12/12/2009

Spurning LTTE attempt to surrender during the final battle likely to be a key issue at coming presidential poll


The government yesterday said that a fresh attempt was being made to blame the Sri Lankan government for turning down an LTTE offer to surrender a few days before the army wiped out the last organised LTTE resistance on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

A top government spokesman told The Island that this was an Opposition strategy to denigrate the Sri Lanka government before the international community. Responding to our queries, he said that the Opposition had fuelled speculation that the Norwegians had contacted Basil Rajapaksa, MP after the LTTE sought their help to facilitate an unconditional surrender. He said that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had been accused of dismissing the LTTE appeal when it was brought to his notice by his brother Basil before directing the 58 Division to finish off the Tigers.

This was likely to be a key opposition standpoint at the presidential election.
Shortly after the army had wiped out the remaining LTTE cadres, including Velupillai Prabhakaran in the third week of May during a series of battles, the Tamil Diaspora, too, accused the government of spurning an LTTE bid to surrender. Referring to a statement attributed to former Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka, at his inaugural press briefing at the JAIC Hilton, an aide to President Rajapaksa said that the Opposition presidential candidate had declared that the offensive could not have been halted even if the international community demanded it. The press quoted the war veteran as saying that they (the military) had reached a point of no return.

The government emphasised that the LTTE had ample time to surrender had it really wanted to before being cornered on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. The government said that the top LTTE leadership could have easily negotiated its surrender through the ICRC as the international relief agency had a presence on the ground to facilitate the evacuation of the sick, wounded and the elderly.

"In fact, we expected them to make overtures through the ICRC but they never did," the aide to the President said. He regretted that the Opposition had sought to make political capital out of purely a security issue at a time even the harshest critics of the government had changed their approach. He was referring to the US position recently articulated by Ambassador Robert Blake that the defeat of the LTTE had created a tremendous opportunity for the people of Sri Lanka. "For the first time in over a generation, Sri Lankans live in a country that is not divided by war or marred by violence," he told the media last Wednesday after meeting President Rajapaksa.

The government had also conveniently forgotten that almost 300,000 held by the LTTE, too, escaped during the final stage of the battle and reached the army-held lines. Among them were Prabhakaran’s parents and over 11,000 LTTE cadres, including child combatants, the government said. Had they bothered to check what the army and the Justice and Law Reforms Ministry had accomplished over the past few months, they would know that the prisoners of war were well taken care of. In fact, Justice and Law Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda went to the extent of moving some of the child soldiers to the Hindu College, Ratmalana, the government said.

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