It is a mystery that is unlikely ever to be solved: were two top aides of LTTE chief Prabhakaran shot in the back by own cadres or did government troops gun them down while they were approaching army officers with white flags?
The first seeds of doubt were sown by the pro-LTTE TamilNet website, which calimed that political chief B. Nadesan and peace secretariat head Puleedevan were shot dead while they were trying to surrender. It claimed that they were in touch with the international community and arrangements had been made for their surrender.
“We were instructed to make contact with the 58th Division of the Sri Lankan forces in the war zone, un-armed and carrying white flags… B. Nadesan and Puleedevan proceeded to do so. They were unarmed and were called on by the officers of the 58th Division to come forward for discussions. When they complied they were both shot and killed,’’ the LTTE’s chief of international relations, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, said.
The pair had contacted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the island’s former peace broker Norway, asking for the message to be passed to the Sri Lankan army, diplomats and aid officials told AFP.
“We were approached by the LTTE and Norway as part of our role as a neutral intermediary,” ICRC spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne said. She said that the message was passed to the Sri Lankan government.
“The next thing we heard was on Monday when the Sri Lankans said they were dead. But what transpired after the satellite phone calls, I don’t know,” an anonymous diplomatic source told AFP.
Foreign secretary, Palitha Kohona confirmed that the two wanted surrender. “I told them to…take a white flag and walk slowly towards the army lines in an unthreatening manner. What I learnt subsequently is that the two of them were shot from behind as they tried to come out. They had been killed by the LTTE,” he said.
(With agency inputs)