No peace offer from Prabhakaran – only war
Posted on June 11th, 2011
H. L. D. Mahindapala
The very brief intervention of the Defense Attaché to the US Embassy in Colombo, Lt. Col Lawrence Smith, at the seminar on terrorism in Colombo last week, attended by 40-nations, was a severe blow to the post-Vadukoddai War campaign launched to denigrate Sri Lanka in the eyes of the world. In his few words he targeted (1) the credibility of the anti-Sri Lankan campaign whipped up currently by using the report of the Advisory Panel of Experts (APEs) commission privately by Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, (2) the process by which information is gathered from second hand, third hand and fourth hand sources by the APEs and the international community (particularly in “the fog of war”) and (3) the validity of the offers of surrender purported to have come from the last remaining rump of the LTTE.
All three factors are critical for an accurate assessment of not only the last days of the Vadukoddai War but also the post-Vadukoddai period which has now entered a completely different phase in which the West, cranked up by the Tamil expatriates and their agents in Churches, media and left-wing lobbies, has ganged up to punish Sri Lanka for ending the war against their wishes. Quite bluntly, Lt. Col. Smith says that “the second, third and fourth hand ……stories don’t seem to all quite match up.” He is, of course, not only questioning the stories of the field commanders at various levels but also the LTTE high command. He says that the “the offers to surrender that I am aware of seemed to come from the mouthpieces of the LTTE — Nadesan, KP — people who weren’t and never had really demonstrated any control over the leadership or the combat power of the LTTE.”
He is a seasoned military attaché of the US Embassy who had been following the events on the ground from 2008. Like everyone else he knew that the final authority in the LTTE was Velupillai Prabhakaran. At no stage did Prabhakaran offer to surrender. In fact, even at the last stages he was expecting “outsiders”, particularly the Indians, to come and rescue him. He was calculating on a regime change in the Indian elections which was also held on the last days of the Vadukoddai War. But the results went against him. His last gamble was to go up on the eastern bank of Nandikadal on May 18, 2009 not to surrender but to cut across Nandikadal and get to the other side of Mullativu, planning to escape through the jungles to the east and to carry on his campaign of terror from the hinterland of the east.
I happened to be one of the first journalists to visit the area in June, 2009. Re-reading my notes to write this report I found a first-hand account given to me by Lt. Col. Rohitha Aluvihare, Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion of the Vijaya Infantry Regiment. He said that Charles Anthony, son of Prabhakaran, who was leading his band of men, breached the defences of the Army at Nandikadal on 18th May a.m. He broke through the first line of defence but he ran into the second defence line in the interior and was killed in the battlefield. Soldiers found 12 million rupees in his possession.
For any surrender to carry the weight of credibility it should have come from either Charles Anthony or Prabhakaran. Neither made any such statement. Neither was ready to surrender. Both were trying to escape by fighting their way out, if possible.
On 18th May, around 3.30 a.m., Lt. Col. Aluvihare got a report saying that the troops were confronted with heavy firing from an island near the eastern bank. Sgt Bandara and eight others were fighting in the island just off the eastern bank of Nandikadal. He was informed that nearly 100 terrorists had surrounded Sgt. Bandara’s unit of eight.
“I sent another team to assist them. The terrorists then escaped through the mangrove in the left side of island,” said Lt. Col. Aluvihare.
Fighting went on till 5.30 a.m. According to military intelligence the last rag-tag of the LTTE forces were coming up Nandikadal in groups of 30. Soosai and Pottu Amman were followed closely by Prabhakaran. There was heavy fighting. Security Forces lost 4 and 8 were injured.
Fighting took place in the thick mangroves on the banks of Nandikadal. There was a lull in the fighting. Forces planned to clear the mangrove. But before that the Forces brought down artillery, armoured tanks, infantry mortars and RPGs to make it a strong base. Firing went on till 11 a.m. on the 18th.
After the firing stopped from both sides, Col. G. V. Ravipriya, Commander Task Force 8, sent commandos to clear the mangrove areas 3.30p.m. Nearly 100 bodies were found stuck or floating in mangroves. The first round of clearing was over by 6.30 p.m. It was getting dark.
Next morning 7.30 a.m. clearing started again. Those who went to clear were confronted once again by a group of LTTErs hidden in the mangroves. Message came requesting for help. Col Ravipriya said: “I sent troops to help.” Fighting went on till 9.30 a.m. Even on May 19th there was no offer of surrender. The firing stopped when the last of the LTTErs were defeated in battle. The last shots were fired on May 19. That was the end of the battles at Nandikadal.
Then the collection of the bodies began again. It was in this count that Sgt. Muthu Banda informed Col. Ravipriya that a body similar to that of Prabhakaran was found in the mangroves. Muthu Banda was asked to bring it ashore. “ Then,” said Col Ravipriya, “ we identified the body. Around him were another five bodies in uniform. They were presumably body guards. The head was bleeding. I touched the head it was still warm.”
Brigade Commander Col. Gamage was also the first to identify the body. Soldiers found the identity card and a tag marked 001. They had taken it out of his neck. Prabhakaran had two pistols – one which he ha used frequently.
Soldiers also recovered a T56 rifle with telescope, a bag of medicine, mainly with diabetic remedies.
Prabhakaran was a man on the run with no place to hide. His attempt to cut across the Nandikadal to get to the opposite bank in the west and escape through the Mullativu jungles were cut short by the forces who fought his cadres in the island in the eastern side.
The last resting place of Prabhakaran in Nanthikadal. Security Forces maintain that the green sandbag was the last place on which Prabhakaran’s head was rested for identification. In the picture is Mahindapala viewing the sandbag
All this confirms the statement of Lt. Col. Smith that there was no credible offer of surrender from the LTTE leadership. Prabhakaran and his cadres did not come with white flags. They were hoping to fight their way out, going across the Nandikadal to the other shore. The offers of “mouthpieces” like PK and Nadesan, could not be considered as credible peace offerings because the leader and his son were still fighting on the 18th of May 2009 – the last day of the Vadukoddai War.
Besides, Prabhakaran had refused to heed the request of the international community to surrender and sue for peace. Had he made an official statement and appealed to the international community or UN the Sri Lankan government would have been in a fix. Erik Solheim, the pro-Tiger facilitator, is on record saying that Prabhakaran was asked to stop the war and negotiate for peace five months before May 18th. Clearly, there was no serious offer of peace coming from the LTTE. As Lt. Col. Smith says, the statements of the “mouthpieces’ have no credibility.
In any case, by the time the “mouthpieces” intervened pleading for peace the war the war was all but over. The Tigers had lost territory. Lost the international support. Lost all hope of India coming to their rescue. Lost all routes of escape from land, air or sea. And, worst of all, forced to use his own Tamil people as a human shield. He was, in fact, shooting the Tamils who were running away from him.
It was a pathetic end of the man who claimed to be the sole representative of the Tamils. Even the people whom he claimed to represent abandoned him, leaving him with no new recruits to fill the depleted cadres. Only the deluded Tamil expatriates were behind him but at a distance of thousands of miles to be of any use to him. They were the great heroes performing in the streets o the West instead of standing next to him. They were play acting in Western capitals without fighting shoulder to shoulder with him in Vellamulliwaikkal.
The LTTE leadership was on the run hoping against hope that the West or India would come to their rescue. The only option available was for Prabhakaran to surrender, as instructed by Erik Solheim, and put an end to the war. But boosted partly by his expatriate “advisors” who gave him the dead rope of rescue coming round the corner and partly believing in his own myths of invincibility he carried on until a gun shot to his head ended his futile career in the brackish water of Nandikadal.
Predictably, the State Department dismissed Lt. Col Smith’s statement as a personal remark which was not endorsed by the Obama administration. This is not surprising. On major issues it has a tendency of believing only its concoctions like (a) the Gulf of Tonkin incident of 1964 where the faked story of Vietnamese attacking American vessels in the Gulf was used to launch a massive offensive against Ho Chi-Minh, (b) Colin Power’s fictitious report of finding WMDs in Iraq and (c) Hillary Clinton’s outrageous statement that there are different kinds of terrorists, meaning that only those who attack America are terrorists and the others are freedom fighters.
As for Prabhakaran, he dug his grave long before Nandikadal. He dug his grave when he assassinated Rajiv Gandhi. There too it was his sadistic compulsion to view his own bestial acts in operation that convicted him. The photographs of Dhanu, his angel of death, who garlanded Gandhi, sealed his fate. In days gone by Indians were familiar with the saying: Beware the Greeks bringing gifts. Now they are more wary of Jaffna Tamils bringing gifts of garlands (poomalais).