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'SL Army killed surrendering LTTE leaders'

Sri Lankan ex-army chief and presidential candidate Gen Sarath Fonseka alleged that during the last days of the war in May, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had instructed a key army commander that all LTTE leaders must be killed and not allowed to surrender, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Dec 14, 2009 02:00 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The Presidential election campaign in Sri Lanka is getting increasingly murkier. On Sunday, common Opposition candidate for President and former army commander Sarath Fonseka alleged that during the last days of the war in May defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had instructed a key army commander that all Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leaders must be killed and not allowed to surrender.

"General Fonseka explained how on the night of May 17 this year desperate efforts of three senior LTTE leaders trapped in the war zone to save their lives failed as they were instead shot dead as they prepared to surrender to government forces," the Sunday Leader said.

Senior Presidential advisor, Basil Rajapaksa, who said that no intermediary - Fonseka said Norway was among the parties trying to negotiate surrender - got in touch with him, denied the charges.

In an interview to the newspaper, Fonseka absolved himself from any blame, saying he had no information about the defence secretary's instruction and only got to know about it later.

The government had claimed that troops found bodies of three key LTTE leaders identified as Nadesan, Pulidevan and Ramesh during the mop-up operations in the last LTTE stronghold on the morning of May 18.

Interestingly, Fonseka himself was on a visit to China from May 11 and returned to Colombo only on May 17, a day before the government declared victory over the LTTE.

He is all set to square off against incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is the defence secretary's elder brother, on January 26.

Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said Fonseka's statement was a "betrayal based on untruth." He said the "reported statement had not only betrayed the nation, but the very army that he led at that time."

Samarasinghe read out a statement Fonseka made on July 10 where the former army chief had said the 'army never killed any terrorist leader who surrendered with white flags in their hands.'

"These two statements of Fonseka are contradicting each other," Samarasinghe added.

Asked whether the defence secretary and the army commander named by Fonseka would take legal action, he said the matter was being studied and discussed.