White Flag incident
White Flag incident is the massacre of surrendering LTTE leaders and their families by the Sri Lankan Army on 18 May 2009 in Mullivaikal, Mullaitivu, Vanni, Sri Lanka.LTTE's Political Wing leader Balasingham Nadesan and Pulidevan agreed to surrender and they contacted the United Nations, the governments of Norway, United Kingdom, United States and also ICRC and had been assured by Mahinda Rajapaksa and told to surrender at a particular place by the Basil Rajapakse. LTTE's request for a third party witness to oversee the surrender was not granted. They surrendered to the 58 Division (Sri Lanka) carrying White flags and were reportedly shot dead. Sarath Fonseka and the then Sri Lankan Army Chief said that they had been shot dead on the orders of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to Shavendra Silva Commander of the 58 Division (Sri Lanka). Balachandran Prabhakaran the son of LTTE Chief was also killed after surrendering along with his bodyguards. UN Panel states the LTTE leaders intended to surrender. Sri Lankan Government has denied the accusations.
In the waning days of the Sri Lankan Civil War, the remnants of the LTTE, running low on ammunition and manpower, found themselves trapped in an area of a little over 3 km in Mullivaikal with the Sri Lankan Army closing in on them. Tens of thousands of civilians were trapped by the Sri Lankan Army with the LTTE. Despite the organization’s belief that surrender was cowardly and that it was better to fight to the death, on May 14, 2009 discussions began to negotiate a possible surrender. Negotiating on behalf of the LTTE was political head, Balasingham Nadesan, and peace secretariat, Seevaratnam Pulidevan.
The Tamil Tiger political leaders managed to negotiate a surrender on the last day of the war. Agreeing to, as Nadesan told British journalist Marie Colvin, “abide by the result of any referendum” and pleading for a ceasefire, the LTTE sent desperate messages through every channel they could think of – the United Nations, the Red Cross, European diplomats and intermediaries, Tamil parliament member Rohan Chandra Nehru, and The Sunday Times reporter, Colvin. It was all a desperate attempt to save the lives of an estimated 300 fighters and their families. Even Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa was aware of the negotiated surrender. On May 17, 2009 Marie Colvin received a call from Nadesan asking that she relay to the United Nations that, “they [The LTTE] would lay down their arms, they wanted a guarantee of safety from the US or Britain, and they wanted an assurance the Sri Lankan Government would agree to a political process that would guarantee the rights of the Tamil minority.” According to Colvin, she established contact with Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and relayed the LTTE’s conditions for surrender, which he in turn agreed to relay to the government.
By the night of May 17, the LTTE had no more political demands, but requested Nambiar to be present to guarantee their safety in surrender. Nambiar told Colvin that he had been assured by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa of the surrendering combatants' safety, all they had to do was “hoist a white flag high”. Nambiar told her that the President’s assurance was enough and that his presence was unnecessary. At 1:06 AM on May 18, 2009, Nadesan made his final call to Tamil MP Chandrakanth Chandranehru saying they were walking towards the Sri Lankan military and, “I will hoist the white flag as high as I can.” According to witnesses, Nadesan’s Sinhalese wife was among the front of the surrender party.
Hours later, the Sri Lankan Army announced that the Nadesan, Pulidevan, and the LTTE members accompanying them had been killed. That evening they displayed their bodies. The Sri Lankan Government has given various contradicting explanations of the deaths – from denying the surrender to claiming that those surrendering were shot by their supporters in the back. General Sarath Fonseka, the commander of the Sri Lankan Army at the time, claimed Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa gave instructions to Shavendra Silva, commander of the 58 Division, to kill the surrendering LTTE. Many witnesses have come forward to say that the Sri Lankan Army killed the surrendering LTTE members. Pictures have surfaced of Balachandran Prabhakaran, the 12-year-old son of LTTE founder and leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, alive, unharmed and in custody of the military. A photo from a few hours later shows the boy’s dead body shot in the chest five times. Other photos have appeared of Isaipriya, the LTTE TV broadcaster, alive and in the custody of the Sri Lankan military. Footage obtained by Channel 4 News shows a number of dead bodies, including that of Isaipriya, which showed signs of possible sexual assault. These emerging eyewitness reports, photos, and videos are part of the mounting evidence of Sri Lankan soldiers summarily executing captured Tamils in the closing stages of the war.
The “White Flag Incident” was heavily featured in a UN report which not only upheld the credibility of war crimes allegations against the Sri Lankan government and led to the launch of a full investigation, but called into review the UN’s actions at the end of the war as well.
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