7 May, 2021

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A Strong Witness Of Sri Lanka's War Crimes Was Killed

By Colombo Telegraph –

Sunday Times journalist, Marie Colvin who broke the White Flag case to the world has been killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs after the house where they were staying was shelled on Wednesday. She was in her 50s.

Marie Colvin

She lost an eye in a grenade attack crossing from Tamil Tiger territory into government lines in Sri Lanka in April 2001.

We below give her account of the White Flag killing story;

IT was a desperate last phone call but it did not sound like a man who would be dead within hours. Balasingham Nadesan, political leader of the Tamil Tigers, had nowhere to turn, it seemed. “We are putting down our arms,” he told me late last Sunday night by satellite phone from the tiny slip of jungle and beach on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka where the Tigers had been making their last stand. I could hear machinegun fire in the background as he continued coolly: “We are looking for a guarantee of security from the Obama administration and the British government. Is there a guarantee of security?”

He was well aware that surrendering to the victorious Sri Lankan army would be the most dangerous moment in the 26-year civil war between the Tigers and Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.

I had known Nadesan and Seevaratnam Puleedevan, the head of the Tigers’ peace secretariat, since being smuggled into rebel territory eight years ago.

At that time the Tigers controlled a third of the island; now these two men were trying to save the lives of the remaining 300 fighters and their families, many of them injured. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped with them, hiding in hand-dug trenches, enduring near constant bombardment.

For several days I had been the intermediary between the Tiger leadership and the United Nations as the army pressed in on the last enclave at the end of a successful military campaign to defeat the rebellion.

Nadesan had asked me to relay three points to the UN: they would lay down their arms, they wanted a guarantee of safety from the Americans or British, and they wanted an assurance that the Sri Lankan government would agree to a political process that would guarantee the rights of the Tamil minority.

Through highly placed British and American officials I had established contact with the UN special envoy in Colombo, Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general. I had passed on the Tigers’ conditions for surrender, which he had said he would relay to the Sri Lankan government.

The conflict seemed set for a peaceful outcome. Puleedevan, a jolly, bespectacled figure, found time to text me a smiling photo of himself in a bunker.

By last Sunday night, however, as the army pressed in, there were no more political demands from the Tigers and no more photos. Nadesan refused to use the word “surrender” when he called me, but that is what he intended to do. He wanted Nambiar to be present to guarantee the Tigers’ safety.

Once more, the UN 24-hour control centre in New York patched me through to Nambiar in Colombo, where it was 5.30am on Monday. I woke him up.

I told him the Tigers had laid down their arms. He said he had been assured by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, that Nadesan and Puleedevan would be safe in surrendering. All they had to do was “hoist a white flag high”, he said.

I asked Nambiar if he should not go north to witness the surrender. He said no, that would not be necessary: the president’s assurances were enough.

It was still late Sunday night in London. I tried to get through to Nadesan’s satellite phone but failed, so I called a Tigers contact in South Africa to relay Nambiar’s message: wave a white flag high.

I was woken at 5am by a phone call from another Tigers contact in southeast Asia. He had been unable to get through to Nadesan. “I think it’s all over,” he said. “I think they’re all dead.”

That evening, the Sri Lankan army displayed their bodies. What had gone wrong with the surrender? I would soon find out.

I discovered that on Sunday night Nadesan had also called Rohan Chandra Nehru, a Tamil MP in the Sri Lankan parliament, who immediately contacted Rajapaksa.

The MP recounted the events of the next hours: “The president himself told me he would give full security to Nadesan and his family. Nadesan said he had 300 people with him, some injured.

“I said to the president, ‘I will go and take their surrender.’

“Rajapaksa said, ‘No, our army is very generous and very disciplined. There is no need for you to go to a warzone. You don’t need to put your life at risk’.”

Chandra Nehru said Basil, the president’s brother, called him. “He said, ‘They will be safe. They have to hoist a white flag.’ And he gave me the route they should follow.”

The MP got through to Nadesan at about 6.20am local time on Monday. The sound of gunfire was louder than ever.

“We are ready,” Nadesan told him. “I’m going to walk out and hoist the white flag.”

“I told him: ‘Hoist it high, brother – they need to see it. I will see you in the evening’,” said Chandra Nehru.

A Tamil who was in a group that managed to escape the killing zone described what happened. This source, who later spoke to an aid worker, said Nadesan and Puleedevan walked towards Sri Lankan army lines with a white flag in a group of about a dozen men and women. He said the army started firing machineguns at them.

Nadesan’s wife, a Sinhalese, yelled in Sinhala at the soldiers: “He is trying to surrender and you are shooting him.” She was also shot down.

The source said all in the group were killed. He is now in hiding, fearful for his life. Chandra Nehru has fled the country after being threatened, the MP says, by the president and his brother.

Over the past few days, Nambiar’s role as UN envoy has come into question. His brother, Satish, has been a paid consultant to the Sri Lankan army since 2002. Satish once wrote that General Sarath Fonseka, commander of the Sri Lankan armed forces, “displayed the qualities of a great military leader”.

Although the Tamil Tigers are internationally banned because of past acts of terrorism, including suicide bombings, Nadesan and Puleedevan favoured a political solution to the conflict. Had they lived, they would have been credible political leaders for the Tamil minority.

It was Velupillai Prabhakaran, their commander, who built the movement into a military machine. He was paranoid and ruthless, and he remained committed to military means even as the Tamil Tigers lost ground in the face of the Sri Lankan army onslaught.

Last week, although rumours circulated that Prabhakaran had survived, the organisation was in disarray. Surviving Tamil leaders spoke of turning to a political process, while more militant representatives threatened revenge attacks.

I am in a difficult position as a journalist reporting this story. I first went to Sri Lanka in 2001 to investigate reports that the government was blocking food and medical supplies to half a million Tamils. Journalists had been largely banned from the northern Tamil area for six years.

I found people living in squalor and doctors pleading for medicine. Leaders such as Nadesan and Puleedevan told me they had reduced their demands from independence to autonomy within Sri Lanka.

As I was being smuggled out of the area at night, we were ambushed by the Sri Lankan army. I was unhurt until I shouted, “Journalist, journalist.” Then they fired an RPG at me, severely wounding me.

After intermittent contact with the Tamils since then, I had a series of phone calls from the leadership in recent months as the Tigers fell back in the face of the army’s new offensive. In one call, Nadesan said the Tigers would abide by the result of any referendum and begged for a ceasefire. His plea was rejected by Colombo.

There was dancing on the capital’s streets last week after the defeat of the Tigers. Victory has come, however, at a shocking cost to Tamil civilians. The United Nations says that at least 7,000 died in the last onslaught, although the toll is believed to be much higher. Some 280,000 who had been trapped by the fighting have been herded into “welfare” camps surrounded by razor wire where conditions are said to be deteriorating fast.

Yesterday international aid agencies claimed up to three families were crowding into each tent and being forced to queue for hours for water and food. One aid worker said there was only one doctor in a camp holding 44,000 people.

Refugees reached by The Sunday Times through aid organisations vented their fury. “Look at how we live,” said one woman in a camp with her two children. “We have no space, no protection from the sun. We are prisoners with armed guards and barbed wire. What do they think I will do – a mother and her two children? Why are we here?”

Reports were circulating that members of paramilitary gangs were seizing young people from the camps, accusing them of being Tigers and holding them in secret facilities, although this could not be confirmed.

The president has talked of reaching out to the Tamil community, unifying the country and resettling 80% of the refugees by the end of the year.

“I do not think that is realistic,” said Anna Neistat, of Human Rights Watch. “There is no procedure to release anyone.”

Whatever the declared intentions of the government, there seems to be little prospect of uniting Sri Lanka in the foreseeable future unless the Tamil grievances that enabled the Tigers to flourish are dealt with.

Marie Colvin last report

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nww7rRSq0x8#!]

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Latest comments

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    This story has been told many times and is most probably true. President Rajapakse relied on the “disciplined” – according to him – troops to allow surrender peacefully.
    But the army, according to General Fonseka, was given orders to kill surrendees, by Gotabaya. The disciplined troops obeyed.

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    Rajafucks must be merry making with the news….

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    WESTERN CAPITALIST WAR CORRESPODENTS ARE PURE MERCENARIES. THEY ARE AT THE WAR FRONT AS SPIES AND TO MISREPORT THE WAR IN WHICH THEIR PAY MASTERS ARE INVOLVED , TO SATISFY THE EVIL CAPITALIST AGENDA. NO ONE SHOULD PITY , MERCENARY JOURNALISTS. THEY KNOW THE RISKS AND LOVE TO TAKE THE RISK , FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY. THE WAR IN SYRIA HAS BRITISH AND AMERICAN MILITARY SUPPORT. Tony

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      if there are some totalitarian leaders that kill the population and the population needs help and let’s say that obtain that help, this can’t be interpreted as an evil interest of the capitalists. What we should do…to let that people to die ? If we let them die is not correct because someday maybe we will need too to get help from them and even if we will not need help, as priciple, is not correct to let someone to harm innocent people.

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      You are correct. This particular journalist was working in connivance with the LTTE and was infact hiding together with some Tiger fighters when she was injured. She gained notority in Sri Lanka at that time and was widely regarded as a biased, terrorist supporter – a fly-by-night reporter, who is looking for sensational stories and believe terrorists as “freedom fighters”.

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    RIP

  • 0
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    May the good Lord Bless her Soul to rest in Peace

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      Hope she would rest in peace in one piece after the explosion.

  • 0
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    Sad to hear Marie’s tragic death! Tamils lost a friend and an important witness for the war crimes committed by SLG.

  • 0
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    Rest in peace, Marie Colvin. A giant in the world of war correspondence

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    What was that one eyed woman doing in Syria?Let’s hang Mahinda!Let’s all support that black boy OBAMA!Let’s make BOB the next sec of state!Who bumped off Diana?Who cares about princess Diana?Let’s get get the culprit who bumped of our beloved Prabakaran.We love Prabakaran!

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    To hell with JFK,Martin Luther king.John Lennon,Princess Diana!Let’s all get together and find out who bumped off our Prabakaran.

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    Gopi.Who murdered Lakshman Kadidargamar?But what a shame our own Parabakaran ended up at Nandikadal?Let’s get together and make Prabakaran our sungod for life!Praba’s daughter was a beauty,isnt it?

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    Got some solid first hand reporting,will be missed R. I. P.

  • 0
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    It is only people like us who have not fulfilled their mission by the society are scared of death. Those who have done so view death as a natural migration from one world to another. This journalist too belongs to that category.

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    we are going to miss a witness
    if at all a case comes up her loss matters a lot

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    these reporters! hw come she supported the muderous buggers when she could’ve helped to end war peacefully! these kinds of reporters thrive on bloodshed. and live by ‘it leads if it bleeds’ she had no heart, my friend!

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      We expect journalists to give us the truth about a story but if that truth may cost a reporter’s life, he or she should be able to make a well informed choice without having to jeopardize their career because of a “story” Those who do risk their lives for the truth are truly brave and society ought to take pride in them.

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    as long as they have the option of refusing a dangerous assignment without any professional penalty, and that they are totally aware of the danger .. of course, there’s always the possibility a danger could flare up where it was not before. It’s the employer’s responsibility to give them every possible protection in such a case, share this responsibility with the consulate.

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    Lost her life in search of truth the first victim of any brutal war…

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    The death of journalist Marie Colvin in Homs in Syria calls to mind her work in another war zone: Sri Lanka. Based on her reporting in 2001 forward, she became an well meaning humanitarian intermediary in attempted surrenders that ended in the murder of those surrendering.

    Also involved were UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, who conveyed assurances of safety but refused to go witness the surrenders, and Shavendra Silva, a Sri Lankan General since made Deputy Permanent Representative and, unless it is stopped, a UN Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations.

    Imagine what Ms. Colvin would think. But what will others now do? Consider:

    Marie Colvin, a reporter with The Times of London, wrote that on Monday, May 18, 2009, at 5:30 a.m. she personally called Nambiar in Colombo to relay a message she had received from members of the LTTE leadership, who were surrounded in a bunker with 300 loyalists including women and children, that they were ready to give themselves up to Sri Lankan government troops. According to Colvin the leaders wanted “Nambiar to be present to guarantee the Tigers’ safety”.

    Nambiar told Colvin that he had been assured by Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa that those who gave up would be safe if they were to “hoist a white flag high”. When Colvin suggested that Nambiar go personally to witness the surrender he told her it would not “be necessary” and that “the president’s assurances were enough”. Hours later the lifeless bodies of dozens of members of the LTTE leadership including the two men who told Colvin they were ready to give up, were put on display
    By Matthew Russell Lee
    In Sri Lanka, Marie Colvin Mediating Role in White Flag Killings Recalled as Suspects Surge at UN

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    I was Wondering if she was just 9 years old when she was killed !!! If not how did she manage NOT to witness Iraq or Afganistan Wars where almost 1 million civilians have perished already & still continuing ???

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    A great journalist who suffered a most untimely death. My condolences to her next of kin.

  • 0
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    What a good news!

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    Marie’s death is a tragic loss to the Tamils who are clamoring for an independent international investigation into the “white flag” incident. A truthful witness is no more. May she rest in peace and my condolences to Marie’s family

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    Careful reading will show that the White flag case report had been a nicely made up one.
    She had been very silent when Tiger Terrorists were killing very many civillians(consist of children and infants) all over the island which include Tamils also.
    Did USA or West given any symapthy for captured political prisoners like Ghadafi, Osama, or Sadam Hussain ??
    One eyed lady had been in Syria helping to topple the established regime by creating many one sided stories to get symapthy, funds and support for the rebels backed by CIA.

    She was one of them who had prostitutised the journalism with biased and one sided /constructed stories to suit the varios agendas of West. Her death proves to the world the nature’s punishment for the injustice.

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    Given that the “white flag” incident would be the least likely war crime to be investigated, I doubt Ms Colvin’s death really deprived anyone of the “vital eyewitness” she is made out to be. As for the Tamils losing a “valued friend”, I think she’d long moved on once the Tamil cause was of no further use to her.

    This was her philosophy on journalism: “You just try to find out the truth of what’s going on and report it the best way you can. And because we are kind of romantic, our sympathy goes towards the underdog.”

    Make it romantic, and you’ve got a story ;)

  • 0
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    God has punished her for telling lies. Others also be carefull, u cant play with the GOD.

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    syrian people are terrorists as they want asaad family out and mc was helping terrorists?

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    I am not beliving these shots.These like PR stunt by some of US officials like Kuwaiti invasion by Iraq in 90″s .Amature video in side the US studio.nothing else.

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    This lady was the go between the LTTE and the MI5.She was no saint.

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    Dead body media. Sorry. Carcass-media .

  • 0
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    How can anyone call this one eyed woman a witness? She only got a message over the phone,passed it around got a reply and failed to deliver it to the concerned person and left it thousands of mile away in south africa. Thats basically her story and the rest are bits and pieces she gathered from here and there.(mostly third person hearsay)

    The big question is where is the real witness?the”Aid worker” who is supposed to have seen everything and is in hiding?
    why is MP Chadra nehru not coming out to testify against the Rajapakses? still scared?
    Even though the war correspondents carry death in thier hands it is tragic for someone to die like this.
    “Dhittadhamma vedaniya karma”(Sins that has to paid in this life itself) may have had a part in it.

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