Former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka made stunning claims in Parliament this week, shining a light on the real situation inside the ‘no fire zone’ during the final days of the war against the LTTE in May 2009.
Intervening during MP Gajen Ponnambalam’s speech during the debate on the Defence Ministry expenditure head, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka who led the army during the final battle, said 85,000 civilians had been evacuated by the army on May 16, 2009, two days before the war officially ended with LTTE supremo Prabhakaran’s death.
By the 16th of May, 2009 the ‘no fire zone’ designated by the Government of Sri Lanka as a safe harbour for civilians, the area was no more than a few hundred square kilometers in size.
According to the Sri Lanka Army’s own situation report issued on 17th May 2009, Sri Lankan soldiers had boxed the LTTE into a stretch of land no more than 600mX400m in size in the Vellamullaivaikal area. It is from an area this small that according to Fonseka, 85,000 civilians escaped, telling a gruesome story about conditions inside the final theatre of battle tens of thousands of civilians had been trapped.
The assertion by the army commander at the time lends credence to claims that the military may have killed tens of thousands of civilians by firing into the designated safe zones where LTTE cadres had mingled with Tamil civilians for cover. The UN estimates that 40,000 civilians perished during the final battle against the LTTE.
The Tigers shot at civilians trying to flee the fighting while the army indiscriminately shelled make-shift hospitals and civilian hideouts to smoke out LTTE fighters.