White Flags, White Vans and White Lies?
Political Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
A Closer Look at the Death of Colonel Ramesh
New article by Global Mail examines video record of LTTE commander; but it may have left a stone or two unturned.
Clockwise from top left; Colonel Ramesh, Velupillai Prabhakaran, Duvarika Prabhakaran, and Isaipriya (Shoba).
(SALEM) - A fascinating article, The Death Of Colonel Ramesh, carried by Global Mail, brings forth details in another aspect of Sri Lanka's alleged war crimes, which ended in a tragic culmination of mass bombings and executions of Tamil civilians - the subject of an ethnic cleansing carried by Sri Lanka's Sinhalese Buddhist government.
The article discusses at length the story of T. Thurairajasingham Devi, who was also known as 'Colonel Ramesh', and the death of this commander with the Tamil Tiger resistance group - officially known as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The end game for Sri Lanka's minority Tamil culture; mostly Hindu, partly Christian, has been one of widespread mass murder. As a long, painful civil war wound to a close, Tamils were spared from death infrequently; civilians were not distinguished from military units. The government of Sri Lanka had what appeared to be an active choice in the matter; they chose to annihilate civilians, according to groups including the United Nations, the United States and Amnesty International.
One aspect of the story that always seems significant, are the large number of journalists and other media professionals, who would have released the real events of this grim period, were gone, disappeared. Many were taken to their deaths in the famous 'white van' incidents which have continued long after the war's supposed end.
These vehicles of terror in all too many cases, are connected with terrible murders, the assailants are never brought to justice, but whether criminal or officials, these white vans seem to operate with impunity and Tamils say they are indeed from the SL government.
The Death Of Colonel Ramesh, seems like a sincere effort to lay out the story; however it reaches too many conclusions and misses strong points associated with this death that are important.
The article states that 'Col Ramesh' was among Tiger militants who were trapped with civilians in one of three so-called 'no fire' zones established by the Sri Lankan government; this was May 2009 - when the Sri Lanka Army had been bombing civilian refugees ferociously for weeks and weeks.
According to the Global Mail article:
A witness statement places Ramesh at the lagoon on May 17, dressed in a white shirt and sarong, crossing with his family, with one of his children in his arms.
Sensibly, knowing the battle lost, he had discarded his weapon and hoped to blend into the civilian columns, in order to preserve the lives of his family as well as his own. Once on the other side, he was recognized by the military and arrested. He was taken like almost 300,000 others to one of the detention camps in the town of Vavuniya.
Another witness saw him in the camp wearing a white shirt and blue-checked sarong, separated off with other Tamil Tigers who had been similarly recognised. As we can now surmise, he was eventually taken from the camp on May 22.
I am not sure if 'witness' is truly sufficient to make this point and conclude that events happened this way. The government of Sri Lanka was extremely critical of the Chsnnel-4 documentary, 'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields', because witnesses faces were obscured and real names not used. There is no reason that unnamed witnesses should cast a final word over the fate of this LTTE commander.
The claim, that Colonel Ramesh dressed as a civilian and was identified by the SLA after fleeing the deadly 'no-fire' zone, is in strong contrast to those made by the LTTE officer's wife, who did not die in the war, and has filed a claim against Sri Lanka's Shavendra Silva, commander of the SLA's 58th division, over her husband's death. She claims that he is one of the Tamil Tiger leaders who used a white flag to surrender to government forces, only to be interrogated and executed.
From the 29 September 2012 release: UN Diplomat Sued for Torture of Sri Lankan Tamils - Courthouse News Service
Vathsala Devi claims that her late husband, Thurairajasingham Devi aka Col. Ramesh, belonged to the separatist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
When the military defeated the Tamil Tigers on May 18, 2009, however, the colonel had negotiated his surrender "by white flag" to Shavendra Silva, who at the time was commander of the Army's 58th division.
"Silva intentionally and fraudulently invoked international humanitarian law protections to induce by deception the surrender of Thurairajasingham Devi, who came into custody of Silva and was then tortured and executed in violation of customary international law," according to the complaint.
To be clear, there are two videos that have been released, the first, a :34 second clip, appears to have been released about a year before the longer version.
The ten-minute video of the interrogation of Col. Ramesh, begins with him laying down in an armored personnel carrier (APC) in the blue and white civilian attire. You can hear the military vehicle's engine idling.
The video was absolutely recorded by a member of the Sri Lanka Army, there is no question about that. It is like so many other similar video clips now on YouTube, that are heavily indicting of war crimes on the part of Sri Lanka. As the video begins, wearing civilian clothing, this veteran military leader is perfectly still, his eyes are open, it seems clear he is being told to lay where he is, it is awkward.
In the next sequence on the video, Thurairajasingham Devi is seen during interrogation, wearing a pair of Tamil Tiger pants with their distinctive tiger stripes.
The article claims the pants are clean, which seems a side note and hard to determine. Generally a commander would surrender in a clean uniform.
He has a dressed wound on his back, it appears to be a fresh bullet hole, and also the scar from another bullet he took in the back many years earlier. 'The Death of Colonel Ramesh' states that the bandages tell a story.
The article assumes, because the video begins with the victim in blue and white civilian clothing, that this has to have come first, when the video could simply have been edited in this order. The articles also draw the conclusion that the bandage proves he emerged from a refugee camp, which would contradict the white flag surrender version of the story.
The dressing also places Ramesh in time and context. The dressing is as clean as he is. His battle wound has been dressed in the detention camp. We know this because after months of siege, there were no more dressings to be had and in the Nandikadal lagoon, if they were available to a senior commander at all, they would have been quickly dirtied in the siege and battle zone.
There is another odd aspect, this Tamil Tiger leader was directed to change into what appears to be an olive drab Sri Lanka Army (SLA) field uniform.
There is an accompanying set of photographs that seem to reflect what is in the video, however recorded from different angles. The photos include shots of Thurairajasingham Devi after he has been violently killed, wearing the SLA uniform. So it is obvious and clear that while he was in custody, Col. Ramesh was made to change clothing, why could they have not also had him slip on the white and blue civilian clothing? There is no clear answer to this that I can see.
I am not saying the article is incorrect, however it conflicts with allegations from the family of Colonel Ramesh:
Devi's widow says she only learned what happened to her husband when interrogation videos surfaced months later, in late fall 2009. "The videos depict uniformed members of the Sri Lankan military interviewing a prisoner who identifies himself as Col. Ramesh, Thurairajasingham Devi's pseudonym," the complaint states.
Before the video ends abruptly in the 34th second, interrogators are threatening to attackj Devi with a baton, according to the complaint.
"A photograph which surfaced on April 27, 2011 depicts the bloodied body of Thurairajasingham Devi, dressed in the same clothes as in the interrogation video," his widow claims, adding that she and her three children had to flee to South Africa.
The referenced video does not tell us exactly how the clothing changes happened, but I stress again that video is easily edited; I have personally been editing video since 1988 and technology has vastly simplified such a process in more recent years.
The video sequences may indeed not be sequential, and may not be as straightforward as some would have it seem.
If indeed this man was involved in a white flag surrender, then many of the assumptions drawn here could not be possible.
There is no existing video that we know of, showing Thurairajasingham Devi's execution; however the photos below which accompanied the two referenced articles, conclusively show that he was executed in the SLA type uniform after his interrogation. They also show his body being burned and disposed of.
There is additional movement in the legal case Vathsala Devi brought against Sri Lanka and Shavendra Silva, over the death of her late husband, Thurairajasingham. The following information was published by TransCurrents:
Involvement of Mauritius legal firm in case against Shavendra Silva was initiated by TNA
by Namini Wijedasa
More lawsuits will be filed against Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva while further litigation is being drawn up in several countries against other Sri Lankan officials and military, says Sivakumaren Mardemootoo, senior partner and a founding member of SPEAK, a legal advocacy firm headquartered in Mauritius.
SPEAK, in conjunction with the American University Washington College of Law’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic recently filed a civil suit in New York on behalf of two people, including Vathsala Devi. The wife of Thurairajasingham Devi alias “Colonel Ramesh” is seeking monetary compensation for loss of life. She alleges that Ramesh was tortured and killed by troops in Gen. Silva’s command.
Excerpts from the interview with LAKBIMAnEWS follow. The last two questions were answered by Ali Beydoun, the case’s US-based lead counsel and a director at UNROW Clinic.
Continue reading on TransCurrents
A Battle Against Children of LTTE Leaders
LTTE's Velupillai Prabhakaran
I was noticing in the video, that the Sri Lankan Army officials interrogating Col. Ramesh were making repeated inquiries about the family members of LTTE leaders. One of those was the LTTE's top leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran; long a figure in the news and a dedicated military tactician who led the Tamil Tigers to many significant victories, and yet failed to save the resistance group from near annihilation in 2009.
12-year old Balachandran Prabhakaran
Prabhakaran and his family members were of extreme significance to the SLA as they closed in the put a final end to the three-decade old separatist conflict.
Just days ago, the Channel-4 documentary, 'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields', brought to light the circumstances behind the execution deaths of both LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, and his 12-year old son, Balachandran Prabhakaran, as well as five men believed to have been bodyguards who were sent to escort the boy to be surrendered.
The theory experts are putting forth, is that the boy was sent by his father to surrender to the SLA. The top Tamil Tiger obviously had faith that this was a situation where he could trust the national government to place the boy in safety.
This was a fatal error of trust by Prabhakaran.
It appears that the five bodyguards had their hands tied behind their backs, and were blindfolded when executed. It is believed that they were possibly murdered one by one, in order to force the boy to confess the location of his father, which according to leaked reports, he did.
Isaipriya (Shoba) Duvarika Prabhakaran
But what became of Velupillai Prabhakaran's cherished, only daughter?
Both of the articles titled 'Death of Colonel Ramesh' contain this paragraph:
Photos of the corpse of The Leader's daughter, Duvarika, have since emerged. Evidently, she met a violent end, too. Prabhakaran's eldest son, Charles Anthony, aged 22, apparently died in the final days of the war. There are literally hundreds of photos and videos of corpses that have been bound, mutilated, systematically executed and sexually violated by persons unknown - but then disposed of by soldiers of the army of Sri Lanka.
I have absolutely not seen these photos or any sign of them. What I did see while searching for them, is that news agencies were confusing Duvarika Prabhakaran, with images of the body of LTTE TamilNet reporter, Shoba, more commonly known in Tamil Eelam as 'Isaippiriya'. An example of that is seen here: National Leader Prabakaran’s Daughter Dwaraka’s photos released – Most Shocking. I also note that her name was Duwaraha, probably not Dwaraka.
Now I am not suggesting that this young, beautiful woman who was educated in the UK was not killed, it seems very probable that she indeed was, but the details are sketchy and if anyone has information on this I appreciate your sharing it with me, my email address is below.
Tim King's previous Salem-News.com reports on Sri Lanka:
Mar-18-2012: Is Google Earth Hiding Sri Lanka's Ghosts? - Tim King Salem-News.com
Mar-15-2012: Channel-4 Documentary Proves Sri Lanka Committed War Crimes
Mar-11-2012: War Crime Court and its Conflicting Interests
Mar-08-2012: Sex Abuse and Murder in Sri Lanka- New Photos Emerge
Mar-02-2012: A Very Uncivil War - Ghastly Images- Gross Detail and Denial of Sri Lanka's Genocide
Feb-28-2012: Americans Praise Sri Lankan Politicians who Orchestrated Genocide
Feb-28-2012: Tweets from Tamil Eelam
Feb-24-2012: Two of Sri Lanka's Foulest War Crimes
Feb-19-2012: Will Another Documentary on Sri Lanka's Genocide Impact the Geneva Human Rights Session?
Feb-08-2012: The Questionable Effectiveness of Lighting Yourself on Fire
Feb-03-2012: Sri Lanka's Independence Day- a Black Day for Tamil Eelam
Jan-11-2012: While UN Claims Zero Tolerance, No Discipline of Sri Lankan Abusers in Haiti
Dec-28-2011: Why Was a Red Cross Manager on Vacation from Gaza Murdered in Sri Lanka?
Nov-24-2011: Fear, Genocide and Torture in Sri Lanka
Nov-21-2011: London Calling: Time for Sri Lanka's Release of Post-Conflict Report
Nov-11-2011: Ode to a Humble Hero of Sri Lanka: Dr Brian Senewiratne
Oct-15-2011: Genocide 101: World and Media Apathy
Oct-08-2011: Sri Lanka Joins Israel in Naval Attacks on Unarmed Fishermen
Oct-05-2011: War and its Aftermath... a Real Killer for Tourism
Oct-01-2011: Sri Lanka in the Crosshairs of Canadian Parliament
Sep-13-2011: Sri Lanka Recalls Diplomat Accused of War Crimes
Aug-31-2011: 'No Song and Dance' Over Sri Lanka War Crime Admissions
Jul-25-2011: Former Sri Lanka President's Children 'Reacted With Anguish' to Tamil Genocide Program
Jul-22-2011: M.I.A. - A Beautiful Reflection of the Besieged Tamils of Sri Lanka
Jul-17-2011: 44 Prisoners Join Hunger Strike at Vavuniya Prison in Sri Lanka
Jul-14-2011: The Bush Administration's Role in Sri Lanka's Tamil Genocide
Jul-13-2011: Fields Should be for Sports, not Genocide... Sri Lanka
Jun-29-2011: Sri Lanka Continues Genocide, Thumbing Nose at UN and World
Jun-20-2011: Sri Lanka's Violence Toward Tamil Minority Continues
Jun-18-2011: 'International Day in Support of Victims of Torture'Remember the Tamil Genocide
Jun-17-2011: European Tourists Waylaid in Sri Lanka, Resurgence of 'White Van' Crime
Jun-15-2011: Tamil Genocide Explored in Sri Lanka's Killing Fields
Jun-02-2011: UN Experts: Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide Video is Real
May-31-2011: New Song 'Depression' - Graphic Truth of Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide
May-31-2011: Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide: Killing the Messenger
May-03-2011: Confronting the Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka
Apr-27-2011: Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka Emerges Into Public View
Apr-22-2011: World Ignores Genocide of Sri Lanka's Tamil Population
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
Tim King in 2008, covering the Iraq War
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
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