The Tamil Tiger rebels will never surrender, the head of the separatists’ peace secretariat told Reuters on Tuesday, despite their being outgunned in an apparent final offensive by the Sri Lankan military.
Seevaratnam Puleedevan, secretary-general of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) peace secretariat, urged the international community to intervene by forcing a permanent ceasefire, which Sri Lanka has ruled out.
The military says around 50,000 people have fled the Tiger-held area so far since Monday, and had given the LTTE until noon Tuesday, a deadline already passed, to surrender or be destroyed.
“LTTE will never surrender and we will fight and we have the confidence that we will win with the help of the Tamil people,” Puleedevan told Reuters by telephone. He said he was near the border of the no-fire zone in Sri Lanka’s northeastern coast.
The LTTE is surrounded there by around 50,000 troops expected to soon deal a final blow to the Tigers, who have waged war since 1983 to create a separate state for Sri Lankan Tamils.
LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran was inside the no-fire zone, Puleedevan said. “He is with us and he is directing the war against the Sri Lankan armed forces and providing a lot of support and assistance to the people,” Puleedevan said.
The LTTE founder created its culture of committing suicide by taking cyanide in case of capture, and of pioneering suicide bombing as a weapon of war. The latter has landed the LTTE on US, EU, Indian and Canadian terrorist lists.
Puleedevan accused the military of using Tamil civilians as human shields, an accusation the United Nations, a host of western countries and people who have escaped LTTE-held areas have made against the rebels.
“The time is running out for the international community to intervene, because you know that a bloodbath is going to happen,” he said. Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara categorically rejected the accusation.
“We have never used civilians as human shields. We were on the other side and the LTTE was shooting and killing people and using them as human shields. We went in and rescued them. How can anyone say we were using civilians as human shields?” he said. Puleedevan also accused the government of killing 1,000 people and wounding 2,000 on Monday via shelling.
The government has denied that and accuses the Tigers of creating a humanitarian crisis to build international pressure for a ceasefire to try and rearm, as they have done in the past.
The United Nations and witnesses who have escaped Tiger areas have repeatedly said the LTTE was shooting people who try to flee and forcing others including children as young as 15 to fight.
“People are giving full support to us and they are fighting with us, because the LTTE is fighting for them,” Puleedevan said.
“That’s why they are voluntarily joining and fighting with us. We are not taking any children with us in our armed forces.”
Sri Lanka’s air force on Monday released video taken from an unmanned drone showing what it said were people streaming out of the no-fire zone and congregating by the thousands at an army reception centre just outside of it.
Another one said showed what the air force said were Tiger gunmen shooting toward hundreds of people corralled tightly together at the edge of the surf. Muzzle flashes could be seen.