The Sri Lankan government on Sunday denied claims by a former army chief, who has turned presidential poll candidate, that orders had gone out not to spare rebel leaders who were willing to surrender during the final phase of the civil war which ended in May.
The final phase of the bloody war, which killed tens of thousands, concluded on May 18 after the rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed. But other senior members of the rebel Tamil Tigers were killed in the final week.
Since then diplomats, Tamil politicians and foreign journalists have said that some of the rebels in a desperate attempt contacted them to surrender in the final stages of the battle.
Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told a news conference in Colombo that the claim of the former army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, was false.
Fonseka has opted to contest the upcoming presidential elections against the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Fonseka has fallen out with President Rajapaksa's government after he was abruptly removed from the army chief's post, two weeks after he concluded the war, and was given another post which was considered a ceremonial office.
The rebels were carrying white flags in an attempt to fool the army and continue with the war, but they were not trying to surrender, Samarasinghe insisted.
Fonseka was quoted in the Sunday Leader newspaper as saying that orders were given by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to the field commanders that any of the rebel leaders trying to surrender should not be spared.
Head of the political wing of the rebels P Nadesan, head of the rebel Peace Secretariat S Pulidevan and military leader N. Ramesh were killed as they reportedly carried white flags and came to surrender to the army.