LTTE surrendered, then was killed. UTHR(J)


For those unfamiliar with UTHR(J), they are a group of former professors, Tamils all, which has been critical of both sides in the Sri Lanka conflict– one of the few relatively unbiased sources of information and analysis on the conflict. Â They have strongly criticized both LTTE and GOSL, resulting in the assassination of one of their founding members by the LTTE in 1989.  They have lived in hiding since then in fear for their lives.

Rajan Hoole, leader of the group, is the author of The Broken Palmyra (available for viewing online) which is, along with Sinhalese author T. D. S. A. Dissanayaka’s War or Peace in Sri Lanka (Volume II), one of the finest books on the origins of the conflict.

Now UTHR(J) has released a report on the closing days of the war based on interviews with witnnesses.  It includes this disturbing report:

“Desperate attempts to surrender by Nadesan and Pulidevan of the LTTE’s political wing have been documented by Andrew Buncombe [3] in the Independent (19th May 09) and by Marie Colvin[4] in Timesonline (24th May 09). They involved contacts between the LTTE’s international support group, Chandra Nehru Jr. MP, the UN, ICRC, Norway’s Environment Minister Eric Solheim and from the Government, President Rajapakse, his brother Basil and Secretary to the Foreign Ministry, Dr. Palitha Kohona. It was agreed that they would be safe if they hoisted a white flag, walked towards the Army and surrendered. Nadesan had said he had 300 people with him, some of them injured… After speaking to Chandra Nehru about 6.20 AM on the 18th, the party went with a white flag in a group of about a dozen men and women. Colvin quoted a source, who said, the army started firing machineguns at them. Nadesan’s wife, a Sinhalese, yelled in Sinhalese at the soldiers: “He is trying to surrender and you are shooting him.” She was also shot down. All in the group were reportedly killed.” (1.4.1)

The report also concludes,

“Given also persistent stories of a massacre from within the Army itself, an important task of an inquiry should be to lay bare the fate of those injured in the last week and what really happened from the 17th May evening to the 18th morning when the fighting ended.” (1.4.2)

In Section 1.6, the report notes that even some of the military’s own publicly-released photographs includes evidence of the slaughter:

“Some of the victims [depicted in the photos] had been executed by shooting into the ear. One wonders what made the Defence Ministry take pride in displaying these pictures.”

Previously, GOSL has maintained that victors are always pardoned for their sins. But did the U.S. and the Allies massacre captured soldiers when WWII ended? Or the alleged terrorists it captured in Afghanistan and Iraq? The analogies used by the Rajapakse administration don’t hold water.

This report suggests that GOSL went far, far beyond the bounds of necessity or decency, not only violating the Geneva Conventions and its contract with the Sri Lankan people, but reaffirming its own role as terrorists in Sri Lanka.


  1. The elusive “DJ” — this blogs resident Sri Lankan expert finally has decided that covering for the slaughter in Sri Lanka by blaming the LTTE may indeed have is limits.

    None other than the UTHR(J),–” one of the few relatively unbiased sources of information and analysis on the conflict” — has ruled that the Sri Lankan government followed a brutal agenda in the closing days of the war.

    “DJ’s” formulation nonetheless is almost bizarre. How can any group — Tamil or not — be “unbiased during a civil war.”.

    “DJ” definitely isn’t.

    For the more than 20 years a section of the East Timorese elite worked hand in glove with the Indonesian occupiers as the Vichy government did with the Nazis in France. And in both instances retributions were enacted by the resistance forces. That doesn’t justify it but it certainly puts the LTTE’s actions in context of a dirty war.

    Now as the condition of the Tamil populace worsens , as thousands are treated as criminals and camps are turned in concentration camps…. As the Sri Lankan government sponsors the movement of Sinhalese into the Tamil zones with the direct complicity of the West, all “DJ” can write about is maybe, just maybe, the GOSL “went far, far beyond the bounds of necessity or decency”. Of decency!

    Come on “DJ” — go do the sums and tell your readers how many Tamils have died at the hands of the government or Sinhala mobs between 1983 and this month. And then make a ruling about how much terror the Tamil minority has had to live through for over two decades.

    • No, DJ isn’t unbiased. He lived in Sri Lanka for quite a while volunteering for a grassroots Buddhist organization that was working to end the civil war. And almost did. They did, at one point, broker a cease fire. Which is probably a whole lot more than you’ve or I have done there.

      DJ has repeatedly said atrocities have been committed by all sides. Why do you deliberately keep ignoring this?

      And since the tone of your posts towards him on this has been uniformly nasty as well as fast and loose with the truth, if it happens again, you’re out of here.

      His name is DJ. That’s what everyone calls him. Including me. I’ve known him 20 years. So why put his name in quotes – except to imply he’s something he’s not, which of course is precisely what you are doing.

      In fact Dave, maybe it would just be simpler if you didn’t come back here. You are no longer welcome.

    • About 75,000 people were killed since 1983. Roughly 2/3 of those were civilians, with the remaining third being combatants divided fairly equally between the two sides. Among the civilian casualties about 2/3 of those were Tamils and the remaining third Sinhalese. Since Tamils are a minority that means a much higher percentage of the Tamil population has been killed– but it’s still less than 1% of the Tamil population. It’s an appalling number, but those who call it genocide cheapen events like the killing of 1/3 of the population of Cambodia, the killing of all the Jews in Poland by the Nazis, or the elimination of 90% of Native Americans through war and disease.

      It is also important to remember that during that period, both GOSL and LTTE killed thousands of their own ethnicity (in the case of GOSL, tens of thousands) as well as civilians in the other’s constituency. Yes, GOSL killed an estimated 20,000 Sinhalese. And yes, LTTE killed anyone that opposed it, Sinhalese, Tamil, or Muslim. At the beginning of the war, there was a coalition of six or more Tamil organizations, all fighting the government. But LTTE purged the others, either wiping them out or forcing them to switch sides. (EPDP and PLOTE still exist, but are allied with GOSL and rely on it for their survival.)

      And neither side had any sympathy for the ambitions of the Tamils in the east for their own self-determination– both LTTE and GOSL treated them as a colonized people not worthy of participation. In the case of LTTE, that’s because the easterners differ in caste and culture from the northerners. They were seen as cannon fodder and farmers for the north. That’s a difference the Sinhalese neither acknowledge nor care about: the Easterners are still Tamils. The LTTE also had no interest in the estate Tamils– low-caste Tamils brought as slaves from India by the British, who though freed at independence still mostly live in extreme poverty. The CWC (their political party) has always remained squarely allied with GOSL.

      Dave has sadly missed my consistent and strong criticism of GOSL, especially under the Rajapakse administration. For example, in 2005-2006, LTTE made unofficial moves toward becoming a civil institution rather than a military dictatorship. This is not to say they were nice guys, but rather that there WAS a real possibility of solving the underlying causes of the conflict. But Rajapakse didn’t want peace– he wanted victory, and at any cost.

      Dissanayake, a Sinhalese, says that GOSL failed at every step to make peace. There are pragmatic political reasons for that. The Sinhalese “nation” is actually a loose ethnic group fragmented by cultural, economic, and even language differences. In the 1950s, Bandaranaike was the first of many politicians to unite that fragmented society by identifying the Tamils as “enemy.” That excuses nothing, but it is an essential fact if one is to understand the conflict. How can the poverty-stricken Sinhalese in Hambantota demand their fair share from the elites in Colombo when there’s a war to fight? (Of course, they DID demand their fair share, and nearly took over the country in a reign of terror from 1987 to 1989, before being wiped out by GOSL in a worse reign of terror.)

      There’s plenty of blame to go around. The war was, sadly, over whether the LTTE could share power with the Colombo elites– not whether the Tamil people (or anyone else) could participate in the governing process. Whether the LTTE won or lost, the underlying problem would have remained: the average Sri Lankan of any ethnicity, whether under GOSL or LTTE, remained (and remains) as powerless as ever.

      BTW, did you know that LTTE drafted children from every family living under their control to fight GOSL– even Sinhalese? They forced Sinhalese to fight alongside Tamils against the Sinhalese government. I actually view that as evidence of their evenhandedness, but it is a fact little recognized by either GOSL or the media that they had Sinhalese in their ranks.

      Dave seems to view the LTTE as a bastion of democratic freedom for the Tamil people. I challenge him to show that the LTTE ever held an election in its de facto state– or ever permitted a dissenting opinion. That doesn’t mean GOSL is a bastion of democracy either– but in my book, replacing one oppressor for another isn’t much of a step forward.

  2. BTW, the extent of my criticism of the Government of Sri Lanka causes me to fear returning to that country, as people far less critical than I have been jailed, beaten, or even killed. Maybe I’m not critical enough of GOSL for Dave, but I’m critical enough to put my safety in jeopardy.

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