Shavendra tells LLRC:
The army killed no civilians; Tigers fought in civilian clothes


LTTE accepted bodies of its cadres in civilian attire killed in action

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva on Thursday (Nov. 18) said that the Army had had absolutely no reason to target civilians during the last phase of the Eelam War IV on the Vanni east front.

Testifying before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) at the Kadirgamar Centre, the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Task Force I/58 Division said that there couldn’t have been any reason for indiscriminate action at a time the LTTE was clearly on the verge of collapse.

Responding to a query by the LLRC, Maj. Gen. Silva said that the government had set up a No Fire Zone (NFZ) and then shifted it gradually eastwards as the army advanced into the last enemy strongholds. Had the government failed to declare specific areas for civilians in the Vanni, there would have been large scale loss of life, he said.

The soldier turned diplomat alleged that the LTTE rump and a section of the media had been busy accusing Sri Lanka of war crimes. In an obvious reference to recent Aljazeera coverage of the last phase of the Sri Lankan offensive directed at the LTTE, Maj. Gen. Silva said that a section of the media had been engaged in a propaganda campaign against the country.

Maj. Gen. Silva cited a failed attempt by the LTTE and its allies in the media to blame his Division for having destroyed a hospital close to the frontline. The LTTE had dragged those who couldn’t walk out of the hospital and placed them on the ground, while a section of the media accused the Army of indiscriminate action. "But I was able to counter that campaign by taking a group of Colombo-based Indian journalists to the hospital within 24 hours. At the time of the initial accusation, three Indian journalists were with the 58 Division," the officer said.

The LTTE had gone to the extent of firing at Tamil civilians taking refuge in NFZ to blame the army of atrocities.

Currently New York based Maj. Gen. Silva said that the LTTE fighting cadre, including its top leaders had fought in civilian attire. According to him even the likes of LTTE Jaffna Commander Theepan and Prabhakaran’s son, Charles Anthony had fought in civilian clothes. "I personally identified the body of Theepan following a major battle at Puthukudirippu. He was in civilian attire," Maj. Gen. Siva said. According to him the Puthukudirippu battle in April had effectively destroyed the LTTE command and control structure. The enemy had been encircled and decimated in a battle, which caused the loss of over 600 LTTE cadres, including their senior ground commanders, he said. Those, who faced the advancing troops subsequently in a series of battles, lacked the experience to have a tight grip on the combatants.

Commenting on the wives and relatives of LTTE cadres who had testified before the LLRC in the North recently, Maj. Gen. Silva said that claims were being in some quarter that those killed in battles with the army were civilians. The war veteran recalled how the LTTE had trained a civilian militia to fight alongside its regular units. He went on to explain the circumstances under which the Army had transferred bodies of LTTE cadres in civilian attire through the ICRC on many occasions. Although the dead hadn’t been in uniform, the LTTE always accepted their bodies as it knew they were fallen cadres, Maj. Gen. Silva said.

Responding to a query by the LLRC, Maj. Gen. Silva said that the LTTE had carried out a massive suicide bomb attack on May 17 evening as it gradually lost control of the last stretch of land on the Vanni front. He said a fire triggered by the explosion had destroyed a large number of vehicles belonging to civilians and the LTTE.


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