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 .
Raja two more Nambiar and Rohan Chandra Nehru.
Edited By - Damed - 22 Feb 2012 22:51:20 GMT