Category Archives: LTTE

The Gash Files IV: The War on Land

Michael Roberts, with emphasis in bold being my imposition

I will be reproducing pertinent sections of Lt Col. Gash’s “Situation Reports” (or Sitrep) verbatim below in single spacing with the date of each despatch specified at the outset, while indicating blacked out sections where pertinent. These reproductions are extensive and demand careful reading. Vital bodies of information will be highlighted in red as a guideline for readers; but they are encouraged to form their own appraisals.

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April 16, 2018 · 10:59 am

Saving Tamil Civilians by Sea: More on the ICRC-cum-SL Navy Operations: Admiral Travis Sinniah Speaks

Michael Roberts

I sent my article “Gash Files III” to Admiral (Retired) Travis Sinniah as soon as it was placed on web and was able to conduct an extended Skype-Chat with him on 12th April.[1] He had no major quarrels with the gist of that article. However, he stressed that the whole exercise was an extremely difficult one – involving difficulties that words cannot quite capture.

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The Gash Files III: Trapped Tamils Out by Sea in 2009

Michael Roberts

As evident then and as confirmed by subsequent accounts, during the last phase of Eelam War IV from circa December 2008 segments of the corralled Tamil population began to rebel against the privations and dangers they were being subjected to by the LTTE’s grand strategy. While a considerable section of the people remained loyal to the LTTE to the very end,[1] others secured release from their situation through the efforts of international agencies working in cooperation with the LTTE and involving[2] the ICRC acting in concert with the Sri Lankan Navy and the Red Cross.

  Also see Roberts: TPS. Pictorial. Fig. 95 and its details

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TIGERS AT THE GATE from ABC: Mark Corcoran reads Prabhakaran in Mid-1999

After seeing the ABC production in the FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT SERIES entitled Tigers at the Gate” in mid-1999 I had the temerity to criticize the ABC and its producer Mark Corcoran. I should have attended to the blurb which presented this documentary on the ABC web site. This note ran: “The truth is a political solution is as impossible as a military breakthrough because for the (Tamil) Tigers its all or nothing– a homeland or glorious death.” (signed Mark Corcoran).

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The Gash Files II: LTTE’s Strategic Design

Michael Roberts

In Despatch COL/2/08 of12 March 2009 Lt. Col Anton Gash has this summary appraisal for his superiors: The LTTE has been forcing the civilian population to move in accordance with their tactical requirements. The NFZ is rigorously policed and patrolled by LTTE cadres, who control access to food and medical facilities, ensuring that their own needs are met before any capacity is allowed for civilians.”

This is a critical observation pointing in the right direction. Nevertheless, it falls short of the mark. The mass of Tamil civilians was not merely a tactical element. They were a central pillar in the LTTE’s grand strategy. For one, they constituted a defensive formation: just so many sandbags restraining the full deployment of the government forces’ military weaponry. While the standard description of the civilians as “hostages” in HR and Western circles does point in this direction, the terminology is “weak” and does not fully capture the overarching strategic purpose of the corralled civilian mass. In addition to serving as a restrictive ‘bund’, the civilian mass provided an active incentive for Western intervention in favour of a ceasefire and some sort of “political solution.

 a tent citty in the Tigers’ last redoubt –-Pic from UNPoE circa February 2009

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The Gash Files I: About Lt. Col. Anton Gash

Michael Roberts

Lt Colonel Anton Gash was the “Defence Adviser” attached to the British High Commission from February 2007 to June 2009 and therefore observed and commented on the ongoing war to the UK Foreign Office. In this capacity he was a key figure in organising the training given to the SL armed services on International Humanitarian Law etc, between the 3rd and 8tth March 2008 under the supervision of Commander Alan Cole. Both Cole and Gash were specifically thanked by the SL Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, on this occasion.

Of upper class background, Anton Gash was educated at Eton (1978-83), read Classics & Literature & Linguistics at Oxford (1984-88) and completed his Defence Studies at Cranfield University and Kings College over the years 1996-98.

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Michael Roberts in Conversation in London, 8 March 2018

VISIT https://vimeo.com/259131094

Distinguished academic Dr Michael Roberts was in England recently and talked about his experiences and work including his online life as creator of the Thuppahi Blog (https://thuppahi.wordpress.com) …. This Q and A takes 60 minutes.

Pic by Eranga Jayawardena

Michael Roberts is a historian by training and has taught at the Department of History at Peradeniya University (1961-76) and the Department of Anthropology at Adelaide University (1977-2003). His major works are in agrarian history, social mobility, nationalism and ethnic conflict. Based on his interest in the Tamil liberation struggle and the sacrificial devotion mustered by the LTTE, he has written extensively on suicide missions. Michael Roberts has also edited several volumes on Sri Lanka entitled Collective Identities. In 2004, he retired as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Adelaide University, but continues to write articles.

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