|Part of the Sri Lankan civil war, Eelam War I|
|Military of Sri Lanka||Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Lt. Gen. (later Gen.) Nalin Seneviratne,
Brig. (later Lt. Gen.) Denzil Kobbekaduwa,
Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Vijaya Wimalaratne,
Maj. (later Col., Secy Def) Gotabhaya Rajapaksa,
Maj. (later Col.) Lucky Rajasinghe
|Casualties and losses|
|689 killed||631 killed|
The Operation Liberation or Vadamarachchi Operation, the military offensive carried out by the Sri Lankan military during May to June 1987, to regain the territory of Vadamarachchi in Jaffna peninsula from LTTE control. This military offensive is marked in Sri Lankan military history as the first-ever engagement in conventional warfare on Sri Lankan soil after British colonial rule.
Brig. Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Col. Vijaya Wimalaratne are the two key military personnel who committed themselves to gain the victory for the government troops. Former Sri Lankan President Junius Richard Jayewardene and minister of National Security Lalith Athulathmudali had given the political leadership for the operation until the government of India violated Sri Lankan air space using its air force to drop food over Jaffna (Operation Poomalai) on June 4, 1987, which forced the government to accept the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord.
The offensive started on May 26, 1987, under the leadership of two commanders with 8,000 troops from several battalions from Gemunu Watch (under the Command of Lt. Col. Vipul Botheju and Lt. Col. Wasantha Perera), Gajaba Regiment (under the command of Lt. Col. Sathis Jayasundara and Maj. Gotabaya Rajapakse) and Sri Lanka Light Infantry (under Lt. Col. Naradha Wickramarathne), supported by the Sri Lanka Air Force. The difficulty for the troops to break out from the Thondamanaru area was because LTTE forces blew up the Thondamanaru bridge to delay the government forces from reaching Valvettithurai, the native place of LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran. The eastern side of Thondamanaru was heavily mined by the LTTE and clearing of the mines and booby traps were left to a 2nd Field Engineer Squadron of the Sri Lanka Engineers commanded by Maj. Lucky Rajasinghe. The first day of the battle belonged mainly to the field engineer squadron and it’s brave commander. Engineers neutralizing and/or removing the mines and booby traps left by the LTTE forces, which was an incredibly dangerous task—in just four hours the squadron lost 42 men killed, including injuring its commander, Maj. Rajasinghe. However, the unit and it’s commander managed to break through the minefield, under intensive fire from the LTTE bunkers, with the support of troops from the 1 Gajaba Regiment commanded by Maj. Gotabaya Rajapakse. On May 28 troops managed to capture Udupiddy and Valvettithurai, and another column (commandos, under the command of Maj. Sarath Handapangoda) captured Nelliady and advanced towards Point Pedro without giving LTTE units time to regroup. By the first week of June the government forces managed to gain control over the entire zone and captured large amounts of arms left behind by retreating LTTE forces. Military intelligence discovered that LTTE leader Prabakaran, along with Sea Tiger leader Col. Soosai, narrowly escaped from advancing troops.
Though the second stage of this operation was launched on June 3, 1987, with the goal of capturing the city of Jaffna, the military abandoned it. Indian military cargo planes, escorted by fighter aircraft, infiltrated Sri Lankan air space and dropped humanitarian relief supplies in the Jaffna area on June 4, as people of Jaffna—mostly ethnic Tamils—were without food and other provisions. No weapons were dropped and there is no record of dropping food or other provisions to Tamil Tiger fighters, as opposed to civilians. Operation Poomalai, as it was known, was only a relief operation. It had no bearing in stopping the war. Indian forces landed in Sri Lanka on July 29 with the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord.
- Both Brig. (later Lt. Gen.) Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Vijaya Wimalaratne were killed on August 8, 1992, while making preparations for an operation to capture the Jaffna Peninsula.
- The current Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Lt. Col. (Ret) Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, participated in the military offensive, then as a Major.
- Dissanayaka, T.D.S.A.: War or Peace in Sri Lanka, Volume II. Swastika (Pvt.) Ltd., Colombo 1998.
- Dixit, J.N.: Assignment Colombo, ISBN 81-220-0499-7. (Dixit was the Indian High Commissioner during the 1980s negotiations that led to the IPKF presence.)
- Hoole, R., Somasundaram, D., Sritharan K., and Thiranagama, R. The Broken Palmyra - The Tamil Crisis in Sri Lanka: An Inside Account. The Sri Lanka Studies Institute, Claremont 1990. (Also available online .)
- Narayan Swamy, M. R.: Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas. Konark Publishers; 3rd ed. 2002, ISBN 81-220-0631-0.
- War and Peace in Sri Lanka: With a Post-Accord Report From Jaffna. ISBN 9552600014/ISBN 978-9552600012, Institute of Fundamental Studies, Sri Lanka; 1 edition (October 1, 1987), By Rohan Gunaratna.
- Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India's intelligence agencies. ISBN 9559519905/ISBN 978-9559519904, South Asian Network on Conflict Research (1993), By Rohan Gunaratna.
- Official websites
- The role of the air force during Operation Liberation
- Ministry of Defence, Sri Lanka
- Government of Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat
- LTTE Peace Secretariat
- Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission
- Independent reports and texts
- Texts of key agreements in the peace process and an analysis of the process by Conciliation Resources
- Report on the Sri Lankan peace process by Asiafoundation
- hWeb - Sri Lanka’s recent history of ethnic conflict and political crisis originates from its colonial legacy