White flag surrender on May 18,2009 2/3

White flag surrender on May 18, 2009

Route to Surrender

The LTTE political wing leaders surrendered in three batches – sending one group first to ensure the surrender was accepted and the rest following. They were:

Group One: Pulidevan, Nadesan, Nadesan’s Sinhala wife Vineetha, Kangan (Nadesan’s head of security). In this group, Nadesan held the white flag.

Group Two: Illango (police, aka as Ramesh), Witness 3 & 2 men, all in sarongs and shirt. IN this group Illango held the white flag.

Group Three: four LTTE cadres.

At 0630 am on 18 May 2009, approximately twelve people left the bunkers carrying at least two white flags. All wore civilian clothing – the men were in white sarongs and shirts.

Witness 2 was lying on the embankment watching the surrender. He saw that the man carrying the white flag was Nadesan and he also identified Nadesan’s wife and Puidevan in this group.

The first batch to cross was met by two different teams of soldiers, including according to an eyewitness, the 58th Division Commander, Shavendra Silva (currently Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN in New York), who went up to greet them.

Several witnesses heard Nadesan’s wife shouting in Sinhala to the soldiers. One witness saw the men in the group had their hands held behind their backs by the soldiers though he couldn’t see if they were tied or handcuffed.

About twenty metres behind the first group was the second one led by the police chief Illango (also known as Ramesh) who was also carrying a white flag. Witness 3 was in this group. They passed many dead bodies and could hardly see the lagoon through the dense bushes. Witness 3 saw about 200 troops in the bushes. He then noticed the destroyed building surrounded by about 100 soldiers where Witness 1 was being detained. He confirmed seeing civilians inside this building.

The second group watched the first group approach the security forces. Witness 3 saw about 20-5 soldiers in uniform and armed with AK47 rifles surround the first group. He observed Pulidevan and Nadesan’s group being escorted across the bridge surrounded by soldiers.

Then his group was surrounded by armed soldiers. The police chief Illango spoke to the troops in Sinhala. Their group was surrounded and escorted in the same fashion across the bridge. Witness 3 was separated from the others and taken to a sentry post, interrogated and slapped and then loaded onto a bus and taken to a detention camp for former LTTE cadres.

May 18th 2009

Eyewitness 2

Witness 2 says about an hour or so after the surrender, he was on a dirt road parallel to the A35 highway and spotted the corpses of Pulidevan and Nadesan lying in a ditch by the roadside with soldiers standing around taking photographs. (see map)

“I instantly recognised the bodies of Pulideevan and Nadesan. I knew as soon as I looked at their bodies that they were dead. Both men were lying on their backs in the ditch.

 Eyewitness 3

Witness 3 was part of the second batch of cadres who surrendered during the white flag incident. He had stayed in a bunker close to the political wing leaders Pulidevan and Nadesan and was not privy to the full details of their surrender negotiations though he knew these discussions were going on from 16th May. He was later briefed by Pulidevan on the details of the surrender plan:

“We were told that we would have to surrender unarmed and raise a white flag. We were told to throw away all military equipment…Pulidevan told us our security had been guaranteed by the security forces.”

Eyewitness 4

This witness saw Pulidevan and Nadesan and others walking towards the bridge at dawn on 18 May 2009. He later met Col. Ramesh (from Batticaloa) who was in civilian dress and moving towards the bridge. As they crossed the bridge in a crowd of people, Col. Ramesh told Witness 4 that the political leaders including Pulidevan and Nadesan had already crossed the bridge carrying a white flag. He said he didn’t think there would be any problems because everyone had surrendered.

“The sound of crying and pleading and the smells of explosives, blood and dead bodies was beyond endurance. There was no one at this time to bury the corpses. I had to overcome my normal reactions and emotions and exhaustion and simply try to focus on saving my family As I tried to escape south towards Wadduvakal, I saw dead bodies and blood spread everywhere. I had to step over the corpses as I walked.”

Route to Surrender

The LTTE political wing leaders surrendered in three batches – sending one group first to ensure the surrender was accepted and the rest following. They were:

Group One: Pulidevan, Nadesan, Nadesan’s Sinhala wife Vineetha, Kangan (Nadesan’s head of security). In this group Nadesan held the white flag.

Group Two: Illango (police, aka as Ramesh), Witness 3 & 2 men, all in sarongs and shirt. IN this group Illango held the white flag.

Group Three: four LTTE cadres.

At 0630 am on 18 May 2009, approximately twelve people left the bunkers carrying at least two white flags. All wore civilian clothing – the men were in white sarongs and shirts.

Witness 2 was lying on the embankment watching the surrender. He saw that the man carrying the white flag was Nadesan and he also identified Nadesan’s wife and Puidevan in this group.

The first batch to cross were met by two different teams of soldiers, including according to an eyewitness, the 58th Division Commander, Shavendra Silva (currently Sri Lanka’s deputy Permanent Representative at the UN in New York), who went up to greet them.

Several witnesses heard Nadesan’s wife shouting in Sinhala to the soldiers. One witness saw the men in the group had their hands held behind their backs by the soldiers though he couldn’t see if they were tied or handcuffed.

About twenty metres behind the first group, was the second one led by the police chief Illango (also known as Ramesh) who was also carrying a white flag. Witness 3 was in this group. They passed many dead bodies and could hardly see the lagoon through the dense bushes. Witness 3 saw about 200 troops in the bushes. He then noticed the destroyed building surrounded by about 100 soldiers where Witness 1 was being detained. He confirmed seeing civilians inside this building.

The second group watched the first group approach the security forces. Witness 3 saw about 20-5 soldiers in uniform and armed with AK47 rifles surround the first group. He observed Pulidevan and Nadesan’s group being escorted across the bridge surrounded by soldiers.

Then his group was surrounded by armed soldiers. The police chief Illango spoke to the troops in Sinhala. Their group was surrounded and escorted in the same fashion across the bridge. Witness 3 was separated from the others and taken to a sentry post, interrogated and slapped and then loaded onto a bus and taken to a detention camp for former LTTE cadres.

May 18th 2009

Eyewitness 2

Witness 2 says about an hour or so after the surrender, he was on a dirt road parallel to the A35 highway and spotted the corpses of Pulidevan and Nadesan lying in a ditch by the roadside with soldiers standing around taking photographs. (see map)

“I instantly recognised the bodies of Pulideevan and Nadesan. I knew as soon as I looked at their bodies that they were dead. Both men were lying on their backs in the ditch.

These photographs of the corpses or Pulidevan and Nadesan appeared online much later. It is not clear exactly when they were taken.

It is reported that a witness inquired after the bodies once he or she heard they were dead and was told the corpses had been burnt.

It is unlikely that an autopsy was conducted as the government would no doubt have produced the evidence.

Nadesan on the left appears to have burn marks on his chest and Pulidevan also appears to have burn marks as well as a cut on his stomach. In their extensive conversation before surrender neither men reported having any injuries.

The Sri Lankan government has produced a number of contradictory explanations for what happened that morning at the bridge.

The then foreign secretary Palitha Kohona denied there was any surrender deal and yet he sent at least 4 unambiguous text messages to the LTTE that confirmed the surrender deal – SMS that are produced for the first time in this report.

Mr Kohona claimed the LTTE shot their own leaders in the back for daring to surrender against orders. The extensive negotiations about surrender do not indicate a furtive attempt to defy LTTE orders. Three eyewitnesses did not report any firing – indeed one was with the people surrendering and was not shot. Furthermore the government never produced the leaders’ bodies to prove the entry wounds were in the back. In other instances they have been quick to demonstrate evidence of LTTE perfidy but not in this case. In addition, other witnesses say that the LTTE leader sanctioned surrender after 15th May for all his fighters who wanted to take their chances and cross over to the army.

The Sri Lankan military put online a web page claiming responsibility for killing of Pulidevan and Nadesan (by the 58th Brigade of Shavendra Silva whom eyewitnesses place at the spot) but then removed it offline.

The defence secretary suggested a young recruit might have shot the leaders in the dark by accident as there was still fighting going on elsewhere. However the communications records and witness testimony show the surrender did not occur in the dark but after dawn. Eyewitnesses say there was no shot fired by either side at the surrender.


Sri Lankan Government Accounts of Events in the White Flag Incident.

1) Claimed Responsibility in Web Page Subsequently Removed Offline


2) Denies Bloodshed of Civilians

“I told them to follow the widely accepted procedure — take a white flag and walk slowly towards the army lines in an unthreatening manner. What I learnt subsequently is that the two of them were shot from behind as they tried to come out…They had been killed by the LTTE.”

Palitha Kohona
Foreign Secretary; now Sri Lankan Permanent
Representative to the United Nations in New York

3) Shot from Behind

“It is late at night, past midnight. Make a mental picture of this. Can you see them coming out with white flags in this dense jungle in pitch darkness? The situation was that some terrorist cadres counter-attacked. Prabhakaran was trying to break out and escape to the lagoon, his son went in another direction. At the same time 10,000 surrendered cadres came down from one side. In this kind of situation in the thick of battle, can you expect a young recruit, barely a month into battle, to recognise a senior LTTE cadre and make a decision as to shoot him selectively or spare him?”

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary

4) Shot in Battle

TV Reporter SBS: Was there a deal?

Palitha Kohona: “In my view, there was absolutely no deal. In fact, it would have been impossible to have done a deal at that time.”

Palitha Kohona
Foreign Secretary; now Sri Lankan Permanent
Representative to the United Nations in New York

5) No Surrender Deal

The former Army Commander, General Sarath Fonseka, in an interview with the Sunday Leader newspaper in Sri Lanka in December 2009, reportedly alleged that the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had ordered the 58 Division Commander, Shavendra Silva, to kill any LTTE leaders attempting to surrender.

General Fonseka backtracked on this allegation, reportedly saying there had been an illegal order from the Defence Secretary to kill LTTE leaders surrendering but it hadn’t been carried out: “Two days after the war ended I learnt through some journalists who were entrenched at the time with then Brigadier Shavendra Silva that an illegal order had been conveyed to General Shavendra Silva by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. This illegal order was however not carried out at ground level. I take full responsibility for what happened on the ground.”

In court General Fonseka later denied telling the journalist that the Defence Secretary had ordered the executions of the LTTE leaders surrendering.

However in July 2010, General Fonseka reportedly implied in a speech that the army was after all responsible for the killings:

“I got messages not to shoot those who are carrying white flags. A war is fought by soldiers. They do so by putting their lives on the line. Therefore, the decisions about war should be taken by the soldiers in the battlefront. Not the people in air-conditioned rooms in Colombo. Our soldiers have seen in life the kind of destruction carried out by those people before they decided to come carrying a white flag. Therefore, they carried out their duties. We destroyed any one connected with the LTTE. That is how we won the war.”

In 2011 General Fonseka was sentenced to three years in prison and fined Rs.5000 by a court for “propagating a false rumour’ in connection with the original Sunday Leader story.

More White Flag Incidents

Eyewitnesses say it was not just the LTTE political wing leaders who were targeted, but at least 102 other administrative, financial, political, humanitarian leaders of the LTTE, in addition to unarmed military wing cadres and non-combatants such as children who also surrendered later the same day. There were also other LTTE figures who surrendered in the days before and after 18 May who have disappeared or been killed in the custody of the Sri Lankan security forces.

It appears to have been part of a coldblooded plan to wipe out any future Tamil representatives. The names collated in this report are by no means an exhaustive list. Almost all of those who were seen unarmed and in the custody of the security forces have never been heard of again after surrendering on 18 May 2009. The onus is on the Sri Lankan government to explain what happened to these people.

Father Francis, the priest who wrote to the Pope in desperation, disappeared without trace on 18 May 2009 when he escorted a group of about 40 LTTE members to surrender. He was a well known figure in LTTE areas and several eyewitnesses now out of the country saw him getting on a bus under the custody of the Sri Lankan military.

Even the influential Catholic Church has been unable to get any word of what happened to their priest.

Later the same day

Once people crossed the bridge they were herded into pens, secured with barbed wire, to be searched and screened. Suspected LTTE fighters were separated like these women fighters identifiable by their short hair which marked them out.

Once people crossed the bridge they were herded into pens, secured with barbed wire, to be searched and screened. Suspected LTTE fighters were separated like these women fighters identifiable by their short hair which marked them out:

(Exact date and place unknown)

Displaced people in tents camped on the beach in the “No Fire Zone” in March 2009 as seen on Google Earth.
The aftermath of the war as seen by Google Earth in June 2009.
Photos of Disappeared Alive in Army Custody
About editor 1350 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist

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