by Ranga Jayasuriya
On 5 August, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the LTTE’s newly appointed leader made the last entry in his blog in favour of the political path against the armed struggle. He concluded his entry, promising to come back in a week to discuss further about a “political program in our homeland.” He is not likely to make it. A day later, Selvarasa Pathmanathan better known by his nom de guerre - KP was arrested in Malaysia and later flown to Colombo.
How and where KP was picked up is shrouded in mystery. The initial reports of the arrest stated that Pathmanathan was arrested in Bangkok. However, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva denied reports and suggested that the arrest took place in Kuala Lampur.
That is in concurrence with the LTTE statement, which announced that KP had been apprehended in KL, Malaysia.
LAKBIMA NEWS can confirm that KP was arrested in KL in a joint operation of Sri Lankan intelligence with its Malaysian counterpart. From there he was taken to Bangkok. It was while in transit in Bangkok that the first reports about the arrest came out. Hence the apparent confusion over the location of the arrest.
One news report said KP was arrested in a Hotel in KL after leaving a room to answer a telephone call while being interviewed by a pro-LTTE website.
However, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had told the local press that he could neither confirm nor deny the report.
“I don’t have the facts with me. Let me find out first,” he said.
The arrest in its territory is quite a sensitive issue for the Malaysian government given the sizeable Indian and Tamil minority community, who are increasingly becoming active in recent times. That explains the Malaysian government’s dislike to associate with the arrest.
Given its demographic advantage, LTTE had been making in roads to Malaysia. Such overtures became increasingly visible especially since KP’s appointment as the Head of International Relations.
We reported in our earlier columns that Sri Lanka’s intelligence community is concerned over the growing LTTE presence in Malaysia. That was followed by an increase in the capabilities of the Sri Lankan High Commission in KL to track down LTTE activities. Military and intelligence officials were posted to positions in the diplomatic mission, including the former Director Operations, Brigadier Udaya Perera.
It is therefore understood that the arrest had been the end of a long drawn out intelligence operation conducted by intelligence agents of the Sri Lankan government and their Malaysian counterpart.
Mystery over the arrest is further confounded by orders issued by the defence hierarchy to subordinates not to speak of the arrest to media. Apparently, these instructions have their own justifications. An earlier arrest of KP in 2007 by Thai police took a dramatic turn when Sri Lankan officials who visited Bangkok to interrogate the suspect were told that there was no KP in custody. The inside story of the arrest was that the Thai government whose intelligence agencies which initially informed of the arrest and offered to hand him over to Sri Lanka decided otherwise after the Sri Lankan government made a hullabaloo about the arrest. The arrest therefore became a non-event and KP was released thanks to his extensive links to the Thai military and police top brass.
Public exposure of details pertaining to the arrest and extradition could give rise to a legal debate especially within Malaysia which would have to justify the legal basis of the extradition.
KP was arrested days after he succeeded cementing his leadership within the LTTE.
He received approval from the majority of the leading LTTE activists in Tamil Diaspora as well Ram, the senior most LTTE military leader.
An LTTE communique‚ issued late last month announced KP was the head of the LTTE. Working committees, which come under an executive committee had been set up to oversee the LTTE operations in various areas including Diaspora affairs, financial affairs, resettlement, political affairs etc.
The apparent unity of rival factions within the LTTE was reached after exhaustive negotiations among LTTE activists abroad - many of them were former LTTE cadres who relocated themselves during the peace process. However, KP’s arrest would further complicate the attempts to revive the LTTE. The arrest removes the last of the top rung leaders of the LTTE who had been associated with the movement since its inception.
KP has also been instrumental in formatting a shift in the LTTE’s strategy from the armed struggle to political path, a decision which has been contested by some other leading LTTE activists, who feared the shift would cost Diaspora funding.
Pathmanthan’s last blog entry was titled “Some thoughts on a political programme of Eelam Tamils in the current context of our homeland.”
“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.”
He also wrote: “In addition, it is expected by certain sections that we have to work with the government or not to confront with the government for the benefit of the people who are kept in the internment camps”
According to some military sources, KP, under interrogation had exposed the overseas fund raisers of the LTTE as well as the LTTE’s procurement network. Meanwhile, Government Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told the media that the government would enable any country to interrogate KP within the existing conventions.