Terrorist Air Attack – 2009
The Sri Lankan Civil War, waged between separatist Tamil rebels and the government of Sri Lanka – a conflict which has run hot and cold over 26 years, and has cost over 70,000 lives – may now be approaching its end. The ethnic Tamil rebel force called The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (or LTTE, or just “Tamil Tigers”) has been fighting for the creation of an independent Tamil state since 1983, using both conventional warfare techniques and terrorist methods. Since 1987, the LTTE has claimed responsibility for nearly 200 suicide attacks, more than any organization in the world. Now, since late 2008, aggressive Sri Lankan government forces have dealt many serious defeats to the LTTE, capturing towns and airfields, and recently trapping the remaining 1,000 (estimated) LTTE rebels in a 37 square km (15 sq m) area, surrounded by 50,000 government troops. Army shelling and retaliation by desperate rebels has led to many recent civilian casualties, and an estimated refugee population of over 200,000. The Sri Lankan government has exercised tight control on media over the years, limiting coverage of the conflict and allegedly inciting its supporters, and several journalists have paid with their lives.
Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels launched an air attack on the capital Colombo Friday night, with one aircraft being shot down and another one dropping a bomb on a government building. Anti-air shots are fired in Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka, Feb. 20, 2009. The two aircraft of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) entered the city at about 9:30 p.m. local time (0400 GMT). The power was cut in the whole city and anti-air shots were fired in the capital for more than one hour. Aviation officials said the Katunayake airport was temporary closed and some incoming flights were diverted to India. The air raids come as the military claim its war against the LTTE is nearing its end as the rebels have been cornered into an area less than 100 km in the north. The LTTE made its first air attack against the capital in March2007, followed by at least eight other air raids against military and other targets in Colombo and other areas. Claiming discrimination at the hands of Sinhalese dominated governments, the LTTE has been fighting for more than two decades to carve out a Tamil homeland in the north and east for the minority Tamils.
The Tamil Tiger rebels called the air raid on the Sri Lankan capital a success, despite planes missing their stated targets. One hit the main government tax office in central Colombo, killing at least two people and wounding 53, the military said. Due to the crash of the terrorist aircraft in Colombo 47 people have suffered injuries. According to the sources at the National Hospital Colombo, two of the injured were succumbed to their injuries.
Friday around 9.45 last night’s LTTE air raid on Colombo was a nerve wracking experience for many people particularly for those who were in the Fort area and were caught up in the heavy firing that occuured as the light aircraft crashed onto the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) building. The explosion that occurred with the crash damaged several buildings including the Convention Centre, Trans Asia Hotel and the Air Force headquarters. There were many people attending functions at several star class hotels that stud the area. While some hotel officials followed proper procedure, of moving guests to the lobby and basement areas, some did not. Residents and office workers rushed to rooftops or balconies to see what was unfolding after power was shut down and news began to spread of an impending LTTE air attack. The Sunday Times spoke to some of the eyewitnesses.
M. M. Chalosinghe, who works at the Sri Lanka Scouts Headquarters, right next to the IRD said he saw the plane flying between two buildings amidst a lot of flares. “There were flares everywhere, like fireflies. Then we heard the sound of gunfire. After that the power went off and we heard a loud explosion above our heads,” he said.
Mr. Chalosinge’s colleague R. T. David who was with him during the incident, said, he saw the plane heading towards Beira Lake and turning back towards the IRD building. “We saw the plane between 9.30 and 10 p.m. It flew towards the lake and turned back again and flew towards the building. There was a loud noise and the building shook. Everything fell to the ground. Both of us ran into the bathroom and hid in there for about an hour,” he said.
Gamini Situge, the security guard on duty at the St. John Ambulance Services centre located right in front of the IRD building said he saw a huge ball of fire overhead followed by a loud sound. “It must have been around 9.15 p.m. Searchlights and flashes were trying to track the plane. About 20 minutes later we saw the plane coming from the direction of the Beira Lake and flying overhead. Suddenly there was a huge ball of fire and a loud noise,” he said.
Transport Manager of the St. Johns Ambulance Service said 16 of its ambulances sustained heavy damage following the crash. The main building, its equipment and the guardroom were also damaged due to the impact of the explosion. Meanwhile, there were several high society events taking place in the star class hotels in the vicinity when the air raids got under way. The Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo was the venue of the Colombo fashion week that was taking place on it’s rooftop with US Ambassador Robert O’ Blake, among the invitees. Many invitees to the function, who were shaken by the experience were irked by the attitude of the management of the hotel who did little to evacuate people to the safety of the basement of the hotel and instead asked people to remain on the rooftop where they could have been exposed to gunfire or falling shrapnel.
“After the power was turned off, we were told that the Defence Ministry had knocked off the lights as a precaution of a possible air attack but shortly after the lights were turned on and the show got underway again. There was loud music and amidst that we began to hear sounds of firing. It was then that we realised what was happening,” an invitee to the fashion show said.
The show was stopped then but the person in charge asked everyone to remain calm and be seated and it was after several guests insisted that they be shown the fire exit to make their way down, that they managed to leave the rooftop. While some of the invitees chose to remain, several walked down the fire exit from 9th to the ground floor to get into the lobby area and safer environs.
At the Hilton Hotel among those who experienced unnerving events was the Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs Jamal Bawatna. However, in this hotel the staff had evacuated the guests from all floors to the lobby areas and basement and asked them to remain there till the power came on and things returned to normal. This procedure was followed at many of the other hotels as well with people being asked to stay inside till the power was turned back on. Meanwhile the Colombo International Airport was shut down for several hours last night and flights diverted to Chennai due to the air raids but things returned to normal by this morning, airport officials said.
‘Once a Scout Always a Scout’ Project
The headquarters building of the Sri Lanka Scout Association (SLSA) at 65/9, Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha, Colombo 2, a National Scout Organisation (NSO) of the largest worldwide voluntary children’s movement, the World Scout Organisation, was severely damaged as a result of terrorists’ air-borne attack on February 20, 2009. All work connected with around 50,000 scouts in the 37 scout districts islandwide is controlled by the headquarters and therefore the SLSA has planned to have six-storeyed building at the very same location, to answer their needs. The Executive Committee of the SLSA is expected to complete the building before 2012, which will coincide with the centenary year of scouting in Sri Lanka. By focusing on the popular slogan ‘Once a Scout Always a Scout’, the Executive Committee proposes to call for contributions from present and former scouts of Sri Lanka and other donors, as the contributions received so far is found to be insufficient to complete the project.
New Scout Headquarters Declared open of SLSA
Chief Scout, SL President Maithripala Sirisena Declared open the newly built headquarters of Sri Lanka Scouts Association at the Chittampalam A Gardiner Mawatha in Colombo, 2015.12.22. The five-story building complex is equipped with all modern facilities. The building was constructed to streamline the administration works of the Sri Lanka Scouts Association. Addressing the gathering the President said that the government will provide every possible assistance to develop the Scouts Movement in the country. He further said that the greatest movement in this world to create a society where human values are nurtured and protected is the Scouts Movement.
At present, more than 50,000 school students are being engaged in the Scouts Movement and the President suggested to implement a program with the aim of increasing the number of students to 100,000. The president also urged the officials of the Education Ministry and the school principals to provide the required assistance in this regard. The President was presented a special memento by the Chief Commissioner of Sri Lanka Scouts -Prof. Nimal de Silva and subsequent to that President Sirisena presented a memento to Prof. Nimal de Silva for his immense contribution to the Scouts Movement in Sri Lanka. The officials, including the Sri Lanka Scouts Association (SLSA) Chief Commissioner- Mr C Batuwangala, district scout leaders and others participated in the event.
Coordinates: 6°55’48″N 79°50’54″E