KP-speak: What the captured LTTE leader revealed on the Web
B. Muralidhar Reddy
COLOMBO: The Sri Lanka Presidential Secretariat on Friday morning announced that the self-appointed LTTE leader Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam alias Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP) had been arrested in a foreign country.
A report posted on its website on Friday, August 7, at 3.59 GMT under the title ‘The new LTTE leader KP arrested,’ said that KP was accused of arms smuggling and of conspiring the assassinations of VVIPs including former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. It read:
“Kumaran Pathmanathan, popularly known as KP, was reportedly earning billions of U.S. dollars per month from LTTE fund-raising activities and was in the habit of disseminating misleading news to evade arrest when he was nabbed in a foreign country.
“KP was entangled in an in fight with the U.S.-based LTTE activists for LTTE assets worth billions of U.S. dollars after LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran and his cronies were killed by the Security Forces in the Mullaithivu district and the Government declared the war on terrorism was over. According to defence sources, KP played a major role in expanding the LTTE’s sea activities and had built up contacts with key officials in different countries.”
On Defence Ministry website
In a two-paragraph report posted at 10.18.45 a.m. Sri Lanka Standard Time, the Defence Ministry website said under the headline ‘KP arrested’: “Most wanted LTTE terrorist for International Police (Interpol) and local security divisions Kumaran Padmanadan alias KP has been taken into custody by Sri Lankan law enforcement authorities, defence sources revealed. The suspect is known to be responsible for cross-border terrorist activities of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).”
The Government Information Department website, under the headline ‘Self proclaimed LTTE leader ‘KP’ arrested,’ on Friday said:
“LTTE’s self proclaimed leader in exile, Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP was arrested on Wednesday.
“The arrest of KP has crippled the LTTE’s overseas network and the terrorist organisation now has no future in the globe, defence analysts claimed. Pathmanathan was the key arms smuggler who conspired to assassinate several VVIPs including the former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.
“Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said that Sri Lanka's intelligence was capable of tracking down all LTTE cadres and leaders who were attempting to sow the seeds of terrorism again.
“He said the terrorist organisation had to be wiped out completely from the face of the earth for all people, including Tamil community, to live in peace. Pathmanathan operated a global network for the LTTE being engaged in arms smuggling, procurement of arms to the LTTE and money-laundering.
“Following the death of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran, the LTTE’s international network cracked two months ago and Tiger factions fought each other to grab millions of dollars in LTTE bank accounts overseas. Pathmanathan, last month, became the self-appointed leader of the LTTE much against the wish of the other cadres living overseas.
“Defence analysts said that the Sri Lankan intelligence had done a marvellous job in tracking down this so called fugitive self proclaimed leader of the LTTE.”
KP’s website entries
Hours before the development, in the latest entry on his recently launched website, the new Tiger chief said that LTTE cadres cannot engage in any political activities “at this point of time.”
Coming two days before the election to the local bodies in Jaffna and Vavuniya in the northern province of Sri Lanka (scheduled in August), the statement assumes importance as the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is taking part in the exercise.
Put out under the title, ‘Some thoughts on a political programme of Eelam Tamils in the current context of our homeland,’ it coincided with the assertion by the brother of the Sri Lanka President and Senior Presidential Adviser, Basil Rajapaksa MP, that the 180-day resettlement programme of the President for the nearly three lakh displaced persons was proceeding at a ‘world record’ pace and cited the examples of re-settlement of over 4,000 in the North and East on Wednesday and the re-settlement of 40,000 in the east in 44 days earlier.
There was no immediate reaction from the TNA to KP’s diktat, which appeared as an entry on his blog. Till noon Sri Lanka time, the pro-LTTE website TamilNet had not taken note of the arrest of KP. Neither did it feature his latest statement. The TNA has been silent on the factional fight within the LTTE following the death of Velupillai Prabakaran on May 19 and the subsequent anointing of KP as his successor.
KP said in his entry: “To destabilise the Tamil national politics, weakening TNA is an important agenda for the Sinhala regime. Sinhala regime operates with a strategy of shrinking the political space for Tamil national politics. Based on this strategy, Tamil Media have been threatened not to engage with or write about Tamil national political debates and discussions.”
At the same time, KP said it is expected by ‘certain sections’ that the LTTE has to work with the government or not to have a confrontation with the government for the benefit of the people who are kept in the ‘internment camps’. He added:
“As our liberation movement has decided to silence the guns and follow a politico diplomatic path, our cadres in the homeland would follow this decision. Since we do not have an open political space in the homeland to engage in political activates, our carders can not openly engage in any political activates at this point in time.
“However, our cadres are determined to engage in political activities in the future according to the thoughts of our national leader powerfully articulated in his 2008 National Hero Day address: – travel through the path left by history and follow the order of time.
“Political activities in the Tamil homeland have to be undertaken by the political forces that are loyal to the interests of our people and have the space to function openly. This force should give importance and priority for mass mobilisation championing Tamil national interests.”
KP charged the government of attempting to weaken the political organisations and parties that carry an ethnic identity and maintained that it is also not ready to allow the Tamils parties which are working with the regime to carry their ethnic identity. “It was evident during the local and provincial council elections in the East and now becoming very clear in the local council elections in the North.”
He added: “How can we formulate the political programme for the next phase of our struggle? This is a million dollar question that needs careful examination through different political angles. The political programme will be fashioned by current realities, steadfastness of our commitment to our goals and a proper evaluation of the tasks ahead.”
He said the success of the politico-diplomatic path of the ‘Eelam Tamil nation’ is based on three fundamental political principles: “Tamil nationhood, historical homelands and Tamils inalienable right to self- determination.”
KP said the situation demanded two parallel political programmes in accord with the political conditions in the homeland and amongst the Tamil Diaspora. “We may have to deploy different strategies but the purpose, ideals and common understanding would remain the same. Both programmes would complement each other.”
Earlier, in a blog entry on July 29, 2009, KP had stunned the e-world and the ‘e-lam’ world with his disclosure that the decision of the Tigers to give up their armed struggle and take to ‘political and diplomatic moves’ was taken by Velupillai Prabakaran along with other Tiger commanders at Mullivaikkal in Mullathivu district, days before his death in the Eelam War IV.
No, he was not speaking for the first time since the demise of Prabakaran. KP, living somewhere in South East Asia and wanted by Interpol on myriad charges, has been in the limelight since January 2009 when he was pulled out of his semi-retired life as a Tiger veteran and appointed by Prabakaran as head of the Tigers’ ‘International Relations Department’.
There are two significant aspects about the July 29 public statement. Besides the crediting of the ‘decision’ of the LTTE to silence its guns and take the route of ‘political and diplomatic moves’ to achieve the goal of a separate state of Eelam, the most crucial element of the statement was that it was the first pronouncement by KP that was not denounced by any section of the Tamil Diaspora and Tamils within Sri Lanka.
The announcement he had made on May 24, within six days of claiming that Prabakaran had survived the Eelam War IV and would re-emerge at the appropriate time, the confirmation of the that the LTTE supremo had attained ‘martyrdom’ in the combat was torn to pieces by influential elements of the Tamil Diaspora and a section of the leaders in Tamil Nadu. He was virtually branded a ‘turncoat and traitor’ to the cause espoused by Prabakaran and accused of resorting to cheap tactics with ulterior motives.
Since May 24, KP has indeed travelled a long way albeit in the cyber and the Tamil Diaspora world. The July 29 statement clearly demonstrated that KP had succeeded in bringing a semblance of unity among various factions in the LTTE in the post-Prabakaran era and buying peace, though it was tenuous and temporary. It was indeed a remarkable feat for a man, who was officially declared as an absconder in the land of birth, Sri Lanka, and whom the Interpol was supposedly pursuing.
How did KP manage to bring his detractors on board within such a short period of time? It is a million-dollar-question, and only time will tell how events will pan out and how durable his leadership would be. As things stand, it is a tribute to his persuasive skills and extensive influential contacts within and outside the Diaspora. Therein lay the significance of the blog he started in the second week of July. Obviously, it was the labour of elaborate discussions with Tamil Diaspora leaders of all hues.
In an entry posted on July 8, KP took enormous pains to establish his credentials as a trusted aide of Prabakaran and assert his desire to carry forward the ‘struggle’ of his leader without any personal motive. Here are some key paragraphs from the entry.
“My leader must have felt that the right time had come; on the first day of 2009 he appointed me as the head of International relations of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. On the 12th of January that year he informed the world leaders that I will take responsibility, as head of the unit, for all future diplomatic moves, as the spokesperson and as the primary foreign relations delegate.
“I wish to share with our people the letter and its translation that our leader had sent the world leaders.
“There are two important statements in the letter that are noteworthy. Our leader had established a new department for international relations. This was the first time has our movement established an International Relations department. Our leader had felt the need to fill the gap that had been left after the demise of our political ideologue Anton Balasingham.
“Prior to announcing my appointment, my leader had discussed many important issues with me in detail. He emphasised the importance of international support for the victory of our freedom struggle. We discussed the challenges associated with this in detail. Many more details including the situation on the ground at the time of my appointment, the approach the international community had taken in this problem and the choices that were available in front of our leader during the final stages of the war will all be discussed next week (15.07.2009).
In his July 8 entry KP went on to say, “It is already 33 years since I joined in the Tamil freedom struggle. I have been a part of this struggle, joining forces with our leader since 1976. I have been a close support to him during very crucial periods. In 1984 when our leader got married, I had the good fortune to be his best man. This long association is indescribable by words. Through this long heartfelt relationship, I have followed our leader as an older brother, as a guide and as a friend. I have exchanged freely with him the things I felt were right or wrong and continued my role in pursuit of freedom.
“Understanding the critical geographical and regional implications that our freedom struggle will encounter well ahead of time our leader had entrusted me with a strategic role that was critical to the struggle. As a result, even with other responsibilities at hand, I had to engage with the internationally dispersed Tamil Diaspora. In my journey of the freedom struggle, I had the opportunity to work for a short while closely with our senior leader Col. Kittu and our political ideologue Balasingham.
“The oath of affirmation I took with my leader and other military leaders after the heroic death of our senior leaders including Kumarappa and Pulendran still lives in me as an un-flickering flame. In fact, I too should have been on the boat “Kadal Pura” that had carried Kumarappa, Pulendran and other cadres. On that fateful day, my leader had called me to travel with him and I had obliged. If not, I too would have attained martyrdom on that occasion.
“The dreams we had shared of the future in 1989, in the jungles of Vanni together with Bala Anna and Col. Shankar are still alive in me. I have decided to publish some details of these relationships and activities that I had undertaken with my leader and with senior cadres from time to time in appropriate sections of these pages.”
Appeal to the Diaspora
KP’s direct message and appeal to the Diaspora read: “The role of the Diaspora is an important one in the period after 1995. The work carried out in the international arena was directed by me in the period between 1996 and 2002. Prior to this, since the mid 1980s, I have worked hard amongst the Diaspora to establish the organisational structure that was needed to fight our freedom struggle by visiting them from house to house and country to country. The people who had worked for a long time in our freedom struggle and the early supporters know my role and involvement very well. Some Tamil people are confused about the identities of KP and Selvarasa Pathmanathan and state Selvarasa Pathmanathan is a new face but KP is an older, senior member. Please do not be confused; both KP and Selvarasa Pathamanathan are the same person.
“In the period between 1996 and 2002, we were able to deliver 20% more than what was expected from our leader. It was heart warming to know that we too an important part for the proud victories that were achieved to the astonishment of Tamil Eelam nation and the world during this period. After 2002, it was the wish of my leader to coordinate all activities from our home land. He felt the need for all leaders responsible to operate in close proximity to him. He beckoned me too. As I was getting ready to go, understanding the difficulties in mobility too well, he wanted me to be patient until he was able to make suitable arrangements for travel.
“Many more details including the situation on the ground at the time of my appointment, the approach the international community had taken in this problem and the choices that were available in front of our leader during the final stages of the war will all be discussed next week (15.07.2009).
“Please send forth your opinions that you wish to share to the email address below. I wish to publish some of these in this web site. Please inform me if you do not wish your comments to be made public. The email address to receive your comments or opinions is:email@example.com Thank you. Respectfully. KP”.
Picture of KP’s role
A detailed report by D.B.S. Jeyaraj (The Hindu’s former Sri Lanka Correspondent, now based in Toronto) posted on August 6 on his website on the latest developments centred on KP gives a glimpse into KP’s role in LTTE and some details on his personnel life. It says:
“KP was at one time the chief arms procurer for the LTTE and headed a tiger division known as overseas purchases dept or simply KP dept.
“He went into voluntary retirement in 2003 and married a Thai national. In January this year, KP was appointed the LTTE's international relations chief. As the senior most LTTE member alive, KP assumed leadership of the tigers after Prabhakaran’s demise.
“This was vehemently opposed by a section of the Diasporic tigers led by Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan After protracted talks an agreement was arrived at. KP assumed control of the LTTE as “Thalaimai Seyalar” or Chief Secretary/Secretary-General.
“A cabal of influential LTTE and pro-LTTE members abroad continued to oppose KP’s leadership and were engaged in conspiratorial moves to sabotage the accord. The LTTE hardliners were disappointed with KP’s public acknowledgement that Prabhakaran was dead and also his announcement that the armed struggle had ended. His “arrest” was a consequence of the internal opposition to KP it is suspected.
“KP known as Tharmalingam Shanmugam Kumaran in India was proclaimed as a wanted offender by that country through INTERPOL. India wanted INTERPOL to apprehend KP for interrogation regarding charges like Criminal conspiracy, arms smuggling, violation of Indian terrorist act, breach of Indian explosives act and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
“Pathmanathan a native of Myliddy in Jaffna was born on April 6th 1955. He is an old student of Nadeswara College, Kankesanthurai and Mahajana College, Thellippalai. Pathmanathan was also an undergraduate at the Jaffna university but did not complete his degree.”
As KP acknowledges in his July 29 entry on his website, he has not been successful in persuading some of critics and those who feel betrayed and anguished. The response of a reader on D.B.S. Jeyaraj’s website to one of KP’s blog entries is an extreme case in point of complete scepticism. But as of today such an opinion is more of an exception than the rule. The response by a reader identified as Ganesh and posted on July 27 at 7:49 pm (GMT) reads:
“I don’t think KP can lead neither any Eelam Tamils nor the Diaspora Eelam Tamils. When interviewed by some international media we should be very pro-active. But KP failed to do so. Look at him how nerve he is!
“That is because INTERPOL seeking him. He can’t hide very long. He need to face justice (in that case I respect VP, as he usually gives speeches on his martyr-day in front of public). Holding 23 passports worldwide, he is unable to speak proper English even and that prove us how much money he gained from poor Eelam Tamils in back home and overseas. Do you guys think how this transnational government gonna workout? Believe me, there are no base for it. Even KP is living hiding out. A man should stand as a man and he is not. At some point he will be killed by his revelry and that is PERIOD!
“Question #1: Why this KP pooped-up now? Question #2: Why he is hiding into the international media and lying about child soldiers? Question #3: Why do he needs 23 passports? Question #4: Why he cannot face the INTERPOL? Question #5: Is he leading us to another bloody war in Sri Lanka?”
In a new twist to LTTE politics in the post-Prabakaran era, the July 29 statement titled, ‘What are the fundamentals for the next phase of our struggle?’ read:
“I had also stated that this conclusion was reached on the basis of the current difficult situation our people face, taking into account the massive setbacks our freedom struggle had encountered in recent times, existing international environment, regional restrictive circumstances and the external factors that influence the existential realities in Tamil Eelam.
“In accordance with the resolution that our leader had taken in Mullivaikkal, I had said that the next steps of our journey to win our goal of freedom will continue with silenced guns and through political and diplomatic means.
“I also stated that this political position was an important one in the next steps of our struggle and that we will further explore this in this week’s pages.”
KP said after he had announced the ‘new diplomatic path’ that some people who had communicated with him asked him two intricately linked questions and went on to say: “Can we not continue the guerrilla warfare while we continued a diplomatic pursuit? Would that not create greater pressure on Sri Lanka and assist in the diplomatic process? These were the two questions.”
KP asserted that after the incident at Mullivaikkal the decision to take a political and diplomatic path was not taken by him alone but was made in consultation with the military commanders who were in the field at that time and with other divisional cadres. He added:
“In the context of today’s world order, to pursue a military option while pushing forward with a political and diplomatic option is contrary to each other, similar to travelling in two different directions. This will cause many practical obstacles in moving to the next stage our freedom struggle that seeks to centralise the welfare of the people.”He argued that if the LTTE were to `take forward guerrilla warfare’, it would only ‘expedite the genocide of the Tamil People by the Sri Lankan Government’ and the immediate impact will be negatively reflected on the safety of 300,000 war-displaced.
“The safety of the more than 10,000 freedom fighters who are being held, isolated and tortured in violation of all international protocols will become a question.”
Listing what he termed as foundations of movement for ‘Eelam,’ KP said that past armed struggles had instilled a strong sense of national collectiveness amongst “our people.” National self determination, Tamil Homeland and Tamil nation have been pushed forward as primary issues in our struggle.
Listing the reasons why ‘Eelam’ struggle under command of Prabakaran could not make much headway due to “geopolitical interests in the regions of South Asia and the Indian Ocean, Super powers such as India, US and China opted to safe guard their interests by keeping Sri Lanka as a single territorial entity.”
“The entire world had come to a common opinion that the armed struggle in the island should somehow come to an end. As a result it became impractical to gain international support for an armed struggle.
“We now change our method of struggle, standing steadfast in our goal for freedom, taking in to consideration the prevailing circumstances in our homeland and measuring the international situation.”
At the same, he reiterated: “However, we cannot retreat from our goal of Tamil Eelam because the world refuses to accept at this current point. In a world that moves fast, changes in the world order will continue to happen. These changes will also bring about circumstances that will open doors for the freedom of the people of Tamil Eelam.
“These changes will also pave the way for the failure of world powers achieving their geo-political interests, preserving the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as a single country. At that point in time, the opportunities for us to establish our state Tamil Eelam will also rise. With this conviction, we should take forward our freedom struggle through politico-diplomatic means.
“To travel through the path of politico-diplomacy is also not easy. This is a very long journey that needs to be travelled with immense patience confronting many challenges. The political working programme needed for this journey is very important. We will meet again next week (05.08.2009) to discuss these points.”
Responses on the site
The response of Sri Lankans of all hues on the DBS Jeyaraj website are illuminating and give room to hope that a change in mindsets of both the majority and minority communities in Sri Lanka could happen.
Commenting on a response by DBS Jeyaraj, a reader named Kumar wrote on July 30 at 3:52 am (GMT):
“All this would not have happened if they (Tigers) listened to you earlier starting with (1987) Indo-Lanka Accord and ending with the Karuna saga and elections boycott (LTTE directive on the eve of November 2007 Sri Lanka Presidential Election paving way for election of Mahinda Rajapaksa by a margin of below 1.5 per cent).
“From now on advise the Tamils every step of the way. We can’t afford to make anymore mistakes. Let those who don’t agree with you have constructive debate on your blog. The KP fellow is intelligent and clever and most importantly does not seem to be the obdurate type, but I can see he has a lot of problems from within.
“With regard to the apology I feel it may be unnecessary. Why start digging up the past. Let the past including pogroms against Tamils be once and for all buried and let us start a new book. The British, Germans and French massacred each other in the millions, but they did not apologize. Instead they have buried the past and become the EU.”
In response to a query by a reader as to who is responsible for the current tragedy and travails of Tamils in Sri Lanka, DBS says: “The LTTE hierarchy particularly its supreme leader Velupillai Prabakaran is to blame for its downfall and destruction. The Tigers were not betrayed by “others.” They brought about their own decline gradually.
“They did not listen to any well - meaning advice urging a course correction and went ahead on their march of folly. Hubris and Nemesis! Such arrogant stupidity had a predictable end. The LTTE betrayed the Tamil people. History will determine that the greatest traitor to the Tamil cause was none other than Velupillai Prabakaran himself.”
Challenges before KP
The challenges before KP, assuming he is sincere in his heart, are Herculean. The Tamil Diaspora would have give up its rant and rave against India. They cannot have the cake and eat it too. Further, as one blogger put it: “First thing, KP and his team need to spend the money they have gathered for the final war from Diaspora to the people who lost their relatives and wealth in the final war. It is the time for KP’s team to work on the plans and initiatives towards rehabilitation of the people who are in needs. By this way, LTTE can earn good reputation from the all kinds of people around the world. The second step is, work with the diplomats to pursue a political solution for Tamils. These are the essential works needs to be done quickly. Power gaining among LTTE is not important at this time.”
Sinhalese blogger RS Wickramasinghe lamented: “There is one thing that separate SOME Tamils from Sinhalese, and that is the love for Sri Lanka. There are SOME Tamils who are very happy when something bad happen to SL. Diaspora Tamils are always trying to undermine SL in the International Community. They are even trying to stop Aid to SL including the IMF loan. Only Tamil Diaspora has got this problem and hatred for SL. They are obsessed with hatred for SL. There are Burghers, Malays, Muslims etc. who had lived overseas more than 50 years and still love SL and like to see SL doing well whether it is in Sports or whatever. Other than this abovementioned difference, Tamil and Sinhala are the same. We look the same, and just like the Mossads said when they came to train SLA and LTTE to kill each other, we are all Apes”.
To which DBS responded: “Have you thought about why some Tamils feel like that?”
On August 3, an avid blogger and a soul working relentlessly to build bridges between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka, Indrajit Samarajiva (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
“I try to read stuff from the Tamil Diaspora and local Tamils about how they feel. Many of the concerns I share, but some I think are actually a bit racist and undemocratic. Sri Lanka is still a multi-ethnic society, but a lot of what I read lately is about Tamil nationalism and Tamil self-determination along racial lines. As in, there’s nothing there to speak to people who may not be Tamil, or are perhaps only Tamil speaking, or who are just human. I guess where I differ is that I want reconciliation and harmony within Sri Lanka.
“Whatever is wrong with Sri Lanka, no one is calling for a Sinhala state. This may be the appearance or effect of some misguided policies, and I don’t deny that minorities get shafted in many ways. However, no one is calling for a Sinhala state. This is rightly called Sinhala chauvinism. In fact, the constitution and all major policy speeches are pretty clear about inclusion of all races. In practice, however, it is more difficult to get proper service in Tamil at a cop shed or whatever and Tamils are disproportionately checked. However, the thing is not rotten at its core.”
“I think all races on this island can work together towards common, human, Sri Lankan goals. Better governance, less corruption, better education, healthcare, etc. I think we’d all benefit from full implementation of our constitution and language policies. I think regional autonomy for any region under the 13th amendment is good. I mean, it’s cool for any province to be able to control its own police force and have some local power, but it’s not necessarily a racial issue.
“I can’t get away with calling for Sinhala Nationalism or Sinhala-only issues, I would be considered racist and quite rude by my multi-ethnic family and friends. Why is it OK for Tamils? Or, to put it simply, can’t we all get along? Does it really have to be about race? Can’t it be about the more important issues we have in common as Sri Lankans and human beings?”