are own soldiers who got killed the ones lying down are the ones that got killed whilst we were handling the civilians there. We have enough clips of this nature to show how humanely we have conducted the operation. Well the last 2 weeks as Commander said there were accusations that artillery was used but we did our operations, my division and 53 and 59 divisions  who was tasked at the last minute and the last 350 meters that task were given to my division and my division finished on the 18th. There we only were using the small arms and we always plan our operations in such away where we were given the target as zero casualties so we would have done many things to finish off the operation long before this but if we had gone like we kept to the last minute the zero casualty thing we wanted to adopt and keep that record although there would have been here and there but we wanted to achieve that and so this is how the operation was basically conducted.

I want to mention here one incident where the LTTE was talking about bombing of a hospital inside Pumathalan in Vellamulli Vaikal general area. One of the foreign media showed that this hospital is damaged and the hospital. Once this areas was captured I had not only local reporters, but Indian media was taken to the spot within an hour’s time. The hospital it was totally intact and nothing of that nature was there, this is one example I am telling you there were such allied allegations against the Sri Lanka forces but on and off during the operation we have showed all these things and even when the last week of the operations were taking place there, foreign and local media were there and they have reported these things.

If I talk about the operation it would take a long time, I don’t mind answering any questions the honourable commission would wish to ask from me.

Paliahakkara: The hospital report was it Mr. Reddy who reported that?

Silva: Sorry Sir, I am not sure which one, it was a foreign media who reported that but on the following day itself the Sri Lankan media and although the Indian media showed that, one Indian journalist she was talking there and it was shown by our media at that time I remember that the hospital was intact and nothing of that nature happened there. And also what we saw when we entered the hospital there were no civilians treated there it was only the LTTE that were treated there.

Paliahakkara: LTTE was firing from behind civilians towards you, so without using mortars how can you neutralize that.

Silva: When they were coming Sir, we had no option. In a situation where civilians were taken in at that time no firing took place, we couldn’t fire at all we had to allow people to come in. In operations where the line is different there was a clear demarcation where our troops and their troops, we always knew that the LTTE was actually had certain lines where we had to infiltrate and take them from behind most of the time. We couldn’t have a frontal assault as such to the LTTE lines but there were certain bunds like earth bunds places like that where of course we had to adopt, but of course then we knew through the UAVs.

It was an asset as the Commander of the Army said that from the beginning of the rice bowl my division was provided with an UAV facility even the Commander of the Air Force present CBS gave my division even the controlling panel at Kilinochchi where I would have controlled. The Officers of the Air Force who are here , one officer, the UAV officer in charge was actually located in my headquarters, so I had the pictures most of the time, every thing, every incident was seen and planned through the UAV at that time because at the last stages of the operation we just did not go blind everything was planned through UAV pictures and where we exactly knew where the civilians and the LTTE were and where we found that least a little bit of confusion whether the civilians are too close to the LTTE cadres we had to resort to other means and buy time to separate the two parties.

Paranagama: After the suicide bombers crept into the civilians, after they did the damage, did you’ll take precautions thereafter. What is the precaution you’ll take?

Silva: What we did was when we were selecting earlier we had small sort of huts like things, few gunny bags kept for civilians came to clear them. Just imagine at Pudumathalan over hundred thousand people coming and may be 25 centers we have opened to clear people. To clear every civilian it would take 1 to 3 minutes and to clear the entire lot because people have got separated from the LTTE and were running and coming, we can’t drag them from the no man’s land so we had to give our lives away to ensure that this is being done so we improved the shelter where we were clearing people so that there won’t be much damage even a suicide bomber exploded the search area was improved  but it was improved with the experience that we gained over a period of days during that time.

Hangawatte:  Is there any video or even medical records that would substantiate the fact that civilians running towards the military were fired from behind by the LTTE.

Silva:  Yes, there were many incidents from the beginning; they fired, whenever they started firing initially and when they realized that thousands were going they had to stop the firing. So out of the hundreds of thousand we have rescued of that you may be able to find enough of casualties specially those who took the initiative to come at the beginning of such incidents. Not only that when hundreds were coming, they stopped, every morning we announced, we put a cassette, put Tamil songs in Pudumathalan side, then we used to announce, also leaflets were dropped by the Sri Lanka Air Force in to the no fire zones giving indications for them to come, such things have happened. Surely if you interview some of these people you can get this information.

C. R de Silva: I think I must take this opportunity of thanking the three Commanders and the field Commanders who are here along with the other military personnel who took leave from their heavy schedule of duty and made themselves to us to help us in our deliberations. I must thank you once again for having spent nearly four hours with us.






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