US suspicions of credibility of LTTE surrender offer make sense
Posted on June 6th, 2011

Don Wijewardana

 US Defence Advisor Lieutenant Col. Lawrence Smith questioned the very basis of the allegation of war crimes levelled against the Sri Lanka Army, especially the “ƒ”¹…”killing of a group of LTTE personnel and their families carrying white flags’ on the Vanni east front. He made this comment at the symposium on the Sri Lankan combined military campaign that defeated terrorism.

 Lieutenant Col. Lawrence Smith is not a new comer to Sri Lanka. He had been the Defence AttachƒÆ’†’© at the US Embassy in Colombo since June 2008 “”…” at the height of the Eelam War IV. While those who allege human rights violations do this from thousands of miles away Lieutenant Col.  Smith was following the actual events on an hour to hour basis from within the country. He went on to say “Regarding the various versions of events that came out in the final hours and days of the conflict “”‚ from what I was privileged to hear and to see, 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.

 So their offers were a bit suspect anyway and they tended to vary in content, hour by hour, day by day. I think we need to examine the credibility of those offers, before we leap to conclusions that such offers were in fact real.

 And I think the same is true of the version of events. It’s not so uncommon in combat operations, in the fog of war, as we all get our reports second, third and fourth hand from various commanders at various levels, that the stories don’t seem to all quite match up.”

 Documenting the events relating to the surrender confirms what Lt Col Smith says. For instance On 15 May 2009, three days before the war ended, President Rajapaksa had reiterated an earlier appeal he had made to the LTTE to surrender to armed forces unconditionally. B. Muralidhar Reddy, reporter for the Indian Frontline who was embedded with the security forces in Mullathivu noted “Frontline learnt from impeccable sources that from Jordan Rajapaksa sent a message (on 15 May) to the ICRC that his government was ready even at that late stage to accept the surrender of the Tiger leaders if it was unconditional. The message was duly conveyed but the initiative failed because the Tigers were ready to surrender only to a third party and not to the military”[1].

 On 17 May, the day before the war ended, Balasingham Nadesan had contacted Marie Colvin, senior journalist with The Sunday Times (London), on his satellite phone in the early hours of May 17 and asked her to broker surrender. “We are putting down our arms. We are looking for a guarantee of security from the Obama administration and the British government. Is there a guarantee of security?” he had asked her[2].

 But Prabhakaran was not keen on the idea. Living in a bunker without proper intelligence he was certain that at some point the military drive would come to a halt. Thus he continued to stay put. According to veteran journalist DBS Jeyaraj earlier the Tiger leader was relying very much on a massive counteroffensive planned to destroy army defences in the Puthukkudiyiruppu region. But the debacle at Aanandapuram resulting in the deaths of 623 cadres including his charismatic northern force commander “Col” Theepan put paid to those plans.

 Even after this, as the army drew closer and closer to the beleaguered Tigers the senior deputies began entreating Prabhakaran to withdraw from the war zone. But Prabhakaran, stubborn and obstinate, would not listen.

 As the circumstances became increasingly perilous Prabhakaran’s recently appointed global chief Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP) tried to salvage the situation. KP went into action immediately and got a number of western countries and the United Nations involved in a possible rescue bid. On the early morning of 17th May he was pleading with the United Nation’s Vijay Nambiar to arrange for surrender.

 This was the day before the war ended. As Smith says KP was not a combatant. In fact he was living in Thailand at the time. Neither Nadesan nor KP had any control over the leadership. As such, when KP conveyed the plan, which he thought was brilliant given the circumstances, to Prabhakaran he was furious[3]. Prabhakaran not only rejected the idea to surrender but also reprimanded KP saying, “Unakkum Porattatm vellum endru Nambikkai Illaiyaa”? (Do you also not have faith that the struggle will succeed). That was on 17 May the day before it all ended. So it is very clear that till the very end Prabhakaran did not agree to surrender although his deputies were frantically pursuing the option. But these deputies had no control over the leadership. It all makes sense.

And if Nadesan decided to break rank and surrender to the army, in spite of his earlier insistence on a third party, and in spite of Pranhakaran’s disapproval, it is most likely that he was shot from behind by Prabhakarn’s own militia, for insubordination. 

[1] B. Muralidhar Reddy in the war zone, FINAL HOURS, An eyewitness account of the last 70 hours of Eelam War IV Vol:26 Iss:12  URL: http://www.flonnet.com/fl2612/stories/20090619261200900.htm.

[2] Marie Colvin, “ƒ”¹…”Tigers begged me to broker surrender’, the Sunday Times (London) Internet Edition, May 24 2009.

[3] D.B.S. Jeyaraj, LAST DAYS OF THIRUVENKADAM VELUPPILLAI PRABHAKARAN “”…” Part 2 – Posted on 01 June 2009 by Sailanmuslim, http://www.sailanmuslim.com/news/?p=1165

One Response to “US suspicions of credibility of LTTE surrender offer make sense”

  1. radha Says:

    I would think that the stage managed surrender was equally likely a deceptive front for a breakout. If not why would the flag carriers (if there were genuine) bring a company of armed terrorists on their heels, as reported by one recent Tamil journalist to Guardian. At the time of those final operations, there had been other such desperate bids to break out by terrorists masquerading as innocent civilians bringing armed groups immediately behind them. Sure, they were taking a high risk, “Do or Die ..!!!” but to those who ignored the President’s several requests to surrender their arms and come out, there was nothing much to lose at the final hour. Well, where is the video evidence to show which direction the bullets flew first?

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