ECONOMYNEXT – The controversial "white flag killings" were actually due to a botched surrender arranged by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa to save some of the senior Tiger leaders who had helped him to come to power in 2005, parliament was told Friday.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the assembly that Rajapaksa had wanted to save the LTTE’s peace secretariat chief S. Puleedevan for engineering his election victory in 2005 by organising a Tamil boycott of the vote and thus blocking votes for the UNP candidate.
President Rajapaksa won his first term by the narrowest of margins in Sri Lanka’s political history thanks to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) enforcing a boycott of the presidential election. Had Tamils voted, Wickremesinghe was expected to have won.
Wickremesinghe also made a startling allegation that the August 2005 assassination of foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was also linked to Rajapaksa’s plan to come to power.
The then president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had wanted to name Kadirgamar as her successor, but Rajapaksa rebelled and mounted a major campaign to secure, first the prime ministership and then the presidential nomination.
Wickremesinghe said plans to bribe the Tigers had been discussed at Temple Trees, the official residence of the prime minister when Rajapaksa was premier.
Wickremesinghe said there was no doubt that the Tigers killed Kadirgamar, a key contender for the presidential nomination, clearing the way for Rajapaksa.
"There is a connection between the Kadirgamar assassination and the presidential election," Wickremesinghe said. “The kadirgamnar assassination must be thoroughly probed and all this will come out.”
He said Rajapaksa was keen to save Puleedevan who had been the key figure who engineered Wickremesinghe’ s narrow defeat at the 2005 vote.
"Who wanted to save Puleedevan? Who put the November 2005 deal through for Rajapaksa," Wickremesinghe said. "Why did the regime want to save Puleedevan? I don’t like people being killed, but Puleedevan is a man whose actions put the Tamil community in jeopardy.
"I do not shed any tears for Puleedevan. If not for him, Rajapaksa would not have been able to take power. It is by trying to save Puleedevan that the country is now facing this white flag crisis.
"Instead of leaving battle field decisions to field commanders, the then government tried to interfere. They were negotiating a surrender."
Wickremesinghe suggested that a senior military commander may have been getting conflicting signals about the surrender and that led to the killings.
The then Sri Lanka’s top official Palitha Kohona had asked the Tigers to carry white flags, walk slowly and give themselves up to the military.
Later, the Tiger leaders were found dead and the UN as well as the Paranagama commission has called for an independent judicial investigation in to the killings after characterising it as a war crime.
Wickremesinghe suggested that local field commanders had carried out the shooting without being fully aware of the negotiations between the Rajapaksa regime and Puleedevan, a fact that is well documented by United Nations diplomats who were involved in the process.
"If it was not a surrender that was negotiated, we won’t be facing this problem today," he added.