Former Norwegian peace mediator Erik Solheim says he cannot understand how LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran got an enormous standing among Tamils and how he could be seen as their god, creator, and saviour at the time.
Solheim told WION he regrets that the he could not spend more time with Prabhakaran to influence him.
“I met him more often than any other foreigner did in the world because basically he just met Tamils, only once met a Muslim delegation in Sri Lanka, met with a few Sinhalese but nearly always just met with Tamils. If we had spent more time with him, we would probably be able to influence him more. We did try to establish a more personal relationship with him by speaking about issues he really cared about, he was interested in films for sure, in food, he was known to be a good cook himself, he took some interest in nature. But it was hard to build a personal relationship because we had limited time and were not allowed to go up to the warring North by the Sri Lankan Government too often,” he said.
Solheim also spoke on the “white flag” incident. “I received a call from Puleedevan, he was one of the nicest members of the Tigers. He was the chief of the LTTE’s political wing. He told us they wanted to surrender to the Sri Lankan army and whether we could assist him. I did not speak to him directly but a Norwegian colleague told him that it was too late for us to intervene because the end of the war was very close. We pointed out that we had offered them opportunities in the past to give up the struggle at a time when it was still possible for us to intervene. But that it was too late now. But what we can ask you, we told him, is to hoist a big white flag, that ‘s why it’s called the White Flag incident, and through loudspeakers and whatever means you have, make your intentions known to the Sri Lankan armed forces. We, on our part, will inform Sri Lankan leaders of your intention to surrender.”
Solheim says the intention of the LTTE leaders to surrender was communicated by the Norwegians to Basil Rajapaksa, the advisor to then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“We were not alone, the Tigers did the same through some key Tamil and also, I think with some Indian interlocutors to send a message to the Sri Lankan leadership. The day after, we were informed that Nadesan and Puleedevan were killed. The exact circumstances of the killing are still not known. I don’t think they were with Prabhakaran at the time but I don’t know this exactly. How Prabhakaran himself was killed, I do not know either. But we have a very very strong suspicion that the 12-year-old son of Prabhakaran was captured by the Sri Lankan army and later executed by them, a completely irresponsible and evil act. And unfortunately for the Sri Lankan armed forces and to put it very, very nicely, there’s a big question mark on these killings, why they did not accept surrender and bring these people into court, rather than killing them,” he said. (Colombo Gazette)