INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO 548
The post-Prabakaran attempts by some never-say-die sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora across the world to resurrect the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suffered a blow on August 6,2009, when the Malaysian security agencies handed over to their Sri Lankan counterparts Kumaran Pathmanathan (known as KP), whom they had reportedly picked up from a hotel a few hours earlier.
2. It was suspected by investigation and intelligence agencies for some years that KP was residing in Malaysia and operating clandestinely from there with the help of LTTE sympathisers in the local Tamil community-----of Sri Lankan as well as Indian origin. For nearly 20 years he was a great asset to Prabakaran and the LTTE not because of any special political acumen he had, but because of his ability to work clandestinely without attracting much public attention to himself.
3. He emerged as the alleged main brain behind the LTTE's vast arms procurement, gun running, arms piracy from ships in mid-sea,money-laundering and commercial shipping network. The LTTE would not have been able to develop its capability as a conventional fighting force to the extent it did but for his alleged clandestine work. In connection with this, he travelled frequently and extensively in South-EastAsia, East Europe and South Africa. He kept away from West Europe (except Greece and Cyprus) and North America for fear of being caught by the local intelligence agencies, but from his base in Malaysia he allegedly guided the arms procurement and money-laundering networks in those areas too.
4. The fact that Prabakaran gave him a free hand in handling the cash flows from the shiping fleet, alleged narcotics smuggling and alleged extortions from the members of the Tamil diaspora and in negotiating the prices of the arms and in arranging the shipping schedules indicated the confidence he had in KP.
5. It used to be alleged that the Malaysian authorities avoided acting against him because of the support enjoyed by him in sections of the local Tamil community. His low profile and his ability to keep his mouth shut helped him in ensuring that the local security agencies would not act against him.
6. All this changed in January this year when Prabakaran appointed him as the in-charge of the international relations department of the LTTE. One does not know why Prabakaran chose him for this job. Outside Malaysia, KP had no political contact. He was not a well-known and well-respected figure in the international community of human rights organisations. He could not have travelled to the West without fear of being arrested. He was no Anton Balasingham. Nor was he a Thamilselvan. He was allegedly in some aspects a Sri Lankan Tamil version of Dawood Ibrahim. Dawood is a mafia leader. KP is not. But Dawood and KP allegedly had similar capabilities for gun running and money-laundering.
7. After his nomination to this post, the previously discreet and low-profile KP became increasingly high profile. He started interacting with journalists and non-governmental organisations from his safe sanctuary in South-East Asia. After the death of Prabakaran, he became the self-promoted head of a group of Sri Lankan Tamils in the diaspora, who tried to resurrect the LTTE as an organisation wedded to the same objective of an independent Tamil Eelam as was the organisation headed by Prabakaran, but advocating a non-violent movement to achieve this objective.
8. One does not know what real following he commanded in the diaspora and who were the people prepared to support him.However, one knows that there are elements in the diaspora who continue to hope that the LTTE will rise again like Phoenix and resume the march to the goal of an independent Eelam. Probably, some of them rallied round him.
9. The Sri Lankan Government was interested in getting him even before KP started this move for a neo-LTTE. The Sri Lankan agencies' campaign against the LTTE was not over with its defeat and the decimation of most of its leadership.A lot of work still remains to be done like identifying its supporters in the diaspora and its secret bank accounts abroad and getting them frozen, identifying the various arms smuggling channels exploited by it and determining how the LTTE succeeded in smuggling the clandestinely procured weaponry, including the aircraft,into Tamil territory without being detected by the intelligence agencies of different countries, including India and Sri Lanka.
10. There is a need for a total and painstaking reconstruction of how the LTTE operated abroad and how it was able to acquire the position it did. Such a reconstruction would not be possible without a thorough interrogation of KP. The Sri Lankan authorities, therefore, mounted a diplomatic drive for getting hold of KP. This drive was focused on South-East Asia. Their drive ultimately succeeded and the Malaysian authorities reportedly picked him up and handed him over to Sri Lanka.
11. His thorough interrogation would be necessary not only for finding out about the past, but also for finding out about the future plans of the die-hard elements in the diaspora.
12. The Government of India should be interested in interrogating him in connection with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May,1991, and the attempted gun-running by the LTTE from Pakistan in 1993 in an LTTE ship in which Kittu was travelling. When an Indian Coast Guard ship intercepted it, the crew set fire to the ship,which went down.Kittu and some others chose to go down with the ship. Some others tried to escape and were arrested. The full story of this incident of gun-running by the LTTE from Pakistan is not yet known. KP may also know about any arms procurement cell of the LTTE still present in South India, but dormant. (8-8-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd),Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and,presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies,Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )