In May, the Sri Lankan government won a crushing victory over LTTE rebels in the northern reaches of the island country. Now, a Sri Lankan Army General is accusing the Defense Minister of ordering the killing of surrendering LTTE leaders. General Sarath Fonseka was in charge of Sri Lanka’s military during the last offensive of the war. Now, he is challenging the sitting president in the upcoming elections and accusing Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the President’s brother, of ordering the Army to take no prisoners during the last days of the war. Rajabhaya denies the accusation. Fonseka claims he was in China when the Defense Minister gave the orders, only learning about them later from an unnamed journalist.
Did the Sri Lankan military kill surrendering LTTE? Probably, but likely not on orders. The moment of surrender is one of the most dangerous times for a soldier. Both the captor and captive are vulnerable to active deceit or adrenaline brutality. Is the surrender a trap? Will the captors seek revenge? Furthermore, the act of surrendering is the only commonplace battlefield activity left out from most military educations. When considering how best to surrender, every soldier has to reinvents the wheel.
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.