Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa says he had offered to hold talks with Velupillai Prabhakaran to find a peaceful solution to the Tamil Question. But the founder of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wouldn’t listen. This left no alternative to physically eliminating him to end the bloody civil war that ravaged the island for over 25 years.
Rajapaksa disclosed this during an hour-long informal breakfast meeting with this correspondent at his residence here last Wednesday. Prof G L Peiris was also present.
“I sent Prabhakaran a message saying: Let’s meet up to discuss the issue to find a solution. You can come to Colombo, or I am ready to come to Kilinochchi,” Rajapaksa recalled. He was the island’s President for two terms (2005-15).
Rajapaksa said he got no response from Prabhakaran. The killings, suicide bombings, the attacks on the troops did not stop.
Rajapaksa said he messaged to Prabhakaran some time before the LTTE offensive resumed in 2006: “Let’s talk. Stop violence. Don’t kill innocent civilians. Don’t attack the armed forces. If you don’t stop the shootings and killings, I will have to order your physical elimination.”
Eventually, that is what happened on 18 May 2009, when Prabhakaran was killed by the Sri Lankan troops at Mullivaikkal on the banks of the Nanthikadal (Sea of Conches) lagoon in Mullaitivu in the Northern Province.
Peiris interjected: “Prabhakaran thought he was invincible.”
According to estimates, the quarter century-long civil war that began on 23 July 1983 and ended on 18 May 2009 has claimed the lives of over 100,000 civilians and over 50,000 fighters from both sides.
Former Indian Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon has estimated that the war would have cost Sri Lanka US$200 billion (not counting the opportunity costs), and left the Tamil community “gutted and brutalized.”