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'Lankan army killed surrendering LTTE leaders'

By T V Sriram in Colombo
December 13, 2009 20:02 IST
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Sri Lankan forces eliminated surrendering Tiger leaders on the orders of the defence secretary who had instructed that 'all Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leaders must be killed,' ex-army chief general Sarath Fonseka has claimed, prompting the government to describe it as a 'great betrayal.'

In an explosive interview to The Sunday Leader, Fonseka, opposition presidential candidate, said no information was communicated to him in the final days of the war that three key LTTE leaders -- Nadesan, Pulidevan and Ramesh -- had opted to surrender.

Fonseka said that communications were instead confined between the LTTE leaders, Norway, various foreign parties, the member of parliament and the powerful senior adviser to the president, Basil Rajapaksa, and such information was never conveyed to him as he supervised the final stages of the war.

"Later, I learnt that Basil had conveyed this information to Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa who in turn spoke with Brigadier Shavendra Silva, commander of the Lankan army's 58th division, giving orders not to accommodate any LTTE leaders attempting surrender and that they must all be killed," he said.

Fonseka's remark drew sharp reaction from the government which described it as a 'great betrayal.'

Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, who addressed an urgently called media briefing, said Fonseka owes an explanation on his charges as it would tantamount to speaking against the army which had a clean record.

Samarasinghe, who along with two other ministers attended the media briefing, said this contradicted Fonseka's own statement on July 10 where, among other things, he said he was being restrained from taking action against the LTTE.

Fonseka, who resigned last month accusing the government of sidelining him, said it was president's advisor Basil Rajapaksa together with Gothabaya Rajapaksa who through foreign intermediaries conveyed a message to the LTTE leaders who wished to surrender to walk out carrying a piece of white cloth.

"It was their idea," he said, adding sometime between midnight on May 17 and the early hours of the next morning, the three men and their family members were shot dead.

The government later claimed that troops found bodies of three key LTTE leaders identified as Balasingham Nadesan, political head of LTTE, Seevaratnam Pulidevan, head of LTTE peace secretariat, and senior LTTE commander Ramesh during the mop-up operations on the morning of May 18, the paper said.

When asked whether the government would consider taking legal action against Fonseka for such an accusation, Mass Media and Information Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said, "We cannot answer that question. We will have to study the legal aspects and consult the legal books."

Meanwhile, Presidential Advisor Basil refuted this 'damning' charge. "The Norwegians never got in touch with me over this particular incident. I have been in touch with the Norwegians over various issues pertaining to the conflict but never once on this particular issue," he added.

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T V Sriram in Colombo
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