The aim to resuscitate the ‘almost decimated’ Eezham movement launched by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) led by the swashbuckling Velupillai has been bludgeoned with their recently declared Chief Selvarasa Pathmanathan alias KP being incarcerated by the Sri Lankan authorities. After the death of Prabhakaran on May 18 2009, the Tigers were vigorously in search of a new leader in order to guide their movement to its logical conclusion. KP was definitely not a unanimous choice but probably an inevitable alternative.
After the LTTE went into a ceasefire agreement with the Lankan government in 2002, KP’s position in the Tiger hierarchy started to wane. This was because of the fact that a strong and youthful group surfaced in LTTE which wanted to supplant KP as the head of its overseas affairs. Leading that coterie was former tiger political commissar, (Late) Thamilselvan and ex-overseas administrative head (Late) Manivannan a.k.a. ‘Castro’. To join them was the 33 year old Sivaparan alias ‘Nediyavan’. KP had been the main plank of the arms supply line for the Tigers in their relentless struggle for the last three decades. Since the early 1980s till the end of 1990s, KP had bolstered the LTTE through his arms procurement and international propaganda. In fact, the LTTE becoming a sui generis terrorist outfit to possess a Navy and an Air Force owes much to KP’s faculties. To achieve the impossible, KP had utilised his well developed network amongst the Tamil Diaspora. But after the vitriol hurled at him by the coterie during 2002, KP went into a self-imposed retirement in Thailand only after proving his innocence to his venerated chief Velupillai. He married a Thai lady and settled there.
Meanwhile, the defection of Colonel Karuna, who was LTTE’s Commander of the East, in March 2004 as well as the coming of Mahinda Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) at the helm as President of Sri Lanka provided lethal dual blows to LTTE’s designs. In fact, the organisation could never recuperate and this ultimately paved for its ignominious defeat at the hands of the Lankan forces. Amidst desperation in 2008, Prabhakaran sought last refuge in KP and requested for external aid. KP complied but wanted to be placed officially at the zenith of LTTE’s foreign affairs : to which Velupillai adhered. In a last bid of sorts, KP sent three shipment full of arms to the island, out of which two reached the LTTE. Definitely this help by KP delayed the defeat of the Tigers till mid-2009. After Prabhakaran’s demise, the semblance of an organisation that the Tigers were left with was their ‘Overseas Wing’, still enjoying the ideological and financial support of their Diaspora. After Castro committed suicide, KP had to contend with Nediyavan before he could officially don the cap of Velupillai. Though Nediyavan was placated, but there were others within the LTTE, especially in its Overseas Wing, who disliked KP as their future leader.
The long detachment (2002 - 2008) from active political work probably made KP an outsider to the Generation X of the LTTE ! Also, KP never had formal arms training, another reason which made him an alien to the hardliners. The arrest of KP on August 5 2009, allegedly from a hotel at the Malaysian capital and his consequent deportation to Sri Lanka which was corroborated by the Lankan authorities a day later speaks volumes about the kind of opposition which he was facing inside the LTTE. Not to undermine the intelligence prowess of the Lankan security agencies and the clinical fashion in which Rajapaksa has dealt with the whole matter. But one thing deserves deliberation. Pragmatic enough, KP was talking about re-modeling the LTTE and to follow the non-violent democratic path to revolution. He understood the fatality of waging a violent war against the State. Moreover, LTTE needed to remove the ‘terrorist’ tag so as to garner external diplomatic support, at least at the present juncture to rehabilitate the Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the island.
Therefore, the pertinent point is that there must be some vested interests within the LTTE who want to prolong this calamitous struggle. Furthermore, though Rajapaksa may boast of having nipped in the bud, but that might not be so. If the ruffian elements of the Tigers remain at large, then the possibility of completely dousing the Tamil anger in the island shall remain a distant dream. Another possibility is that KP’s diction of restructuring the LTTE is probably a mere rhetoric, a “strategic withdrawal”.
India too has its interests playing in this clandestine arrest. The deadly weaponry carried by the assassins of our Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was supplied by KP. So, India would definitely like to interrogate the man to unravel the bigger story behind the grievous incident. Furthermore, KP is on the wanted list of the Interpol too. Regardless of stiff opposition, KP’s experience and maneuvering abilities made him the Chief of the beleaguered LTTE. His arrest would definitely dent the Tigers further but the plight of the IDP might surge. A wait and watch policy regarding the ramifications of his arrest is best suited in this post-Prabhakaran scenario of the Tamil ethnic struggle.