KP Apprehension: Blow to LTTE Revival?
The revival of the LTTE suffered a sharp blow with the apprehension of Mr Kumaran Pathmanathan popularly known as KP in Kuala Lumpur in what is likely to have been a joint operation between the intelligence agencies of Sri Lanka, Malaysia and India, though Indian role remains in the background given the sensitivity of Tamil sentiment. KP had been nominated as the secretary general of the post Prabhakaran LTTE and was increasingly assuming prominence with a suave media and internet campaign to revive the organization. These moves to revive the organization and the larger struggle for Tamil Ealam have thus suffered a temporary set back.
While the Sri Lankan government was rejoicing victory over the LTTE with the army commanders felicitated and the President planning a political rout of sorts holding elections in the provinces and possibly for the Presidency in early 2010, the LTTE diaspora was busy planning revival of the organization. A factional fight between Sivaparan alias Nediyavan, assistant of the political wing leader late Tamilchelvan, and KP was settled in the latters favour and KP was nominated as the 'Thalamai Seyalar' (Secretary General) to lead the overseas LTTE organization.
Perinbayanagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan, was a powerful overseas LTTE intelligence operative who was possibly left with holding the crumbs and may have been disgruntled.
The revived LTTE was to have a number of secretaries including human rights, resettlement, rehabilitation, reconstruction, peace building, development, negotiations, political action, policymaking, public relations, media relations, resource management etc as per noted Sri Lanka expert Col R Hariharan based in Chennai. Nediyavan was assuaged by making him in charge of the Department of Diaspora Affairs responsible for administration of the various LTTE branches and institutions of the Tamil Diaspora. With these happenings it was anticipated that the LTTE would soon start its agitations abroad and also re establish linkages in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka itself as the government there was diverted towards other issues.
KP was the main supplier of arms and ammunition of the organization and had an extensive network of legal as well as illegal businesses in South East Asia where he operated with impunity despite two red corner notices one by the Indian government for his role in assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Mr Rajeev Gandhi. KP is alleged to have procured weapons worth billions of dollars across Asia, Canada, US and Europe.
The Sri Lankan government was wary of such a happening and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake had warned the Parliament that "another person was trying to mobilise the LTTE cadres to regroup." and that it would be dealt firmly.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and a key strategist behind the defeat of the LTTE said that though the organization had been military crushed, attempts were being made to rescue hardcore fighters from refuge camps in the Vavuniya region. He warned that this could be part of an overall strategy to revive the organization in an interview with The Sunday Island. It was therefore apparent that the government was aware of the moves to revive the LTTE and was also possibly on the trail of KP.
KP was apprehended by intelligence agencies from a hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Trailing KP was not very difficult as he had been openly giving a series of interviews and was available to the media. He was meeting some other LTTE diaspora members when he was ostensibly called out of the hotel room and swooped away under circumstances which are not clear at present except that he was immediately moved to Colombo indicating that there has been cooperation at the intelligence and government level between the countries.
Some reports say that KP was possibly betrayed by a rival faction who was not happy with his dominating presence in such a short time. Other reports indicate a tip-off from Indian intelligence agencies given their interest in his case in the wake of his involvement in the Rajeev Gandhi assassination. The expatriate Sri Lankan Tamil community in Kuala Lumpur also indicated that KP was arrested by Malaysian agencies, whisked away to Bangkok, and from there to Colombo. As a loyalist of Prabhakaran, KP was seen to be well placed to lead the movement however his high profile had also invited a number of enemies within the organization, leading to disconcert.
There is no doubt that the apprehension of KP is likely to be a blow to revival of the LTTE for he had the right number of contacts and the financial clout to revive the organization in the diaspora community. However given his life style of extravagance, openly reclaiming the position while being hunted on red corner notices made him extremely vulnerable, thus his apprehension was possibly inevitable, given that he emerged from the role of an underground operative to that of a semi over ground leader.
However this setback to the LTTE revival may be only temporary. For there are other leaders as Nediyavan waiting in the wings who may have even gone to the extent of giving out the location of KP to the intelligence agencies to quietly settle their battle for supremacy in the organization. Thus as far as leadership of the organization a new one possibly, Nediyavan may now assume the mantle of the Secretary General.
Two other factors are important for the organization to resume its activities. Support from Indian leaders from Tamil Nadu as Vaiko who are favourable towards the revival but have not indicated any inclination to support any group so far and the recovery of the organization or its political roots in Sri Lanka. The Tamil National Alliance the political front supporting the LTTE is in disarray and would have to be rejuvenated. This will be also followed up by possible regrouping of the cadres of the outfit who are now in some of the camps and under screening.
The elections to the Jaffna and Vavuniya Municipal councils held yesterday (08 August) also indicated that the people have not fully accepted the military verdict of defeat of the LTTE and there is support for Ealam in a tacit form with voting registering a low 20 percent possibly giving heed to the call by the held LTTE political head, Mr Patmanathan for a boycott.
The results also indicated some support for the TNA affiliated parties. While the ruling party United People's Freedom Alliance secured a majority of 13 seats of the 23-member Jaffna Municipal Council receiving 50.67% votes, TNA constituent, Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) won eight seats with 38.28% of the votes. In Vavuniya ITAK secured a majority of seats in the Vavuniya Urban Council with 34.81 percent votes.
Thus the Sri Lanka government would have to take notice of these trends and settle for a swift political solution that may provide succor to the Tamils taking away the urge for separatism, for KP or not, LTTE is slowly but surely showing early signs of revival. A political solution however appears to be a tall order at present as the government is facing stiff resistance from the Sinhala community in the south.
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Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle
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